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LOOKING FOR A TRAVEL ADVENTURE IN GUANACASTE?
Explore hotels, cabins, rent a cars, restaurants, bars, surf camp and cafés by locality.
To the northeast of the Central Cordillera, two mountain chains in particular stand out: The Tilarán and the Guanacaste Cordillera; both reach as far as the Nicaraguan border. The first is characterized by its undulating mountains, covered in dense forest. It is here where you will find the Monteverde Reserve, an important destination for those who want to discover natural habitats. Between the two cordilleras is the Arenal Volcano and Lagoon, the volcano is the most active in Costa Rica and in the world. The Guanacaste Cordillera is made up of several volcanoes, partially or totally inactive; five of them are protected by the National Parks of Guanacaste, the Rincón de la Vieja and the Tenorio Volcano. Towards the west of the Cordillera, before the border with Nicaragua, Santa Elena Peninsula has a tropical dry forest that descends down to the Pacific Beaches; both are protected by the Santa Rosa National Park.
Choose between these 26 exiting destinations in the Guanacaste area
COSTA RICAN GUANACASTE AREA MAP
WHERE TO GO & WHAT TO DO
Chosse Between these 26 exiting destinations in the Guanacaste Area
1. VIA THE NORTHERN AMERICAN
Those that travel from San José to Nicaragua, take the bus via the Interamerican. The highway runs from the west of San José, until it reaches Barranca, Puntarenas, on the Pacific Coast, it then redirects north towards the Nicaraguan border. The route from the mountains to the plains is steep, winding and often narrow. Large trucks circulate on these roads, often traveling at very high speeds. This area is called Cambronero and begins to ascend after passing by San Ramón and ends in the Esparza area, where there are several restaurants next to the road and several fruit stalls. 5 Km from Esparza and 15 Km before arriving at Puntarenas, the Interamerican turns towards the northeast passing by the villages of Cañas and the city of Liberia, before ending at the Nicaraguan border. The northern Interamerican offers the best access to the Monteverde Biological Reserve and Cloud Forest and also offers access to other parks and protected areas in the country.
2. PEÑAS BLANCAS NATIONAL REFUGEE
Ran by the Service of National Parks (SPN), it has an extension of 2.400 hectares. It is located 6 Km to the northeast of Miramar Village and 8Km to the northeast of the Interamerican. The road is in good condition, but after passing by Miramar it does worsen, but it is possible to walk the remaining 6 Km to get to the refuge, you can also continue east by car, although the route is in bad condition. This option allows you to pass by Santa Bonita and the area of Peñas Blancas, close to the refuge and 14km from Miramar. Another option is to travel along the Interamerican from Macacona some 3 Km to the east of Esparza. It is a gravel road of around 20Km that heads north, towards Peñas Blancas. The refuge is located in the south of the Tilarán Cordillera. It is 600 meters in altitude wiuth an extension of more than 1.400 meters, with three types of forest: Dry Tropical in the lower southwestern area; dry and humid in the central areas and the pre-mountain forest in the highest regions of the north. Peñas Blancas is so called because of the accumulation of unicellular algae. Millions of years ago when Central America was below sea, several dead diatomaceous set into the ocean floor, forming thick deposits, whose consistency is similar to that of chalk. There are no installations in the refuge but you can camp.
3. GUAYABO, NEGRITO AND PÁJARO ISLANDS
Guayabo Island is located approximately 8 Km to the south of the Puntarenas Port in the Nicoya Gulf. Negritos Island is 16.5 Km to the south and the Pájaros Islands is 13 Km to the northwest of Puerto de Puntarenas. The Guayabo and Negritos Island where established as reserves on the 28th of February 1973 and the Pájaros Island on the 28th of April 1976. The Guayabo and Negritos Island have an extension of 143.5 hectares and the Pájaros Island has an extension of 4 hectares. The islands are places of habitat and reproduction with abundant populations of sea birds, as well as species of flora characteristic to the area. The Guayabo Island is an important rock, 50 meters high, covered with bushes and spiny plants in some areas. There are species of trees such as the fig tree, the coyol palm. On the Negritos Islands, the vegetation is semi deciduous; there are species of white flower, Pochote and Indio Desnudo. On the rocky peaks there are areas full of piñuela casera and coyol palm. On the Pájaros Island, the vegetation is made up of short forests with areas of pasture. The mixed guava, the Guanacaste, the fig tree and the golden spoon bushes are very popular here. The fauna of the islands is mainly made up of seabirds. During some periods of the year migratory birds arrive to look for food and reproduce. The most common species are the frigate birds, the black headed gull, the brown caped gannet and the Pardo pelican. This last species uses the Guayabo Island as a nesting area and it is estimated that there is a population of around 200 to 300 birds. Other species of fauna include the peregrine halcyon, the white tailed dove and the black iguana. There are violin crabs, sea crabs, cambutes, oysters and a large variety of fish.
4. LAS JUNTAS DE ABANGARES
It is a village located on the bank of the Río Abangares; it was an important gold mine in the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century. 5 Km away is the Eco-museum of the Abangares mine, entry is 1.50 US$; open from Tuesday to Friday from 07:00 a.m to 03:00 p.m, Saturday and Holidays 07:00 a.m to 05:00 p.m, exhibiting photos and models that illustrate the methods used in mining the area. The gardens have picnic areas and play areas as well as footpaths that take you to areas which display the old machinery that was once used; including traces of what was a railway.
It is located 165 kilometers from San José via the Interamerican; it only has one district and an area of 682.2 km2, known for its cattle farms and folkloric dances. There is a MINAE/ACT Office + 506 2669-0533 + 506 2669-2200, offering information about the national parks and nearby reserves. Located on the east side of the Tenorio Volcano it is on the limits of the Upala County. For nature and conservation lovers the Volcanic Cordillera of Guanacaste Forest Reserve is also here. It is in this county where you will find the hydroelectric projects of Corobicí and Sandillal, frequently visited by students, investigators and tourists. You will also find the Río Magdalena Dam, where the irrigation canal begins in the valley of the Río Tempisque that covers several neighboring counties. The Ecological Center is a few minutes from the city; it is dedicated to the investigation and protection of nature. Another attraction are the hot springs that are located in Salitral some 5 Km before arriving at Cañas. It has an altitude that ranges from between 15 to 1500 meters above sea level, with an altitude of 86 meters above sea level. Tourists usually base themselves in Cañas so that they can visit the nearby National Parks such as Palo Verde and other reserves, visit the Juntas Eco-Museum and take trips down the Río Corobicí. There is a modern church In the Central Park. It is the only one in the country; it has an impressive colored mosaic façade.
6. CIPANCI REFUGEE FOR FOREST WILDLIFE
This hostel is located at the meeting point of the Tempisque and Bebedero River, to the south of the Palo Verde National Park. Fishers offer tours along both rivers for 20 passengers. A three hour guided excursion is 30 US$ per person.
7. TENORIO VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
8. PALO VERDE NATIONAL PARK
It has an extension of 18.417 hectares in the northwest bank of the Rio Tempisque, at the extreme end of the Golf of Nicoya, some 30 Km to the west of Cañas and 30 Km to the south of Bagaces. It is an important sanctuary for water birds and those from the forest; it has mangroves, lagoons and forests. Close to 150 species of trees and rock peaks that serve as excellent view points. You can see herons, storks, garzones soldados; Espátulas menores, garcillas, ibis, zampullines and ducks; There is also close to 300 species of birds in the park. On land you can see the purple guacamaya, piuríes, rainbow billed toucan, parrots, crocodiles, iguanas, deer, coyotes, monkeys and the peccary.
+ 506 2671-1062. Entry costs 6 US$ and is valid for the whole day. There are guided tours of 1/2 to an hour. Adults 15/ 30 US$; children 10/ 20 US$.
It is an old village with adobe houses that are Characteristics by their whitish volcanic in origin floors, located 22 Km to the northeast of Cañas via the interamericana and 190 Km from San José. It was the fourth area when it was founded a county on the 7th of December 1848, Bagaces borders the province of Alajuela to the north, with the county of Upala. There is no exit to the sea but it does sit next to Liberia, Carrillo, Cañas, Nicoya and a small part with Santa Cruz, Tilarán. There are four districts: Bagaces, Fortuna, Mogote (Guayabo), Río Naranjo.
10. THE TEMPISQUE AREA OF CONSERVATION ACT
+ 506 2671-1290 + 506 2671-1455 + 506 2671-1062, Open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 a.m to 04:00 p.m. The office has forestry agent. National Refuge of Wildlife, Dr. Rafael Lucas Rodríguez Caballero. Located in front of the Interamericana, on the way to the main park. Within the county there is: Palo Verde National Park, of great importance because it is the most humid within the tropical dry forest area, it extends along the left border with the Tempisque river, close to the mouth of the river. Isla Pájaros is also located in the middle of the Tempisque River, which has now become a sandbank. Inside the park there are: Two natural viewpoints, the hilltops Catalina and Guayacán where you will be able to see a large portion of the Guanacaste area. La Cueva del Tigre in the Refuge. The Hueca rock in the park. The Lomas de Barbudal Biological reserve, that is rich in species of insects, particularly bees, wasps and nocturnal butterflies. The Miravalles Volcano, which is an extinct volcano, but you can find the smoking cones which are know as little ovens, in this area there is a geothermic project that is taking place in the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) (Costa Rican Institute of Electricity). The county of Bagaces has received the title of the ecological county for the protection and conservation of natural resources.
11. LOMAS DE BARDUBAL BIOLOGICAL RESERVE
It is a dry tropical forest on an island, it is uneven sparsely covered by forests that function as shelter for monkeys, coyotes, and also a range of migratory birds such as the Whistling and royal herons. The colored parrots come from the nearby northern Palo Verde, which visit the park frequently, and has more than 230 species of birds. With many trees such as the caoba, the sándalo and the cocobolo. The best time to visit is during the month of March, when the yellow corteza tree is completely covered in flowers of the same color. The Central Offices are located on the River Banks of the Río Cabuyo, offering information and picnic tables. There are footpaths that run along the river and there are several pools to swim. Founded in 1986, Lomas Barbudal occupies some 2.270 hectares.
12. GUAYABO DE BAGACES
It is located 12 km north of Bagaces. In the village there is a Banco de Costa Rica. There is also an internet service, accommodation, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, mechanics, the Musmani bakery, stores, souvenirs, public telephones, the police, videos and Social Security Offices, the “C.C.S.S”. On the main street there are colored benches on the sidewalks where you stop and rest and appreciate the Miravalles volcán.
13. MIRAVALLES VOLCANO
Located 247 Km from San José on the Interamericana highway, it is the capital of the province of Guanacaste and is known as the White City. It was founded in 1769, seven years before the United States was made a nation, it is said that it was built upon white land originating from volcanic rocks of that color. This area has impressive tourist attractions such as the Santa Rosa National Park, that is located 43 Km from Liberia, here you will also find the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and the national park of the same name and the Santa María Volcano. From this area you can visit Las Hornillas, Las Pailas and la Laguna, Los Jilgueros on foot from Rincón de la Vieja. You will be amazed when you see Las Morochas canyon, that is located 10 Km from Liberia towards Santa María. It has an extension of 1.435.47 km2. The city offers a variety of facilities such as hotels, restaurants, transport and shops. It has a National Health Hospital (CCSS), as well as bank offices and public institutions. Festivals are celebrated in a kiosk in the Central Park several days during the week, interested by the local band. During the dry season Coyol Wine is made in Guanacaste after three days of fermentation from the sap of this tree. The majority of Liberia does not look so old, although some of the buildings that surround the Central Plaza conserve a colonial style.
15. RINCÓN VOLCANO OF THE VIEJA NATIONAL PARK
16. SANTA ROSA NATIONAL PARK
Santa Rosa, is the oldest national park in Costa Rica, it was founded in 1970 to safeguard the vast extensions of tropical dry forest and the scene of the two most important battles of the country. The Murciélago section was added in 1979 thanks to the country acquiring land from the Nicaraguan Dictator Anastasio Somoza. The president Oscar Arias declared the land situated between Murciélago and the park property of the park at the end of the 80’s, so that Santa Rosa could occupy all of the Santa Elena Peninsula, some 50.000 hectares in total. It is a park of historical interest, with large extensions, coral reefs and several kilometers of virgin beaches in the Santa Elena and Papagayo Gulfs. The beaches in Santa Rosa are nesting areas for three species of marine turtles. This is an area where the largest amounts of Lora Turtles arrive from the American Tropics.
17. BAHÍA JUNQUILLAL
It has 505 hectares and forms part of the Conservation Area of Guanacaste managed by the Santa Rosa offices. Its quiet bay and its protected beach offer a great place to swim, sale and snorkel; there is a tropical dry forest and mangroves. There are short footpaths that lead to these, habitats of some sea birds, such as the pelican; and also if visiting during the right season the turtles nesting areas, and you can also see the Orosí Volcano.
18. GUANACASTE NATIONAL PARK
It was created on the 15th of July 1989. It is next to the Santa Rosa Park, separated by the Interamericana, and it is only 5km to the northeast of Rincón de la Vieja. It has an extension of 34.651 hectares and is much more than just a continuation of dry tropical forest and other habitats of plains of Santa Rosa. In its lower western part, it is considered as only an extension of the Santa Rosa environment, but the land begins to rise into two volcanoes: the Orosí at 1.487 meters and the Cacao at 1.659 meters. Its variations allow animals to travel from the coast to the mountains.
19. BIOLOGICAL STATIONS OF INVESTIGATION CACAO MARITZA PITILLA
20. LA CRUZ OF GUANACASTE
At 276 Km from San José, 57 Km from Liberia and 19 Km from the Nicaraguan border of Peñas Blancas. It is a viewpoint that allows you to contemplate the splendid sunset framed by the Bolaños Islands, Punta Descartes, and the southern sector of Nicaragua, Papaturro Beach and Puerto Soley. It is the last village before arriving at Peñas Blancas, the Nicaraguan border. From a hill close to Santa Cecilia you will get a fabulous view over the Nicaragua Lake. It is the largest lake of the country, with an extension of 2.284 Km2. It is also called Cocibolca Lake or Gran Lake. It is shaped in the form of an eclipse axis larger than 160 Km of northeasterly orientation – southeast and an axis less than 60 Km. It is located 31 meters above sea level and according to research it has a maximum depth of 23 meters. Although in some places it is suspected to be as deep 70 meters. Several rivers flow from this lake including the Rio Tititopa that flows into the Río de Managua. Its outlet is the Rio San Juan of 198 Km that flows into the Caribbean. The main are: the peninsula and the Bahía de Ásese, the Poneloya estuary and the Santa Bárbara Peninsular. In the golf of Santa Elena you will find Junquillal beach, with an extension of 2Km. You can get to Puerto Soley via an 8km road from Guajiniquil, via a gravel road of 4 Km. It is relatively protected from the winds; its clear waters are perfect to bathe in. A network of footpaths allow you to observe marine birds and go into the mangroves. Green, Lora, Carey and Baula Turtles nest on this beach.
21. BAHÍA SALINAS, ISLA BOLAÑOS
It has an extension of 25 hectares. It is in the Bahía de Salinas, opposite Pochotes Beach, from Puerto Soley it is a steep and rough island whipped by strong winds. It is the only place known in Costa Rica where American oysters nest, frigate birds or scissortail birds, as well as one of the few places where you can find pardo pelicans. Bahía Salinas is a bay located on the Pacific coast of Central America, between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The bay serves as a natural boundary between the two countries, marking the border by an astronomical straight line that starts from the Costa Rican Sapoá River to the center of Salinas Bay. The section that belongs to Costa Rica is located in the northwest corner of the canton of La Cruz, province of Guanacaste, while the part that belongs to Nicaragua is located southwest of Rivas.
To the south of the border line, within the bay, there is an archipelago of islands that belong to Costa Rica: the archipelago of the Murcielago Islands and Bolaños Island, which are natural wildlife refuges administered by the Santa Rosa National Park. Bahía Salinas has a great marine biodiversity, and is, in turn, a local fishing area through Puerto Soley.
The wind is very frequent in the bay and in the area near it, however, being a bay, the waves tend to be very low. the temperature of the water in the bay during the dry season can drop to 15 degrees. This due to the force of the wind that pushes the water from the surface to the sea and water from the depths rises to the surface.
By creating a vertical water current, in addition to colder water, this current is also loaded with nutrients; hence the richness of the waters of the bay and surroundings. Most of its beaches and diverse territories are virgin and its nature is exuberant. It has a great tourist attraction and because the wind is frequent you can often find kiteboarders and some windsurfers.The strong winds go from November to March (practically the dry season). The sighting of species of tourist interest is frequent and they range from birds, sea turtles, monkeys of different species and larger mammals (all year round) to humpback whales (August-December).
Located in the center of Bahia Salinas, it is a refuge for wildlife, and at the same time a sanctuary for various seabirds, its climate is dry and hot. The scarce vegetation consists of bushes that are difficult to penetrate, which helps to prevent the growth of other species, in addition to the fact that the land on the island contains little organic material. Geologically, it is an island that is very rocky, since it is mostly sedimentary rock dating back millions of years. It has small white sand beaches scattered around it. Among the most important marine species that nest on the island are the brown pelican and frigates.
22. BAT ISLANDS BAHÍA SALINAS LA CRUZ GUANACASTE
It is a rocky archipelago, made up of 5 islands and 10 island, located near the peninsula of Santa Elena. They are made up of a combination of rocks, reef organisms and coastal organisms. One of the islets, San Pedrillo, is very visited by recreational diving tourism due to the sighting of big fish like bull shark, giant blankets, sailfish and even whale shark. The archipelago is part of the marine sector of the Guanacaste Conservation Area. On San José Island there is a biological station that has a VSAT satellite dish installed by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, which allows telecommunications in that area.
23. JOBO BEACH BAHÍA SALINAS LA CRUZ
It has an extension of 800 meters of sloping virgin beach made up of a typical mix of tropical dry forest and a great richness of marine fauna. There are two large rocks on either end of the beach, to the extreme north and extreme south. These rocks help give the beach the form of a semi bay with soft waves, which is of great benefit to bathers. It has a lot of nature, as much on the coast as in the mangroves and the estuary, that same in terms of marine fauna. A beach for sun, sand and sea, fishing, snorkeling and camping.
24. NUBES BEACH BAHÍA SALINAS LA CRUZ GUANACASTE
With whitish sands, with an extension of 600 meters, a protected bay with rocks on both extremes of the beach, which means that the waves are gentle, great for bathing. It is a virgin beach with rich flora and fauna, on land and in the sea. Its natural beauty is complemented by the mangroves and the estuary. A beach for sun, sand and sea, fishing and camping.
25. GUAJINIQUIL BEACH BAHÍA SALINAS LA CRUZ GUANACASTE
Grey sands, with a length of 1.7 Km and 40 meters wide. Playa Guajiniquil is an area for fisherman. It is totally surrounded by mangroves from the Rio Guajiniquil, presenting coastal vegetation mixed in with private property. Within its fauna there are two groups of animals that are more common, birds and fish. This beach has sun sand sea, fishing, snorkeling and camping.
26. PEÑAS BLANCAS BORDER WITH NICARAGUA
It is not a town but a position in the frontier with Nicaragua, has a simple lodging, sodas, grocery, rent of cars and the Bank of Costa Rica + 506 2677-0011. Located in the building of central of customs, with currency change and automatic cashier. There are a few things you should keep in mind if you are planning to cross the border at Peñas Blancas. First of all, the border post is open from 6 am to 8 pm each day. If you come during this time, you should expect to pay a small fee, but if you arrive before 6 am, you can enter Nicaragua for free. From 6 am to noon, you will be charged seven US dollars to pass through Peñas Blancas. After that, the fee is slightly increased to 9$ USD. Additionally, there is a small 2$ USD fee if you are coming into Costa Rica from Nicaragua, as well as a 22$ USD fee for bringing a car across the border. Secondly, the time of year and day you choose to cross Peñas Blancas will greatly impact how long it takes. Most of the time, you should expect to cross the border in less than an hour, but if you mistakenly come here at the wrong time, it may take significantly longer, perhaps even as long as 10 hours. The best time of day to arrive is in the early evening. This is the time of day which has the shortest wait times. No matter what time of day you arrive, you should expect a huge wait if it is near a holiday or seasonal even. In particular, you should avoid trying to pass Peñas Blancas a few weeks before or after Christmas or Easter. These are the worst times of the entire year to pass through this border post.