Guanacaste is a very popular tourism destination. The scenic beauty of its beaches, as well as the region’s warm and usually dry climate, intense biodiversity, and enjoyable cultural events combine to provide visitors with a very rich and diverse experience.
One of the greatest strengths of this region is that it is home to Costa Rica’s second international airport, located in Liberia. The Daniel Oduber Airport welcomes both commercial flights and charter planes.
Another of the region’s special features is that it is home to the Gulf of Papagayo Tourism Development Project. Still another highlight of Northern Guanacaste is that it has a very developed tourism industry that features everything from small hotels to medium and large resorts.
Above all, Guanacaste is special due to its culture and unique traditions
This is the oldest city in Costa Rica. Additionally, given its historical value and heritage value, it is considered a colonial city. During pre-Columbian times, the Chorotega indigenous tribe inhabited the area. In fact, it’s name, Nicoya, means “trail of the warriors.” The city features well defined blocks, a central park, Catholic church, and a diverse selection of commercial stores, which include stands selling local merchandise and restaurants serving traditional dishes and drinks. In recent years, urban and tourism development has increased; Nicoya is also home to an important hospital. The city is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the beaches of Samara and Carrillo.
Celebration of the Annexation of Guanacaste – July 25
This annual celebration commemorates the 1824 annexation of Guanacaste to Costa Rica; the region used to belong to Nicaragua. July 25 is a national holiday, but is primarily celebrated in the province of Guanacaste and especially in the city of Nicoya
San Blas Colonial Church
This church, which has enormous historical value, is located in downtown Nicoya. It sits on the same spot as the first parish church in Costa Rica, which was built by Spanish settlers in 1544. The church boasts a small religion and history museum. Next to the church, a park invites visitors to relax for a while and enjoy the scenery
Santa Cruz, the City of Folklore
This city, considered to be of great historical value, is considered Costa Rica’s “city of folklore” – the town has strong ties to the area’s traditions and rich culture. For this reason, Santa Cruz is an excellent day trip for all visitors who wish to explore and share in many local traditions that are still conserved here. To commemorate the town’s cultural role, it was provided a very special seal that announces Santa Cruz’s history to tourists passing through. The town offerings a wide range of visitor services.
Another distinctive aspect of Santa Cruz is its farm life. Firmly entrenched in ranching tradition, the town is often host to bullfights and rodeos. Marimba music, played on a type of wooden xylophone, is another reason why Santa Cruz is an enjoyable place to visit.
A wide range of tourist activities are available for your enjoyment, some focusing on relaxation, others on health, culture, adventure, or nature, and still others that emphasize sports and recreation.
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Guanacaste is home to several locales and buildings of architectural and historic interest, including several national monuments.
The area is also home to various and very beautiful waterfalls, such as Cabro Muco. There is another exceptional waterfall located on the grounds of La Fortuna High School’s farm and, close to the school itself, several cool-water lagoons. Additionally, this area is home to the only geothermic energy and electricity-producing project in Costa Rica.
A visit to Miravalles is a very unique experience, since visitors not only experience an incredible volcano but also the distinct dry climate so well known on the Guanacastecan plains.
Within its 2,279 hectares (5,690 acres), Lomas de Barbudal is home to various habitats including open savannah, riverside forests, biological corridors, and deciduous forests. There are also rivers with ponds ideal for swimming, as well as other water sources including waterfalls and many creeks.
The reserve is an important habitat for the yellow corteza tree, which blankets the forest. During the dry season, especially in March, the tree’s foliage bursts into yellow bloom throughout Guanacaste. Howler and white-faced monkeys, as well as deer and many bird species, are just some examples of wildlife that live at Barbudal.
Although this is a small refuge, it is distinguished by its dry forests, which are home to several important tree species including Guanacaste, ash, and black wood. It also has various mangrove forests, home to black, red, and saltwater mangroves.
Bahía Junquillal is home to many species of animals, including spider, howler, and white-faced monkeys, white-tailed deer, iguanas, and many more. Trails wind through the park, which offers camping sites, picnic areas, restrooms, and public telephones, among other services.
Bahía Junquillal, or Junquillal Bay, is the reserve’s primary attraction, although the refuge also includes other bays such as Jicote, Cuajiniquil, and Los Muñecos Islands.
Tenorio Volcano National Park is home to many plant species, among them palms, ferns, bromeliads, and orchids. You may spot many animal species as well, including white-faced and howler monkeys, anteaters, pumas, tapirs, and wild pigs. Many bird species also make their home here, such as trogons and bellbirds.
This park has various services available to visitors including parking, potable water, restrooms, lodging for researchers, an information desk, trails, and scenic lookout points created for your enjoyment. These services, as well as the hot springs, are found a short distance from the administrative area and are reached by the “Mysteries of Tenorio” trail. Bathing at the Celeste River and Waterfall, which feature baby-blue waters, is an amazing experience and the ideal setting for appreciating the park’s natural beauty.
The Santa Rosa park sector features the most important section of tropical dry forest in Central America. Many animal species live in the forest, including white-tailed deer, howler and white-faced monkeys, and many others. The park is also home to two beaches: Naranjo, where camping is permitted; and Nancite, which functions as a biological research station and is an important nesting habitat for olive ridley turtles.
The other sector of the park, called Murciélago (“Bat”), is located on the northern part of the Santa Elena peninsula. There you will find many beaches including Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena, and Blanca. Near the administrative offices there is parking, picnic tables, restrooms, potable water, and a camping area available for public use.
The park also features diverse trails and scenic lookouts, as well as other points of interest including the Monument to the Heroes of 1856 and 1955 and the Historic Casona previously mentioned.
During the last period of heavy eruption, when the volcano spewed huge clouds of ash and created tremors and subterranean noises, occurred between 1966 and 1970. Today, though there have been some small eruptions in recent years, the volcano’s current activity is generally limited to smoking fumaroles.
The park offers various trails that lead to different points of interest around the volcanic area. In the vicinity of the park’s administrative offices, there are restrooms, picnic areas, and a camping site. There is also a historic home and traditional trapiche, which is a device used to process sugar cane.
This national park is located 27 kilometers (almost 17 miles) northeast of the city of Liberia.
The park’s main draw is as a nesting sight for the largest marine turtle in the world, the leatherback. This endangered species is protected in Costa Rica and lays its eggs on the park’s beaches.
The mangrove swamp is filled with mature trees; the most common species of which are red, black, white, and tea mangroves. These mangrove forests are the ideal place for fish, crustacean and mollusk reproduction. Wildlife watching is also popular, and reptiles, amphibians and birds are often spotted here. Tours are available to observe leatherback turtle nesting and to visit the Tamarindo Estuary.
At the same time, the park was also created to protect the migration routes of hundreds of animals that travel to higher altitudes during dry weather. The park, which measures more than 32,000 hectares (79,000 acres), features several hiking trails and research stations.
Olive ridley turtles come ashore once per year, between September and November. This natural occurrence is called an “arribada.” Their arrival lasts between three and seven days.
Olive ridley turtles are not the only species that nests at Ostional Wildlife Refuge: leatherbacks and green turtles also lay eggs here between the months of September and February. The refuge also sees the occasional hawksbill turtle. The Ostional Development Association conducts turtle watching tours led by local guides.
Tampa Cavern boasts the deepest precipice; from its entrance toward the first descent there is a completely vertical drop of 52 meters (170 feet). This cavern also has the largest rooms ever found, one of which is completely white, creating a very beautiful visual effect. Not to be outdone, Velvet Cavern contains the most rock formations. In 1970, a large number of human skeletons and, some time later, pre-Columbian artisan goods were found in the Nicoya Cavern.
With respect to local plant life, the majority of the area’s vegetation is made up of trees including glassywood (ronrón), Tempisque, hog plum, gumbo-limbo, proporo, Caribbean albizia, soncoya, Guanacaste, carco, mandroño, and monkey’s comb. Wildlife is very varied: white-faced monkeys, coyotes, armadillos, deer, coatimundis, opossums, skunks, orange-fronted parakeets, and red-headed turkey vultures are just some of the species that visitors can observe throughout the park.
Barra Honda offers parking, potable water, restrooms, lodging, information, hiking trails and scenic lookouts that invite tourists to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Tempisque River.
According to studies, local indigenous groups created the petroglyphs between the 0 and 800 A.D. The rock drawings feature realistic and abstract representations of a social nature and are symbolic of pre-Hispanic cultures. They have therefore been declared an important part of Costa Rican heritage and are regarded as an important interpretation of Costa Rican ancient history.
Adult men, young adults and even children practice these sports. Bull riding championships are common.
A group of men are responsible for finding the largest crocodile in the Tempisque River and, with the help of neighbors and a basic fishing net, they capture (but do not kill) the reptile. Later they transport it to the town of Ortega, where they put the giant crocodile in a pool constructed just for this purpose, and leave it there so that visitors from the community may watch it. The following Monday, after Easter Sunday, they return the animal to its natural habitat.
In addition to the ritual capture, the community hosts activities and sells the traditional foods and drinks of Guanacaste.
The Eco-Museum is located on a 10-hectare (25-acre) property and allows visitors to experience a different side of Costa Rica. For example, visit the gunpowder house, the foundations of mallet buildings, the walls over which the train used to run, the quarries, and any machinery with which the miners extracted and transported gold.
In 2001, this important site was declared a national monument and incorporated into the Historical and Architectural Heritage of Costa Rica.
In recent years this modernization has included urban development and new facilities such as the Daniel Oduber International Airport, which is capable of receiving regular commercial flights as well as charter flights from many cities in Canada and the United States.
Liberia is also an ideal base from which to visit many protected areas, among them Santa Rosa National Park, located near the community of La Cruz, and Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Additionally, the beaches of Guanacaste, in particular the popular Gulf of Papagayo, are a short drive away.
Among the city’s most popular attractions are the Abangares Mining Eco-Museum; located in the community’s central park, here it is possible to visit the locomotives that were once used to transport the area’s mined materials.
Gastronomically speaking, corn is one of the region’s main crops, as this grain is the base ingredient in many typical dishes and drinks. Among them: Guanacastecan tortillas, tanelas, tamales, pisques, sweel tamales, arroz de maíz (a savory corn and chicken dish), nacatamales, donuts, sponge cake, pozol, atole (a hot corn drink), chicheme, chichi (an alcoholic drink), and pinol, among others.
Some of Guanacaste’s home cooks still use traditional mud ovens, where many traditional dishes, including all kinds of bread, are baked.
This is how residents prepare, with much excitement, to go meet Christ, which is the origin for the procession of believers. The streets through which the Christ statue passes are decorated with palm fronds, malinche flowers, and brightly colored confetti.
The Festival is another of the stages, this one celebrated on January 15, the town’s Patron Saint Day. In honor of the patron saint, a parade winds through the city of Santa Cruz, accompanied by members of the Promesano indigenous tribe, as well as the Traditional Queen of Costa Rica and her Royal Court, the Priest, and Christ’s followers. After the parade, mass is held at church in honor of the saint.
In addition to this event, from January 14-18, there are many cultural presentations offered: traditional dances, Guanacastecan marimba music, theater shows, poetry readings, and performances of typical “bombas” (witty verses), along with all the playful mischief that accompanies these celebratory events. Santa Cruz is known as the national capital of folklore, and the town’s residents take pride in their traditions.
All of this celebration is complemented by the sale of artisan goods and typical souvenirs throughout Santa Cruz’s festivals, which are celebrated in two main locations: Los Mangos Plaza, home to the rodeo stage; and Bernabela Ramos Park, which hosts most of the cultural activities.
Lush vegetation and a mangrove swamp surround the beach. Its crystalline waters make it a perfect destination for swimming, taking leisurely boat rides, and engaging in all type of aquatic sports, including snorkeling and scuba diving. Hiking and horseback riding are also popular activities.
Playas del Coco has an enormous range of services catering to visitors and allowing tourists to arrange many recreational and sport activities including sport fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat rides, among others. This is also an ideal location for taking walks along the beach and going horseback riding.
Brasilito is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, taking hikes or simply contemplating the scenery and spectacular sunsets.
Together with Virador Beach, coastline located on the opposite side and just a few feet away, Playa Blanca forms a stretch of natural bridge that joins these two beaches to Mala Point. Virador is a beautiful inlet of white sand and clear ocean, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
From this point, there is an incredible view of both bays. Due to its scenic and natural beauty, as well the beach’s excellent and varied services, Flamingo is popular amongst those who prefer to enjoy the beach by day and hit the town at night.
This beach is ideal for relaxation, taking walks, horseback riding, and participating in fishing and snorkeling tours, as well as visiting the mangrove swamp and observing turtle nesting.
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Home to clear water and gentle wave, this beach is perfect for swimming, taking walks, and snorkeling. It is very popular among tourists who arrive via boat from nearby hotels and from companies offering aquatic transportation. Nacascolo’s indisputable beauty makes it an ideal North Pacific destination to walk along the shore and enjoy the small estuary located at the beach’s southern end.
Sunbathing, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, mountain biking, boating, and sea kayaking are popular activities at Samara. The beach also offers various tourism services, which invite travelers to visit the beach by day and enjoy great music and gastronomic goodies by night.
The town of Samara is located 35 kilometers (almost 22 miles) south of Nicoya and 245 kilometers (152 miles) west of the capital city of San José. It is also possible to arrive by air, using the international airport in Liberia or the small regional airport near Samara.
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Located five kilometers (three miles) from Samara, Corralillo is characterized not only by its incredible natural beauty but also by its calm surf, which makes it very safe for swimming, especially at the beach’s southern limits. Corralillo is also ideal for sunbathing and taking long walks beside the ocean. A rocky outcropping at the beach’s southern end offers views of the entire beach and bay.
A lo largo del año se dan actividades, ligadas a comunidades, que festeja aspectos históricos, religiosos, deportivos, cívicos o artísticos.
25. Annexation of Guanacaste Day
2. Virgin of Los Angeles Day
24. National Parks Day
24. Baby Jesus Parade, from the Valdelomar Baltodano family to the Nuetro Señor de la Agonia Hermitage. Liberia.