Northern Pacific

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Guanacaste Province

This is Guanacaste the biggest province of Costa Rica, known for its plains and mountain sights.
This is Guanacaste the biggest province of Costa Rica, known for its plains and mountain sights.

The Guanacaste region is known as Costa Rica's "Gold Coast." It is situated in the northwest part of Costa Rica and is an extensive tract of land stretching endlessly toward the horizon. In the geographical sense, the Guanacaste Province is an area of extremes, but it's the driest region in Costa Rica. During the dry season much of it is covered in wild savanna grasses that sway to and fro as massive waves of gold, but the hillsides in Guanacaste can turn browner than the chaparral of southern California. Dust from dirt roads can literally blanket the trees in many areas, and the vistas are far from tropical, to say the least. During the rainy season, which starts later and ends earlier here, the land itself seems to almost come alive with thick, green tropical forest growth and the hillsides turn richly green. This is Central America’s answer to the state of Texas, the Big Country, where vast grasslands are dotted by great, spreading trees and white Brahma cattle. The flat central plain of Guanacaste Province leading into the mountainous terrain acts as a perfect setting for wilderness hiking excursions. Guanacaste Province harbors an important portion of the Costa Rican cultural and natural patrimony. There are a significant number of protected areas, including coastal, mountainous, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems, where life develops with exuberance. For instance, the mountainous region of Guanacaste Province is home to much of Costa Rica’s threatened jaguar and tapir populations. Guanacaste National Park, one conservation area in the province, houses many rare and endangered species. The large preserve protects the home ranges and migratory routes of the vast array of species found within it.

Guanacaste Province is generally known as Costa Rica’s cowboy country, home to many cattle ranches. These ranches trace their roots to the time of Spanish colonial rule, when the region’s dry woodlands were cleared in order to provide more land to the ever expanding cattle ranches. Although traditionally cattle country, Guanacaste is nowadays also known for its sunny, wide beaches, which abound along the coastline. Some are still pristine and deserted, some, such as Tamarindo, are packed with a mix of hotels and resorts, and others are backed by small fishing villages. Options range from long, populated, broad stretches of sand to tiny pocket coves bordered by rocky headlands. The international airport located just outside Liberia now brings sun-starved tourists from northern countries directly to their beach destinations.

Guanacaste Province is full of wild and vibrant colors; whether it is the landscape, clothing, houses, music, or food, coupled with its incomparable beauty and the vast diversity of the area, Guanacaste Province has become one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica.


Liberia has become a popular point of entry for travelers interested in the northern pacific region of Costa Rica.
Liberia has become a popular point of entry for travelers interested in the northern pacific region of Costa Rica.
Liberia is the capital city of Guanacaste province and was established over 200 years ago and claims to having more colonial atmosphere than almost any other city in Costa Rica. Liberia, known as the ‘white city’ due to the ubiquitous white washed façade of all its buildings, when originally, residents carried white volcanic earth and gravel from the nearby slopes of Rincon de la Vieja and Maravalles volcanoes and constructed traditional white adobe homes in the Puertas del Sol – “Doorways of the Sun” –style; designed to let both morning and afternoon sunlight into north-facing corner houses. The city is also renowned for its narrow streets and Spanish-style architecture. Liberia has a certain historic appeal with its white colored and red-tile-roofed buildings. A visitor to this dusty colonial town will get a strong sense of the area’s past history.

Liberia has almost always been a base for visiting the nearby volcanoes, national parks and beaches, but in recent years, Liberia has undergone much urban development and its local resources have been expanding. The city now sports the Daniel Oduber Airport which has become a popular point of entry for travelers who are planning to visit the nearby beaches of Nicoya Peninsula, which hopeful tourist industry magnates have dubbed, 'the new Cancun.' That said, even today, a large part of the greater Liberia area is involved in ranching operations where cowboys still rule.

Liberia hosts various festivals throughout the year. Most of these festivals will entail lively parades, roaming mariachis, colorful dress, great local cuisine, and lots of fun. The largest and most exciting festival is the Dia de Guanacaste (July 25), which is a celebration of Guanacaste’s independence from Nicaragua.

Yet another attraction of Liberia is the various bullfights that are held throughout the year. These bullfights are not done in the same vain as their Spanish brothers. Liberia’s bullfights generally consist of scores of local Ticos, usually hammered on the local fermented corn-brew (chichi), running around the ring demonstrating their machismo in the face of a huge angry bull.

From Liberia, several protected areas may be visited, including Santa Rosa National Park near the town of La Cruz and Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The beaches near the Gulf of Papagayo may also be enjoyed by the visitor to Liberia.

Liberia has an array of different eateries and restaurants that give visitors a taste of the local cowboy-cuisine. There are also a handful of upscale eco-tourist resorts located just outside of Liberia that provide guests with upscale lodging with easy access to the nearby cloud forest.


Tamarindo is a white, somewhat pebbly sand beach located on the southern tip of Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Marine Park. It encompasses an area of 2 kms. between San Francisco Point in the south and the River Matapalo estuary in the north. Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s top surf destinations as well as the biggest boomtown in Guanacaste. Along with its impressive surf, Tamarindo happens to be located in one of the most beautiful areas of Costa Rica. If you’re looking for a unique combination of adventure and culture, then this is the locale.

Tamarindo is atop any true surfers list.
Tamarindo is atop any true surfers list.
Tamarindo gets its name from the tamarind trees that line the edges of its sprawling beaches. The town has grown tremendously over the last thirty years due to Tamarindo’s allure among surfers. The town was written into the surfing books after it was one of the settings for the epic surf film, Endless Summer II. There’s no doubt this pacific coast surf town is atop any true surfers list, but it sports so much more that just world-class surf.

Tamarindo has made quite a name for itself as a popular destination among international travelers. Adding to its popularity, it was recently featured on Entertainment Television’s ‘Wild On’ program as a “Las Vegas on the Sea.” It’s no wonder Tamarindo has become a wildly popular party destination for people looking to let it all hang out.

Tamarindo is also home to beautiful ecological reserves. The Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Tamarindo is such a place dedicated to protecting the area’s fragile surrounding mangrove ecosystems. Local guides offer services that take sightseers throughout the preserve explaining the different aspects of this ecological area. The visitor to this preserve is likely to encounter monkeys, crocodiles, and exotic birdlife.

Tamarindo’s convenient location, in regards to surrounding beaches, makes it a truly appealing destination for travelers on any agenda, not just for the surfing crowd. Tamarindo provides guide services that lead visitors out to some of the more secluded surrounding beaches, such as Playa Langosta, which is a picturesque white-sand strip of beach that continues southward to the estuary of Rio San Francisco.

Isla Capitan is just off shore from Tamarindo and has long been a popular nesting and roosting ground for the pelican populations. Most of the local fishermen moor their boats here. If deep sea fishing is more to your liking then Tamarindo has local fishermen that are willing and able to lead tourists out on a great opportunity for some world-class fishing. Accommodations are plentiful, and as you would expect, Tamarindo has plenty of places to wet your whistle or party the night away with the locals or fellow tourists.

Playa del Coco

Playa del Coco is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Playa del Coco is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Playa del Coco, located in the Guanacaste Province, is one of the busiest and most built-up beaches in this area. Located approximately 35 kms. from Liberia along a paved road, the scenery consists of the horseshoe-shaped Coco Bay which is bordered with steep hills and cliffs. The beach itself, which has a grayish-brown sand and calm surf, is wide at low tide and nearly nonexistent at high tide.

Before you hit the beach, you’ll pass through a dense conglomeration of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops, but in the midst of a major construction boom, homes, condos, and hotels are also sprouting up along the coastline in both directions. Playa del Coco is a favorite destination among Ticos and weekend partiers from San Jose, but is also a jumping-off point for some of the country’s best scuba diving. Scuba diving is the most popular watersport in the area, but with plenty of boats anchored here, there’s great opportunity to go fishing, and sailing as well. Although watersports are popular, hanging out on the beach, or in the sodas, and barhopping at night are probably even more popular activities in Playa del Coco.

Playa del Coco is a party town and the people that come here like their music loud and continuous, so if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, you may want to stay away from the center of town. In other words, it's a good place to have fun, but not to rest. Still, if you’re looking to have a good time on a budget, Playa del Coco is a great option with its wide range of inexpensive hotels, fun nightlife, and fairly cheap food.

Playa del Coco has no surf to speak of, but it is a popular jumping-off point for daily boat trips to the famous surf spots such as Witches Rock, and Ollie’s Point located up in Santa Rosa National Park. The view from the bay includes Pelonas Islands, Cacique Point to the northwest and Centinela Point. Other close by attractions are the beaches of Ocotal, Hermosa and Panama, which are all within easy reach.

It is worth mentioning that the sun shines longer and more brightly here than anywhere else in Costa Rica and between April 16th and August 28th are days when there is the greatest concentration of solar energy per area-unit. Sun block, sun block, sun block and try not to sunbathe any time near high noon.