Choose from 15 Fun Things to Do in Guanacaste And Northwest
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Set of the banks of the Tempisque River, Palo Verde National Park (Parque Nacional Palo Verde) contains more than 15 topographical zones, including mangrove swamps, evergreen forests, and tropical dry forests. The park is a haven for migratory birds, bats, and 250 species of bees, plus mammals like jaguarundis (cat) and howler monkeys.
Most tours of Palo Verde National Park include lunch and round-trip transportation from Tamarindo or Liberia area hotels. Much of the park can be explored by boat and excursions typically include a river cruise, during which you can travel down the Tempisque River and spot wildlife, such as crocodiles, birds, and monkeys.
Some tours also feature a visit to a Costa Rican waterfall or include a stop for bird-watching at one of the park’s marsh habitats. For a personalized experience, private tours are also available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Palo Verde National Park is a must-see for nature lovers.
- Mosquitoes are plentiful, especially during the wet season. Be sure to pack bug repellent.
- The park’s ranger station is open from 8am until dusk and has restrooms available for visitors.
- Palo Verde National Park is a haven for many species. As such, be careful not to disturb wildlife as you explore.
How to Get There
Palo Verde National Park lies roughly one hour from Liberia and two hours from Tamarindo by road. Public transportation is limited; it’s possible to arrive by private vehicle or on a guided tour. The Tempisque River can be explored on guided boat excursions.
When to Get There
You can visit Palo Verde National Park year-round. During the wet season, many migratory birds can be found in the park, while wildlife tends to congregate around shrinking waterholes during the dry season. Due to the park’s climate, there is a chance of flooding during the wet season, which typically lasts from May through November.
Biodiversity in Palo Verde National Park
More than 60 bird species use the area as a migratory stop, and there are also about 75 mammal species, 55 reptile and amphibian species, and roughly a quarter of the world’s bee species. The bees, along with a number of other insects and many species of bats, can be found at the Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve, which lies adjacent to Palo Verde.
Address: Palo Verde National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
From $ 27
Whether it’s the feeling of seashells squishing softly between your toes as you walk, or the masseuse’s hands kneading into your back as waves splash gently on the coast, Playa Conchal has a calming feel that encapsulates pura vida. This mostly undeveloped, somewhat hidden beach has a South Pacific feel, where turquoise water beautifully blends with the pinkish hue of the sand. Grab a snorkel mask and dive right in to swim with colorful reef fish, or explore the length of the beach on horseback while enjoying a saddle-view sunset. With the exception of the all-inclusive luxury resort on the beach’s northern end, Playa Conchal is serenely empty and a welcome break from the crowds. Beachgoers who want a little more action can hang around the resort, where jet ski rentals and mobile vendors help bring Conchal to life. Or, if the only sounds you want to hear are wind, waves, and your footsteps, take a leisurely stroll down the beach to find your own private spot. While Playa Conchal is definitely one of Guanacaste’s best beaches, there’s plenty of it to go around for every visitor to enjoy.
Playa Conchal is located 30 minutes from Tamarindo and an hour from the airport at Liberia. Aside from the all-inclusive resort, there are budget accommodations in Brasilito a 15 minute walk up the beach. To access Playa Conchal itself, you can either make the enjoyable stroll from the beach at Brasilito, or drive on the sand at lower tide and hope you don’t get caught.
Address: Playa Conchal, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
From $ 85
Costa Rica is known for its incredible natural beauty, laid back vibes and picture-perfect views. Nowhere is this more evident than the Rio Negro Hot Springs. This pristine destination is home to six thermal pools with waters that are naturally heated by the nearby Ricon de la Vieja Volcano. A constant flow of water from a crystal clear river ensures the pools are always being replenished.
Tired travelers will have the chance to experience true rejuvenation on a visit to this popular destination. They can enjoy the healing benefits of a volcanic mud bath by smoothing clay over their entire body, then taking a dip in a thermal pool once it’s dried. Rio Negro Hot Springs is the perfect natural escape for visitors to Costa Rica who want to experience ultimate luxury and ultimate relaxation.
Travelers can get to Rio Negro using one of two transportation options: Horseback or car/minibus. Horses can be picked up at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin for a 1.5-hour trip each way. Minibuses also depart from the same location for a ride that is about 20 minutes each way. Entrance to the hot springs is $10 and includes a towel.
Address: Guachipelin, Guanacaste and Northwest, Costa Rica, Costa Rica
From $ 120
Llano de Cortes is one of Costa Rica's most scenic waterfalls, just a short drive from Liberia, which is more commonly the jumping off point to the Pacific beaches than jungle swimming holes. The waterfall is about 40 feet tall and 50 feet wide, creating a gorgeous veil of white water streaming over the rocks. Adventurous visitors can climb behind the falls to sit on the rocks looking outward through the veil, and the warm pool is perfect for wading, swimming and standing under the cascade of water.
It takes about 30 minutes to drive to the falls from Liberia, or two hours from the beach areas like Tamarindo. Once there, visitors can park in an open field after making a small donation to the guard just off the main road. A few dollars is the norm, and the donations go to help a local school.
Address: Bagaces 50401, Costa Rica
From $ 115
One of Costa Rica’s most spectacular yet least visited national parks, the Tenorio Volcano National Park makes a top choice for those looking to get off-the-beaten-track and is an easy side trip from the neighboring Arenal Volcano National Park. Named after its eponymous peak, the park is home to two volcanoes - Tenorio and Miravalles – and the surrounding rainforest and cloud forests offer miles of unspoiled wilderness for hikers and horseback riders.
Tenorio’s star attraction is the Rio Celeste, which flows through its center and takes its name from its luminous blue waters – the result of a chemical reaction between the naturally occurring copper sulfate, colloidal silica and sulfur. A series of lagoons and waterfalls lie along the riverside, while geysers, hot springs and thermal mud pools can also be spotted along the main hiking trails and the rainforest is teeming with wildlife – look out for hummingbirds, bear-necked umbrella birds and crested guans, as well as howler monkeys, sloths, tapirs and even pumas.
The Tenorio Volcano National Park is located in northwestern Costa Rica, about 100 miles (160 km) from San Jose and is open daily from 8am to 4pm. Adult admission is $12.
Address: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Hours: Daily 8am-4pm
Admission: $12 adults
From $ 70
Rincon de La Vieja National Park is one of the country’s most diverse ecological areas. Surrounding two volcanoes, Rincon (active) and Santa Maria (dormant), the park is also home to an extraordinary display of local flora and fauna, while being a part of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste World Heritage site.
While the plant life is impressive on its own, especially considering the enormous concentration of purple orchids here, it’s the concentration of volcanoes that really wows visitors. The Rincon de La Vieja volcano gave rise to the park’s name and contains nine separate but contiguous craters. It is one of the largest of the five volcanoes in the Guanacaste region and is believed to be over a million years old. Despite being considered active, it has not erupted since the early 1980s.
The park does see a lot of volcanic activity, including vents, fumaroles and boiling mud pots and has at least 32 rivers that flow down its sides. There are a number of nature trails for guests, with some reserved for very experienced hikers. The most popular is the 2.5-mile La Pailas trail, which takes about two to three hours and is great for spotting wildlife, flora, waterfalls and traces of volcanic activity. More ambitious hikers can spend eight hours hiking to the Santa Maria crater's summit, from where you can see Lake Nicaragua on a clear day.
Rincon de La Vieja National Park is open year-round and is closed on Mondays. Dry season, which typically falls between December and April, is the recommended time to visit, as the trails are dry and it’s easiest to spot wildlife gathering at water sources. Easter (Holy Week) and Christmas are peak times for locals to visit and the park may be very crowded. Be sure to bring swimwear and shoes appropriate for loose gravel and rugged terrain. Hikers are only allowed to complete one hiking trail at a time and must check in with the ranger station to avoid initiating a search.
Address: Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
From $ 92
Once the site of a quiet fishing village, Tamarindo Beach has become one of Costa Rica's most popular stretches of golden sand. Surfers travel from across the globe to ride Tamarindo's waves, but you don’t need to be a pro to hang 10 here. There are spots nearby that are calm enough for first-time wave riders to learn.
This beach has become one of the most developed on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Some visitors say the beach town has lost its authentic charm, while others enjoy the modern restaurants, nightlife, and creature comforts. Regardless, the mile-long, crescent-shaped beach offers plenty of space to sunbathe; the shallow, calm waters make for good swimming conditions; and sailing, kayaking, fishing, and surfing are all popular activities. All-terrain vehicle tours and sailing cruises are also available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Surfers take note: Waves are said to be best close to the estuary.
- There are many facilities and lodging options in the town of Tamarindo, or you can head across the river to Playa Grande for a more quiet atmosphere.
- Parking can be difficult to find and parking guards will sometimes charge a fee.
How to Get There
Located on Costa Rica's northern Pacific Coast, Tamarindo Beach is five hours from San José by car and only an hour from the international airport in Liberia. There are also two public bus routes to Tamarindo from San José and Liberia, as well as shared shuttle options from both cities.
When to Get There
Although the temperature is always mild, high season is November through April when days are warm and sunny. This is also nesting season for leatherback and green sea turtles in nearby Playa Grande, where observation tours are available. The summer months of June through September often see torrential amounts of rain.
Nearby Barra Honda Caves
Located inside Barra Honda National Park, a 1.5-hour drive from Tamarindo, these well-preserved limestone caves feature stalactites, stalagmites, and other calcareous formations. They are a big draw for eco-tourists and climbers, but keep in mind, you’ll need to be outfitted with the appropriate climbing gear and be accompanied by a guide to explore the caves.
Address: Costa Rica
From $ 55
Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, San Carlos, Baldi Hot Springs features thermo-mineral hot water pools with great views of the volcano. It’s the biggest hot springs facility in the region and the perfect way to relax after hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park.
Located within the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa, there are day-use options as well as availability for hotel guests. The 25 pools range in temperature from 93 to 152 degrees Fahrenheit and get hotter as the elevation rises. It's recommended that you balance your time between pools, as your core temperature will begin to rise after about 20 minutes in a hot pool. The minerality and temperature of the water is believed to rid the body of germs and viruses while increasing blood circulation and releasing harmful toxins.
For the adventurous, Baldi Hot Springs also has extreme water slides that send you bumping and sliding before landing in the natural hot springs pool. Have children? his site is family friendly and features specially designed secure shallow pools with slides and a continuous stream of water that will keep kids thoroughly entertained.
Despite its proximity to Arenal Volcano, the Baldi Hot Springs are located outside of the volcano risk zone established by the National Prevention of Risks and Emergency Commission. The site is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and smoking is not allowed on the premises. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera and a change of clothes; lockers are available for an additional fee.
Address: Del Centro De La Fortuna 4 Km, San Carlos, Costa Rica
Hours: Daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
From $ 225
Towering 6,653 feet above the northwestern plains, Miravelles volcano is the highest peak in the region of Guanacaste. The air up here is refreshingly cool when compared to the tropical beaches, and adventurous day trips up Miravalles volcano provide a way to escape the coast for the wild, rain-soaked interior. Though technically classified as a dormant volcano, Miravelles still carries enough heat to cause geysers and pockets of steam. Hiking to naturally heated mud baths is a popular visitor activity, and the smell of sulfur hangs in the air like the clouds that cling to the trees. Hiking, horseback riding, and ziplining tours all dot the volcanic slope, and for a dose of authentic rainforest adventure, make the hike to Celeste Waterfall that thunders into a cerulean lagoon in the middle of a tropical rainforest. When you aren’t bathing in natural hot springs or cooling off beneath falls, scan the treetops for colorful signs of dozens of species of birds. Thanks in part to a microclimate that’s caused by the lush volcano, the birdwatching here is some of the best you’ll find in Costa Rica, and whether you’re wobbling your way across suspension bridges or riding tractors to get there, visiting Miravelles volcano is a highlight of touring Guanacaste.
Miravelles volcano is approximately 90 minutes from the Guanacaste coast. Day trips from Tamarindo and Playa del Coco are a popular way to visit, and the nearest town is the town of Bagaces about 30 minutes away. Should you choose to visit, be sure to bring clothes that can get dirty and wet and a sturdy pair of shoes.
Address: Guanacaste and Northwest, Costa Rica, Costa Rica
From $ 110
There was once a time when Playa Flamingo was nothing but mangroves and sand, but an influx of modern, high end development now dots the white sand coast. Love it, lament it, loathe it, or live it, the best thing to do in Playa Flamingo is simply relax and enjoy it. Playa Flamingo’s sugary shoreline is sheltered by Punta Salinas, and sandwiched between Portrero Bay and the town of Brasilito. Deep sea fisherman flock to the town for some of the world’s best angling, and at the nearby Catalina Islands, snorkelers and divers can spend the day with turtles, manta rays, or dolphins. As with much of the Guanacaste region, Playa Flamingo is a welcome combination of tranquility and first world comforts. You can leave a winding trail of footprints on a beautiful golden beach, or fill the day with golf, shopping, and exceptional dining by night. You can search for monkeys and Leatherback turtles in the nearby national parks, or spend the entire day floating or swimming in the protected bay. While nearby towns such as Tamarindo are a haven for visiting surfers, Playa Flamingo is better suited for swim trunks, mask, and snorkel. And, since modern development has brought improvement to access and local roads, shopping, nightlife, and modern pursuits are only a short drive away.
Playa Flamingo is 30 minutes from Tamarindo and an hour from Liberia’s airport. High season is from November-April when the coast is sunny and dry, and rainy season peaks in September with periodic floods.
Address: Playa Flamingo, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
From $ 85
Santa Rosa National Park (Parque Nacional Santa Rosa) encompasses much of Costa Rica’s Santa Elena Peninsula and is one of the country’s oldest protected areas. Thick jungles and mangrove forests give way to rolling ocean and white beaches along the country’s coastline, while further inland, dry tropical forests teem with flora and fauna.
Keep an eye out for iguanas and monkeys, as you trek through the forests of Santa Rosa National Park, or walk along the coast and scan the sands for sea turtle tracks. In addition to the park’s wealth of wildlife, one of Santa Rosa’s most popular attractions is the historic Hacienda La Casona. Tours of the hacienda, which commemorates the 1856 victory of Tico civilians against foreign mercenaries, allow you to explore the jungle and learn about the settlement’s storied past.
Farther west, the park’s coastline is famously home to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point—two world-class surfing beaches. While these locations are remote and difficult to access, surfing tours provide transportation by boat and allow you to discover some of the area’s more hidden spots.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Santa Rosa National Park is a must-see for nature and history lovers.
- The park’s Nancite Beach (Playa Nancite) is a protected nesting spot for olive ridley sea turtles. As such, all visitors to the beach must arrange a permit in advance from the National Park office.
- Santa Rosa is a haven for many protected species; be careful not to disturb wildlife as you explore.
How to Get There
Santa Rosa National Park lies on Costa Rica’s northwest corner, less than an hour by road from the city of Liberia, the departure point for most tours. It’s possible to arrive by private vehicle, although guided excursions typically provide round-trip transportation.
When to Get There
Dry season in Santa Rosa National Park usually lasts from December through April. The peak wet season is September through October, and while rains can occasionally wash out roads, many times precipitation comes in the form of short-lived afternoon storms. Pacific ridley sea turtles nest and hatch on the beaches in late summer.
Santa Rosa National Park History
Costa Rica is famously known for its pristine national parks, and Santa Rosa is the country’s oldest. Established in 1972, the park began Costa Rica’s tradition of conservation. Santa Rosa National Park is the site of the 1856 Battle of Santa Rosa, during which Costa Rican forces defeated a force of mercenaries backed by foreign businessmen.
Address: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
From $ 30
Las Pumas Rescue Center is located in the Guanacaste area near Cañas and serves to rescue, rehabilitate and ensure good conditions for wildlife in Costa Rica. The rescue center primarily caters to larger cats, but there are a number of local species that have benefited from the services at Las Pumas. In addition to the large cats, monkeys, deer and even parrots have been treated here, as well as two toucans that were rescued in 2007 after two men were caught trying to sell them.
The center was established in the midst of deforestation in the 1960s to promote wildlife rehabilitation and conversation efforts. The site fights against hunting, deforestation and poaching of wild animals in Guanacaste by taking in animals that have been removed from their natural habitat, seized by authorities or even brought in by concerned citizens.
It’s important to note that Las Pumas Rescue Center is not a zoo. Animals are rehabilitated with a goal of returning them to the wild; however, that isn't always feasible. Animals unfit to be released are continually cared for.
The Las Pumas Rescue Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (until 5 p.m. during high season) and is located at the Palo Verde National Park. Donations to the nonprofit organization are welcomed to help Las Pumas rehabilitate injured Costa Rican wildlife.
Address: Pan-American Highway, 4. 5km From Canas (Direction Liberia) | Canas, Canas, Costa Rica, Canas, Costa Rica
Hours: Daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; until 5 p.m. in high season
From $ 100
Don’t look now, but it seems like dinosaurs are once again roaming the forests of Rincon de la Vieja. Here at the Dino World Dinosaur Park, watch a vicious Tyrannosaurus Rex as it prowls and growls through the rainforest, or stare in wonder at the towering height of a life-sized, long necked Brontosaurus. More than just stationery statues of dinosaurs, the creatures here at the Dino Park are moving, growling, full-sized replicas of dinosaurs that once roamed the continent, and offer a curiously real way to see how dinosaurs looked in the wild. Interestingly enough, Costa Rica was still underwater when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, though now it sports the only park of its kind in Latin America. Over two dozen different species of dinosaurs all lurk in the trees and the jungle, from quick and nimble velociraptors to lumbering three-horned triceratops. There’s also an educational component to all of the different dinosaurs, and guests will learn their diet, habitat, history, and era they lived in. As part of the popular Blue River Resort, the Dino Park also is nearby to spas, hot springs, mud baths, and swimming pools, and is set on the slopes of a lush volcano in the Guanacaste interior.
Food and drink are available at the park, and it’s best to bring bug spray, comfortable shoes, a bathing, sunscreen, and a rain jacket. The Dino Park is 3 miles from the main Blue River Resort, and four-wheel drive is recommended, but not essential for reaching the park. The Blue River Resort is about 90 minutes from the Liberia.
Address: Rincon de la Vieja, Liberia, Costa Rica
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Admission: $25 for adults and $15 for children
From $ 125
Costa Rica is known for its adventure — zip lining, surfing, horseback riding. Diamante Eco Adventure Park is a great place to partake, with the country’s longest dual ocean view zip line and a host of other activities. At nearly one mile long, the unique zip line allows for two people at once to soar effortlessly above the Costa Rican jungle with expansive views of the ocean.
With more than thirty activities on both land and sea, the eco adventure park has miles of walking and biking trails, a climbing wall, and a hanging bridge. The park is surrounded by tropical rainforest, where exotic birds, monkeys, snakes, and sloths reside and wildlife sightings are not uncommon. There are plenty of ways to explore the nature of the area, whether by ATV or by spending some time in the botanical garden or wildlife rescue center. In the nearby ocean, visitors can experience the warm waters by kayak, stand up paddle board, surfing, or snorkeling.
Diamante Eco Adventure Park is located just southwest of Playa del Coco in Guanacaste. The best way to get there is to head to the RIU Guanacaste/RIU Palace hotels on Playa Matapalo. The park is located beside the hotels. It costs $68 to do the zip line, and $88 for the zip line combined with other activities.
Address: RIU Guanacaste Route, Costa Rica
Hours: Open daily 8:30am-5pm
Admission: No fee for entry, activity costs vary
From $ 42
Situated in the heart of the Guanacaste area adjacent to the Rincon de La Vieja National Park, Vida Aventura Nature Park offers the perfect mix of adventure and nature. Allot a whole day here to zip line, ride a horse and then wind down in the hot springs.
Vida Aventura Nature Park features El Gavilan, a zip line and canopy experience that ensures a full rush of adrenaline. As you zip through the air, take in the views of ancient lava canyons and the Rincon de la Vieja and Miravalles volcanoes. Explore the biodiverse Costa Rican jungle while helping to support conservation efforts—a win-win situation. There are also nature trails all over Vida Aventura that are great for families and those looking to spot some wildlife.
Visitors can hop on a horse to learn how to drive cattle Guanasten style and to see the tropical dry forest area of the nature park, all before taking advantage of the site's thermal pools. Unwind and relax with a volcanic mud treatment, or stay active by checking out El Resbalon, the nature park’s water slide.
Vida Aventura is located 35 miles from most of the Guanacaste hotels. it is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and visitors should be sure to bring swimwear and a change of dry clothes.
Address: Vida Aventura Nature Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
From $ 85