Planning Your Time
- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Guanacaste is a large region; its numerous attractions are spread out and getting between any two major areas can eat up the better part of a day. The region is diverse enough to justify exploring in its entirety, for which you should budget no less than a week. Monteverde alone requires a minimum of two days, and ideally four, to take advantage of all that it offers. Nor would you wish to rush exploring Rincón de la Vieja National Park, requiring two or three nights.
Recent years have seen a boost in regional tourism following expansion of the international airport at Liberia, now served with direct flights by most key U.S. carriers. The airport is well served by car rental companies.
The Pan-American Highway (Highway 1) cuts through the heart of lowland Guanacaste, ruler-straight almost all the way between the Nicaraguan border in the north and Puntarenas in the south. Juggernaut trucks frequent the fast-paced and potholed road, which is one lane in either direction. Drive cautiously!
North of Liberia the route is superbly scenic. Almost every sight of importance lies within a short reach of the highway, accessed by dirt side roads. If traveling by bus, sit on the east-facing side for the best views.
Touristy it might be, but Monteverde, the big draw, delivers in heaps. Its numerous attractions include canopy tours; horseback riding; art galleries; and orchid, snake, frog, and butterfly exhibits. At Selvatura, the one-of-a-kind Jewels of the Rainforest Bio-Art Exhibition is worth the arduous uphill journey to Monteverde in its own right. Most visitors come to hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, the most famous of several similar reserves that make up the Arenal-Monteverde Protection Zone.
Back in the lowlands, the town of Cañas offers Las Pumas Rescue Center and the Río Corobicí: the former a refuge for big-cat species; the latter good for relatively calm white-water trips. To the north, few visitors make it to Volcán Miravalles, where several recreational facilities take advantage of thermal waters that also feed bubbling mud-pots and geysers. A side trip to Palo Verde National Park, with more than a dozen distinct habitats, is recommended for bird-watchers.
Nearby, Liberia is worth a stop for its well-preserved colonial homesteads. The city is gateway to both the Nicoya Peninsula and Rincón de la Vieja National Park, popular for hikes to the summit and for horseback rides and canopy tours from nature lodges outside the park.
Santa Rosa National Park is more easily accessed from the Pan-American Highway and is popular for nature trails offering easy viewing of a dizzying array of animals and birds. It also has splendid beaches, great surfing, and La Casona, a historic building considered a national shrine.
The Cámara de Turismo Guanacasteca (tel. 506/2690-9501, www.letsgoguanacaste.com), the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism, is a good resource.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition