Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Bahía Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge

This wilderness area is characterized by its dry forests and their guanacaste, rain and legume trees. It also contains mangrove swamps featuring black and red mangroves. Animals that may be observed include spider, Congo and white-faced monkeys, white-tailed deer and iguanas. Trails, a camping and picnic area, restrooms, public telephone and other services are available. Though Bahía Junquillal is the refuge’s main attraction, it also comprises Jicote and Cuajiniquil bays and Islas Los Muñecos.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Located within its grounds is the Casona (literally big house), site of the Battle of Santa Rosa on March 20, 1856, in which Costa Ricans defeated and expelled the American filibusters who invaded the country under the orders of William Walker. The park offers one of the largest dry forests in Central America and many beaches, such as Nancite and Naranjo. Here you can see the white-tailed deer, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and over 100 other mammal species.

Santa Rosa National Park

This park has two sectors: Murciélago and Santa Rosa itself. Located in the northern part of the Santa Elena peninsula, Murciélago features several beaches, including El Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena and Blanca. The administrative area offers parking, picnic tables, bathrooms, drinking water and camping. There are also viewpoints and trails. The Santa Rosa sector shelters the largest tract of tropical dry forest in Central America. Wildlife here includes white-tailed deer and Congo and white-faced monkeys. This area features two beaches: Naranjo, which permits camping, and Nancite, which is operated as a biological station and where olive ridley turtles come to nest. Finally, Santa Rosa has great historical importance as the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa. This sector offers several trails and viewpoints, as well as other points of interest such as the Monument to the Heroes of 1856 and 1955 and the historical house, which was completely rebuilt in 2002.

Guanacaste National Park

At just over 32,000 hectares, this park contains Orosí and Cacao volcanoes, which are its main attractions. It is divided into three sectors: Maritza, Pitilla and Cacao. The Maritza sector is located on the slopes of Orosí volcano, at 650 meters above sea level. It shelters a dry to wet forest that gives birth to rivers and streams, a variety of birds and a large population of collared peccaries. Available services include drinking water, outhouses, trails and general information. Located one kilometer south of La Cruz, the Pitilla sector’s main feature is its wet forest. Birds and other animals can be seen on the trails, as well as a spectacular view of Lake Nicaragua. The Cacao sector is located on the slopes of the volcano of the same name, at some 1,100 meters above sea level. Trails connect dry forest to wet and cloud forests. With the proper permit, visitors may climb to the top of the volcano.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Located 25 km from Liberia, this place has an active volcano of 1916 meters above sea level, 257 species of birds and the largest concentration of orchids in Costa Rica, among which dwells the guaria morada (Guarianthe skinneri), the national flower. In the southern slopes of the volcano there is an area of ​​hot springs and fumaroles.

Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Comprising the massif that contains Rincón de la Vieja volcano, this national park has an area of 14,083 hectares and is divided into two sectors: Las Pailas and Santa María. The park contains nine volcanic cones and one lake, La Jilgueros. Pailas Sector: Trail (7.5 km) to the Von Seebach (1,898 meters above sea level) and Rincón de la Vieja (1,806 meters above sea level) craters; trail to las pailas (2.77 km); trail to La Cangreja (5.1 km) and Escondidas (4.3 km) waterfalls; trail to the Río Blanco pool (600 m); trail to fumaroles and mud volcanoes. Santa María Sector: Trail to Enchanted Forest waterfall (1.1 km); trail to Pailas sector (8 km); trail to coldwater springs (1.6 km); trail to hot springs (2.75 km). In the vicinity of the administrative office there are restrooms, picnic areas and a camping ground, as well as a historical house and sugar mill. The park may also be accessed from Buenos Aires de Upala.

Volcán Tenorio National Park

Located in Guanacaste’s Cordillera Volcánica, this park features several life zones, including low montane rainforest, very wet tropical forest and very wet premontane forest. Its maximum altitude is 1,916 meters above sea level. Plant species include palms, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. In terms of animals, there are white-faced and Congo monkeys, giant anteaters, pumas, tapirs and peccaries. Birds include a variety of trogon birds and bellbirds. The park offers parking, drinking water, outhouses, researcher accommodations, information, trails and viewpoints that allow visitors to enjoy its features. These attractions and the hot springs are located not far from the administrative office, and are connected by a trail called Misterios del Tenorio (Mysteries of Tenorio). It is simply wonderful to swim in the sky-blue river, and to take in the park’s natural environs.

Volcán Miravalles Protected Area

This protected area’s main attraction is its volcano, the tallest one (2,028 meters above sea level) in Guanacaste’s Cordillera Volcánica, Bagaces canton. Its slopes feature hot springs that may be enjoyed at the pool in Guayabo. Volcanic fumaroles can also be visited. There are beautiful waterfalls in the area, such as Cabro Muco and the waterfall on the grounds of the college in La Fortuna, near to which are several lakes. In addition, this area is home to Costa Rica’s only geothermal electricity production project.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Sea-Turtle on the pacific coast of Costa Rica (Peninsula Nicoya). The turtle came out of the ocean and stoped right next to the woman to dig a hole for egg deposition. Tide was too high on this day so she could not finish.”

Las Baulas National Marine Park and Tamarindo National Wildlife Refuge

Both these wilderness areas are located mainly in the Playa Grande area and in the Tamarindo estuary; however, they also include Playa Carbón, Playa Ventanas and Playa Langosta, Morro and Hermoso hills and the San Francisco and Ventanas mangrove swamps. Nesting giant leatherback turtles are the park’s main tourist attraction. Largest of the world’s sea turtles, the endangered leatherback is protected in Costa Rica. The refuge’s main attraction is its mangrove swamp, with its fast-growing trees. Most common mangrove species here include red, black, white and piñuela. These mangrove forests are ideal breeding grounds for fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Reptiles, amphibians and birds may also be seen here. Tours are available for observing nesting leatherbacks and touring the Tamarindo estuary.

Playa Conchal

This beach and Conchal make up Bahía Brasilito. The surf and drop-offs are gentle to moderate, depending on the area. A mangrove swamp and Isla Loros lie at the southern end of the beach. Here, visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, walking and taking in the maritime scenery, as well as gorgeous sunsets.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica

Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo, along with Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas, make up Bahía Tamarindo. This beautiful beach features rocky areas and an island (Capitán) at its southern end. Its luxuriant greenery includes pink trumpet trees, tamarinds and coconut palms. Excellent and varied services are offered, allowing visitors to enjoy the beach by day and the nightlife after sunset. A Blue Flag beach, Tamarindo is ideal for relaxing, walking, horseback riding and sport-fishing and diving tours, as well as visiting the mangrove swamp and observing nesting sea turtles. South of the bay lies the most important stretch of coast for surfing.

Playa Langosta

Separated from Tamarindo by Punta San Francisco, this cove has two main areas divided by the mouth of the Río San Francisco. To the north the coast is rocky and unsuitable for swimming; to the south is a mangrove swamp. Both areas are very pleasant for walking and observing the scenery and diverse bird species. A Blue Flag beach, Langosta is quite popular with surfers.

Purple sunset on Playa Ocotal on the Pacific Ocean in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Playa Ocotal

Set in a cove bordered by hills, this beach has gray sand and little surf. At its southern end is Punta Cirial, surrounded by crystalline waters. This beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and water sports such as diving and sport-fishing, which are offered in various parts of the region. Magnificent views of the Gulf of Papagayo are enjoyable from the heights of the adjacent hills. Ocotal is a Blue Flag beach.

Río Tempisque

Born on the slopes of Orosí volcano, this river runs 159 kilometers. Its tributaries include the Colorado, Salto, Bebedero, Bolsón, Diriá and Cañas rivers. Tours on this navigable river offer sightings of the numerous bird species that inhabit the mangrove swamps on its banks. The Tempisque’s lower basin is home to Palo Verde National Park.

Río Corobicí

Located a few kilometers from the city of Cañas, this beautiful river can be run in rafts. Its Class I and II rapids are suitable for anyone wanting to take the trip featuring lovely river scenery and observation of birds such as herons and toucans. The Corobicí is one of the only rivers in the entire region with rapids.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

A sandy beach at a popular swimming hole at Llanos de Cortés waterfall near Bagaces, Costa Rica.

Llanos del Cortés Waterfalls

These are located a few kilometers north of the town of Bagaces, on the highway to Liberia, where a turnoff to the left leads to this spot. Several meters tall and surrounded by lush greenery, the waterfalls form a beautiful curtain that falls into a pool where visitors can enjoy a swim and a small, light-sand beach.

Río Liberia Canyon

A few kilometers from Liberia on the road to the Santa María sector of Rincón de la Vieja National Park is a deep canyon carved by the Río Liberia. From a scenic point of view the canyon is breathtaking; in addition to the canyon itself, the Rincón de la Vieja volcano may be seen, and the vegetation here is different from that in the lower parts of the region.


Known as the “white city,” Liberia is a typical flatland town with wide streets, old buildings and houses of bahareque (a material similar to adobe but made with cattle dung and straw). The city has managed to combine old edifices, customs and traditions with modernism and new buildings, including malls and various services. Recent years have seen much urban development, and the new facilities of the Daniel Oduber Airport allow it to receive regular and charter flights from several cities in Canada and the United States.

Northern Guanacaste Costa Rica Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

A brass band participating in a tope in the beach town of Playas del Coco.

Guancaste Cultural Expression

Guanacaste is known for its music, which is the most popular form of artistic expression in the province. “Music is an important character to be respected and appreciated,” and seems to be a natural ability among Guanacaste’s sabaneros.
As a complement to music, Guanacaste’s traditional dances have been preserved throughout time like oral tradition, and are the truest representation of what social and cultural life once was in the Guanacaste province. Greatly influenced by the Andalusian zapateado from Spain, dances include El Punto Guanacasteco, Los Amores de Laco, La Cajeta, La Flor de Caña, El Torito, El Zapateado, El Pavo and La Botijuela, among others.
One of Guanacaste’s most important staples, corn is the base of many of the region’s typical foods and beverages: tortillas guanacastecas, tanelas, tayuyas, tamales, pisques, tamal dulce, arroz de maíz, nacatamales, rosquillas, bizcochos, pozol, atol, chicheme, chicha, pinol and more. Key places to enjoy these foods and beverages are the markets in Liberia and Nicoya, and the famous Cooperativa de Mujeres (Women’s Cooperative) in Santa Cruz.

Tropical Discovery Tours going to this location: