Costa Rica is an undeniably magical place. Our things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica highlight some of the best, the brightest, and the most unique of that magic.
From blue rivers and steaming volcano fumaroles to giant sea creatures and the world’s most endangered tropical ecosystem, we’re taking you to and through some of our favorites – and sometimes, off-the-beaten-path – sights in our province. Enjoy!
Rio Celeste: The Blue River and Waterfall
You’ve seen it in the photos and now you can see it for yourself: Costa Rica’s standout, photogenic, jaw-dropping Río Celeste – the famed baby-blue Celestial River and waterfall, where the water really, truly is blue.
By that, we mean you can scoop it into the palm of your hand and it’ll still be baby blue. Because this hue is not a trick of the light but rather, a chemical reaction between the water’s colloidal silica and copper sulfate and an active volcano’s sulfur.
Because Río Celeste is housed within the greater protection of Tenorio Volcano National Park, home not only to an active volcano, blue river, and striking waterfall, but also to lowland forests, endangered Baird’s tapir (relatives of the rhinoceros, did you know?!), and a host of volcano-fueled sights, including bubbling mud pots, thermal geysers, and hot springs (too hot for a dip, though!).
Playa Ostional & Playa Grande: Sea Turtle Nesting Sites
One of the world’s most spectacular sights is also one of our top things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: turtle nesting and its literal lovechild, turtle hatching.
Did you know that there are four species of sea turtles in Costa Rica – green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, and olive ridley sea turtles – and that they all inhabit Guanacaste’s Pacific shores? We are so proud and lucky to welcome them, and our province and country make considerable efforts to ensure their protection.
Case in point: Many of their most important beaches are protected by law, housed within national parks and wildlife refuges. Three of the most stand-out are, from south to north, Playa Ostional, Playa Grande, and Playa Nancite. The bookends – Playa Ostional and Playa Nancite – host huge olive ridley turtle arribadas, when thousands of nesting mothers come ashore at once. Playa Grande, adjacent to Tamarindo Beach, hosts leatherback sea turtle nesting. Both sea turtle species are considered endangered.
Stay Here: Villa Nova
Santa Teresa | 7 Beds | 7 Baths | 18 Guests
Nestled into the wilds of the Nicoya Peninsula, only a few steps to white sands and famed Playa Santa Teresa, Villa Nova is an invitation to explore your own little slice of paradise.
For here, surrounded by a tropical oasis, this spectacular luxury home promises some of Costa Rica’s most exclusive amenities, including two private, saltwater pools; an outdoor living room (rancho) with BBQ; dense tropical gardens; and an architectural home with six private bedroom suites, two state-of-the-art kitchens, and floor-to-ceiling glass that creates a blend between the outdoors and in.
Rincón de la Vieja: An Active Volcano
If there’s one magical, perspective-altering, inland experience to recommend, then it may just be this one. Because, while Rincón de la Vieja National Park and its eponymous volcano may not be the flashiest things to do in Guanacaste, what you find here will strike awe and inspire wonder.
We highly recommend visiting the park’s Las Pailas sector, which wends through a warren of sights and volcano attractions. It all begins at a hanging bridge and beneath a dense forest canopy: A setting not so different from many other destinations throughout Costa Rica. But a quick amble down the trail begins to reveal a world unlike any other you’ll see here.
Soon, the landscape has morphed into the lovechild of Mars and moonscape – of red rocks and scrubby landscapes, where mud pots boil and giant bubbles pop; a small volcano belches sulfur-scented steam; volcano-fueled hot springs sizzle (literally, so don’t touch!); and fumaroles release geothermal pressure. It’s a wild and completely unknown world that everyone should have a chance to explore!
The Bat Islands and the Catalinas: Home to Giant Manta Rays
Giant manta rays are at once one of the most ethereal creatures of the sea and an incredibly imposing sight: Measuring up to 30 feet long and an incredible 3,000 pounds, these marine giants – close relatives of sharks, by the way! – are absolutely gargantuan.
And yet, giant mantas are a vulnerable species, which puts their populations in danger. They’re also big-brained, playful ocean giants, known to possess personalities unique to each individual. They are truly one of Costa Rica’s most esteemed Pacific sightings and their populations gather right here, off the coast of Guanacaste.
Indeed, giant manta rays are very common at our own Bat Islands (June through August) and the Catalinas Islands (January through March, with best sightings in February). During these months, scuba trips out to either site are popular, as visitors flock to spot this most gentle and yet spellbinding ocean titan.
Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point: Famed Surf Spot
Guanacaste plays proud parent to two of the world’s most famous surf spots. Doubting our superlatives? Not only do expert surfers make annual pilgrimages to both, but Witch’s Rock’s famed conditions were finally and forever immortalized in the surf movie classic, Endless Summer 2! As we said, proud parents here!
Anyway, for anyone with serious skill on a surfboard, Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock offer incredibly challenging conditions. But keep in mind, they aren’t for the faint of heart: both are reserved for advanced surfers only, as their barrels and breaks are not only huge but inconsistent, adding an extra layer of challenge to the mix.
Love to surf but aren’t ready for these conditions? Don’t worry! The Guanacaste area promises some of the best surf conditions in Costa Rica, including some incredible beginner surfing spots. You’ll be up on your board and conquering the Pacific in no time!
Diriá National Park: Rare Tropical Dry Forest
We’ll admit – it’s really hard to make a list like this. Because when it comes to magic and biodiversity, Costa Rica really is nobility. Superlatives, only-heres, and you-have-see-it-to-believe-its truly seem to rain down on our tiny nation.
And yet, there’s one that is so incredible, so inspirational, and so important that we can’t believe it doesn’t make all the lists. In fact, it doesn’t make many lists. And yet, for any nature lover, for every wildlife watcher, for anyone researching things to do in Guanacaste – this is something you have to see!
Because, when the Spanish first arrived in the Americas, there were about 550,000 square kilometers of tropical dry forest covering the New World. Today, merely a few hundred years later, only 0.9% (480 square kilometers) of that remaining tropical dry forest has been designated as a conservation forest.
And that makes the tropical dry forest the most endangered tropical ecosystem in the world. What’s more, Costa Rica is home to quite a few of those conserved acres, some of which are just 30 miles from Tamarindo in Diriá National Park (pronounced deer-ee-AH, emphasis on the final syllable).
Here, you will surround yourself with one of the world’s last remaining swaths of tropical dry forest. You’ll feel the difference – the lush abundance without the rainforest’s heady humidity, the deciduous leaf-drop with the north’s snow – and you’ll spot animals, trees, flowers, and other flora and fauna species you’d be hard-pressed to see elsewhere. For the best experience, we recommend a guide!
Bonus: Manuel Antonio National Park: Where Rainforest Meets the Sea
If you’re looking for that perfect postcard experience, then you’ll love the promises of Manuel Antonio and its namesake, Manuel Antonio National Park.
Located on the Central Pacific coast, a few hours south of Guanacaste (or a quick-ish plane ride), this is one of Costa Rica’s most visited national parks – and for very good reason! Not only are the densely foliaged rainforest trails wheelchair accessible and easily hiked, but they lead through the biodiverse tropical rainforest on their way to white-sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean.
Here, you’ll spot everything from curious (and endangered) Central American spider monkeys and sunning iguanas to mischievous white-faced monkeys and vociferous scarlet macaws. It’s a wildlife wonderland and yet, it’s also one of the most picturesque spots in Costa Rica, thanks to the year-round contrast of greener-than-green rainforest against sun-bleached sand and azure ocean.
Stay Here: Villa Los Sueños
Manuel Antonio | 7 Beds | 7 Baths | 14 Guests
What’s in a name? Perched on a cliff overlooking Manuel Antonio and the Pacific Ocean, Villa Los Sueños is the Villa of Dreams – an escape so breathtaking and luxurious, you’d think you’d dreamed it into existence.
With more than 6,000 square feet of interiors and a spectacular 3,000 square feet of terraces and decks, this is a home that invites you to vacation outdoors and in total luxurious splendor. Magnificent views can be enjoyed on every level, thanks to nine-foot folding window walls. And speaking of, you’ll love the ocean-view salt-sanitized infinity pool and indoor Jacuzzi.
Looking for More Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica?
For a country smaller than West Virginia, Costa Rica is vast. Its promises are many, its wonders expansive, and its to-dine lists long. So really, it begins with you: What flavors do you want to experience? What do you want to see and do? Where do you want to go?
At Luxury Villas Costa Rica, we have two specialties: homes at and on the best beaches in Guanacaste, and you. Yes, you. Because a great vacation is rooted in heart – in what you hope to get out of your travels. So please, tell us why you’ve chosen Costa Rica. If you don’t know exactly where you want to go, even if you haven’t whittled down your wish list, we can help. We love to help.