Top 10 Costa Rica Pacific Coast & Guancaste Things to Do

Top 10 Costa Rica Pacific Coast & Guanacaste Things to Do

By: | November 8th, 2017 | 0 Comment


Costa Rica is paradise for the adventurous, nature-lovers, animal-lovers, and also for people who just want a relaxing beach vacation. The Costa Rica Pacific Coast and its encompassing Guanacaste Province in the North are among the best places in Costa Rica to vacation. Guanacaste is popular among luxury travelers as the best area to stay in Costa Rica thanks to its pristine beaches and the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula. This gated community has the country’s only luxury marina. Not suprisingly, this region is home to many of the best places to stay in Costa Rica on the beach. The most luxurious Costa Rica beach resorts in this region include Four Seasons and Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort (where we stayed for free using Hyatt points). Read our Andaz Papagayo review and review of Andaz Papagayo restaurants for tons of photos and details about one of the most luxurious Costa Rica Pacific Coast resorts. Here’s a little teaser video with drone footage of the Papagayo Peninsula and Hyatt Andaz on the Gulf of Papagayo to show you just how jaw-droppingly beautiful it is.

These 2 resorts located on the Gulf of Papagayo and its luxurious Papagayo Peninsula are widely regarded as the best places to stay in Guanacaste Costa Rica, if not the best places in Costa Rica to stay period. However, luxury resorts and stunning beaches are not the only reason Guanacaste is the most visited area of Costa Rica. This beautiful region offers many amazing things to do!

So now that we’ve hopefully convinced you to visit Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast in the Northwest of the country, you need to know the best things to do in Guanacaste Costa Rica.  The top activities include exploring the national parks, sapphire blue waters, sunny beaches, lush tropical forests, natural thermal springs, waterfalls, cloud forests, and more. It’s hard to decide how to spend your time when there are so many popular places in Costa Rica to visit and incredible activities to try. Here are our suggestions for the top things to do in Guanacaste Costa Rica. These must-do activities are perfect for solo travelers, couples, or even families. If you want to do more on your vacation than lounge by the pool, try some of the best excursions in Costa Rica. No matter what you do, you’re guaranteed a good time in this beautiful Central American country.  We are convinced after one visit that the Guanacaste Province is one of the best vacation spots in Costa Rica. It offers everything you could want for a dream vacation. We were just there and are already trying to figure out when we can return. It is one of the most popular places in Costa Rica thanks to the diversity of activities and exciting adventures that await. We hope our travel tips help you plan your visit to the land of Pura Vida (pure life)!

1. Go zip-lining with a view of the Pacific Coast

Zip-lining is one of the most exciting and exhilarating things to do in Costa Rica. It’s definitely a bucket-list item for Costa Rica. You get to fly through the tropical forest at speeds of 100km/hour, channeling your inner Superman or Wonder Woman. We had so much fun zip-lining at Diamante Eco Adventure Park, which is near Liberia, that we did it twice during our visit. It is the only ocean-view zipline in Costa Rica so the views are exceptional. For all the juicy details and tons of photos, drone footage and Go Pro videos, check out our post about our adventures ziplining on Costa Rica’s #1 zipline.

Costa Rica Pacific coast zip-lining

Ready for the Superman zipline overlooking the ocean and forest in Costa Rica at Diamante Eco Adventure Park

2. Visit an animal sanctuary where you can feed toucans

Costa Rica is home to so many species of exotic animals that roam freely throughout the tropical forest. If you’re lucky, you may see several kinds of animals in the wild with the help of a guide who has a keen eye for spotting them. If you want to see them in one place, visit an animal sanctuary for rescued animals. We visited the animal sanctuary at Diamante Eco Adventure Park while we were there zip-lining, which is included in their Adventure Pass. We saw sloths, capuchin monkeys, marmosets, spider monkeys, jaguars, toucans, crocodiles, birds, iguanas, snakes, frogs, butterflies, and more. We learned interesting facts about the animals from the guides who walked us around the sanctuary. Did you know that iguanas have 2 penises? 😉

What’s even more exciting is that you can hold and feed the toucans, which was the highlight of our visit. Read all about our visit to the animal sanctuary at Diamante Eco Adventure Park and see more photos of the adorable animals like cuddly looking sloths and sleek jaguars. If you are traveling with kids, this is one of the best destinations in Costa Rica to visit. We are planning a return trip with our kids because they will go wild over holding toucans.

Guanacaste Costa Rica Things to Do

Holding toucans at Diamante Animal Sanctuary in Costa Rica

3. Ride an ATV or go horseback riding on the beach and forest

Costa Rica is all about adventure and there are so many ways to explore this gorgeous country. We had a hard time deciding between taking a horseback ride or going ATV’ing since we didn’t have time for both. We opted for the ATV since it was something we’d never done before. We are so glad we tried it because it was so much fun! We cruised along the beach, splashed through rivers in the forest, and had fun taking turns driving. Bertaut even flew his drone along behind us and attached his 360 degree camera to the front of the ATV. Boys and their toys! 😉 Check out this trippy 360 degree camera video from our ATV ride.

There are also tons of places you can go horseback riding, whether along the beach or through the tropical forest, or some of both. This is a slower-paced and more relaxed option. Horseback riding in Costa Rica is something our kids would LOVE, so hopefully we’ll get to do that on our next visit.

Things to do in Guanacaste Costa Rica

Exploring the Costa Rica Pacific Coast at Playa Matapalo on ATV’s at Diamante Eco Adventure Park

4. Get up close to wild monkeys (but don’t feed them!)

You will see wild monkeys all over the place in Costa Rica. We saw howler on keys and capucin monkeys all around our Andaz resort in the Papagayo Peninsula. Capucin monkeys were swinging around in the trees on Matapalo Beach. You shouldn’t have a hard time spotting a monkey in the wild in Costa Rica. Even though these adorable creatures may approach you, please resist the urge to feed them. This is one of the most important things not to do in Costa Rica. It actually harms them and here are some of the reasons why. They can die from bacteria on our hands or pesticides in fruit we feed them. It can also lead to aggressive behavior toward humans and a dependency on humans that harms their survival abilities. As tempting as it is to feed a wild monkey, please don’t do it! You can still capture great photos without doing them any harm.

What not to do in Costa Rica- feed wild monkeys

Spotting capucin monkeys on Matapalo Beach. What not to do in Costa Rica- feed wild monkeys.

5. Take a boat on the sapphire blue water

The waters of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast are splendidly colored sapphire blue and shades of emerald green. Don’t leave the country without venturing out onto the ocean. For the sporty types, get some exercise by taking out a kayak. Couples may opt for a romantic sunset cruise with champagne. Families might try a snorkeling cruise or a fishing trip. Thrill-seekers may opt for river rafting. There are options to please everyone. We went kayaking on Culebra Bay, which is part of the Gulf of Papagayo. Bertaut flew his drone up from the beach and captured this gorgeous shot of the area. Remember those luxury resorts we mentioned earlier? This is where they are located-on the Papagayo Peninsula. It’s not hard to understand why the most luxurious Costa Rica Pacific Coast resorts are located in this fabulous location.

Costa Rica Pacific Coast

Venture onto the beautiful Gulf of Papagayo from the Papagayo Peninsula. This is Culebra Bay seen from a drone’s view.

6. Go chasing waterfalls

We couldn’t help but think of that TLC hit “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” when we were in Costa Rica. They obviously were not singing about Costa Rica. 😉 You definitely want to go chasing waterfalls there. There are so many beautiful waterfalls throughout the country. Some require vigorous hikes to reach while others are just a few minutes down a path through the forest. We headed straight for Llanos de Cortes waterfall as soon as we landed in Liberia. It’s only about a 30 minute drive from the airport. You need to keep an eye out because there’s not a clear sign indicating where to turn off the interstate. We had slowed down based on tracking how many miles we’d driven and saw a spray-painted wooden sign for waterfall off the side of the interstate. You can easily miss it.

Llanos de Cortes Waterfall near Liberia is one of the top destinations in Costa Rica

You will have to pay about $4 for parking but can spend as long as you like there. Many people were swimming and picnicking around the waterfall. You can climb up the rocks and stand behind the waterfall. It’s a nice place to spend some time relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. Make sure to bring bug spray though because the mosquitos are fierce in Costa Rica during rainy season!

Costa Rica travel tips

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall near Liberia, Costa Rica is a great spot for swimming

7. Visit a national park and hike through the tropical forest

Costa Rica has some incredible hiking trails and many national parks. One national park in the Guanacaste Province that you don’t want to miss is Rincon de la Vieja. It covers 34,800 acres and has active volanoes, waterfalls, dwarf cloud forests, and diverse ecosystems. Some trails are strenuous and long while others are easy enough for kids. A visit to Costa Rica isn’t complete without a hike through the tropical forest, hopefully on the way to a waterfall. Make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring water. If you’re visiting during rainy season, wear waterproof shoes and a light waterproof jacket. Keep an eye out for iguanas, sloths, pumas, tapirs, monkeys, snakes, and spiders. Hopefully you won’t run into any crocodiles. 😉

One Costa Rica must-see place that we regrettably didn’t have time to visit is Rio Celeste. This river in the Tenoria Volcano National Park is famous for its distinct turquoise water. The water gets its vivid color from minerals that make it appear so magnificently blue, much like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. The hike to the Rio Celeste waterfall takes about an hour from the park’s entrance. This is one more thing high on our list for our next visit to Costa Rica. However, we were warned that during rainy season the river might not appear blue since all the runoff may turn the water brown and murky. If you are dead set on seeing that turquoise water, it’s best to visit during Costa Rica’s dry season.

Top destinations in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste in Tenorio National Park is one of the most popular places in Costa Rica to visit. Image from Flickr/Francois Bianco.

8. Soak in a thermal hot spring

After all that hiking through the tropical forests, you’ll be ready for a relaxing hot spring soak to soothe aching muscles.  Soaking in a thermal hot spring was high on my (Alexis’s) agenda during our visit to Costa Rica. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to relax in thermal water in the midst of a tropical forest. Sadly, we did not make it to a thermal spring during our much too-short vacation in Costa Rica. This is at the top of my agenda for our next visit. There are natural thermal springs in the Guanacaste province near the Rincon de La Vieja National Park. Vandara Hot Springs and the Borinqueen Mountain Resort are two options. If you have the time, make a day trip to the Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna area, which is famous for its natural hot springs. Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort offers the ultimate luxurious yet completely natural hot spring in that area. Their hot springs do not use pumps or re-heating and range from 77-122 degrees Fahrenheit. The Tabacon hot springs look oh so dreamy amidst the backdrop of tropical vegetation and views of Arenal Volcano. Next Costa Rica vacation goal- visit Tabacon Thermal Springs.

Best locations in Costa Rica- Tabacon Thermal Spa

Natural thermal springs at Tabacon Resort are one of the best places In Costa Rica to visit. Image from Flickr/Andrew Weinstein.

9. Relax on the pristine beaches

Costa Rica is known for its stunning beaches. The North Pacific Coast boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Of course you can’t visit Costa Rica without soaking up some sun on the sand. Top beaches in the Gaunacaste Province include Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, Playa Ocotal, Playas del Coco, Playa Panama, Playa Flamingo, and Playa Grande. We LOVED Matapalo Beach (Playa Matapalo) because of it’s laid back vibe and jaw-dropping views. It wasn’t crowded and you could get really cheap beach-side massages as well as stock up on souvenirs for prices much lower than we found anywhere else in Costa Rica. There were lots of monkeys swinging through the trees too, which made for an unforgettable beach visit. Hotel Riu Guanacaste is another one of the luxurious Costa Rica beach resorts in the area and is located on Playa Matapalo.

Best things to do in Costa Rica

Matapalo Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica with gorgeous views and very few people

10. Get your head in the clouds at Monteverde cloud forest

Lastly, Costa Rica is famous for its cloud forests. Monteverde cloud forest is at the eastern edge of the Guanacaste province. It is a reserve that is rich with biodiversity and attracts thousands of visitors every year. This tropical forest is covered by clouds, hence its name. You can take hikes through the rainforest and walk over suspended bridges through the clouds. It looks so mystical and dreamy! Unfortunately, this is one more activity we didn’t get to experience on our visit. It was thunderstorming hard when we were driving past Monteverde on our last day in Costa Rica and we didn’t want to venture out in the storm. Once again, this gives us one more reason to return to Costa Rica.

Top destinations in Costa Rica

Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the best places in Costa Rica to visit. Image credit- Pixabay.

Conclusion of Costa Rica Pacific Coast & Guanacaste Things to Do

Costa Rica tourism is booming and it’s not hard to see why with the multitude of fun things to do there. The best area to visit in Costa Rica is the Guanacaste Province thanks to its fantastic beaches, beautiful national parks, stunning mountain ranges and active volcanoes. If you love the beauty of the outdoors and crave a good adrenaline rush, then you will be on cloud 9 when you visit Costa Rica. From soaking in thermal springs to zip-lining at speeds of 100km/hour, there’s something for everyone in the Guanacaste Province.

One thing to keep in mind when planning your vacation to Costa Rica is that it takes much longer than you would expect to travel throughout the country. Distances that look short on the map take much longer to drive because of the road conditions. We thought we’d have time to do so much more but the reality was that we had to slow down our pace and focus on the key things in our area. We took time to relax and enjoy the Tico way of life- living pura vida! That’s what vacation is about anyway, right? Living in the moment and savoring the present. We cannot wait to return to Costa Rica and explore more of this magical country.  Please share with us in the comments any other top attractions or activities in Costa Rica that we should add to our bucket list.

Buy a guidebook for even more information about the best things to see and do in Costa Rica. **The following links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through our links. This costs you nothing but helps us, so thank you!

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Top 10 Costa Rica Pacific Coast & Guanacaste Things to Do


About Bertaut & Alexis

Top 10 Costa Rica Pacific Coast & Guanacaste Things to Do
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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