By Traveler´s Staff Photo by Andrés Madrigal
Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste
Northwestern Costa Rica boasts some of the country’s most popular beaches. Guanacaste province, together with the Nicoya Peninsula, have become so popular that the government opened Liberia’s airport to international travel. Today, over a quarter million visitors come through that airport annually.
While many come for the beaches and the tourist-friendly areas like Papagayo, Tamarindo and Montezuma, the area’s culture is another draw. Sabaneros, Costa Rican cowboys, ride horseback along the region’s plains. Marimba music and traditional dances originated here, along with specialized pottery and many of the country’s delicious dishes. You’ll see the lowland, agricultural economy in the small towns throughout the province.
Of course, nature plays a central role in this region. Several volcanoes burst out of the eastern part of the area, including active Rincón de la Vieja. Liberia offers all the creature comforts of a mid-size city. And many protected areas offer a variety of activities, such as Barra Honda (with an extensive system of caves), Santa Rosa (full of history and wildlife) and Palo Verde (a major sanctuary for resident and migrating waterfowl). Rio Celeste is a true wonder of Costa Rica. It’s natural sky-blue waters and majestic waterfalls will leave you shaking your head at nature’s palate.
1. The beaches. Hundreds of little coves dot the coastline, making for some of the best beach exploring in the world. Larger beaches like Tamarindo, Conchal and Santa Teresa attract modest crowds, and plenty of smaller beaches afford intrepid travelers the chance to have their own tropical paradise all to themselves.
2. The surf. Steady waves, great water temps and the lure of the tropics attract surfers from around the globe. Check out Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock, Avellanas, Mal País or any one of the dozens of other great surf spots.
3. Pampering yourself. Luxury developments have popped up throughout the Nicoya Peninsula. You can range from the ultra-high-end Four Seasons (www.fourseasons.com/costarica), beautiful but more middle-of-the-road places like Hotel Mediterraneus (www.mediterraneushotel.com), Ylan Ylan (www.elbanano.com), or a simple yoga class or massage at one of the myriad establishments throughout the area.
4. Experience the Guanacastecan hacienda lifestyle at Hacienda Guachipelín (www.guachipelin.com), where traditional activities complement adventures like rafting, canyoning, and river tubing.
Location: Northwest Costa Rica. Drive time from San José to major points is around four to five hours. Flights from San José take no more than 45 minutes.
What to bring: Unless you’re atop a mountain in the east, the weather is quite warm. Beach activities are a major component of any trip to Guanacaste, too.
Weather: Guanacaste boasts some of the hemisphere’s last remaining tracts of tropical dry forest. The green season, which stretches from May to November, brings almost daily showers in the afternoon. The dry season, November to April, is warm, dry and features deep blue skies.
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