Guanacaste is a northwestern state in Costa Rica. Though the nation is known amongst tourists for its eastern beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, Guanacaste is one of the premier Pacific Ocean destinations for tourists. The region is home to pristine beaches, biodiverse reserves, and an equal balance of hostel lodging and five-star resorts.

Want to travel through Costa Rica a bit differently than other tourists? Head northwest from San Jose via bus or private transportation (which most resorts will arrange). Other options include flying from San Jose to Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste. Certain cities, such as LA, also have direct flights to Liberia.  

Where to Stay

Those looking to stay ‘onto the map’ will find stylish, modern hotels in Dreams Las Mareas, Reserva Conchal, and the Four Seasons Resort at Peninsula Papagayo. These locations offer the standard suite of amenities most Westerners are used to, from lightning-fast internet to infinity pools.

The first provides a chance to catch up on TV shows, rework fantasy football teams, and play a game of blackjack online. In all three cases, a VPN may be necessary to access sites. This shouldn’t be too different for gaming enthusiasts, as most US residents have platforms that allow access to games like video slots, roulette, and more. The same goes for video streamers, who often use VPNs for access to more shows on their favorite platforms like Paramount+ and Netflix. 

Keep in mind that most of the luxury locations in Guanacaste are located in its southern peninsula, Papagayo Peninsula, which is more easily reached from San Jose than Liberia. Resorts also offer free transportation to and from the airport, so people practically don’t have to worry about anything. 

But many travelers who head to Guanacaste are looking to escape the internet. They prefer to sample the region’s long list of unique hostel destinations. Many are eco-friendly, allowing tourists to stay in small communes that are ‘green’. Some are treehouse bungalows (check out the town of Sámara), while others are yoga retreats will wellness in mind (check out the town of Nosara).

Many hostel experiences offer other packages, like yoga classes, surfing classes, and tours of wildlife reserves and initiatives. A new genre of lodging is also emerging, which combines elements of resorts and rustic hostels (check out Panacea de la Montaña Yoga Retreat and Spa in Santa Cruz).

Where to Stay

What to Do

As mentioned above, Guanacaste is known for its beaches, water sports, nature reserves, and unique tours. In terms of beaches, both towns mentioned above will offer semi-developed beaches which are popular for those looking for water sports. In either area, it’s easy to find surfing lessons, scuba tours, coastal kayaking, paddle surfing, and even ski-doo rentals.

Other beaches such as Playa Grande and Tamarindo offer the standard tropical tourist experience, which includes reserved areas for umbrellas and chairs, as well as all-inclusive water sports packages. Keep in mind that Guanacaste is located on the western side of Costa Rica, which makes all of its beaches ideal for sunset walks.

As mentioned above, this place is also home to some of the most developed eco-initiatives in the country. Areas like Reserva Natural Monte Alto, Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve, and Negrito Islands Biological Reserve offer limited tours. Be sure to bring your camera, as this area is known for its diverse and colorful bird population. 

Those interested in sustainable living can factor local communes into their itineraries. Many are run by ex-pats looking to live off the land and support biodiversity in the region. These include the Pura Jungla Nature Reserve and Sustainable Community, as well as Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve.

Unique Opportunity

Guanacaste is home to one of Costa Rica’s most cutting-edge companies, Ad Astra Rocket (CR). Ad Astra is a scientific research facility that focuses on renewable energy. It’s the home of Costa Rica’s space efforts, which are partnered with NASA until 2021. The facility, which is located just outside the capital of Liberia, offers tours that highlight their research into sustainable energy.