GUANACASTE DAY TRIPS ITINERARY

This itinerary is perfect for all of you that would like to have one home base on the beach, but would still like to see a lot of what the country has to offer. Get ready for swimming under a waterfall, secret beaches, surfing lessons, beautiful sunset views and more!

(7 nights total)

Airport Area (1 night) -> Playa del Coco (5 nights) -> Airport Area (1 night)

If you have the possibility, we suggest flying into Liberia for this itinerary. Check out the flight prices online and compare flying into Liberia vs. San Jose. If you can fly into Liberia you will save yourself about five hours of driving.

This itinerary needs to be done by rental car. The reason for this is that most of the activities listed in this itinerary are off the beaten path activities. What I mean is that we have selected activities for you which will give you a totally unique experience on a budget.

There are several companies offering day tours from these destinations, but they are all expensive. When we calculated it out it is cheaper to rent a car and drive to destinations on your own than to participate in pre-packaged tours which include transportation.

We suggest renting a 4×4 for this itinerary. Some of the roads around Playas del Coco are not paved and very hilly.

If you are flying into San Jose and do not feel comfortable driving to and from Playas del Coco you can take the public bus up to Coco and rent a car once there. Our favorite company Adobe will happily deliver your car to your hotel in Playas del Coco free of charge if you are with twelve miles of their office.

If you opt to do this, the public bus leaves from San Jose every day at 8:00am, 2:00pm, and 4:00pm. The ride will take about five hours.

Download the free app Off The Grid Traveler to check out the bus schedule and see exactly where it leaves from.

To save you more money we have partnered with our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica, Adobe, to give you a 10% discount on your car rental.

The reason we chose to partner with Adobe is that they are the only company in Costa Rica that we trust fully. We always try to give you guys the best info possible on budget travel in Costa Rica and I can ensure you that Adobe is the best of the best.

We have had some nightmare car rental experiences in this country and we don’t want you to go through the same thing.

In Costa Rica there is a mandatory Liability Protection insurance. This means that every single person who drives in Costa Rica needs to purchase this insurance. Even if your bank or credit card company from home covers certain damages, it doesn’t matter. You need this insurance.

The problem with most rental car companies in Costa Rica is that they do not include this insurance in their online quote. This means that you are quoted a price, think it’s a good price so you book the car, and then arrive and are told it will actually be a lot more expensive because you need to add on this insurance.

I have no idea why companies do it this way because it means that they are left with very unsatisfied customers. I guess in their minds they have you hooked at that point. It is too late for you to search for another rental car company so you’re going to go ahead and pay the extra insurance fees.

The reason we love Adobe is because they are completely upfront about their costs. The price you are quoted online is with the Liability Protection included.

If you book your rental car with Adobe through our site you get:
-A second driver for free (it’s usually $4 per day)
-0% deductible as part of the Liability Protection (it’s usually 20%)
-A free cell phone to use
-10% discount applied to your reservation

We also love Adobe because they are a local company who believes strongly in customer satisfaction.

For example, my dad and sister came to visit a few months ago and we rented a car from Adobe. I put in the online rental car registration form that we would need to be picked up from the airport along with their flight number. Their flight ended up being delayed and got in at 10:30pm instead of 8:00pm.

I checked online and the Adobe rental car office closes at 10:00pm. I figured since my dad and sister would be getting in too late there wouldn’t be anyone from Adobe waiting to greet us and we would have to pick up the car the next day. I was so wrong! There was someone waiting for us at the airport with an Adobe sign and they then took us free of charge to the Adobe office which had stayed open to allow delayed passengers to pick up their cars.

How great is that?!

It’s this kind of local businesses that we are all about here at Costa Rica Vibes.

If you still have some questions about renting a car you can read our complete page on renting a car here and feel free to email us! We’re happy to help you out. It can be a bit nerve wracking to rent a car in another country. We totally get it!
[email protected]

Once you book your car head on over to the maps section of this itinerary to see how to drive this itinerary and our suggestions for GPS usage.

AIRPORT AREA

Casa Maki: This hotel is a 5-minute drive from the airport. It also has a shared kitchen for your use and free breakfast. You can expect to pay about $50 for a double room.

Hotel II Millenium: For about $50 you can get a basic double room with breakfast included. This hotel is about 3 minutes from the airport.

Hotel Cortez Azul: For about $25 you can find a room for two people with a shared bathroom. Breakfast is included as well as a free airport shuttle. This hotel is about a 5-minute drive from the airport.

La Villa Rio SegundoFor about $40 a night you can get a room for two people with a shared bathroom. Breakfast is included and there is also a nice pool on site. This hotel is an 8-minute drive from the airport. There is an airport shuttle, but you have to pay for it.

Note: When looking for hotels near the airport search for “Alajuela” as your location rather than San Jose.

PLAYA DEL COCO AREA

There are plenty of great hotel options in the Coco area (which I’ve listed below), but for an extended stay like this in one location, we tend to opt for Airbnb. We like Airbnb for longer stays because many Airbnb properties are actual houses or apartments which allow us to feel as if we are actually settling in a bit more than hotels. Also, many Airbnb’s have a kitchen you can use.

If you are new to Airbnb, signup using our link and you’ll get $35 off your first stay!

AIRBNB

Villa del Sueno: Super great hotel on Playa Hermosa (amazing beach near Coco). This is a bit more pricey than the other options (approximately $60 a night) but it is really nice. Breakfast is included and there is a pool on site.

Aparthotel Toro Blanco: Apartment hotel with a pool. This place is pretty basic, but it is close to the beach and every apartment has a kitchen.

Hotel M&M Beach HotelBasic hotel located across from the beach. Breakfast is included and there is a kitchen that all the guests can use. There isn’t air conditioning, but they have plenty of fans in every room which you can point at your bed while sleeping.

Want to look at more hotels? We like Hotels Combined because they compare the prices on all hotel booking sites which makes it easy to guarantee you get the best deals.

AIRPORT AREA

El Chante Vegano: This place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but get ready for super tasty vegan food. This is the perfect lunch spot.

Yellow Cafe: Great for lunch or dinner. They have good drinks, sandwiches, pasta and more. It has a nice cafe vibe.

La Calle-Beer & Street Food: Go here! This is basically a food truck with outside tables and it is the coolest. They have some great beers and good burgers. It’s not the cheapest (burgers are about $10) but it’s a fun spot to chill.

Pesqueria Qlity Fish: Totally unexpected amazingness. If you like seafood or fish, this is your spot. We suggest going here for dinner.

Jalapenos Central: Quality TexMex style food at super reasonable prices. This place is owned by a guy from the US (Norman) who likes to make his rounds through the restaurant to make sure everyone is happy. Perfect for lunch or dinner.

Denny’s: OK usually we wouldn’t suggest Denny’s as dining option, but it is open 24 hours a day and is close to the airport. If your flight gets in really late or you have an early departure, this is your best bet for a meal.

PLAYA DEL COCO AREA

Soda La Teresita: Super good typical Costa Rican food at a great price.

Ticoffia: The best coffee shop in Coco. This place is super cute and a great breakfast spot for when you need a break from Costa Rican food.

Soda Oasis: Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the food is great! They make a seriously good burger.

Le COQ Lebanese: Awesome Lebanese food at a great price.

Chorotacos: Doesn’t look like much but the tacos are amazing (and cheap).

AIRPORT AREA

Check out the city park: In downtown Alajuela, there is a cute city park which is the happening spot on the weekends. You probably won’t spend more than an hour there, but there is a nice church there that you can go in. There are also plenty of vendors selling snacks. Grab a bunch, get a snack, and do some people watching.

Watch the planes take off: If you want a fun/ unique evening experience, check when the next planes are taking off and head on over to the airport. If you are coming from the downtown area of Alajuela, drive past the airport on the highway and you’ll see parking spots on the side of the road. You can pull off here or turn right on the street at the end of the runway. There aren’t any parking spot there, but you can just pull your car off the side of the road. You’ll probably see many families with picnics set up in the grass. This is (in my opinion) the best spot to watch the planes, but I’ll warn you, it’s absolutely terrifying to have planes flying literally right above your head. We like to go out night to get the full effect. There are also usually vendors here selling food.

Do some shopping: If you’re coming from the US, the prices in Costa Rica will be a bit higher than what you are used to, but if you are coming from Europe they are pretty comparable to what you are used to. In Alajuela, there is a city mall, which has a ton of stores which you’ll love. If you want an even crazier experience, head to MultiPlaza. MultiPlaza is not in Alajuela, but it’s still close by in Escazu. That mall is crazy even by US standards. It is the largest mall in Central America and is super modern.

Catch a film: Not really the optimal thing to do on your vacation, but if you are visiting during rainy season, you might be out of luck finding something else to do on a rainy afternoon. Both malls that I listed above have nice movie theaters in them which show films in English with Spanish subtitles. If you’d like to see what is showing, you can check that out here. Just click MultiPlaza Escazu or City Mall, depending on where you’d like to go.

Take a drive through the Central Valley: From the city of Alajuela, head north and check out the amazing views of the valley. I always feel like I’m in Switzerland while driving through here. There are tons of little places selling fresh strawberries and cheese along the way. If you would like to see a nice waterfall, type in “Catarata de la Paz” into your GPS. This waterfall is free (just on the side of the road) and it’s a beautiful drive to this spot. It is really close to Poas Volcano, but unfortunately, Poas is currently closed indefinitely due to eruptions 🙁

Catch your lunch: From downtown Alajuela, you can take a 40-minute drive to a trucha called Los Arroyos. Now, I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about, but this is a super popular activity with locals. It’s a totally unique experience that most tourists aren’t lucky enough to have. At this place, they will give you a piece of fishing line with bait on the end and send you over to their little pond. It doesn’t look like much, but it is stocked with trout. Catch a trout for each person in your group and then they will cook it up for you on site with great side dishes. For about $10 you can have a fun half day activity and a really tasty meal. It’s one of our absolute favorite things to do with visitors.

Play with hundreds of dogs: You may have seen a video of this place that has been going viral recently. Territorio de Zaguates (land of the strays) is located in the valley in Alajuela and is home to hundreds of stray dogs. It is possible to visit this beautiful place and play with the dogs, but only on certain days. They usually do one open day a month on a Saturday or Sunday. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on their next open day.

PLAYA DEL COCO AREA

Visit Playa Penca: Playa Penca is a seriously beautiful “secret” beach. Just look it up on Google maps to see exactly where it’s located. As you drive there you might think you are in the wrong spot because you’ll drive higher and higher into a residential neighborhood. Just keep going. When the road ends you’ll see other cars parked. Park your car (make sure you don’t leave anything of value) and walk down the path to the beach. It is a little steep so wear sturdy shoes. You’ll be rewarded by an absolutely amazing beach.

Check out Playa Hermosa: Close to Coco is a nice expansive beach called Playa Hermosa. We like this beach because t is much cleaner than Coco. It is also nice and long, which makes it a great place to walk.

Enjoy the nightlife: Playas de Coco may seem calm enough during the day, but at night you can walk the main strip and enjoy lots of bars and clubs.

Visit an amazing waterfall: About 45 minutes from Playas del Coco is a waterfall called Catarata Llanos del Cortez. Last time we were there we only paid about $2 for parking. The waterfall is seriously amazing and definitely worth a visit. You can swim under it and if you are feeling really adventurous you can hike up behind the waterfall for an overhead view.

Visit Rincon de la Vieja:  Rincon de la Vieja national park is located close to Coco and is a great place to spend a day hiking. You can go with a guide, but you are also able to pay to enter the park and hike on your own.

TAMARINDO

Walk the downtown: There are tons of nice shops lining the streets of downtown Tamarindo. We usually don’t buy much because it can be expensive, but there are some really cute shops that are definitely worth checking out.

Go surfing: There are tons of surf shops in Tamarindo that offer lessons and board rentals. We have not personally tried out any of these shops so we can not suggest any to you. Instead, we think you should ask at your hotel if they have a place they suggest. Sometimes they partner with local surf shops and can get you a discount.

Visit Playa Avellana: A little bit south of Tamarindo is this quiet gem of a beach. It’s best to have a car that can handle some dirt roads if you plan to visit. It’s the perfect spot to spend a relaxing afternoon. If you’re looking for a good meal or cocktails definitely check out Lola’srestaurant on the beach.

Besides Playa Avellana there are plenty of quiet beaches nearby. If you have a car which can handle some unpaved road driving, just pick a few beaches from Google maps that you’d like to check out and go for it!

Visit the farmers market: Every Saturday morning from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm there is a nice farmers market located next to Restaurant Pescador. Definitely check this out if you are interested in trying unusual exotic fruits that you probably have never seen before.

Go partying: Tamarindo has a serious nightlife scene. If you are into partying, just walk the downtown area and you will find plenty of cool bars and clubs.

Rent a SUP board: If you’d like to do some stand-up paddle boarding, Kelly’s Surf Shop has boards for rent at $25 for two hours or $40 for a full day. If you are new to SUP you can also take lessons (but I think you can figure it out on your own without paying the extra money).

Visit Marino Las Baulas National Park: This national park is located slightly north of Tamarindo. The beach here is absolutely beautiful and undisturbed. People may tell you that you need to go there with a tour, but that is simply not true. You are welcome to walk the beach on your own. However, it is a turtle nesting site (so if you are lucky you’ll see some little babies hatching or mommas laying their eggs) and if you disturb the turtles you may get in some trouble. Although, I know none of you would do that anyway.

AIRPORT-> JACO

JACO -> MANUEL ANTONIO

MANUEL ANTONIO -> UVITA/ DOMINICAL

UVITA/ DOMINICAL -> AIRPORT