Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

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Are you looking for the best things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica during your vacation?

The Guanacaste Province is a popular region to visit in the northwest corner of the country near the Liberia International Airport. This area is home to beautiful beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, and so much more!

We created this list of the 24 best things to do in Guanacaste to help you find the perfect activities for your vacation at a variety of price points and for all different thrill levels.

Things to Do at a Glance

No time to read right now? Here are all the activities at a glance

Our Top 5 Favorite Activities Are:

  1. Go Beach Hopping
  2. Take a Sunset Catamaran Tour
  3. Visit Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
  4. Spend a Day at Diamonte Eco Park
  5. Explore Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Other Great Activities Are:

The Guanacaste Area

The Guanacaste area consists of the northwest corner of the country. This area is known for its tropical dry forests, amazing beaches, fun ocean activities, and nice resorts.

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Typically, Guanacaste has drier weather than the rest of Costa Rica, even during the rainy season. Most people consider the dry season (late December – April) to be the best time to visit. But, this is also the most popular time to visit and this area really fills up! Plus, the prices can be very high.

I would argue that May through July are almost better months to explore the area. You may have occasional afternoon rain showers, but in general, it won’t be bad. Plus there are fewer tourists and the prices are lower.

Some of the most popular towns are; Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, and the Papagayo Peninsula.

In this area, you don’t necessarily need a rental car. We think it is the best way to get around because it will give you the most flexibility for visiting off-the-beaten-path places on your own without depending on day tours.

However, because this area is so filled with resorts, there are a lot of people who opt not to rent a car. In that case, you can book day tours with transportation included instead.

This list of the 24 top things to do includes both things you can do on your own as well as options for those of you that need transportation included.

So, let’s get to it!

1. Go Beach Hopping

playa flamingo costa rica

The Province of Guanacaste is filled with TONS of beautiful beaches. In fact, it is often referred to as “the gold cost” due to its white sands.

It’s really the perfect place for beach lovers.

All beaches in the country need to have free public access by law. So, hop in your rental car and check out all these unique spots for a fun day!

  • Playa Hermosa: Playa Hermosa is the perfect family-friendly beach in a cove. The water is usually calm and there is a blocked off swimming area.
  • Playa Conchal: This is often considered one of the most pristine beaches in Costa Rica. It is a shelled beach with white sands and turquoise waters. It is also usually peaceful.
  • Playa Avellanas: This beach is located south of Tamarindo. We like it because it is usually not very full, is great for surfing, and there is a fun beach bar here called Lola’s.
  • Gulf of Papagayo Beaches: The Gulf of Papagayo is technically only open to resort guests. However, since all beaches need to have public access there is a lot you can park in and a free shuttle that will take you to the various beaches.

2. Take a Sunset Catamaran Tour

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

I think taking a catamaran cruise is the quintessential Guanacaste experience. It is the perfect way to combine snorkeling, sunset views, and the chance to get out on the water.

We suggest this popular activity in the afternoon so you can enjoy the sunset, but it is also offered in the mornings as well.

3. Visit Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

llanos de cortez

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is an impressive waterfall with a large swimming area located about 15 minutes west of Liberia.

It is possible to visit this spot on your own if you have a rental car, or you can opt to take a day tour instead.

Check Out our Guide to Llanos de Cortez for More Info

4. Visit Diamonte Eco Park

Diamonte Eco Park is the perfect place to go for families. Here you can combine several fun activities in one action-packed day. This is all done at your own pace, which I think is so nice!

An all-day pass includes:

  • Five ziplines, hanging bridges, a Tarzan swing, and nature trails
  • The opportunity to enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling
  • Admission to their animal sanctuary, butterfly garden, and botanical garden
  • Buffet lunch, coffee, and fruit drinks

Just note that this does not include transportation.

Pre-Book Your Diamonte Day Pass Here

5. Go Hiking at Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

rincon de la vieja

Rincon de la Vieja is an active volcano located north of Liberia. If you have the chance, we suggest spending a few night at Hacienda Guachipelin hotel inside the national park.

However, if you are short on time, we suggest taking an adventure tour here with transportation included or visit as a day trip to go hiking.

You can drive here and pay for park admission to hike on your own. If you do not have a rental car, you can also book a guided hiking tour with transportation included.

Check Availability for Rincon de la Vieja Hiking Adventure with Transportation

6. Watch the Sunset

playas del coco sunset view

The sunset occurs year-round between 5:15 and 6 pm. We suggest heading to one of the many amazing beaches on the Pacific Coast to watch the sun go down OR find a beach front restaurant for dinner with amazing views.

7. Take a Fun-Filled Combo Tour

zip line la fortuna

A combo tour is a great way of combining several activities in one day.

Usually, a full-day tour is somewhat pricey, but I think they are worth it because they take all of the stress off of you for planning things.

Plus, if you are limited on time, this allows you to pack a lot of things into one day.

Our favorite combo tours in Guanacaste are:

8. Try Out Surfing

surfing costa rica

In the Guanacaste area, the beaches around Tamarindo are known for the best waves for surfing.

It is possible to rent a board at one of the many surf shops in town, or if you are new to surfing you can opt to take a lesson.

Check Availability and Book Your Surf Lesson in Tamarindo

9. Go Scuba Diving

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

There are some really great scuba diving spots off the coast of Guanacaste, particularly at Catalinas Island and North Island.

Here you can explore coral reefs and possibly see sharks, mantra rays, a variety of fish, eels, and more!

From Tamarindo, we suggest:

From Playas del Coco or Playa Hermosa, we suggest this scuba diving for certified divers experience.

10. Rent a Jet Ski

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

Zipping around the Pacific Ocean on jet skis is always a thrilling experience!

If you would like to rent jet skis you can always head to Playa Hermosa. There are always locals renting them out here.

Just be careful though, there are a lot of people swimming and we have definitely seen some close calls.

Alternatively, you can pre-arrange your jet ski experience, but it is often a lot more affordable to book on the spot from locals.

11. Go Fishing

fish boat costa rica

Off the coast of Guanacaste, you can enjoy in-shore or deep-sea fishing day tours.

Some of the fish you might catch (depending on the season) include; Mahi Mahi, Marlin, Roosterfish, Cubera Snapper, Tuna, and Wahoo.

Check All Available Fishing Charters Here

12. Go Horseback Riding

horseback tamarindo

It is possible to pre-book a horseback riding tours on the beach, but you can also often find locals with horses leading tours. This especially applies on Playa Tamarindo.

If you would like to pre-book your tour, we suggest taking a tour on Playa Conchal. This 1.5 hour tour does not include transportation, so you will need to drive yourself to the starting point.

Get More Info and Book Your Horseback Riding Tour

13. Check Out Nearby Towns

las catalinas

There are so many cute towns to explore in the Guanacaste area. A few of our favorite places that are very walkable are:

  • Downtown Tamarindo: The downtown area of Tamarindo is very walkable. There are tons of souvenir and beach clothing shops to explore. When you need a break, stop at one of the many beachfront restaurants.
  • Playa Flamingo: The beach town of Playa Flamingo consists of several large hotels and good restaurants. We like to walk around and then relax on the beach. It is one of the nicest beaches in the country in our opinion).
  • Las Catalinas: Las Catalinas is a completely unique place. The town was built by an investor from the United States. He designed the area under the principles of New Urbanism. That means that there are no cars in the downtown area. It is set up as a square with all the homes surrounding it. There are some nice restaurants here and you can enjoy the white sand beach.

14. Take a Day Trip Up to Nicaragua

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

I do not suggest taking a day trip up to Nicaragua on your own because the whole border crossing thing can be stressful.

However, if you are eager to see a bit of the country you can always opt to take a guided day trip.

Our favorite day tour is a full-day adventure lasting 15 hours. It includes:

  • A visit to Granada, Masaya Artisan Market and Masaya Volcano
  • A Cruise across Lake Nicaragua and the chance to feed monkeys on Monkey Island
  • A delicious lunch of typical Nicaraguan cuisine

Check Availability and Book Your Nicaragua Day Trip

15. Enjoy an Estuary Boat Tour in Tamarindo 

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

I debated putting this activity on this list because we have not done it ourselves and we have heard mixed things about the tour. 

This estuary tour goes through the riverways just north of Tamarindo among mangrove forests. Along the way, you might see crocodiles, monkeys, a variety of bird species, and various other wildlife. 

The reason I debated including it on this list is because some people feel it is a boring tour and very slow-moving. 

However, maybe you want something relaxing that isn’t high adrenaline. If yes, this tour might be perfect for you.

A lot of the negative reviews were from people with young kids who said their kids got bored. 

⤷ Check Availability and Book the Estuary Tour 🐊

16. Spend the Day at a Resort

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

If you would like a day of pure relaxation you might want to consider booking a resort day pass.

This allows you to enjoy the amenities of a resort such as the multiple pools and all-inclusive food and drinks for a day.

Book Your Resort Day Pass

17. Look for Turtles Near Tamarindo

Just north of Tamarindo is the small town of Playa Grande. The beach here is a protected area known as Marino las Baulas National Park.

Here, you can sometimes see Olive Ridley sea turtles laying their eggs or baby sea turtles hatching. Occasionally you might even see Leatherback turtles (but it is pretty rare). 

Because this is a protected area you need to visit with a certified guide. On this evening tour, you will visit several beaches in the surrounding area with an experienced guide to hopefully see turtles laying their eggs. 

⤷ Check Availability and Book Turtle Night Tour

18. Go On an ATV Adventure

We love ATV tours in Guanacaste because they offer a chance to explore some dirt roads on the hills above the beach towns. You will get epic views, a thrilling adventure, and hopefully see some wildlife.

Our favorite ATV tours in the area departs from Tamarindo.

We suggest this tour with 506 Transfers & Tours because it is a private tour that can be customized to your skill level.

They have ATVs and buggies. So, if you are traveling with young kids they can participate as a buggy passenger. 

⤷ Check Availability and Book Your ATV Adventure

19. Visit La Leona Waterfall

The La Leona Waterfall is a bright blue river and waterfall near the city of Liberia.

It is only possible to visit this spot with a guide. This is for safety reasons because the journey to the waterfall involves some swimming.

Check Availability and Book Your La Leona Waterfall Experience

20. Go Hiking at Santa Rosa National Park

Santa rosa national park

Santa Rosa National Park is located along the coast just north of Liberia. This is a great place to enjoy a long hike through the dry tropical forest.

You can easily drive here, pay the entrance fee, and hike on your own. If you won’t have a rental car you can instead opt to book a guided tour with transportation included.

Check Availability and Book Your Tour to Santa Rosa

21. Visit Palo Verde National Park

palo verde

Palo Verde National Park is located inland, about an hour from Liberia and 2 hours from Tamarindo.

You can’t actually hike here, instead you can visit with a guided boat ride down the Tempisque River. Along the way, you will likely see a variety of wildlife including monkeys, and have the chance to spot a ton of unique birds.

You need to take a tour to visit here (because of the boat ride). We suggest booking this with transportation included to save yourself from driving. The drive is very remote and a bit confusing.

Check Availability and Book Your Palo Verde Tour with Transportation

22. Take a Cooking Class

Taking a traditional cooking class is the perfect way to get an authentic taste of the country. We love cooking classes because they are taught by locals. Plus, you get to learn a new skill and eat amazing food!

Our favorite cooking class in Guanacaste is in Tamarindo. In this class, you will prepare a 3-course meal with a local chef.

⤷ Check Availability and Book Your Cooking Class

23. Go on a Drinking Tour

Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Epic Activities

Going on a craft beer or liquor tour is a fun way to taste the local alcohol options and you also often get a chance to meet other tourists with similar interests.

There are a few different amazing alcohol-related tours in the Guanacaste area. They are:

  • Sunday Funday Party Bus: This tour leaves from Tamarindo. You’ll go to three different places where you’ll get a welcome drink at each place. This event is always a party. Check Availability for Sunday Funday
  • The Official Craft Beer Tour of Costa Rica: This tour includes pickup throughout Guanacaste. You will visit 3 different breweries and try up to 12 different beers. Check Availability for the Craft Beer Tour
  • Tequila, Mezcal, and Agave Spirit Tasting: This activity takes place in Tamarindo. Transportation is not included. You will learn about and try 5 agave spirits. Check Availability and Book

24. Try a Copo on the Beach

copo

A copo is a typical Costa Rican beach treat. It is basically shaved ice with flavored syrup, powdered milk, and condensed milk.

In my opinion, it is wayyyy too sweet. But, it is still fun to try.

If you see someone pushing a cart like in the picture above, they are likely selling copos.

You will need to pay in cash, typically in colones.

Other Things to Know When Planning Activities

  • Most of the activities we listed above link to booking through Viator. We are all about supporting local companies, but in Costa Rica, they typically have very poor websites or not the most secure booking system. We like booking through Viator because it still allows us to support local companies but with the backing of a big company with good cancellation policies.
  • If you haven’t already, definitely book travel insurance for your trip to Costa Rica. It can help cover you if you need to get reimbursed for activities you booked if your plans change, if you get injured during an activity etc. Book Your Travel Insurance Here
  • We like having a rental car in Costa Rica because it typically gives the most flexibility for exploring. The roads in the Guanacaste area are (mostly) decent. You do not need a rental car if you are staying in a resort or a condensed downtown area and plan on booking all your activities with transportation included. Rent your car and save 10% here
  • We try to only ever recommend activities with a good safety record, but always trust your judgment. If something feels unsafe to you, don’t participate. Also, typically in Costa Rica the safety standards might not be what you are used to. For example, at waterfalls there often aren’t railings blocking off the edges. It is up to you to be in charge of your own security.
  • Typically you don’t need to book activities too far in advance. The exception to that is during the dry season (late December – April). At this time of year, things can book out early.
  • If you are looking for more fun things to do, check out all the activities in Costa Rica.
  • There are two international airports in the country. One is is San Jose and one is in Liberia. If you would like to visit Guanacaste, we suggest flying into Liberia International Airport.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you will never run out of fun things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. There are activities for budget travelers, adrenaline lovers, people who want to relax, and more!

If you have any questions about any of these activities don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you plan!

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.