The Northern Guanacaste Zone extends along the Pacific coast from the border with Nicaragua in the north to Punta Cerritos in the south and includes some of Costa Rica’s most breathtaking landscapes.
It is a land of unspoiled beaches, windblown savannas and dry tropical forests that beckon both locals and foreigners to discover the area’s rich folklore and tradition. Most famous among these is the persona of the sabanero or Guanacaste cowboy, a character similar to the Western cowboy up north. Cultural activities include patron saint festivals, tico-style bull riding and a delicious variety of typical food and drink.
Owing to the irregularity of its coastline, the region boasts a wide variety of beaches and scenic coastal features, as well as other attractions such as wilderness areas that protect caves with stalactites and stalagmites, tropical dry forests, wetlands, volcanoes and historic sites, to name a few.
The Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport allows for quick, safe entry to the area’s main tourist destinations, and an efficient public transportation and ferry system (Paquera and Playa Naranjo) facilitates travel to various points in the region.
Some of Costa Rica’s most luxurious hotels and resorts dot the area’s secluded coves, wide-open beaches, and verdant hills. As one of the country’s most popular regions, visitors have a wide range of accommodation options available. From all-inclusive beach resorts to intimate boutique hotels or budget lodging, visitors should have little difficulty finding a perfect spot for rest and relation.
The Northern Pacific region offers an endless variety of activities and relaxation options for every taste and budget. Travelers may choose from health, culture, adventure and nature-related activities to sports and recreation.
There is no end to the diversity of hiking options available for observing various natural, historical, architectural, cultural, religious and commercial attractions.
Over the last decade, Costa Rica has become one of the world’s top destinations for diving adventures. Northern Guanacaste’s clear waters, abundant sea life, and quality diving sites have contributed to its rising popularity. Important sites include the Gulf of Papagayo and the Santa Catalina Islands.
Shopping for Handicraft
The region’s rich cultural heritage can be easily appreciated in the variety of traditional handicrafts available in small towns and along scenic country roads. Ornaments, urns, flower pots, vases, plates, decorative whistles and similar crafts may be purchased in several parts of Guanacaste. Of special note are the handicrafts of Guaitil de Santa Cruz, which are made of clay using the ancient techniques of the Chorotega indigenous group. Visitors may also acquire some unique handicrafts fashioned out of jicaro (a kind of gourd) or the thipa plant, from which various paper products are made.
Sport – Fishing
This is one of the Northern Pacific region’s main attractions. Artisan and recreational fishing are possible, but of greater interest are the tournaments in which several world billfish records have been broken. The fish are returned to the water after weigh-in.
Hiking in the Santa Rosa National Park
Located in the northern part of the Santa Elena peninsula, the park is divided into two sections: Murciélago and Santa Rosa. Murciélago features several nice beaches, including El Hachal, Danta, Coquito, Santa Elena and Blanca, which are perfect for sunbathing or a relaxing afternoon swim. The administrative area offers parking, picnic tables, bathrooms, drinking water, and camping. There are also several lookout points and well-marked trails.
The Santa Rosa section shelters the largest tract of tropical dry forest in Central America. Wildlife here includes white-tailed deer, white-nosed coati, howler and white-faced monkeys. This area features two beaches: Naranjo, a favorite camping spot, and Nancite, which functions as a biological station and where olive ridley turtles come to nest. Considered one of the most historically important areas in the country, the park features several sites of historical interest including the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa – an 1856 battle against northern filibusters in defense of national sovereignty. This area offers several trails and lookout points, as well as other sites of interest such as the Monument to the Heroes of 1856 and 1955 and the Casona (great house), which was completely rebuilt in 2002.
Las Baulas National Marine Park and Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge
Both these wilderness areas are located primarily in the Playa Grande area and in the Tamarindo estuary. They also include, however, Playa Carbón, Playa Ventanas and Playa Langosta, as well as Morro and Hermoso hills and the San Francisco and Ventanas mangrove swamps.
Largest of the world’s sea turtles, the nesting giant leatherback turtles are the park’s main tourist attraction. Protected in Costa Rica, the endangered leatherback can measure over two meters in length and weigh up to 700kg. Also, a principal attraction is the refuge’s mangrove swamp which includes diverse and abundant species of wildlife including 57 species of birds. Most common mangrove tree species include red, black, white and piñuela. These mangrove forests are ideal breeding grounds for fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. A wide variety of reptiles and amphibians may also be seen here. Tours are available for observing nesting leatherbacks, as well as exploring the Tamarindo estuary.