Bordered on the north by Punta Cerritos and on the south by the Bongo River, the Southern Guanacaste region spans the southwestern section of the Nicoya peninsula and includes some of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches.
The region boasts an efficient system of public transport including maritime ferry boats (between the towns of Paquera and Playa Naranjo) that facilitate communication between the region’s various communities. In addition, the recent opening of the Tempisque river bridge allows rapid access to the central and southern parts of the peninsula.
Southern Guanacaste’s many beaches and natural attractions offer visitors a wide variety of activities including nature viewing, hiking, bicycling, kayaking and more.
The region offers a variety of picturesque roads and adventure or leisure sites that allow touring on regular or mountain bikes. Beaches and mountains are among the most sought after riding destinations.
Guanacaste’s sunny weather, a wealth of plant and animal life, as well as its varied natural, cultural and architectural landscapes, offer a wide selection of locations for photography enthusiasts.
Pottery Shopping at San Vicente
Drawing on a 5,000-year-old pottery-making tradition, the residents of San Vicente de Nicoya fashion beautiful ceramic vessels using the traditional and ancestral techniques of the Chorotega indigenous group, which once inhabited this part of the country. Very distinctive ovens are used to fire these exquisite pieces, which include ornaments, urns, flower pots, vases, plates, and ceramic whistles. Souvenirs may be purchased here and in the surrounding communities, where pottery sales make up the residents’ main source of income.
Hiking at Barra Honda National Park
Located 22 kilometers northeast of Nicoya, this park’s 5,670 acres protect a system of calcareous caverns featuring a wide variety of stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as some impressive geological features. At 450 meters high, Barra Honda hill is made up of ancient coral reefs pushed up out of the earth by tectonic faults.
Although 42 caves of varying depths have been counted in the area, only 19 have actually been explored. Spectacular stalactites, stalagmites and bizarre formations abound in most of the caves. Terciopelo is most accessible and is open to the public. Its stalactites and stalagmites are formed by calcium carbonate in the cavern ceiling dissolving upon coming into contact with water. The park offers parking, drinking water, restrooms, lodging, information, trails, and several lookout points affording scenic views of the Río Tempisque and surrounding countryside.
The City of Nicoya
Located in the heart of the ancient Chorotega nation, the city of Nicoya is considered by scholars to be the oldest pre-Columbian city in the country. Its well-defined urban center includes a park, the Catholic Church and various commercial centers including the local market, where typical food and drinks are sold. At only 123 meters above sea level, the town boasts warm temperatures year-round. Urban expansion has increased in recent years, making way for several tourism developments and a large health center. Nicoya is a must-stop on the way to Sámara and Carrillo beaches, especially now that travel time has been shortened with the opening of the La Amistad Bridge.