Exploring Southern Guanacaste
Take a walk on Guanacaste’s wild side
The journey begins on Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica’s most popular Beach destination, and heads south on the Pacific Coast towards Panama and Guanacaste’s wild and remote offerings.
Paddleboarder at Playa Langosta Playa Langosta directory
Trekking to Southern Guanacaste requires you to jump in the car and come off Tamarindo beach and take the Santa Cruz road heading south. When I arrived 18 years ago this was a rough ride, unpaved most of the way and a bumpy treacherous drive during rainy season but in recent years this road as been paved enabling easy access to this dusty farm land that fronts the southern Guanacaste beaches The first sign of civilization heading south towards Nicoya is Hacienda Pinilla which in recent years has seen many more families residing within its borders and has become a Tamarindo bedroom community for the well to do even though many of the main American schools are a good 20 miles away in Brasilito. Hacienda Pinilla is a huge beach front development that has managed to preserve the untamed backdrop quite nicely and truly has a lot to offer families and vacationers alike principally security and natural beauty situated on one of Costa Rica’s most pristine surf beaches. Of course having a championship seaside golf course helps maintain the property values along with a 4 star hotel. Add a secure beautiful environment and it is no surprise that many well to do Expat families have taken up residence within its secure gated borders, fostering a rather cool tightly knit family oriented community that still centers the bulk of its daily activity in Tamarindo.
Playa Negra has always been a pleasant surprise for me and my last trip down there was with my buddy Andre on a rainy windswept day and we felt like we had it to ourselves including the beach front hotel where we managed of course to root up a few Heinekens. The untamed sleepy quality is always refreshing only a short drive from the bustle of Tamarindo. I lend kudos to my buddy Larry Graziano who is not only the real estate master down there but one of the nicest soft spoken men you will have the pleasure to meet. Larry had what I consider amazing foresight and settled his family and business down there way ahead of everybody. Of course Larry was attracted by the great surf which Negra has in abundance. Whether its surfing or the slightly untamed peaceful beauty you wish to experience contact Larry at his Playa Negra Realty office and he will happily show you the way.
Playa Negra is also close to many other beautiful underrated beaches such as Junquillal, Marbella, Callejones, and San Juanillo. Keep going south and you can visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge and Nosara. Go north and you’re so close to Marino Las Baulas National Park. Both Ostional and Marino Las Baulas are amazing places to see turtle nestings.
Even though Playa Negra feels like a world away, it’s still close to the busier beach towns to the north so you have it all, Remote, quiet, incredible beach landscape but a short drive to amenities and services.
Playa Junquillal is one of the beaches I visited on my very first visit to Costa Rica in 2002. I stayed in Tamarindo on that trip as well as La Fortuna and Quepos before passing my first and last night at the Hemenway Inn in San Jose. That day I rented a scooter in Tamarindo and took to the dusty roads in exploration and ranged from Playa Junquillal to Playa Flamingo bar hopping along the way but managing to check on my good friends at the Land Ho Junquillal as these same proprietors own my favorite watering hole of the same name in Orleans on Cape Cod and where I had some of my first serious conversations about Costa Rica. My friends had discovered Costa Rica and were quite obviously in love with the place tantalizing my intrigue and desire to explore. However, I am certain that the scooter ride that day in that land where time stood still is what captured my heart and whether I knew it at the time or not my every waking moment upon return from that first trip was lent to devouring everything I possibly could about a country I had clearly already accepted on a subconscious level would be my new home. The more I learned about Costa Rica’s commitment to ecological preservation coupled with the astounding variety of wildlife and micro climates coupled with sublime natural beauty continually served to reinforce this growing love at first sight phenomenon and instant adoption of what would soon become my new home. One must understand that growing up on Cape Cod which I can only describe as the most magical place on earth makes any place contending for my affection need approach an almost mystical level and clearly speaks to my soul. I am most fortunate to have discovered two such places in one lifetime.
Land Ho Orleans Cape Cod
Land Ho Junquillal
When it comes to best secret beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Lagartillo and Playa Largato (little alligator beach,big alligator beach) are two of them. Even though it’s just a few minutes drive from the popular Playa Avellanas, it normally doesn’t have more than a handful of visitors, even during the holidays. If you’re exploring this area of Guanacaste, then be sure to visit Playa Largato and Largatillo!
Although it may seem like Guanacaste beaches are very touristy, there a plethora of beautiful under the tourist radar beaches to discover. One of those beaches is Playa Marbella, about one hour south of Tamarindo and 30 minutes north of Nosara.
It’s a great surfing beach and for anyone looking for a off the beaten path beach to visit for a day. Although locally known as Playa Marbella, the true name of this beach is Playa Frijolar.
Playa Pitahaya, Playa Blanca and Playa Azul
San juanillo GuanacasteA stunning white sand gem in Guanacaste
San Juanillo is the pearl of the Nicoya peninsula in Guanacaste, Costa Rica!
Unspoiled Nature and some of the most romantic coves and beaches on the planet!
Friendly, laid back locals who welcome visitors with open arms.
NosaraGuanacaste's Yoga capital
Nosara is a village and a district on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. It’s known as a yoga center, and for Pacific beaches like Playa Guiones, with its long surf break. Playa Pelada has a reef just offshore and a tidal blowhole. SIBU Sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates animals like coatimundi and white-faced monkeys. Just north, the beach at Ostional Wildlife Refuge is an important nesting site for olive ridley turtles
Located along the stunning coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Guiones serves as a great surfing destination in Costa Rica. With 7 kilometers of sugar-white sand and ideal conditions for a variety of activities, this small town is a little slice of paradise in Guanacaste. In fact, a couple hundred meters of the shoreline received a Blue Flag for its pristine, eco-friendly and well-maintained beaches.
Playa GarzaGorgeous crescent beach that receives only a handful of visitor
Playa Garza is a heavenly crescent beach comprised of soft, light-grey, dimpled sand that you’ll love digging your toes into. The sparse trees that line the back of the beach provide little shade. The beach curves around Bahia Garza (Garza Bay), a body of water that’s sometimes speckled with small, quiet fishing boats. The bay’s long, unbroken waves are perfect for playing in. Playa Garza is also home to a small children’s playground.
SamaraGuanacaste’s Most Overlooked Beach Town
Many of the beach towns in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province have become extremely popular over the years due to their gorgeous sands and turquoise waters. Development has hit the northern Pacific coast, and those interested in luxury condos and world-class cuisine don’t have to look far. But for others seeking a more authentic visit to Costa Rica, there is Samara. While Samara has its share of amenities, it still has a local vibe and small beach-town feel.
A sun worshiper's paradise- with golden sunshine, brilliant sunsets, and breathtaking beaches- the quaint community of Punta Islita makes for an outstanding beach vacation. In addition to its pristine natural beaches, the tucked away village of Punta Islita contains a "bustling artistic community" and a lovely local arts museum.
Playa san Miguel
San Miguel is super laid back and that is saying a lot in a super laid back country.
Playa San Miguel (San Miguel Beach) is one of the most family-friendly beaches in Guanacaste. The conditions are perfect to enjoy, sea, sand, and surf. Did I mention the savage beauty of San Miguel and all of southern Guanacaste? Your family will love it
Playa Coyote, Playa Bejuco, Playa Bongo
This is an area of Guanacaste that I cannot wait to explore as the countryside down towards the border of the Puntarenas Province is incredibly beautiful, also they have more centenarians living there than anywhere in the world. It must be something in the water, but they are doing something right.
. It isya Coyote is considered one of the most beautiful and remote beaches in the country. A perfect place to have a relaxing holiday as this picturesque beach offers amazing sunsets and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The spot is ideal for surfing, fishing and romantic vacations.
Isla Venado, Bejuco and Caballa Punta Arenas Costa Rica
These islands near where Guanacaste melds into Puntarenas Province. TPlaya Coyote, Playa Bejuco, and playa Bongo but truly almost all of Costa Rica is accessible, being the size of the state of West Virginia and Guanacaste is teeming with transport options
Playa BejucoA photographers dream
Playa Bejuco is a secret waiting to be discovered along Guanacaste’s coast. Stunning vistas of nature have captured International attention from renowned photographers. I know this beachside town and all of the Bongo River Basin is on my bucket list and I have lived 3 hours away for almost 20 years. It is a deep dark mysterious part of Guanacaste with all manner of exotic species padding through its shady supernal jungles.
The Nicoya Peninsula’s southwestern tip has become a “discovered” secret surf spot, especially the Santa Teresa – Malpais stretch of beach. Just to the north lies the Rio Bongo Estuary, part of the immense Caletas Ario Wildlife Refuge. The 775-acre natural preserve includes seven kilometers of pristine beachfront. This impressive parcel of land was donated in 2008 by the Grew family from Canada.
Forming the border between Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces is the Rio Bongo. It is the largest river on the Nicoya Peninsula, joined very near the estuary mouth by the Rio Ario and Rio Cano Seco.
As one of Costa Rica’s most important turtle nesting sites, the beaches here support four species: leatherback and the common Olive Ridley and Pacific green, as well as the rare hawksbill. To curtail the longstanding problem of poaching turtle shells and eggs, CIRENAS (Centro de Investigacion de Recourses Naturales) has recently stepped in. This independent organization operates within the refuge. It focuses on research and education related to water conservation and management, sustainable food production and ecologically viable housing.
Ok so Playa Manzanillo is technically not a part of Guanacaste but I guarantee you the locals down there do not consider such distinctions, plus it is one of the largest communities in that area. So I have included it. Note- If you are visiting in the month of March, try to participate in the annual Sandcastle Beach Party.
Bongo River Basin & Manzanillo
Where the River meets the sea and Guanacaste becomes Puntarenas
Heading north I touch on the heart of the Gold Coast, Playa Grande, Playa Flamingo on through , Matapalo, Ocotal, Coco Hermosa, Papagayo and several other amazing beaches. These beaches all have one thing in Common. They are all within 35 to 45 minutes to the newly rechristened and updated Guanacaste International airport in Liberia. This probably explains why big names like Ritz Carlton are planning hotels and residences, and of course the Four Seasons is still doing it right in Papagayo