Things to do in Guanacaste.
Home » North America » Costa Rica » 13 BEST Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

13 BEST Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Pin this post for later!

There are tons of things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and your visit here is sure to be epic! This corner of the world is not just about beautiful beaches (though we’ve got plenty of those); it’s got so much more.

From the misty trails of enchanting national parks to the clear, turquoise waters of hidden waterfalls and the thrilling heights of zipline adventures, Guanacaste is definitely a place to soak up the Pura Vida lifestyle.

I loved visiting this province while backpacking in Costa Rica. Here’s everything you can get up to!

1. Explore Rincón de la Vieja National Park

If you’re up for an adventure, Rincón de la Vieja National Park is the place to start.

Geothermal steam rising from the ground in the forests of Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
A very steamy Rincón de la Vieja.

Imagine walking through a forest and seeing steam coming out of the ground – that’s because volcanoes are around! But don’t worry, it’s safe, and there’s so much to explore.

A marked trail running through the forests of Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
Keep an eye out for wildlife along the trails!

The trails here are perfect for seeing all kinds of animals and plants. You might even spot some monkeys or colorful birds. And the views? You can see for miles and miles on a clear day, yes, including the volcanoes in the distance!

One of the many hot spring pools at Rio Negra Hot Springs.
Rio Negra Hot Springs

One of the coolest things to do in Guanacaste is check out the mud pots and hot springs here. Perfect for a nice soak after your hike. Slap on some mud and take a dip, and your skin will feel like a baby’s bottom! Mine sure did.

2. Take a Splash at Oropendola Waterfall

Oropendola Waterfall is your go-to spot in Guanacaste for chasing waterfalls. This gem is tucked away in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, so you can pair these two spots in one day.

You’ll walk through a forest over a suspension bridge, and suddenly, you hear the powerful roar of water. That’s Oropendola calling your name!

The waterfall plunges into a sparkling blue pool that looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. It’s the perfect place to swim, especially on a hot day, trust me! The water was cold, but I was boiling. This spot was amazing for a cool down.

READ MORE: How to Visit Oropendola Waterfall in Costa Rica

3. Check Out The Magical Rio Celeste Waterfall

Prepare for the magic at Rio Celeste Waterfall, a breathtaking natural wonder just outside the borders of Guanacaste.

This waterfall is hidden within the lush landscapes of Tenorio Volcano National Park, and it’s known for its strikingly milky blue waters.

A long exposure of the powerful Rio Celeste Waterfall in the forests of Costa Rica.
The incredible blue water of Rio Celeste waterfall.

The trail to Rio Celeste is well-marked and the trail is overall pretty easy. When you finally reach Rio Celeste Waterfall, you’ll be greeted by the sight of water cascading into a bright blue pool below.

The color of the water is so vibrant that it almost seems unreal. This unique hue results from a reaction between the volcanic minerals in the water.

The blue Rio Celeste winding it's way through the Costa Rican rainforest.
The river nearby Rio Celeste.

Swimming in the pool at the waterfall’s base isn’t allowed, but you can swim at the river nearby. Rio Celeste is just over the border of Guanacaste and is a popular day trip from La Fortuna.

👉 BOOK IT: Day Trip to Rio Celeste

READ MORE: How to Visit Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica

4. Sun and Fun at Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa

Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa are two underrated beaches on Guanacaste’s coastline, each with its own vibe.

First up, Playa del Coco. This place is not just a beach; it’s a cute little town. There is a decent beach to chill on, opportunities for boat trips, excellent diving right offshore, and a mellow spot to chill.

Nina sitting on a fallen palm tree while looking out to the ocean from Playa del Coco.
Sunset can be beautiful to watch at Playa del Coco!

Then, there’s Playa Hermosa, which is a bit more laid-back. It’s the kind of beach you go to when you want to relax and take it easy. The water is calm, making it great for swimming, and the beach is perfect for lounging around.

An aerial shot of bright blue ocean water and vibrant green trees along Playa Hermosa.
The beach at Playa Hermosa going on forever!

While these beaches might not be at the top of your list of things to do in Guanacaste, you may want to consider them if you’re looking to lay low. Tamarindo is a popular spot and up next on the list, but these beaches are out of the bustle.

You’ll also be close enough for a day tour to Rincón de la Vieja National Park and not too far from Liberia or the border of Nicaragua, which is also easy enough to visit on a day trip from here.

READ MORE: Your Guide to Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

5. Catch the Waves at Tamarindo

Tamarindo is the spot if you’re looking for a paradise for surfers and beach lovers. Whether you’re a pro at riding waves or just want to try it for the first time, Tamarindo has something for you.

This beach is famous for its awesome surf (in case you haven’t gathered that by now). The waves here are just right for all levels, so you can jump in and have a blast.

Beautiful palm trees and another lone tree along the shores of Tamarindo Beach with a great view across the ocean.
Tropical vibes at Tamarindo Beach.

The beach is super long and beautiful, perfect for long walks, volleyball, or just chilling and watching the sunset. At night, the town lights up with places to eat and spots where you can listen to live music or dance the night away.

This is probably one of the most popular things to do in Guanacaste!

6. Get Into Nature at Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife and natural beauty. This park is a bit different from the rest. It’s not about beaches or volcanoes; it’s all about exploring the wild side of Costa Rica in its rivers, wetlands, and forests.

Palo Verde is a utopia for bird watchers. With over 300 bird species calling this place home, you’ll want to keep your binoculars handy.

Aerial view over the winding Tempisque River running through the forests and fields of Palo Verde National Park.
An amazing view over Palo Verde!

You’ll be spotting colorful parrots, majestic herons, and even the rare jabiru stork. But birds aren’t the only stars of the show. Crocodiles, monkeys, and iguanas also hang out here, giving you a real-life nature documentary experience.

One of the coolest ways to see the park is by taking a boat tour on the Tempisque River, where you’ll essentially be on a floating safari!

👉 BOOK IT: Boat Tour in Palo Verde

7. Embrace the Chill Vibes at Nosara

Nosara is the laid-back beach town in Guanacaste where time slows down and where you can escape the hustle and bustle.

Nosara boasts some of the most beautiful stretches of sand you’ll find anywhere. Playa Guiones is a surfer’s dream, with waves for days.

There are also countless yoga studios and retreats where you can stretch, breathe, and find your zen. You can downward dog as the sun sets every day if you want to.

Two women stretching before a yoga session while standing on a wooden platform overlooking the ocean.
Perfect for the yogi’s!

This is one of the most chill spots and things to do in Guanacaste, but getting here is a bit of admission. So if you decide to come, perhaps consider staying for a few days at the least.

8. Unwind in Sámara

Like Nosara, Sámara is also a little slice of heaven for anyone looking to unwind and soak up some authentic Costa Rican beach town vibes.

A couple walking through Samara town center on a sunny day.
Take a stroll through Samara town center.

This spot is a bit off the beaten path, making it the perfect getaway if you’re after a more relaxed pace without sacrificing any of the fun.

The beach at Sámara is picture-perfect with its palm-lined shores and gentle waves, making it an ideal spot for families or anyone looking to take a dip without the big surf.

Lots of tourists at Samara Beach hitting the waves on surfboards.
Surfing at Sámara Beach.

The water here is crystal clear and inviting, perfect for a swim or snorkeling to see some colorful fish. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are kayaks and paddleboards for rent.

If surfing terrifies you but you want to give it a go, I can’t recommend a better beach than Samara. The waves are incredibly calm, with a soft sandy bottom. I’ve surfed on many beaches, and this one is by far the least intimidating.

READ MORE: Your Guide to Samara Beach, Costa Rica

9. Surf and Chill in Santa Teresa and Montezuma

You might be wondering what else is on the Nicoya Peninsula. What’s just south of Samara?! While not in Guanacaste, it’s just over the border and definitely worth visiting… Santa Teresa and Montezuma!

Santa Teresa is a laid-back surfer’s heaven along the Pacific Coast.

Nina relaxing in a white hammock strung up between two trees at Tropico Latino Bar in Santa Teresa.
Chilling out on Santa Teresa beach.

With its long, sandy beaches and consistent waves, Santa Teresa is a perfect spot to get lost… And most people who come here do!

This is a popular place to be a digital nomad in Costa Rica, and it’s not hard to see why.

Just next to Santa Teresa is the smaller town of Montezuma which is worth a stop by as well. You’ll find hidden coves, a weird and cool cemetery island, and more!

A colourful street and closed shops on a sunny day in Montezuma town.
Bohemian vibes in Montezuma.

Your Guide to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Your Guide to Montezuma, Costa Rica

10. Dive Into Papagayo

Crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an underwater world teeming with life—that’s exactly what you’ll find here, making it a must-visit spot for anyone looking to explore the depths of the Pacific.

The dive sites around this area are known for their stunning beauty and diverse marine life.

A scuba diver under the ocean surrounded by a school of bright orange tropical fish.
The tropical reefs are nothing short of spectacular!

You’ll swim alongside schools of colorful fish, spotting rays gliding gracefully below you and even curious sea turtles up close or a toothy shark!

Something worth mentioning is the water temperature is warm year-round, and the visibility is often excellent.

There are over 50 diving sites in the area, often considered some of the best in the world!

👉 BOOK IT: Dive in Papagayo

11. Hike to El Tigre Waterfalls Near Monteverde

The hike to El Tigre Waterfalls is through lush forests, tons of suspension bridges and a waterfall around every corner.

A hanging bridge along the El Tigre Waterfalls hiking trail in the forests of Costa Rica.
One of the suspension bridges along the hike.

There are several falls to explore, each with its own character. The water is cool and refreshing, perfect for a dip after your hike (it was freezing when I was here, though).

The huge waterfall along the El Tigre Waterfalls trail framed by beautiful vibrant green forest.
One of the biggest falls on the hike!

There’s a zipline adventure and horseback riding here as well, not just the hike. If you’re around Monteverde, you’ve got to hike this waterfall trek!

Monteverde isn’t in Guanacaste, but El Tigre Waterfalls is; it’s just over the border!

READ MORE: El Tigre Waterfalls in Monteverde, Costa Rica: What to Know!

12. Zip Through the Clouds in Monteverde

This is your chance to soar through the clouds in one of the most breathtaking cloud forests on the planet!

Monteverde is famous for its rich biodiversity and stunning views, and there’s no better way to see it all than from above, zipping from tree to tree.

Monteverde’s zipline courses go from gentle lines that let you glide leisurely through the forest canopy, going at it “Superman style.”

Nina ziplining in Monteverde in the foggy cloud forest wearing a red helmet, yellow jacket and sunglasses.
Zipping through the clouds superman-style!

You’ll get a unique perspective on the cloud forest’s ecosystem from up here; it was one of the best things to do in Guanacaste, in my opinion; it was so much fun!

Again, Monteverde, the town itself, isn’t in Guanacaste, but this zipline course is.

There are TONS of things to do in Monteverde beyond El Tigre Waterfalls and ziplining; it’s very close to the border of Guanacaste.

👉 BOOK IT: Zipline in Monteverde

13. Visit a Blue Zone

In case you’re thinking, hmm… “Guanacaste sounds familiar from something else…” It’s because Guanacaste, Costa Rica, isn’t just famous for its stunning landscapes and adventurous activities.

Nina in a bathing suit carrying a white surfboard towards the ocean past palm trees and sun beds at Samara Beach.
Surfing in Samara

It’s also known for being part of a Blue Zone, a rare area where people live longer and healthier lives. What’s their secret? It turns out it’s a mix of a strong sense of community, a diet rich in local fruits, vegetables, and legumes, regular physical activity, and a stress-free approach to living.

In other words… That Pura Vida lifestyle!

Visiting Guanacaste offers an opportunity to learn about the lifestyle choices that contribute to the longevity of the people here. While you might not be able to tack on a few extra years by visiting for a few days, it surely couldn’t hurt, right!?

Tourists walking up and down Playa del Coco with a view of a mountain in the background.
Are frequent walks along the beach the key to longer life?

Make sure to slow down, embrace the Pura Vida life, and take in the air here. You’re in a rare Blue Zone! This isn’t really a thing to do in Guanacaste… But it kind of is! Right?

PS: If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this excellent series on Blue Zones around the world.

I hope this helped you find all the best things to do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica!

Pin this post for later!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *