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Where to Stay in Guanacaste, Costa Rica: 8 Best Areas & Neighborhoods

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People come from all over the world to visit Costa Rica. This Central American nation is beautiful, friendly, and welcoming, and it’s no wonder people who visit once end up returning time and time. Herre’s a full travel guide on where to stay in Guanacaste.

There are several parts of Costa Rica that are attractive to tourists, but few are as popular and as alluring as the towns and beaches in the province of Guanacaste.

Guanacaste is a province in northwestern Costa Rica, celebrated for its stunning beaches, rich biodiversity, and the national tree of Costa Rica, the Guanacaste tree.

It borders Nicaragua to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west, encompassing the northern two-thirds of the Nicoya Peninsula and extending into the mainland. Home to several national parks and nature reserves, Guanacaste is a prime destination for ecotourism, attracting a diverse array of flora and fauna enthusiasts.

The majority of the province of Guanacaste consists of the northern two-thirds of the massive Nicoya Peninsula. Still, it also extends into the primary mainland portion of the nation.

It’s not only a popular area for Costa Ricans and tourists, though – it’s also an area home to many ex-pats from the United States and around the world.

What Are the Best Areas to Stay in Guanacaste?

You’ll be happy with almost anywhere you choose in Guanacaste for your itinerary. You can’t go wrong with this special destination. However, different parts of this province do vary greatly from one another.

Even though they’re within a few hours of one another, the beaches of the northern Nicoya peninsula coast are quite different from the beach towns on the central coast, and both of those places are vastly different from the inland portion of this region.

If you’re planning a trip to Guanacaste province and don’t know where to go, this guide below will help. Here, we summarize the various areas, things to do, and places to stay.

There are hostels, Guanacaste hotels, luxury resorts, and rentals for every budget and every type of traveler. Costa Rica is for everyone.

Some who visit Costa Rica choose one town and stay there for their trip. Others stay in several places for a few days each. Either method is valid on any trip, but especially in Costa Rica. Without a doubt, you’ll have a great time no matter what you choose to do.

Northern Nicoya Peninsula Coast

The northern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula and much of the coast leading up to where the Costa Rican border meets Nicaragua is a very popular area for visitors and ex-pats alike. It is full of beach towns, and every beach town is a little different from each other, but they are also similarly lovely.

This region attracts visitors of all kinds of travelers, so you’ll find options and amenities for all types of people. There are many high-end resorts and restaurants in this area, but don’t let that scare you away if you are a budget traveler – there are options for you, too.

This part of the country is reached easily by flying into Daniel Oduber International Airport (also known as Liberia Airport – the airport code is LIR). This airport is located much closer to the coast than the nation’s other major airports in the central capital of San Jose.

Things to Do on the Northern Nicoya Peninsula Coast

This region is also home to three popular national parks. Santa Rosa National Park and Guanacaste National Park are attached and are in the far north corner of the province and country.

Santa Rosa National Park has historical and military significance in addition to amazing flora and fauna; ten different natural habitats are represented in its 150 square mile area. Guanacaste National Park is almost just as large.

If you visit this area, you may spend time in Las Baulas National Marine Park without even knowing it because it runs along some popular beaches. This park covers a little over sixty-four square miles of marine area along the coast of Tamarindo Bay.

It was established in 1991 to protect the largest nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. If you time your visit right, you may have the opportunity to see new baby sea turtles hatching.

In addition to visiting the national parks, there are plenty of other things to do during your time in this area. Like any beach destination, you can participate in water sports like boating, fishing, scuba and snorkeling, and surfing. Hikers will love the many trails in the area.

Of course, many people spend their days simply sitting back and relaxing on the beach. Further, all the beach towns below have shops to explore and fine restaurants and bars to enjoy. Take a yoga class and enjoy a spa treatment or massage.

Where to Go on the Northern Nicoya Peninsula Coast

There are a number of amazing destinations and towns to consider in this part of Costa Rica. Here are a few of the most popular.

1. Playa Hermosa/Playas Del Coco/Matapalo

Coco Bay, Hermosa Bay, and Culebra Bay are three bays in the northern part of this region, and the towns of Matapalo, Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Culebra are also in a row here.

This is a very busy tourist area with plenty to do, but you’ll also feel relaxed and serene on this area’s beautiful beaches.

Budget Hotel – Hotel M&M Beach House; Playas del Coco
Beach House
Photo by Booking.com

This budget property is on the beach and has excellent WiFi. Rooms are small but comfortable and include televisions and private bathrooms.

Mid Range Hotel – Hotel Bosque del Mar Playa Hermosa; Playa Hermosa
Lounge Area
Photo by Booking.com

Hotel Bosque del Mar is a beachfront, boutique hotel with an outdoor pool and property. It also has tropical gardens and a restaurant on site. Every room has air conditioning and terrace to look out upon the gardens or the ocean.

Luxury Hotel – Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo; Culebra
Hotel Room with Balcony
Photo by Booking.com

This luxury resort is located on the Andaz Peninsula just north of Playa Hermosa; you’ll be able to enjoy both areas easily, but you might not want to leave.

The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica has four pools, two private beaches, a golf course, a gym, a business center, and four restaurants. Rooms are spacious and air-conditioned.

Rental – Luxurious, Ocean View Home with Infinity Pool and Bar; Playa Hermosa
Hotel with Big Pool
Photo by VRBO

Wow! This home is exceptional and sleeps six. It’s in a gated community, and although it’s not beachfront, you can see the ocean from the private infinity pool, which also has a swim-up bar.

Inside, you’ll find a formal dining area and kitchen, a 70″ television, and more. You’ll love this property for your stay in Playa Hermosa.

2. Playa Flamingo/Las Catalinas/Brasilito/Playa Conchal

Brasilito Bay is a bit south of the above towns, and these resort and tourist areas have sprung up around it. It is similar to the Playa Hermosa area but quite a bit quieter.

Budget Hotel – Conchal Hotel; Brasilito
Loungers by the Pool
Photo by Booking.com

This hotel is not on the beachfront, but it’s only a three-minute walk to get to it. Every room has a patio, a fridge, air-conditioning, and WiFi. A daily breakfast buffet is included.

Mid Range Hotel – Libelula Lounge – Boutique Hotel; Potrero
Tent Room
Photo by Booking.com

This hotel is a nine-minute walk to the beach, but it really has everything you need on-site. It has a bar, a restaurant, and a swimming pool. Every room has a terrace, and there are family rooms for groups as well.

Luxury Hotel – Casa Chameleon Hotel Las Catalinas; Playa Flamingo
Hotel Lounge Area
Photo by Booking.com

This is just one of several Casa Chameleon properties in Costa Rica. They’re all adults-only and luxurious. All rooms at this location have patios with views of the ocean. There’s a restaurant, bar, and garden to relax in on-site.

Rental – Villa Fugata Flamingo; Playa Flamingo
Villa with Pool
Photo by VRBO

If you like pink, you’ll love this rental property, which embraces the bright color of the flamingo throughout.

This property is on a cliff one hundred feet above the ocean below; the sunset views are spectacular. It sleeps four in three beds and has two full baths. You’ll love the private infinity pool and professional kitchen.

3. Tamarindo Beach/Tamarindo Bay

This area is a very busy and happening tourist area that is also home to many ex-pats from the United States and around the world. There are high-rise resorts and gated communities, and parking can be challenging.

Still, many people love this area because, unlike most places in Costa Rica, there is actually some nightlife here. Many people fall in love with Tamarindo upon arrival and never go anywhere in the country.

Budget Hotel – Playa Grande Surf Camp; Playa Grande
Playa Grande Surf Camp Entance
Photo by Booking.com

This well-rated hotel on the north portion of Tamarindo Bay is great for surfers or anyone who loves the beach.

Rooms are clean and air-conditioned. It’s a hostel, so there’s a shared kitchen and lounge area, and you’ll also be able to enjoy the property’s pool, hammocks, and BBQ area.

Mid Range Hotel – Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel; Tamarindo
Bean Bags, Plants, and Pool
Photo by Booking.com

Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel is only a three-minute walk from the beach and it offers a variety of room types for varied travelers including regular rooms and one to two-bedroom apartments. There is also a pool, excellent WiFi, and free parking.

Luxury Hotel – Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel; Tamarindo
Chairs and Bean Bags in Patio
Photo by Booking.com

If you’re looking for an adults-only hotel in the middle of it all, the Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel is an excellent choice.

This property is an eleven-minute walk from the beach but only about three minutes from the center of Tamarindo’s city. The rooms here are very comfortable and breakfast is included.

Rental – Casa Cielo Vista; Tamarindo
Aerial Shot of a Resort
Photo by VRBO

Are you traveling with a large group? This 7,000-square-foot luxury property sleeps up to nineteen people in seven bedrooms.

There are incredible views from every room in the house, balconies on all sides, and an infinity pool offers views of the ocean. Breakfast and daily maid service are included. It’s just a short walk to the beach and downtown.

Central Nicoya Peninsula Coast

The central coast of the Nicoya Peninsula is a bit harder to get to, and that makes all the difference. Some roads go to Nosara and Samara and other nearby towns, and many are paved, but sometimes they can be unpredictable and, in the rainy season, even impassable.

Still, plenty of people make their way to these sleepier, quieter beach towns in the southern portion of Guanacaste, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t check them out, too.

These towns on the central coast draw a lot of hippie and surfer types, but all types of travelers end up in this area and love it, too. There’s not much to do at night, but other than relax, what else would you want to do anyway?

This part of Costa Rica is wonderful if you want to escape it all. You’ll feel like you’re a million miles from everything else; for many, that’s the whole point of going on vacation.

Things to Do on the Central Nicoya Peninsula Coast

There are many fun things to do in this part of the Nicoya Peninsula. Of course, surfing is a major pastime here, and you could take some lessons between naps on the beach.

Local operators will take you out on boats for sightseeing or fishing, and there are jet skis and paddleboards to rent for the independent and adventurous.

You can enjoy spa treatments and fine dining in this area, too. There are plenty of wonderful activities to fill your days – just remember that everything, including you, moves a little slower in Costa Rica, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

This area does not contain any national parks, but there are two national wildlife refuges here: Ostional, which is north of Nosara, and Camaronal, which is south of Samara.

Both are on the coast and are dedicated to protecting the diverse marine and land animals in this area; both are worth a visit.

Where to Go on the Central Nicoya Peninsula Coast

There are a number of tiny towns in this area along the coast, and most have at least one accommodation to offer, but if you want to be near a variety of stores and restaurants, your options are Nosara and Samara.

4. Nosara

Nosara is the quieter and slightly fancier of the two towns. There are a lot of spas and high-end accommodations in Nosara, but there are affordable options, too. Nosara doesn’t have much of a central business area, but some people love it for that reason.

Budget Hotel – Selina Nosara; Nosara
Balcony and Pool with Lights
Photo by Booking.com

Selina is a popular and affordable hotel chain in Central America and this property of theirs is especially nice. It’s a twelve-minute walk to the beach, but a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool is onsite. You’ll also have access to this hostel’s kitchen and shared lounge.

Mid Range Hotel – Green Sanctuary Hotel; Nosara
Compact Hotel Room
Photo by Booking.com

The Green Sanctuary Hotel is a property that is constructed out of shipping containers, and that in itself makes it memorable. It’s a nine-minute walk from the beach but there’s a pool, spa, and wellness center at the hotel, and every room has air-conditioning and a mini-bar.

Luxury Hotel – Hotel Boutique Lagarta Lodge; Nosara
Huge Hotel Room
Photo by Booking.com

This classy property is located right on the beach and every room has a balcony and private bathroom. There is also a hot tub, a swimming pool, and a lovely garden. The on-site restaurant is excellent, and the concierge will be available to help you plan your local adventures.

Rental – Hideaway Penthouse with Beach View Inside Wildlife Refuge; Nosara
Pool and Ocean View
Photo by VRBO

You’ll love this one-bedroom property only steps away from Playas Pelada and Playa Nosara because it’s inside the Ostional Wildlife Refuge.

You can expect to see sea turtles, birds, and other wildlife where the Montana and Nosara Rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean.

This guesthouse is 1000 square feet, has a kitchen, and sleeps two; there is a nearby pool you’ll share with the owners and any other guests on the property.

5. Samara

Samara is more of a traditional beach town than Nosara. It’s easy to get around on foot and numerous restaurants and stores to try. The beach in Samara is spectacular.

Budget Hotel – Woodstock Hostel; Samara
Hotel Outdoor Pathway
Photo by Booking.com

This popular hostel is often sold out, so move quickly if you want to stay there. It’s only three minutes from the beach on foot and is close to everything in Samara.

Since it’s a hostel, you can expect a shared lounge and shared kitchen, and there’s WiFi throughout the property. This hostel offers dorm rooms and private rooms, too.

Mid Range Hotel – Fenix Hotel; Samara
Pool and Trees
Photo by Booking.com

The Fenix Hotel is a bit south of town, but you may not want or need to go there once you arrive and check-in. This mid-range property has a private beach and a swimming pool.

Every room has a patio, seating area, and full kitchen, and the grocery store is only 150 feet away. Locals sometimes sell pastries and fresh-caught fish outside.

Luxury Hotel – Azura Beach Resort; Samara
Hotel Room for Couple
Photo by Booking.com

The Azura Beach Resort is an adults-only property right on the beach. There’s a twenty-four-hour front desk to serve you anytime you need.

Rooms include private bathrooms, flat-screen cable televisions, and more. This property is all-inclusive so you can enjoy the restaurant, bar, and other amenities to your heart’s content.

Rental – Villas Eden Blu Paradiso; Samara
Villa with Pool
Photo by VRBO

Rent one of four identical, very modern villas in this gated community. All have ocean views, three conditioned bedrooms, three bathrooms, televisions with cable, lap pools, and full kitchens.

The views from the deck are amazing, and this property is only five minutes from the beach and town.

Inland

Most people come to Guanacaste for the beaches, but that’s not all there is in this large and diverse province.

The inland part of Guanacaste has a lot to offer, too. Many people are surprised to learn that this province reaches eastward and inland almost a third of the country.

It stops short of including another popular Costa Rica tourist destination, La Fortuna, but it includes almost all of Lago de Arenal.

This means that Guanacaste province does not only include many beautiful beaches on the northwestern coast, but it also includes mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, and volcanoes. It’s a different type of vacation, but it’s one that some travelers prefer over beach towns.

Things to Do in Inland Guanacaste

This part of Guanacaste has so much to offer for adventurous travelers.  First, there are several national parks in this region. Palo Verde National Park is one of the most biodiverse areas in Costa Rica; it includes over fifteen types of ecosystems in just seventy-one square miles of space.

Barra Honda National Park exists to protect a vast underground cave system which, depending n the time of year, you may be able to explore with a guide. Rincon de la Vieja National Park includes one dormant and two active volcanoes.

If you’re interested in history, visit this province’s El Farallon National Archeological Monument. There, you’ll see petroglyphs that are over a thousand years old. Or, if you like waterfalls, you could hike to Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, Las Chorreras Waterfall, or others.

If all that sounds like a lot to you, you may enjoy relaxing by the pool at your hotel or in a hot spring or thermal river. There’s plenty to do in this area, but it’s also fine to do little or nothing.

Where to Go in Inland Guanacaste

The towns in this part of Guanacaste are smaller and less touristy and you may find it difficult to get around without your own rental car.

However, the less-touristy aspect is a big draw for many here. There aren’t a lot of towns and shops in this region (other than in Liberia), so be prepared when you head to your hotel or out on any adventure.

6. Liberia

Liberia is one of the biggest cities in Costa Rica. The primary reason people stay in Liberia is to access the airport – it’s not really a vacation destination.

However, some people are drawn to this area because it has many more businesses and services and is centrally located to all other places mentioned in this guide. Check out our full post on the best things to do in Liberia to see if it fits you well.

Budget Hotel – Hotel Dodero; Liberia
Sitting Area
Photo by Booking.com

This budget hotel is very affordable and it’s well-rated by travelers, too.

Rooms are private, but bathrooms are shared; there’s also a shared kitchen and lounge area. Enjoy the garden, terrace, and a la carte breakfast each morning. The hotel is eight miles from the airport, but the front desk will arrange a free shuttle for you.

Mid Range Hotel – Hotel Villa Hermosa; Liberia
Gate and Entrance of a Hotel
Photo by Booking.com

Hotel Villa Hermosa is a lovely property in a private area of central Liberia. All rooms are air-conditioned and have flat-screen televisions and private bathrooms. A shop, a shared kitchen, and a shared lounge area are also on site.

Luxury Hotel – Hilton Garden Inn Guanacaste Airport; Liberia
Hotel Lounge
Photo by Booking.com

One of the nicest hotels near the Liberia airport is the Hilton Garden Inn; the airport is just across the street and provides a free shuttle to and from it.

Comfortable, stylish rooms include WiFi, microwaves, and refrigerators. An onsite restaurant offers lunch and dinner, and a gym and a pool on the property.

7. Nuevo Arenal

Nuevo Arenal is a very small town on the shores of Lago de Arenal. It’s quite close to La Fortuna, a popular destination in Alajuela province, but it’s much quieter and more serene. It’s a great place to stay if you want access to the national parks in this area and also to La Fortuna. Most properties have beautiful views of the lake.

Budget Hotel – Agua Inn; Nuevo Arenal
Pool Surrounded with Plants
Photo by Booking.com

The Agua Inn is only about 650 feet from the lake, but you’ll feel secluded in the rainforest in this accommodation. The rooms here are beautiful, and the food nearby is fantastic. There’s also a pool on-site and lots of opportunities for quiet and relaxation.

Mid Range Hotel – The Gingerbread Restaurant and Hotel; Nuevo Arenal
Hotel Entrance
Photo by Booking.com

In this hotel, you’ll find one of the best restaurants in the area, and the hotel isn’t too shabby either. Some rooms have air-conditioning, but you might not need it at this elevation.

Rooms are clean, comfortable, and attractively decorated. There’s lots of wildlife on the property and views of Lago de Arenal.

Rental – Villa Encantada; Nuevo Arenal
Dining Area
Photo by VRBO

Your group of up to fourteen people will love this lakefront nature eco-preserve estate on forty acres.

It’s very private and features a waterslide, a spring-fed swimming pool, a private nine-hole Par 3 Golf course, kayaks, hiking trails, fishing, and more.

Inside are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two fireplaces, a washer and dryer, WiFi, a fully equipped kitchen, and satellite televisions. This property will be one that you’ll never forget.

8. Rincon de la Vieja Volcano

If you want to explore this national park, you might as well stay near it. The hotels in Rincon de la Vieja Volcano area serve hikers who plan to check out the park and hot springs enthusiasts, too.

There’s no real town in this area – but the hotels have everything you’ll need for a great vacation.

Budget Hotel- Pochote Lodge; Guayabos
Clean Hotel Room
Photo by Booking.com

Pochote Lodge is a budget property with everything you’ll need to stay near this national park. Rooms come with patios, private bathrooms, and kitchenettes; you can enjoy the beautiful garden outdoors.

Mid Range Hotel – Casa Rural Aroma de Campo; Curubande
Single Bed Room
Photo by Booking.com

This property is close to the national park and has an on-site natural hot spring that guests can enjoy during their stay.

It also has a great restaurant that serves Belgian and Costa Rican dishes; breakfast is included. The rooms are bright and lively and don’t have air conditioning, but they come with fans and mosquito netting.

Luxury Hotel – Buena Vista del Rincon Eco Adventure Park Hotel & Spa; Liberia
Lodge
Photo by Booking.com

You’ll love this classy yet affordable eco-resort. As the name implies, this is also the site of an eco-adventure park where you can hike, horseback ride, observe wildlife, and more.

Spa services are available, and there’s also a pool. Log bungalows include lake views and private bathrooms, and the on-site restaurant offers three tasty meals a day.

What’s So Special About Guanacaste?

It’s not surprising that people are drawn to Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It is truly a tropical paradise. Costa Rica, in general, is known for its picturesque beaches, mountains, national parks, friendly people, and abundant tropical wildlife. Guanacaste has the best of all of the above.

Some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world are in this corner of this country, and some of the best hotels, too.

Almost anywhere in this area, visitors can enjoy spa treatments in the morning, mid-day at a secluded beach, a dip in a Guanacaste hotel swimming pool to cool off, and fine dining at night.

For accommodations, visitors can choose from upscale hotels and some of the most luxurious resorts in the world, all-inclusive resorts, mid-range and budget hotels, hostels, house rentals, or even camping.

Transportation is easy and affordable; you can take public transportation, hire a driver, or get your rental car. Everything seems smooth and easy in Guanacaste – because it is. The scientific community has even recognized the Nicoya peninsula as a special and unique place; it’s one of only six “blue zones” in the world – and it’s the largest one.

People who live in blue zones tend to live longer than average due to a variety of factors, including climate, culture, lifestyle, and more. The fact that the Nicoya Peninsula is a blue zone says a lot about how truly incredible it is.

FAQs

How far is Guanacaste Costa Rica from airport?

Guanacaste, Costa Rica, is typically accessed through Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport. The distance from this airport to particular spots in Guanacaste can vary, but it’s generally within 36 to 50 kilometers. This translates to a drive time of approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on traffic and exact location.

Where do you fly into to get to Guanacaste, Costa Rica?

The primary airport to fly into to get to Guanacaste, Costa Rica, is Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport. Located in Liberia, it’s the second largest airport in the country and is about a 1-hour drive from the heart of Guanacaste. Most major international airlines service this airport, making it an accessible hub for travelers.

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