Culture + Style

By Land or By Sea: Exploring Costa Rica’s Best Peaks and Beaches

Trek into Costa Rica’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park, home to still-active Santa Maria volcano. (Photo: Alamy)

Costa Rica beaches are renowned, but with two exquisite coastlines to explore, which should you choose? In recent years, the Pacific shore has been “discovered,” but that doesn’t hardly mean it’s been taken over by the masses. When you’re looking for unspoiled beaches and mountain adventures, consider Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, stretching along the nation’s western coast.

Beach Bound

Costa Rica
Explore the coast’s tiny villages. (Photo: Alamy)

Beaches top the list for Costa Rica getaway must-haves, and those in Guanacaste offer variety. Horseshoe-shaped Playa Herradura is a launching point for Costa Rica fishing charters to top-notch marlin and yellowfin tuna sites. The bay has calm waters, so if you prefer swimming or stand-up paddleboarding, it’s ideal. Across the Gulf of Nicoya, Nicoya Peninsula features great surfing along with hidden-gem beaches.

Sunbathe or swim in a secluded cove near the tiny fishing village Punta Islita, or stroll along undeveloped Corozalito beach just up the coast. As you walk, keep an eye out for Ridley’s and Pacific green sea turtle nests. Further north among Costa Rica beaches, you’ll find Playa Avellana, known as “little Hawaii” because of incredible year-round waves that can reach 18 feet high. If you aren’t an expert, try surfing the breaks at Tamarindo, a few minutes’ drive away.

sea turtle
Look for sea turtles on your beach strolls in Costa Rica. (Photo: Alamy)

Volcano Venture

Guanacaste’s Rincon de la Vieja National Park is home to still-active Santa Maria volcano, which rises more than 6,000 feet above sea level. If you feel adventurous, hire a guide for the eight-hour round-trip trek to its rim. The park features eight other volcanic craters, and along your hike you’ll see geothermal springs and bubbling mud pools. Trails pass stunning waterfalls and take you deep into the cloud forest where, if you’re lucky, you might spot a sloth or an elusive jaguar. Whether you crave an active surf vacation or a relaxing beach getaway at a Costa Rica resort, Guanacaste has what you’re looking for. Plus, a day trip inland brings you to stunning natural vistas and pristine rainforest. The pleasures on and near the country’s Pacific Coast will surprise and delight you.