One Week Itinerary to Costa Rica's Gold Coast

Santa Rosa National Park is a magical place
Santa Rosa National Park is a magical place | © World Wide Gifts / Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
19 April 2018

The northwest coastline of Costa Rica is often referred to as the Gold Coast. This stretch of land in northern Guanacaste is revered for its beautiful beaches, dry tropical forests, five-start resorts, quaint boutique hotels, gastronomic variety, world-class waves, and adventure tours. If you only have a week to spend on the Gold Coast, here is how you should spend it.

Fly into Liberia

The Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia is the best airport to fly into if you are planning to spend your time on the Gold Coast. From here, you are only about an hour or so from all of the places and activities that you will enjoy in this upcoming week. You can definitely stay in one hotel or resort for the entirety of your week and then venture out each day to explore something new in this zone. Playa Tamarindo or Playa Flamingo both have an assortment of accommodation types and are central to the other places you’ll want to see.

Explore Tamarindo

Tamarindo is one of the most popular beach and surf towns in Guanacaste. This lively town is packed with fantastic restaurants, cute boutique stores, yoga studios, beachfront bars, plenty of surf lesson options, surf shops, grocery stores, banks, medical centers, weekly markets, and accommodation for every budget and personal preference. Everything is within walking distance in Tamarindo, so this is a great spot to just cruise around by foot and check it all out. Go for a surf or swim, grab some delicious grub, perhaps take a yoga class or pick up some unique souvenirs, and then make sure you are on the beach with a cocktail for sunset.

Take an estuary tour

There is an estuary that separates Tamarindo from Playa Grande to the north. This river is home to a very healthy population of crocodiles, as well as supporting other wildlife like monkeys, coatis, raccoons, and an impressive collection of birds. You can take a 2-3 hour guided estuary tour from the Tamarindo or Playa Grande side where you will get to experience this unique ecosystem and the wildlife that resides there.

sun bathing croc | © / Flickr

Lola’s beach day

Playa Avellenas is a gorgeous beach to the south of Tamarindo. This expensive stretch of coastline is great for surfing, swimming, and beach strolls. It is also the location of the famous Lola’s, a beach front restaurant with a real live beach pig as their mascot and beloved pet. You can actually see Lolita soaking up some sun on the beach or cooling off in the shallow sea in front of the restaurant. This beautiful establishment is a great place to post up for the day, enjoy some delicious food, icy beverages, shade, and the idyllic scenery.

Surf day in Avellenas | © Mike / Flickr

Go snorkeling

Heading north, you will reach Playa Flamingo, a white sand crescent moon shaped beach. This is the perfect starting off point for a kayak and snorkeling adventure. This half day at sea is an exciting way to experience the marine ecosystems of the Gold Coast. There are several small islands and a vast coastline to kayak and snorkel along. Sea turtles, whales, jumping stingrays, and dolphins are not uncommon up here. When you get back to shore, you can enjoy a frozen coconut cocktail at Coco Locos and watch one of Guanacaste’s magical sunsets.

Keep your eyes open for dolphins | © Jay Ebberly / Flickr

Spend the day at the Costa Rica Sailing Center

Just a short drive north of Playa Flamingo is Playa Portero where the Costa Rica Sailing Center is located. This amazing place has everything you could possibly need for the perfect day in the sun. There is a pool, volleyball net, restaurant, bar, paddle-board, kayak, and small sailboat rentals, and more often than not some sort of live music or fun event such as trivia or karaoke. Most sunsets end with a beach bonfire here. This is a wonderful place for the whole family. The bay is protected, so the water is perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, and other fun water activities.

Come sail away | © Costa Rica Sailing Center

Go for a hike

The Santa Rosa National Park is an incredible place to go hiking. This nature rich park is home to several beaches, multiple ecosystems (including the rare dry tropical forest), all six species of Costa Rica’s wildcat, hundreds of species of birds, and some of the most peaceful and picturesque hiking in all of Guanacaste.

The elusive ocelot lives in this park | © Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr

Visit a waterfall

If you have time before your flight out of Liberia, there is a magical waterfall just 30 minutes south of Liberia called Llanos de Cortez. It is an easy and relatively short hike from the parking lot to get to the waterfall. This is a quick but well-worth last adventure before you leave the Gold Coast.

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