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-star 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’s how you should spend it.
You can discover this beautiful area – and more – by booking Culture Trip’s nine-day, small-group Costa Rica tour, and experience the country with our Local Insider.
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’re 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.
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’re on the beach with a cocktail for sunset.
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 two- to three-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.
Playa Avellenas is a gorgeous beach to the south of Tamarindo. This expansive stretch of coastline is great for surfing, swimming, and beach strolls. It’s also the location of the famous Lola’s, a beachfront 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.
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.
Just a short drive north of Playa Flamingo is Playa Potrero, 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. It’s 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.
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.
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.