Situated along the Pacific Ocean, with a population of just over 350,000 and an area of over 10,000 square kilometers, the province of Guanacaste has a lot of offer Costa Rica travelers. To make it easy on travelers, here’s the 2020 Best of Guanacaste.
Below are some the best eats, activities and places to stay in Costa Rica’s Northwest province. Because when you’re traveling, sometimes you don’t have time to stop everywhere, you only have time for the best.
Here’s a peek at some of the best of Guanacaste travel.
Best Eats in Guanacaste
If you can find a place to park and a place to sit at this local favorite restaurant, you’ll realize why SurfBox is the best breakfast restaurant in Guanacaste. Happy servers, delicious food, and excellent coffee options make this tiny white building one of the best places to be in Flamingo. Best part is they offer breakfast options all day long and have indoor and outdoor seating.
SurfBox (Playa Flamingo)
Best Breakfast Buffet
The best breakfast buffet in Guanacaste is hands down the W hotel. Perched above Playa Conchal or Conchal beach, the W shows off their stunning architecture, immaculate landscaping, breathtaking views and impressive variety of fresh foods. And they also have both indoor and outside seating, which in Guanacaste it’s hard to score an air-conditioned restaurant.
W Costa Rica Hotel Guanacaste (Playa Conchal)
The best waffles in Guanacaste happen to be a tie.
Waffle Monkey (Tamarindo)
Real Posada (Liberia)
This tiny hole in the wall packs a punch when it comes to their bagels. Basically just a walk up counter, they have the best bagels I’ve ever had in Costa Rica. Warning, they often sell out in high season.
La Princessa (Tamarindo)
Best Food Truck
Vida Bowls (Huacas) – Fresh, local, and healthy smoothies and bowls make this food truck the best in Guanacaste. While Vida Bowls are always on the go, you can sometimes find them at the Friday night market at the Village near Brasilito/Reserva Conchal and they are often near the fruit stand in Huacas.
It is hard to pick a favorite between these two amazing lunch restaurants in Guanacaste.
Lunch at the Dive Bar at Marina Papagayo does not disappoint. Don’t be fooled by the name, there is nothing divey about this place. This well appointed nautical style restaurant sits next to the Papagayo marina and offers a front row seat to watch yachts come and go from the Gulf of Papagayo. Excellent service, fresh seafood and location make this a perfect stop when you’re looking to do lunch.
Dive Bar at Marina Papagayo (Gulf of Papagayo)
Cafe Social offers hearty, healthy and stunning dishes. This beautiful courtyard offers an extensive selection of fresh innovative juices, coffees and salads while still leaving room on the menu for spiced chicken, BLT’s and pulled pork sandwiches. The first Cafe Social restaurant was opened in Santa Theresa, now they bring their fresh menu items and amazing flavors to Guiones. I look forward to seeing their impressive culinary talents expanding throughout Costa Rica.
Cafe Social in Guiones – Nosara
Best Lunch View
Cafe y Macadamia on Lake Arenal offers extensive menu options from a light salad and smoothie to hearty casseroles, seafood dishes and coffees. From the back of the restaurant on a clear day you can watch cows meander the hills below and a breathtaking view of the teal Lake Arenal below. This restaurant is out of the way unless you are driving from Liberia to Arenal Volcano or La Fortuna, but definitely worth a stop. Is it touristy? I mean, sure you have to walk through a gift shop to get to the restaurant, but the food is consistently great, and the view is unbeatable.
Cafe y Macademia (on Lake Arenal in Guanacaste) – Not the location in Puntarenas, that one has no view.
Best Dinner Restaurant
The best dinner restaurant in Guanacaste that constantly delivers reliable drinks, food and a stunning sunset is Pangas. Cozy sofas in the sand or formal tables give you a place to dine under lights strung from the trees as you get a fresh ocean breeze to watch the sun dip behind the Pacific. Reservations recommended in high season from December to May.
Pangas Beach Club (Tamarindo)
Perched above the pool at the Conchal hotel, this local hidden treetop style restaurant makes the best homemade guacamole this side of Nicaragua. They pair their guac with fresh handmade hot chips. They also have excellent seafood dishes at night and live entertainment in high season.
Papaya Restaurant (Brasilito)
While many restaurants in Costa Rica offer the national appetizer, the best place to grab patacones in Guanacaste is hands down Lemonada. They have tasty patacones, a spectacular oceanfront location and relaxing tropical vibe.
Limonada (Las Catalinas)
Catalina Artisan Bakery offers an assortment of delicious desserts in their tiny cafe, and while all are amazing and fresh, their speciality is their macaroons (or macrarons in French). The petite bakery is easy to get to on the main road between Huacas and Villa Real.
Catalina Artisan Bakery (Villa Real)
Best New Restaurants
New restaurants keep coming to accommodate Guanacaste’s growing tourism and population demands. The best new restaurants on the Guanacaste culinary scene that are worth checking out are Patagonia Del Mar and Ponciana.
Patagonia Del Mar (Brasilito) – Sushi, ice-cream and an extensive selection of wine at this oceanview location with a pool. What more could you need?
Ponciana (Santarena Hotel/Las Catalinas) – Great place for drinks and Tico-Basque fusion food.
Best Hang-Out-on-the-Beach-All-Day Restaurants
Sometimes you just want to have a place where you can find shade, snacks and a bathroom while you soak up the sun and enjoy Guanacaste’s views of the Pacific Ocean. Here are the best restaurants if you want to hang out all day on the beach in Guanacaste.
Gusto Beach – Samara (Breakfast/lunch)
Limonada – Las Catalinas (lunch)
El Chiringuito – Tamarindo (breakfast/brunch/lunch)
Best Place to Watch Sunset
There are tons of amazing places to catch the sunset in Guanacaste, but these locations you will have access to drinks and good food while you take in the magic of the Costa Rican sunset.
Lagarta Lodge (Guiones/Nosara)
Gracia (Mar Vista/Flamingo)
Sendito Norte (Casa Chameleon/Las Catalinas)
Limonada (Las Catalinas)
Best Yoga in Guanacaste
While Guanacaste has amazing yoga instructors scattered all over the province, these are some of the best yoga classes in Guanacaste, both for teaching style, quality of instructors and amazing location.
Casa Chameleon (Las Catalinas)
Lagarta Lodge (Playa Guiones/Nosara)
Best Spas In Guanacaste
While almost all the beaches in Guanacaste offer beautiful blue waters and pristine beaches, the best beaches in Guanacaste are Playa Conchal and Playa Marbella. Playa Conchal’s small waves make it great for skim boarding, swimming and walking along the beach, while Playa Marbella’s mostly un-trafficked location and consistent waves make it a great surf stop.
Best Surf Spots
Tamarindo (by Capitan Suizo) for beginner/intermediate. Marbella for intermediate/advanced.
Best Surf Instructors
Tamarindo Surf Experience offers the best experience for beginner surfers in Guanacaste. Whether you are 8 or 80, they can create a customized lesson to match your comfort level, complete with photos. They choose the best times and best locations to catch the best waves for each person’s needs.
Best Unique Experience
While there are a lot of interesting things to do in Guanacaste like ziplines, ATV tours, horseback riding, surfing, skimboarding and sound meditation, the La Senda labryinth is one of the most original activities to appeal to a diverse audience. While not a high adrenaline activity, it is memorable and unique. Great for groups. Reservations required.
La Senda Labyrinth (Cactus maze)
Best Family Friendly Stay
While many hotels in Guanacaste cater to families and people traveling with children, the below are the best family friendly stays. The W hotel has an amazing kids activity center where they will watch your children while you escape for a grown up meal. Las Catalinas is a children’s playground with trails, beach, pools and accommodations with a little more room for a family to stretch out.
Best Romantic Hotel in Guanacaste
The stunning 360 views, private pools in the casitas, beautiful landscaping and thoughtfully chosen decor at this adults only hotel make Casa Chameleon the best place in Guanacaste for a romantic escape.
Casa Chameleon (Las Catalinas)
Best New Hotel in Guanacaste
New hotels are popping up all the time Costa Rica, but the new Santarea Hotel at Las Catalinas is an impressive place to stay. The architecture, the service, the location and attention to detail make this hotel newcomer one to watch.
Santarena (Las Catalinas)
Cala Luna Hotel (Tamarindo) The service and friendly staff at Cala Luna Hotel in Tamarindo can not be beat, making it the best hospitality in Guanacaste. They are top notch. Always.
The best vibe in Guanacaste goes to the W Costa Rica hotel in Reserva Conchal. Their friendly staff, amazing views and music to match the mood are what make the W Hotel in Costa Rica one of the most inspiring places to both chillax and party.
The best place in Guanacaste to see classic architecture and attention to detail in the accents, tiles, landscaping and colors is Las Catalinas. It is a stunning place to see beautiful architecture, a gorgeous beach and still have access to hiking trails, restaurants and accommodations.
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