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Best Places to Visit in Costa Rica – Guanacaste Area

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If you are considering Costa Rica as a future family travel destination, chances are you love warm weather, beaches, nature and adventures, all of which this Latin American country offers in abundance.

There is so much to do and see in Costa Rica that I was initially overwhelmed trying to plan excursions and activities for us. I quickly decided to focus only on the Guanacaste area to limit our time spent in the car and leave the other tempting adventures that were more ambitious and further away for our next visit.

If you are looking for the best places to visit in Costa Rica, here are three excursions we took in the Guanacaste Area. We loved every single one and highly recommend them!

Palo Verde National Park

A visit to Palo Verde National Park is an easy half day excursion from our resort. Located at the mouth of the Tempisque River, this unique area is a wetland sanctuary for an amazing array of wild life. During our leisurely tour of the river via motorboat, we saw several monkey species, iguanas, crocodiles, bats, butterflies, a remarkable range of birds and more.

Most tours to Palo Verde make a stop at the nearby small town of Guaitil, known for its famous Chorotega-style pottery made from local, natural colored clay. We enjoyed a delicious, authentic Guanacaste meal at a working farm, followed by pottery making demonstration. (Of course, we purchased some great souvenirs to bring back home with us.)

Read more about our excursion to Palo Verde National Park.

The howler monkey family, Palo Verde National Park Costa Rica

A howler monkey family (with a newborn), spotted in the tree tops at Palo Verde National Park.

Playa Ostional

Having been turtle fans for a long time, we knew that Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s largest turtle nesting grounds. We chose to visit the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, situated on Playa Ostional, a magnificent stretch of a beautiful dark volcanic sand beach.

This beach is known for the massive Olive Ridley turtle arrivals to its shores to nest. It is estimated they lay over one million eggs here each year. Just visiting the beach itself was spectacular, but witnessing a turtle laying her eggs at night was an experience of a lifetime!

Get the full details of our fantastic experience seeing Costa Rica turtles nesting at Playa Ostional.

Posing on Playa Ostional, one of our favorite Costa Rica attractions.

Posing on Playa Ostional, one of our favorite places to visit in Costa Rica.

Arenal Volcano Area

This was our most ambitious excursion, requiring a full day trip from the resort (we left at 5 am and returned at 10 pm), but it was well worth it. We had an amazing day, filled with unforgettable experiences. After a long drive through the Guanacaste countryside, we arrived at the beautiful Lake Arenal surrounded by rolling hills covered with lush tropical vegetation and many coffee and macadamia nut plantations.

We then embarked on a fantastic rainforest nature walk at the famous Arenal Hanging Bridges where we saw an incredible array of plants and animals, including a rare sighting of a sloth high in the tree tops. To up the adrenalin, we then tried zip lining for the first time (and LOVED it!) and capped off the day relaxing in hot mineral springs, which are abundant in this area due to the substantial underground volcanic activity.

Hands-on nature lecture at Arenal Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica

A hands-on nature lecture in the Arenal Hanging Bridges rainforest.

These three trips are just a small sample of the treasures that Costa Rica has to offer. While it was tempting to remain beach side and be satisfied with enjoying our beautiful resort, I highly encourage you to venture away from your hotel and take some time to explore this remarkable country.

Read more about our day long adventure to Arenal Volcano.

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A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…

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