The province of Guanacaste is known internationally for its beaches, which receive waves of tourists each year. However, this place is also home to thousands of birds, several endangered species, hundreds of different trees, lakes, mangroves, mountains, rivers and hot springs. This piece of land has much more to offer beyond its coastal beauty. Here we recommend five alternatives with no beach but with lots of fun:
Viento Fresco – Tilarán
The Viento Fresco Waterfalls are located on private property in Tilaran. Hidden in the middle of the woods, 11 minutes from downtown Tilaran, this property contains five majestic waterfalls— Serena River, Hidden, Rainbow, Slide and The Rock— surrounded by vegetation, caves, animals and spectacular views of the Gulf of Nicoya, San Jose Hill and Pelado Hill.
Price: $16 foreigners, $13 students and $6 for national residents
Facilities: Restaurant, parking, camping area, restrooms and lookout point
Lake Arenal – Tilarán
Photo by Tripadvisor.com
Lake Arenal is located at the base of Arenal volcano, which belongs to the province of Alajuela. However, most of the lake and businesses are located in Guanacaste territory in the canton of Tilaran. The lake has an area of 85 square kilometers (33 square miles) and a depth of 60 meters (197 feet). Surrounded by green mountains and with the volcano in the background, the lake offers plenty of water fun. Along the lakeshore, there are different tour operators offering kayaking tours, jet skis or rafting trips. And for the more adventurous, this destination is also one of the best places in the country for wind surfing at a good speed, or even to try the Flyboard, which has a water propeller that makes it fly 10 meters above the lake, for a great adrenalin rush.
Price: varies depending on activity.
Facilities: Park on the street. There are some local vendors who sell drinks and food. There are restaurants and a view overlooking the dam. Puerto San Luis cabins 2695-5750.
Las Pumas Rescue Center – Cañas
Photo by Ariana Crespo
The Las Pumas Rescue Center is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wildlife species in Guanacaste. Those animals that cannot be returned to their natural habitat are given the necessary care during their lifetime, trying to simulate their natural habitat. The center has 18 enclosures where you can see five of the six species of wild cats, including jaguars, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis and margays. Other species are also on display such as monkeys, deer and more than 50 psittacidae (birds like parrots and macaws).
Contact: http://www.centrorescatelaspumas.org/en, 2669-6019
Price: ₡1,000 for children and ₡3,000 for adult national residents, ₡2,000 for senior citizens and $12 for foreigners.
Facilities: During group visits, there are activities as part of the environmental education program for children like drawing, coloring, games, plays and lectures. The center has an environmental classroom to welcome groups, an information kiosk and a souvenir shop. It also has restrooms.
Pelado Hill – Cañas
Photo by José Andrés Obando
If you like hiking, this is an adventure that you should experience. Climbing up and walking around the entire hill can be done in 3 hours with a local guide. This extinct volcano is surrounded by very dry vegetation, with porous rock that does not let many trees develop. Therefore, there is little shade and it is very windy. It has an empty crater and farther in, there is a lake. It is about 660 meters (2,165 feet) high and is very steep, so this route is not recommended for beginning hikers. Once at the peak of the hill, the 360-degree panoramic view will take your breath away, because from the top you can see Chira Island, the Gulf of Nicoya and the wind turbines of Tilaran.
Facilities: To arrange for a local guide or book accommodations, call 2494-0094 to speak with Doris Bermudez. The nearest accommodations, Solania Cabins, are 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away by car.
There are no bathrooms and no camping area on the slopes of the hill. It is important to bring your own food and water.
Palo Verde – Bagaces
If you are a bird watcher, Palo Verde National Park is a treat since it is an ideal place to observe migratory birds, waterfowl and overall wildlife diversity. The best time to visit the park is during rainy season since about 250,000 birds make this place their home then. This bird sanctuary includes an area of 45,492 hectares (112,413 acres) in which you can enjoy lakes, trails, mangroves, grasslands and dry forest.
Price: ₡1,000 for national citizens and residents, $10 for foreigners. Elementary school students with proper identification pay ₡300. Senior citizens do not pay admission.
Facilities: Camping area, shelter for 36 people, bathrooms and toilets.
Food service for groups with reservations, call 2206-5965.