10 Things You Must Know about Guanacaste Costa Rica

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Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica. It is located in the northern part of Costa Rica. The capital of Guanacaste is Liberia. The province covers around 3000 square miles. It has many national parks, beaches, and volcanos. It truly is beautiful!! My family and I were blessed to stay a month in Costa Rica. (These opinions are all mine and they come from the month that we stayed there.)

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  1. You must carry your passport and drivers license with you. We rented a car from the month we were in Costa Rica and this was truly the way to go for us. The bus system is in place, but it takes a long time, and you never know if it is going to show up. There are bus stops all over and we never actually rode one, but they aren’t that reliable. There are many rental car companies all over, but when we first arrived we had to have a “shuttle” company take us from the airport to our home, because they were not up and running when our plane arrived. Most of the rental companies are located outside of the Liberia Airport. So be prepared to drive a bit to get a car. When we returned our car, they shuttled us back to the airport. Also… we picked up our car right near our house. We rented a small compact car, but if you really want to experience Costa Rica I would suggest a 4×4 reliable go anywhere type vehicle. Some spots our little car could just not go. From the moment you arrive, and pick up your car, you must carry your passport and drivers license with you. It is their law. We had no problems and only got stopped once on the road. We simply showed them to them and we were on our way.IMG_9901
  2. The price of food is extremely high. We were somewhat prepared as we have traveled to other places during the summer, but this was quite a shock to us. They do have Auto Mercado’s (supermarkets) in some areas but we have come to find that they all have about the same pricing, even the “locals” shop there. We luckily had a house that had a kitchen that was fully equipped so we just cooked simple meals at home. We did not buy the “american brands” and that seem to save us a little money. We found a local bread store on the corner of Huacas… and it saved us tons of money. We would buy baguette’s, cinnamon bread, sweet rolls, donuts, etc. The girls and husband were happy! And the price was extremely cheap!

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3. The roads are almost always bad roads.  We found driving in Costa Rica was great, however the estimated time that they tell you it takes to get somewhere… it actually takes that long. At first when we landed and they said that our house was an hour away, we couldn’t believe it, but it was true. The roads were winding, small, full of pot holes, and not well maintained. People are walking all over them and they don’t necessarily move for you. There are animals in the road wandering, and people are driving cattle across the roads all the time. Some of the roads according to google are not really roads. We had to turn around a few times, because we couldn’t drive up them.

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AND… they have no signs. We got lost several times. This was our sign on one road…no joke! I am so glad that my husband has a great sense of direction. He followed google maps pretty darn close and we got to really know some of the roads really well.

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However the scenery is gorgeous and sometimes that helped the long drives!!

4. The beaches are simply amazing, however they are not quite pristine.  We are a beach family. We love the beach. When we were planning our trip I thought we would be seeing some pristine beaches. Now… don’t get me wrong they were gorgeous… just gorgeous! However, they are not top ten material (in my book.) The beaches were really fun and had great waves. One beach, Playa Conchal, their most gorgeous beach is full of seashells and it has some great sand, but the other beaches have volcanic sand. They even have black sand. If you want to see some turquoise water and fine sand, you might want to pick another place to go, BUT…. the beaches are truly worth exploring, and if you LOVE to surf… these are the beaches for you!  They are magical!

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The beaches that we hit up were:

  1. Playa Grande (where our house was and by the end of the month ended up being our favorite)
  2. Playa Tamarindo (great surfing beach)
  3. Playa Flamingo (great family beach)
  4. Playa Potrero
  5. Playa Brasilito
  6. Playa Danta
  7. Playa Dantita ( it takes a good hike to get to this secluded beach)
  8. Playa Avellanas (another great surfing beach)
  9. Playa Mansita
  10. Playa Matapalo
  11. Playa Hermosa
  12. Playa Panama ( this seemed more like a lake to me-great for kayaking, paddle boarding etc)
  13. Playa Manzanillo ( we actually never made it too this beach)
  14. Playa del Coco ( not a great beach- but great for diving)
  15. Playa Samara ( lots of waves, rip tides )
  16. Playa Ventanas ( continuation of Playa Grande)
  17. Playa Carbon (we actually never made it to this beach)
  18. Playa Conchal

These were a little south and we stopped by them, but did  not spend the day.

  1. Playa Guiones
  2. Playa Pelada
  3. Playa Nosara
  4. Playa Azul
  5. Playa Junquillal
  6. Playa Negra

The best kept secret beaches you must go to… Playa Bahia De Los Pirates… aka Pirate Beach! And… Playa Mina! We did spend several times at Pirate Beach. We did not spend a whole lot of time at Playa Mina… but I sure wish we had. The most gorgeous ever!

As you can see you are not in lack of beach time!

5. The people (Ticos) are extremely nice.   The name of the locals are called Tico’s for males, and Tica’s for females. However, I found it very interesting… there are a lot of tourists in Costa Rica, and some families. Also… a lot of the people who worked the excursions were from Nicaragua. There weren’t a whole lot of people where we stayed.  And for some reason… I have no pictures of the people. I did come across some great instagram accounts that I loved to follow and got some great information from….

  1. discovercostarica
  2. thisiscostarica
  3. discovertamarindo   IMG_9741
  4. guanacaste_traveler
  5. costaricaexperts
  6. andreafellman ( she lived in Costa Rica for the last 3 years, however she just moved to Spain)
  7. mytanfeet

You find some people on Instagram and you follow them and they will lead you to some amazing sites. Most of them are locals and most of them are extremely nice. They are welcoming and very polite to you…. and their instagram accounts are ahhhmazing! It is also great to know that there are many many American Families moving to Costa Rica. You will have a wide variety of people who you will come in contact with!

6. There are lots and lots of bugs, insects, lizards, creeping crawling geckos, ants, crabs, scorpions, and mosquitos!  You will need bug spray and lots of it! Some days we couldn’t even go outside because the mosquitos were really bad. In our travels we saw spiders, geckos, scorpions, ants, crabs, hermit crabs, and many others. If you are afraid of bugs… this is not the place to go!

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But despite being creepy crawly… we did go on lizards hunts! The girls loved looking for them! They didn’t every seem to mind us finding them.

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We also loved to go on crab hunts!! When we would drive home from our day activity we would let the girls get out of their seat belts and stand up and count the crabs on the road scurrying away. We ended up smashing some… cannot get around that one. One night we even sang the crabs go marching two-x-two hurrah!!

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This is my favorite picture… mom could you get the mosquito off of me?? Yes.. they are annoying. One sign (which I somehow did not get a picture of) said… Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitos?? We thought this was very funny!

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7. There are “soda” shops all over, pizzeria restaurants in every town, and “pinchos” on all beaches. There is a wide variety of many restaurants. You must hit up the local “soda shops”. This is not like here in America, they are small restaurants all along the roads. They serve a variety of foods. Some of them serve the casado’s…. which is a Costa Rican dish with beans, rice, salad and some piece of either chicken, fish, shrimp, beef, or steak.  The girls were happy to have pizza though. Pinchos are basically like a kabob. It is just chicken or pork grilled on a stick served with some corn tortillas! They season them just right. They are perfect for the beach! Another great local dish is called ceviche. It is basically fish mixed in with some limes and veggies. It was delicious!

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My favorites were the mango shrimp tacos!

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Come to think of it… we ate pretty good!

8. The jungles are green and full of life (depends on where you stay.)  However, we only saw a few monkeys, no sloths, and no toucans. You may even run into crocodiles in the estuaries, lucky I never saw one!! But… don’t go near the estuaries… the crocodiles are real and they will eat you! Just as the guy who got his leg amputated.

The birds were unreal. If you are a bird watcher and lover… this is the place!

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I did not get any real cool pictures of monkeys… we rarely saw them. These are from our zipline tour… they gave us a few photos!  We did not see any toucans either, but it really depends where you stay I guess.

We did see many wonderful birds! There was a bird book at our casa that we studied. There are sooooo many birds!

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And butterflies!

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9. The sunsets are world-famous! I am not going to lie… my favorite part of Costa Rica were there sunsets! They were  beautiful! The way that the sky was painted each night with different colors, shapes, figures,clouds, etc were fun to wait for and I was excited to have the evenings show off their skies!

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10. You can use  american dollars, visa, mastercard, etc… but it was better  to exchange our money into colon’s.  The exchange rate for the dollar is 500- 550 colon’s for one dollar! This article from Two Weeks in Costa Rica is a great reference!! We used our credit card for most purchases… but had colon’s on hand for the little things. Please let your credit card company know that you are in Costa Rica.

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We LOVED our time in Costa Rica! We will miss it dearly! This information is clearly all my opinions, but take it from me… if you go… you will fall in love!

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And because I am biased to Playa Grande… head that way! You will not be disappointed! 
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