Guanacaste and Nicoya

The Guanacaste Province and Nicoya Peninsula are rather a wild west of Costa Rica. The tropical dry forest, sunny climate (scorchingly so during the dry season) and seasonally dry forest and savannah or chapparal vegetation may remind you of other west coast North American settings. The Sabaneros, Costa Rica’s “cowboys,” are prevalent in this area, as are ranches that harken back to the Colonial era hacienda settlement system. Rivers run in torrents in the wet season, yet trickle or run empty in the dry season. Some of the most isolated, rugged, and remote stretches of coast are found around the Nicoya Peninsula, yet also many world-class and consistent surfing destinations, creating a decidedly ‘Gringo’ atmosphere in some of the surfing enclaves such as Tamarindo, Nosara, and Mal Pais. Yet, just around the next headland there may be an isolated river and verdant mangroves, a secluded sea turtle nesting reserve such as Ostional, or a tranquil coastal town that only bustles with Tico weekend vacationers, such as Samara. Guancaste and Nicoya offer an expansive, rugged area for exploration- wild beaches, pounding surf, pothole-ridden 4WD tracks to swallow you, and ranches with cattle and caballeros…all in the lee of striking volcanoes astride the Pan-American Highway.

A rugged, cliffed coastline, the Nicoya Peninsula is full of headlands and small bays, pocket beaches, and extensive abrasion platforms of ancient lava rock reefs.




Natural buffers between land and sea, mangroves capture runoff and nutrients draining from inland watersheds while also providing habitat for marine life and protecting offshore reefs and rock pools from excess sediment.


Not all mangroves have been protected and retained in their healthy role in the landscape, but at Cabinas las Olas we find a wide swath of mangroves with a boardwalk between our cabinas, the rio, and a world-class surf break at Playa Avellanas. This hotel is one of several certified, highly sustainable accomodations in Costa Rica.


Breaks at roadside fruit stands offer a gastronomic exploration of the amazingly rich diversity of tropical fruits and nuts. frutas






Research topics and environmental discoveries are also abounding in this region. Nearby one will find the Guanacaste Conservation Area and its pioneering work on tropical dry forests, the Rio Tempisque and Organization for Tropical Studies research station, as well as hydro-electric, wind, and geothermal energy development. If you’re into history, then Guanacaste is full of suprises, from the story of the American ‘Filibusters’ who raised private armies to invade Central America, and the defense and victory of Juan Santa Maria,-a national hero of Costa Rican independence- in what is now Santa Rosa National Park.  In more modern times, the area was a hotbed of activity during the 1980s and particularly the Iran-Contra affair, involving the US CIA and Contra rebels of Nicaragua.  The natural vegetation on a remote, roadless peninsula of Guanacaste is now reclaiming what was once a secret landing field, visible barely in satellite imagery, for the Contras and US suppliers. The “wild west,” indeed!

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