FIFTEEN years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine shopping malls, multiplex theaters and chain fast-food restaurants opening outside the Central Valley. Today, commercial development is thriving and expanding throughout the country and particularly in Guanacaste’s capital city of Liberia.
Fueled by tourism growth and development on the country’s North Pacific coast, the WhiteCity – so named after the limestone used to build many of the town’s original streets and buildings – has blossomed during the last decade, transforming itself from a sleepy little town to a vibrant center of commerce.
Gone are the days when Liberia was only a place where travelers would stop to get gas on their way to Playas del Coco and Nacascolo. And with the addition of regular non-stop flights to DanielOduberInternationalAirport by major international airlines, Liberia is officially on the international map.
THE first commercial landmark is found five minutes before entering the city – Mall Plaza Liberia (666-4512) (see separate story, S-13). Plans are to open a disco in Plaza Liberia sometime in the coming months.
The next big hub of commercial activity is in the heart of the city, near the historic El Bramadero Restaurant and the city’s main gas stations.
Across from El Bramadero stands the Food Mall – a new building that houses the local Burger King, Church’s Chicken and Papa John’s Pizza franchises (258-9999 for take-out for all three). For the most part, these restaurants are exactly the same as their counterparts elsewhere in the country – elsewhere in the world, for that matter – except they serve beer. The three restaurants offer delivery service to homes and hotels throughout the Liberia downtown area from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Farther up the main street, 125 meters west of the gas stations, is the area Subway (665-0240). Open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Subway is the closest thing to a late-night fast-food snack available in Liberia. A freshly prepared roast beef sub is a great way to start your morning, following a night of partying at the discos of the coastal hotels that offer all-included drinks.
In the same part of town is the local TCBY Frozen Yogurt (665-0955). Just remember that frozen yogurt is not really fat-free if it’s floating in a sea of chocolate syrup and sprinkles.
FARTHER into town, by the city’s main park, is Pizza Hut (666-7249). It delivers from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the Liberia area.
While these fast-food options may sound tempting, visitors should take time to sample to area cuisine. Plenty of good non-chain restaurants offer prime Guanacaste beef and other Costa Rican favorites at reasonable prices. The chinamos (stands) at the Liberia-San José bus stop are great places for authentic Nicaraguan food at real (non-tourist) prices.
Growth has brought other services to the city. Farther up from the gas stations on the main street is the local authorized Toyota Dealership (666-0016).
In addition to being the region’s commercial capital, Liberia is also the region’s main financial center. The city is home to branches of most major banks. All offer the standard financial services – automaticteller machines, deposits, withdrawals, account transfers, colón-to-dollar exchange and vice-versa.
Banco Nacional (666-1032), the country’s largest bank, has its Liberia office on Av. 25 julio, as do Banco de Crédito Agrícola de Cartago (BANCREDITO) (666-0879) and Banco Cuscatlán (666-3223), which is right in front of Pizza Hut. Approximately 75 meters farther east is Banco Banex (666-2197).
Banco de Costa Rica(666-0148) has its branch on the northeastern corner of the Iglesia de La Inmaculada.
Directly behind Banco de Costa Rica are the local offices of international courier service DHL (210-3838).