TO most visitors, Guanacaste means its fabled beaches, but plenty of day excursions can lure you into the water, under the water or a long way from the water.
This section of the Pacific coast offers some of Costa Rica’s best underwater exploration. If you are a certified diver, Resort Divers de Costa Rica (Playa Panamá, 672-0103, www.resortdiverscr. com) will take you out for half-day, twodive excursions ($65). If you’re not, snorkeling ($50) is an option. The company also offers a daylong Discover Scuba Diving course, not resulting in any certification, but geared toward novices who want to get a taste of the activity.
Tamarindo Sport Fishing (Tamarindo, 653-0090, www.tamarindosportfishing.com) operates two boats: the 38-foot Talking Fish and the 27-ft. Salsa, each captained by long-time veterans. Half-day inshore outings run $375-$575 for the boat, with roosterfish, mackerel and tuna yours for the catching. Full-day offshore trips open you to the world of marlin and sailfish and run $600-$975.
IF less effort on a boat is more your style, sailing excursions on the 52 ft. Samonique III (Flamingo, 388-7870) run most afternoons from 2-6:30 p.m. The $60- per-person price tag buys you a relaxing few hours on the waves, with sandwiches, appetizers, an open bar, and those legendary Guanacaste sunsets to top off the day.
Guanacaste doesn’t get the attention in eco-circles that other regions of Costa Rica do, but this is prime nature-exploration territory. The folks at the Organization for Tropical Studies conduct full-day ($30) or half-day ($15) guided excursions at their Palo Verde Biological Station (PaloVerdeNational Park, 240-6696, www.ots.ac.cr).
The 20,000-hectare park hugs the TempisqueRiver and encompasses 13 habitats of dry tropical forest with wetland vegetation. Turtle watching at Las Baulas National Marine Park (Playa Grande, 653-0470) isn’t so much a day tour as a night outing, a very late-night outing.
Advance reservations through the park information center or with the Mundo de las Tortugas museum (653-0471) next door and accompaniment by licensed guides are musts to be out on the beach at night during the leatherback turtles’ October to March nesting season. (See separate story.)
River tourism usually means screaming down whitewater rapids, but Safaris Corobicí (Cañas, 669-6091, www.safariscorobici.com) lets you float gently in a raft down the CorobicíRiver. Someone else does the driving, letting you soak up the monkey-, bird- and crocodile-laden scenery. Two- to four-hour trips run $37-$60.
CANYONING and canopy tours combine into one at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín (Rincón de la Vieja National Park, 442-2818, www.guachipelin.com). A zip-line tour begins a short distance from the lodge, and encompasses 10 platforms, cables 25-85 meters long, a Tarzan swing, and rappelling into the Río Blanco canyon in sight of its three waterfalls. A $70 AdventurePass lets you spend the day and includes lunch and any of the other activities you can fit in.
This is cowboy country, so horses are king in Guanacaste. Paradise Riding (Junquillal, 658-8162, www.paradiseriding.com) is one of many outfitters up here conducting tours. The horses are calm, and most excursions require no advance experience.
Two hours on horseback through the ranch or on the beach are yours for $25; four hours for $49. English, German and Spanish are spoken.