The Perfect Weekend on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast

The beaches and inland regions of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province are known not only for their jaw-dropping natural beauty and wildlife, but also for their delicious eats, laid-back nightlife, myriad outdoor adventures, and surprisingly good shopping. Here are some of the many reasons this stretch along the Pacific Ocean is known as the Gold Coast.

Guanacaste Province, Coco, Costa Rica
If you are a diver, or have always wanted to take scuba lessons, Playa del Coco is a great jumping-off point for exploring the deep blue. Visibility may not be as good as in the Caribbean, but the area makes up for it with the rich and varied marine life you’re likely to encounter. Three well-regarded diving outfitters in Playa del Coco are Deep Blue Diving, Rich Coast Diving, and Summer Salt.
Guanacaste Province, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
North of Santa Teresa, in Playa Hermosa, you’ll find sushi master Koji Hyodo carving yellowfin tuna, red snapper, and sea bass at his tinkling, tin-roofed restaurant, Koji’s. His signature Koji Roll wraps spicy tuna around fresh shrimp paste and avocado. Then the entire roll is drizzled with a secret sauce and dipped in crunchy tempura bits. The grilled octopus is lightly fired, then sprinkled with sea salt; his lobster sashimi, sliced so thin you can almost see through it, starts with a crunch and finishes sweet.
500 m SO de la Escuela de Playa Grande, 933 Playa Grande, Provincia de Guanacaste, Santa Cruz, 50308, Costa Rica
Marino Las Baulas National Park is a protected area compising Playa Grande, Ventana and Langosta. Together they are the stage for one of the most magical occurrences in the animal kingdom: the nesting of the gigantic baula (leatherback turtle), an endangered species. The hatching of these turtles is a remarkable highlight each year as they make their way out to sea. The egg-laying season goes from October-November.
The Gold Coast is a legendary surfing destination, and veteran surfers make pilgrimages from all over the world to catch these waves. Playa Grande is the granddaddy of all Costa Rican surfing beaches, and it doubles as a nesting ground for leatherback sea turtles. Other popular surf spots in the area are Playas Avellanas & Negra (where the 1994 surf classic The Endless Summer II was filmed), and Tamarindo. If you’re a beginner or novice and need lessons, Point Break Surf is a great option.
Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
What better way to rejuvenate than a yoga class and massage on the beach? Lorena at ReFLEXion Yoga Tamarindo is a gifted and soothing yoga instructor and healer. Besides the yoga classes (for all levels), she also offers an array of other healing therapies for the body and mind, including massage and reiki sessions. Sometimes being on vacation can start to get... well, stressful. This is the perfect solution.
Provincia de Guanacaste, Bagaces, Costa Rica
Palo Verde National Park is the perfect escape for avid wildlife and bird watchers. The park is one of the world’s most important wetland sanctuaries and a vacation destination for many species of migratory birds. It is also home to crocodiles, monkeys, deer, coati, and jaguarondi. The best way to glimpse the wildlife is on board a boat ride through the fast-flowing Tempisque River.
Main road to Tamarindo, 500m SW from Auto Mercado, in front of El Tesoro, Provincia de Guanacaste, Tamarindo, 50309, Costa Rica
Cozy and comfortable, it’s hard to leave Pangas. The hours fly by here, where the Las Baulas estuary meets the Pacific, at wooden tables, right on the sand; or beneath marvelous, sparkle-lit trees in a setting that’s practically one with the surrounding nature. A tropical fusion menu makes the most of local bounty, featuring innumerable fruits, grass-fed beef, and locally caught seafood; fresh-prepared cocktails intensify the vibe. Surf-racks and showers available to those coming off the waves; reservations suggested.
Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Nestled under an old tree, Lazy Wave offers fresh Asian, Latin, and European fusion cuisine. The setting is wonderful, with fluffy cushioned couches and candle-lit tables in an exotic garden.
Beach front Provincia de Guanacaste Playa Avellana, 50303, Costa Rica
Among Playa Avellana’s numerous pleasures, the small-town, almost-no-cars vibe sets the scene for true relaxation—as well as fun. Look for Lola’s—perhaps the hippest spot in town—in the tiny business district and try out fresh, locally sourced pizzas, mahi-mahi tacos, and veggie burgers; smoothie lovers will go nuts. Locals and visitors pack in under the almond trees late mornings after surf excursions and other adventures. Be on the lookout for Lolita, the piglet daughter of the original Lola (sadly no longer with us) as she frolics in the sand or ranges across the property.
Flamingo Beach Road, Guanacaste Province, Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica
On the white-sand beach of Playa Flamingo, Coco Loco has everything you need to set your afternoon or evening on the right note. Enjoy fresh food and delicious cocktails in a fun, laid-back environment. Make sure to try their signature drink, the Coco Loco: a sweet and flamboyantly colored concoction.
50 meters from Hotel Diria, diagonal hotel Mar Rey, Centro comercial Galeria del Mar, Tamarindo, 50309, Costa Rica
El Be Tamarindo Beach Club will never go out of style. Take your pick between the bar terrace and DJ—ideal for dancing all night—or the Sandbar, where you can relax on the beach. In either spot, you’ll enjoy an authentic Costa Rican kind of party, with friendly locals and surfers, and happy travelers.
Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Guaitil Pottery Studio in Tamarindo is a truly unique experience. Here, owner Arbin Espinosa Guevara displays and sells his Guaitil pottery, and gives lessons to visitors interested in learning the craft themselves. One of the few remaining indigenous crafts still practiced in Costa Rica, this organic coil-built pottery is beautiful and intricate. Browse the studio, watch artists at work, or take lessons in this ancient tradition yourself.
Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Even if you don’t have anything specific in mind to buy, go to browse Tamarindo’s main avenue for well-priced souvenirs. Here you’ll find traditional coffee and chocolate next to art and wood crafts. There are also supermarkets, drugstores, and jewelry and boutique stores. Whether it’s a valuable artwork or lovable trinket, it will remind you of your visit to this beautiful country.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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