I just returned a few weeks ago from an amazing long weekend in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. Tamarindo has amazing beaches, but my favorite memories were all from our day trips. You have plenty of options in Guanacaste ranging from high-adventure to relaxation; the hardest part will be deciding what you want to do!
Snorkeling in the Catalinas IslandsCatalinas Islands
Our weekend started off bright and early on Friday morning with a 6:30am pick-up for our morning snorkeling excursion. After a short boat ride to the Catalinas Islands, we spent about 45 minutes snorkeling at our first location, a remote cove, before taking a snack break while boating around the smaller islands where we were lucky enough to spot two sea turtles. At our second location had slightly different rock formations and we saw a HUGE ray and eels in addition to lots of colorful fish. Our tour operator, Pacific Coast Dive Center, was very professional- we were all given wet suits, sanitized equipment, and a knowledgeable orientation before getting in the water. This is a half-day trip, so we elected to spend the rest of the afternoon lounging at the beach with a cocktail!
Nicaragua Day TripVolcan Masaya
THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PART. I didn’t know what to expect in Nicaragua but the whole day was absolutely perfect. Our tour started at 4:30 in the morning but we slept most of the way to the Nicaragua border. Once we reached Nicaragua, we left our van for the border crossing and walked through customs. A new driver and van were awaiting us on the other side. This is much faster than waiting in the line of vehicles or taking the public bus.
Once we were in Nicaragua we ate a simple breakfast of fruit, beans, plantains, and rice near Lake Nicaragua with a view of the Volcano. There was a cruise ship tour that arrived at the same time as us and I was surrounded with ladies taking photos with their iPads. Luckily, this was our last interaction with the cruise ship passengers- for the rest of our time in Nicaragua, we didn’t see a single other tour group.Isletas de Granada
Next, we quickly moved onto our other stops: fruit stand, boat ride around Isletas de Granada, a cigar factory, a chocolate shop, Granada main square, local lunch, volcan Masaya, and Laguna de Apoyo. If this sounds like a lot to cram into a 14 hour tour, it is. One down side: this is a group tour and you have very little free time. If you are someone who really wants to immerse yourself in Nicaragua, this is not for you. If you want a fun, activity filled day with minimal research, input, or planning then you’ll have a great time.Laguna de Apoyo
Rio Celeste WaterfallRio Celeste Waterfall
On Sunday, we booked a tour with Native’s Way to visit the Rio Celeste and Llanos de Cortez waterfalls. Once again, this was another early morning (are you sensing a theme here?) but our driver thankfully let us stop for coffee on the two hour drive to the first location. Our first waterfall is the Llanos de Cortez waterfall where we were able to swim under the big waterfall. We also took a short hike to a second, “secret”, waterfall and cliff jumped which was equally terrifying and exciting.Llanos de Cortez Waterfall
Next, we drove to the Tenorio Volcano National Park for our hike to Rio Celeste. Overall, the hike took us approximately two and a half hours (including stops and photos) and I would describe it as moderately difficult. The hardest part is the 250 steps down to the waterfall viewing platform. Only the first part of the hike is paved and the trail can be very muddy at times. We were fortunate that the trail was dry on our visit but closed and supportive shoes are recommended. After the hike, we were rewarded with a delicious late lunch and made our way back to Tamarindo. Pro tip: pack snacks and/or eat a big breakfast.
Since we went rafting on our first trip to Costa Rica, my friend and I decided to skip the high-adventure tours and try something new. There are plenty of other options (Viatour and Trip Advisor are great resources) and here are just a handful of other things we considered:
- Zip Line, Canyoning, Adventure Park
- Rafting Trip
- Safari Float through Mangroves
- Rincón de la Vieja National Park
- Sunset Catamaran