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Costa Rica Travel Guide:
history, geography, climate
General Information

Costa Rica occupies a privileged spot in the heart of Central America. While its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the country is surprisingly accessible - one can travel from coast to coast in just three hours by car or a short 45 minutes by small plane.

The Caribbean region of Costa Rica stands out for its variety of aquatic ecosystems and its beautiful white and black sand beaches, providing an ideal setting for activities such as sport fishing, snorkeling, and sun bathing. The Pacific coast concentrates big tourist centers and its beaches are very popular for surfing, for example Esterillos, Jaco, Hermosa, Boca Barranca. In the Golfito region, near the Marino Ballena National Park, surfing fans can find the famous "long lefthander wave."

Costa Rica's beaches are surrounded by forests, and have great natural diversity. In many of them there are beautiful coral reefs, where you may dive and explore. In addition, depending on the place visited, you have a series of complementary activities, such as: hikes to mangroves, diving, surfing, sport fishing, hiking on trails or horseback rides.

Thanks to the easy access to many beaches, you can make the most out of both coasts. Most of them have warm water throughout the year, so you may come and enjoy the country any season you prefer. If it's diversity you're interested in, each coast offers different shades and textures of sand, white, yellow, gray and black, product of the constant crashing of seashells on coral reefs.

Province of Guanacaste

Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica located in the northwestern part of the country, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. it borders Nicaragua to the north. To the east there is the Alajuela Province, and to the southeast is the Puntarenas Province. It is the most sparsely populated of all the provinces of Costa Rica. The province covers an area of 3,915 square miles (10,141 square kilometers) and as of 2010, had a population of 326,953. Guanacaste's capital is Liberia. Other important cities include Cañas and Nicoya.

The province is bounded on the east by a group of green-swathed volcanoes forming the Cordillera de Guanacaste (which features Orosi, Rincón de la Vieja, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes) and the Cordillera de Tilaran. The rivers that tumble out of these steep mountains flow down to rolling flatlands, forming a vast alluvial plain drained by the Rio Tempisque, which empties through swampy wetlands into de Golfo de Nicoya. The Rio Tempisque defines one side of the horsehead-shaped Peninsula de Nicoya enclosing the gulf to the west.

Before the Spanish arrived, this territory was inhabited by Chorotega Indians from the town of Zapati, Nacaome, Paro, Cangel, Nicopasaya, Pocosí, Diriá, Papagayo, Namiapí and Orosi. The Corobicies lived on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Nicoya and the Nahuas or Aztecan in the zone of Bagaces. The first church was built out of straw in Nicoya in the 17th Century.

In the 18th Century some neighbors of Rivers established their houses and cattle farms in the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula at crossroads that connected the towns of Bagaces, Nicoya and Rivers. The place was baptized after a famous Guanacaste tree that grows in the neighborhood.

Part of the Nicaraguan territory prior to independence from Spain, but in 1824-25 the territory of Guanacaste was annexed to Costa Rica. The inhabitants decided by their own will to be part of Costa Rica. The 25th of July 1824 the town people of Nicoya and Santa Cruz decided to join Costa Rica. In 1836 the town of Guanacaste was declared capital of Guanacaste province. In 1854 the town of Guanacaste was renamed Liberia.

The province has an economic and cultural heritage based on beef cattle ranching. Most of the area is covered by small patches of forest, scattered trees and large pastures of coarse grasses where Brahman cattle and related breeds graze. Historically, the main source of income of Guanacaste was cattle ranching. Cattle ranching is declining in Guanacaste due to an international drop in the demand for beef. Many pastures are naturally reverting back to dry forest or are being converted to tree plantations.

The other agricultural products of relative importance in the province are sugar cane and cotton, and since the late 1980s, with the creation of a large-scale irrigation program (the water comes from Lake Arenal after passing through several power generating stations), rice has become a prominent crop.

For the past two decades tourism has emerged as the new and growing activity in the local economy. The combination of beaches like Playa Conchal, Playas del Coco, Playa Tamarindo, and the sunny dry season that coincides with the winter months in northern latitudes have made tourism a key economic activity. Many tourists are also attracted by the abundance of natural beauty. The Province has no less than seven national parks like Santa Rosa, Guanacaste and Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Weather and Climate

Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.

Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not to the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The "summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.

Guanacaste's climate and culture are unique among Costa Rican provinces. The province experiences little rain and consistent heat from November to April, resulting in ubiquitous tropical dry forests as a natural adaption to the dry season conditions. Tourists seek out this dry heat during the North American winter to enjoy the Guanacastecan beaches. Irrigation of the agricultural land is necessary during the long dry period. From May to October, the climate is similar to that of San José, consisting of showers daily and moderate temperatures. Guanacaste is, however, considerably warmer than other provinces located in higher elevations.

Playa Conchal

This beach is located south of Brasilito, which is separated by a rocky headland (Punta Conchal), from which you can see a beautiful panoramic view of the beach and the entire coastline to the south. This inlet is about a mile longand gets its name from the fact that the beach’s sand is composed of millions of shell fragments. It is lined with lush vegetation, a mangrove, and crystal clear waters. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country and is ideal for swimming, hiking, horseback riding, boat excursions, and other water sports, including diving. This beach has been awarded the Blue Flag Ecological certification, which identifies it as a clean and safe beach. The Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa is located on this amazing beach.

Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo along with Playa Grande and Ventanas forms the Tamarindo Bay. It is a beautiful beach with many rocky areas and an island (Capitán) on the far southern end. It is lined with lush vegetation like, savannah oak, tamarind trees, and coconut trees. It has a variety of high quality services that allow you to enjoy the ocean during the day and party at night. This beach is ideal for relaxing, hiking, and turtle nesting observation. From this bay and to the south is a very popular coastal area for surfing. This beach is Blue Flag certified, meaning it has been recognized for its cleanliness and safety.
Special thanks to Costa Rica Tourism for contributing.
Special thanks to Wikipedia and its authors and contributors.
Westin Costa Rica Luke Handzlik Liberia Guanacaste Photos