The ability to revisit a destination is a gift. Through our many travels, we’ve learned that a big part of the journey is about traveling deeper, not wider and getting lost in the magic that brought you there in the first place. So, when an opportunity presented itself to head back to Guanacaste, Costa Rica, we packed our bags faster than you can say pura vída!
Guanacaste sits on the northwestern coast of Costa Rica, about a 4-hour drive from the epicenter of San José. Surrounded by rolling mountain ranges and deep jungles of dry tropical forests, Guanacaste is an absolute dream. Lush with nature and filled with the sounds of exotic animals (like howler monkeys that act as the region’s natural alarm clock), Guanacaste is made even more special by the people who reside there. Costa Ricans are proud and passionate about their country and living in one of only nine Blue Zones in the world, where people live longer and are healthier than anywhere else, it’s easy to see why.
Known for its white-sand beaches, surf culture, volcanoes, and unparalleled wildlife — Guanacaste is bustling with equal parts adventure and relaxation. After spending five days in this picturesque paradise, we crafted the ultimate guide uncovering all you need to know about one of Costa Rica’s most untapped provinces.
Marriott International is home to over 60 resorts in 14 dynamic destinations across the Caribbean and Latin America, including the stylish and energetic W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal. We ultimately chose to stay here during our time in Guanacaste to soak in the iconic W lifestyle beneath the Costa Rican sun.
We were met with many choices when deciding where to stay during our time in Guanacaste, but narrowed it down to three options perfect for every traveler in our tribe. Nestled on the Gulf of Papagayo, El Mangroove, Autograph Collection offers a romantic escape in a sophisticated boutique setting surrounded by small beach towns. Here, you can get in touch with nature during an outdoor spa treatment or dig your toes in the sand and indulge in a decadent meal at sunset. For travelers looking for a luxury all-inclusive vacation for the whole family to enjoy, The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal is the perfect resort on the shores of one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Take advantage of all the luxurious amenities included in your stay or practice your golf swing on the sprawling 18-hole golf course designed by famed golf architect, Robert Trent Jones.
Being loyal Marriott Bonvoy members allows us to unlock the most elevated travel experiences around the globe that are synonymous with the Marriott brand. Thanks to Bonvoy, we were able to enjoy Marriott International’s core offerings like coveted location, elevated food and beverage offerings, and expected resort amenities like refreshing pools and award-winning spas.
CHILL LIKE A LOCAL
Cheboards – Stepping inside Cheboards, you are entering the world of Juan Diego “JD” Evangelista. The avid surfer and Cheboards founder began hand-making his own boards as a child after falling in love with surf-culture and the feeling that comes from riding your first wave. JD and his wife opened up their shop in Tamarindo and have made a legendary name for themselves handcrafting custom boards for celebrities, locals, and international clients alike. Whether you’re an avid surfer or just testing the waters, it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry put into one of JD’s boards and the passion he exudes when speaking about his process. Pop into the shop to gawk at some of his many masterpieces and take a tour with the local celeb himself.
Tamarindo – When you picture the quintessential beach town, think of Tamarindo. This popular surfing hub is the spot for catching the perfect waves and taking in one of Costa Rica’s famous sunsets on the silk sand. Sample all the flavors of Guanacaste at El Mercadito de Tamarindo Gourmet Food Market, hit the fashionable shops for a day of retail therapy, or enjoy live music at one of the many bars that line the shore.
Land & Sea Tour – When we saw the bright red ATV’s waiting for us outside W Costa Rica, we knew we were in for an adventure. This exclusive W Costa Rica tour, offered in partnership with local destination agency Swiss Travels, had us racing from the deep jungles of Guanacaste to the shores of the region’s turquoise beaches. One of our favorite parts of the tour was the personal touch by the W team who had prepared an Insta-worthy beachside picnic for us to refuel between our adventures.
Hacienda El Viejo – Go back in time at Hacienda El Viejo, a 150-year-old sugarcane plantation with its own 5,000-acres of private wildlife reserve. We were treated to the El Viejo Cultural Tasting Experience which included a private boat tour of the Tempisque River. During our incredible boat tour, we caught a glimpse of the rich wildlife that inhabits El Viejo Wildlife National Refuge where we came face to face with monkeys, crocodiles, bats and iguanas. Following the tour, we took part in a private rum-making experience at the property’s rum-house, Sabandi.
Our incredible tour guide, Richard, gave us an inside look at the rich traditions of Guanacaste farm life with the help of Curro the ox who powered the trapiche (old sugarcane mill). The interactive tour also included a hand-pressed tortilla class that took place over an open flame. The smell was divine! After an afternoon full of activity and sensory overload, we indulged in a celebratory Sabandi cocktail and a traditional Costa Rican lunch inside the Hacienda’s historic walls.
Rio Perdido – Deep in the jungles of Guanacaste hides a natural oasis full of nature’s treasures. Rio Perdido sits in perfect harmony with the wildlife around it at the base of one of Costa Rica’s many volcanoes. It is accessible by car or for the ultimate Travel Curator experience, by a short helicopter ride.
We were immediately greeted by a refreshing passionfruit cocktail upon our arrival. It was just the liquid courage we needed for the action-packed day that awaited us. We were quickly suited up and taken to the base of one of five zip lines that would glide us along the property’s massive river. Now, this isn’t just your average zip line adventure – the lines are LONG, there is a Tarzan swing for the thrill-seeker in us all, rock climbing, and a suspension bridge that will put your balance skills to the ultimate test. The adventure doesn’t end there… the beauty and excitement of the river canyon can also be taken in on a white-water raft tubing adventure in the thermal river heated naturally by the volcano above.
After working up a significant appetite, we were treated to an elevated Costa Rican lunch that included traditional dishes with a twist like caldosa (Costa Rican ceviche) with a special spice blend, gallos (Costa Rican tacos) of every flavor and desserts to indulge our sweet tooth. Our favorite part of the day was our time spent in the tranquil natural hot springs. It was the perfect way to relax, unwind and connect with the landscape around us.
*Tribe Tip: Thanks to W Costa Rica’s partnership with the local destination agency, Swiss Travel, all of our excursions off-property were planned seamlessly.
Pangas Beach Club: Step onto the sand for an intimate oceanfront dining experience at Pangas Beach Club. This coastal chic establishment is one of the most coveted reservations in town serving up tropical gourmet fare beneath swaying palm trees and twinkle lights. Stop in for Guanacaste’s best surf and turf plated on hot lava stone and a stunning Tamarindo sunset. Pangas owner, Elizabeth, will most likely be there greeting you with a Coco Loco cocktail and a warm smile. Address: Main road to Tamarindo, 500m SW from Auto Mercado, in front of El Tesoro (2,224.40 mi) Tamarindo, Costa Rica 50309. Telephone: +1(506) 2653 0024
Little Lucha Taqueria: Take a bite out of some of the most authentic street tacos outside of Mexico at this colorful, casual taco joint. Lucha wrestling masks adorn the walls throughout and Mexican tequilas, beers, and soft drinks are poured from behind a refurbished VW bus bar. Don’t miss out on the Tinga Tacos – made with shredded chicken in a spicy tomato and chipotle sauce topped with crumbled local cheese, chopped onion, and cilantro. Fresh, delicious, easy, and fabulous. Address: 20 meters north of super compro, diagonal from the skate park (2,225.00 mi) Tamarindo, Costa Rica 50309. Telephone: +1(506) 8723 4297
Lola’s: Surfers, locals, and tourists all converge at this hip beachside spot. Kick back and sway on a hammock to watch the crashing waves as you enjoy light organic fare and local brews. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the restaurant’s pink pig (and mascot), Lolita. Address: Playa Avellana, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (2,229.63 mi) Guanacaste, Costa Rica 50303.Telephone: +1(506) 2652 9097
Toucanoos: This casual, bright pink eatery specializes in sandwiches and Costa Rican cuisine made fresh every morning. Toucanoos is known for its simple ingredients, healthy menu options, and savory sauces which you can purchase to take home with you. We confess to snagging a BBQ sauce…or two. Address: Playas del Coco (2,205.19 mi) Sardinal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica 50503. Telephone: +1(506) 8572 3916
Surf Box: There is no better way to start your morning in Guanacaste than with a visit to Surf Box. This light and airy space is our pick to get your caffeine fix, fresh smoothies, healthy meals, and amazing breakfast options. Ricotta pancakes, anyone? Address: Playa Flamingo (2,214.81 mi) Brasilito, Guanacaste, Costa Rica 50308. Telephone: +1(506) 8349 9773
Courtesy of Surf Box
Courtesy of W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal
The first W hotel to make its home in Costa Rica, W Costa Rica-Reserva Conchal, knows how to make an entrance. Every detail of this energetic and eco-friendly resort has been carefully thought out to pay homage to the beautiful country of Costa Rica. The property is also the latest W Escape in W Hotels’ offerings. W Escape resorts are a unique offering in the W Hotels portfolio, offering guests epic experiences and bold hotels in the hottest destinations from sand to ski to city.
This modern and stylish escape celebrates the nature and culture of Costa Rica, embracing its surroundings and interpreting them in its design. Arriving on property, you are instantly met with a bright red circular wall that wraps around the valet. The structure was inspired by the country’s bullfighting traditions as well as the color of the hyper-local hibiscus that grows in the region. A refreshing dragon fruit and rum cocktail made for the warmest welcome as we sipped them under the canopy of wooden structures made to resemble the native Guanacaste trees of the province.
The beachfront resort, located inside the serene Reserva Conchal wildlife refuge, boasts 132 spacious rooms with private balconies, sweeping views and MixBars outfitted with custom mini surfboard bar tops from Cheboards. The 18 luxurious suites available on property feature incredible amenities like a personal plunge pool.
The heart and soul of W Costa Rica is its incredible staff. Each day we were greeted with smiling faces that anticipated our every need and embodied the 5-star service W is so well-known for. The resorts W Insider, Gina, truly made our trip unforgettable. If you’re looking to plan your trip to perfection (as we know our Tribe members do), enlisting a W Insider as your go-to for mixing in the local scene with exciting excursions and relaxing time on property is a must.
W Costa Rica’s vibrant vibe and bold flavors made it our first choice for a Guanacaste getaway, but if you’re looking for a family-friendly escape, we recommend staying at The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal. Offering a plethora of activities from tennis to tequila tastings and 12 restaurants showcasing cuisines from around the world, there’s something for everyone at this tropical oasis.
W Costa Rica’s signature lobby bar sits under a gorgeous display of 8,304 recycled glass bottles in greens, blues, browns, and whites inspired by the patterns found on the tails of Costa Rican hummingbirds.
*Tribe Tip: It also makes the perfect backdrop for photos.
Cocina de Mercado
This was our go-to spot for breakfast every morning. Cocina de Mercado’s open-concept breakfast buffet offers an array of baked goods and fresh fruit juices to pair with local comfort foods like sweet fried plantains and gallo pinto (rice and beans). The lunch and dinner menus have something for everyone with colorful Mediterranean and Latin American inspired dishes to enjoy inside or al fresco (our recommendation).
Chef’s Counter at Cocina de Mercado
Curated to perfection, Chef’s Counter at Cocina de Mercado is a foodie’s dream come true. Take a seat in front of the grill and watch the talented Chef Catherine get to work on a personalized three to four-course menu inspired by your favorite flavors. We were treated to a Peruvian seabass ceviche followed by a squid ink seafood fettuccine cooked in white wine, garlic and sautéed onions. To finish, we indulged in a crisp and fluffy passionfruit pavlova for dessert.
Latitud 10° Norte
Our last dinner in Guanacaste exceeded all of our expectations. The sexy vibes of W Costa Rica’s fine-dining restaurant are only accentuated in the incredible and inventive Thai-inspired cuisine that rival flavors of some of the world’s top restaurants (trust us…we would know).
Named after the shared latitude of both countries, dining at Latitud 10° Norte is impressive from start to finish. Before sitting down to enjoy our meal, we were treated to an unforgettable cocktail experience. Expert mixologist, Richard, worked his magic to create a smoky aperitif that delighted all the senses. We were then escorted to our table where we met with our charming host, W Costa Rica General Manager, Hector Ladeveze and Costa Rican Chef, Erick Aguero. Chef Aguero talked us through his innovative process of creating dishes bustling with flavor inspired by his training under some of the world’s best Asian chefs.
This bold menu delivers. We ordered a plethora of signature dishes including marbled wagyu carpaccio with toasted cashew and soyu caviar, succulent braised short rib, vigoron pork belly with pickled cabbage and ginger, pineapple carpaccio served with black sesame ice cream, and more. The remixed dishes were our favorite meal in paradise and elevated any fusion experience we’ve had before.
Nestled from the hustle and bustle of the resort, AWAY Spa sits in a tranquil corner surrounded by jungle landscape and flora. The hotel’s signature spa concept offers the first-of-its-kind champagne bar and group or semi-private treatments.
The spa experience at AWAY Spa is the embodiment of a metamorphosis. Treatment rooms are modeled after butterfly cocoons where the transformation takes place – a design paying homage to the thousands of butterfly species that call Costa Rica home.
We opted for two treatments in one of the six private treatment rooms and began our pampering with a complimentary detox juice of hibiscus, cinnamon, lemon, and clove. The experienced staff suggested the 50-minute Detox Massage and 50-minute Refuel Massage, and we very, very happily obliged.
50 Minute Detox Massage
Similar to lymphatic drainage, this light pressure massage is designed to aid in eliminating your body’s toxins and boost your metabolism. The massage uses energizing techniques and a rich blend of oils to help you detox and recoup, which is just what the doctor ordered after a long day of travel.
50 Minute Refuel Massage
This massage uses organic Costa Rican balm, exclusive to the region, to ease all of your tensions. This treatment allows you to customize the pressure to your needs while using incredible handmade oils to energize you from the inside out.
Set against the sounds of the sleepy tide at Playa Conchal, we found our zen at W Costa Rica’s morning beachside yoga class. The resort offers an expertly guided flow and meditation on the shoreline led by skillful instructors who are able to accommodate yogis practicing at any level.
Put on your sneakers and doublecheck your phone’s battery before setting off on this hike. Designed for guests to capture the perfect shot, W Costa Rica’s INSTA-HIKE takes you through the lush jungle surrounding the property, all the way up to the Punta Savannah peak where scenic views are sure to drive up your Instagram engagement.
Lounge in luxury at WET Deck, W Costa Rica’s chic infinity pool boasting intricate mosaic designs. Get your fill of refreshing drinks and scrumptious light bites at the neighboring sunken WET bar with pool views beneath the cool shade. With tropi-chic vibes, DJs, sunbeds, private cabanas, and a Veuve Clicquot cart…this is exactly where you can find us on vacation.
Zona Azul Beach Club
Tucked away on the shores of Playa Conchal, Zona Azul Beach Club houses W Costa Rica’s second infinity pool overlooking the white sand beach just steps away. Soak in the Costa Rican sun on a luxurious sunbed or private cabana on the beautifully designed wood deck with a tropical cocktail in hand. Named after the Blue Zones of the world, Zona Azul Beach Club’s impressive menu offers a mix of light dishes from five Blue Zone’s including Japan, Italy, California, Greece, and of course, Costa Rica.
Our trip to Guanacaste, Costa Rica was something out of a movie. We could not recommend visiting this paradise more, and could go on for hours about how wonderful it was – from the service, to the food, to the vistas, this destination is one of our favorites yet.