Race through sugar cane fields, maneuver along the coast’s rocky terrain, and discover Northern Guanacaste’s back roads aboard a quad. Often you will be accompanied not only by your guide, but by birds, butterflies and inquisitive howler monkeys. Tours last from two and a half to four hours.
Hop aboard a banana boat tour and prepare for a wet afternoon of splashing, falling and frolicking. Banana boat tours typically leave from Papagayo’s biggest hotels, and are suited for groups of four to ten people.
Bird and Wildlife Watching
Nearby Palo Verde National Park boasts 15 separate habitats that provide for more than 300 bird species and 145 mammal species. Just north of Palo Verde, the Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve is home to 250 bee species (25 percent of the world’s total), several endangered tree species, 60 species of nocturnal butterflies and many other protected plants and shy animals.
Just outside of Liberia, a 45-minute journey from your Papagayo hotel, Africa Mia brings fourteen animals species from the savannah to Costa Rica, including zebra, giraffe and antelope. Closer to home, Papagayo beaches are lined with howler monkeys lazing in the trees, coatimundis romping through the forest and many bird species calling to each other from high above.
Canoeing and Sea Kayaking
Rent a canoe or sea kayak at your hotel, and paddle out onto the open Pacific. Along the Papagayo Gulf, sea kayaking is especially wonderful, as tiny, secluded beaches dot the coast, many only accessible by boat.
There are two major canopy tours in Northern Guanacaste, and both offer high-flying action and an up-close look at the forest’s canopy. Tours may include a combination of heart-stopping cables, suspension bridges, and family-friendly courses.
To the north near Santa Rosa National Park, the area’s most thrilling canopy tour offers two and a half hours of treetop diversion on 24 platforms that cover almost two miles of cable. The more southern tour, located just outside Playa Ocotal, is family-friendly and lasts approximately one hour. Reaching a thrilling height of 82-feet, its longest cable sends you hurling through 1,150 feet of forest canopy.
Relax with a natural mud mask or unwind during a deep tissue massage at one of the area’s day spas. Order a la carte or pamper yourself with a spa package that caters to your every relaxation need. Spas are located at most Papagayo all-inclusive hotels.
The Northern Pacific’s golf courses offer sweeping ocean views, beautiful greens and championship holes. Ranging from fancy to decidedly informal, the area’s golf and country clubs allow every golfer to be comfortable on the course.
Northern Guanacaste is an ideal base for hiking enthusiasts. Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste National Park, Rincon de la Vieja National Park and Barra Honda National Park all lie within easy day trip distance, and are threaded with some of the country’s most well-groomed and beautiful hiking trails. Closer to Papagayo, you will find many beach walkways, forgotten roads, and hiking paths to explore. Take your camera with you, as the resident animal population might appear for an amazing photo op.
Several local outfits rent horses for trips to exhilarating waterfalls, hidden beaches, and favorite local spots. Half or full-day excursions are available, and some companies will also rent horses by the hour. Though their rates are tempting, be forewarned that cheap outfitters may use overworked, unhealthy horses.
Jet skis are available for rent along the Northern Guanacaste coast, and tours generally last two to three hours.
Rent a bike and enjoy the quieter side of Papagayo, where birds, monkeys and other wildlife live far from the roar of engines and other man made noise. Foot paths and dirt roads provide excellent biking opportunities. Bikes can be rented in Papagayo for under $25 daily.
Feel the adrenaline boost of flying through the air with only a parachute behind you and a speedboat below. Experience the grand Pacific Ocean as never before. Parasailing tours will pick you up from Playa Hermosa or Playa Panama, just a mile south of your Papagayo hotel.
Take a safari float down the peaceful Tempisque or Corobici River, where monkeys, birds and other wildlife dot the riverbanks. A motorboat ride through the canals of Palo Verde National Park often net sightings of American crocodiles, swinging monkeys and many other wildlife species.
Sailing tours depart daily from Papagayo, and will take you to some of the coast’s most tranquil islands and quiet beaches. Scan the sea for dolphins, turtles and the occasional whale. Many sailboat tours will drop anchor for snorkeling, later serving lunch and drinks from the comfort of the sun-drenched deck.
Snorkeling and Diving
Half and full-day snorkeling tours are available, which take you to islands, hard-to-reach beaches, or secluded coral reefs. Note that several sailboat tours stop for snorkeling, as well. The northern Guanacaste coast is full of dive shops that offer everything from tank rental to full PADI certification. Volcanic remains scar the ocean floor, providing ideal hiding places for schools of tropical fish, and eels lurk among the coral. Bull sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, giant Manta rays, eagle rays, diamond stingrays, and octopus are also Papagayo mainstays, promising colorful and exciting ocean explorations. Nearby Playa del Coco is particularly well known for its dive shops, and is considered one of the best scuba diving locations in Costa Rica.
Spend just an afternoon or an entire week aboard a sport fishing boat, reeling in some of the strongest fighters in Costa Rica. Sailfish, marlin and rooster fish are the most common catches. If you prefer to do your fishing from gentler waters (or terra firma), local companies can outfit you completely for fly fishing.
Several of the area’s sailboat companies offer spectacular sunset and dinner tours. Head out onto the sparkling Pacific, dine on gourmet fare and watch as the sun sets in a furious display of brilliant reds, oranges and pinks.
Waves are very gentle in Papagayo's protected cove, but Playa del Coco, just 15 minutes south, is the perfect place to begin the hunt for first-class waves. Take a surf lesson or test old skills at one of Northern Guanacaste’s many surf spots. Advanced surfers shouldn't miss an excursion to Ollie’s Point, which offers a right point break with very fast and hollow waves, or Witch’s Rock, the surf locale forever immortalized by the film Endless Summer 2. There is no road access to either destination, so surfers must depart by rented boat or surf tour from Playa del Coco or Playa Ocotal.
Navigate the tame waters of the class II-III Colorado River. Rafts pass between picturesque canyon walls as they hurtle past lush vegetation, isolated riverbanks and diverse wildlife. More experienced rafters test their mettle on the class IV Tenorio River. Both tours pick rafters up at hotels throughout the Papagayo area.