- Summary: Popular honeymoon destination with mostly all-inclusive resorts; remote but offers day trips to local attractions.
- Landscape: Beaches, Tropical Dry Forest
- Attractions: All-Inclusive Resorts, Sailboat Sunset Tours, Secluded Beaches
- Activities: Bird & Wildlife Watching, Kayaking, Nature Tours, Swimming
- Caters to: Couples/Honeymooners, Luxury Travelers
- Quick Facts: 174 miles northwest of San Jose ; Sea level ; Warm and humid year-round ; 82-90°F
Quiet afternoons, sun-drenched beaches and nearby nature offerings are favorite features of the Pacific’s Gulf of Papagayo. Further contributing to its allure, Papagayo’s clear, blue waters are protected to its north and south by thin fingers of land that provide the gulf with calm waters ideal for swimming and relaxing. Only five hours northwest of San Jose and a mere 30-minute jaunt from Liberia, the Papagayo Gulf is close enough for a quick visit, yet secluded enough for a romantic getaway.read more close
The Gulf of Papagayo is made up of several all-inclusive resorts that cater to their guests’ every whim. Between them, the hotels share 12 golden-sand public beaches, each home to howler monkeys, colorful hermit crabs and lively beach vendors. Papagayo’s beautiful beaches and oceanfront location lend themselves to both lazy days and action-packed afternoons – your resort can easily arrange sailing, fishing, surfing, sea kayaking and other adventure outings.
For travelers with an independent spirit, a rental car is a must. Beautiful dry forests, endless fields, incredible coastlines and interesting nature reserves surround Papagayo. Palo Verde National Park, home to the largest concentration of waterfowl and shorebirds in Central America, lies just 90 minutes southeast of Papagayo. An hour north, the historic Santa Rosa National Park offers incredible hiking, wildlife watching and surfing. In fact, world-famous Witch’s Rock, forever immortalized in the movie Endless Summer 2, waits just off of Santa Rosa’s coast for boisterous, skilled surfers to test its waves.
Though developed, Papagayo is a superb spot for nature watching. For the amateur, a romantic walk along the beach or hike on nearby trails will yield amazing wildlife encounters: white-faced capuchin monkeys, spiny-tailed iguanas, coatimundis, and many birds regularly come out to play. Dedicated wildlife watchers will be treated to more elusive species, all easily identified with a comprehensive field guide.
In an area filled with a rich variety of sights, sounds and delights, Papagayo’s greatest draw is its views. Resorts perch high up on the gulf’s hill, affording each with incredible vistas and breathtaking panoramas. During daylight, views stretch as far as the eye can see,with the only barrier being an occasional passing sailboat. At night, sparkling waters fade into painted coasts, and Papagayo’s sunsets are beautiful. For almost an hour each night, the fading sun paints the sky with a rainbow of colors – the perfect end to each relaxing or adventure-filled day.
Papagayo has a well-known environmental history: in 1974, the Costa Rican government designated the gulf’s land for tourism. Development began, and many hoped that the Gulf of Papagayo would soon resemble Mexico’s Cancun resorts. However, no environmental studies were conducted, and it was soon determined that the tiny coastline could not support the 20,000 planned hotel rooms.
Development shut down, and the Gulf of Papagayo lay dormant until 1997, when another company took interest. Time, energy, and money were poured into the project – the new Papagayo developers were determined to create an exclusive, beautiful coastline resort. They achieved their goals, ultimately building Costa Rica’s most expensive hotel.
Unfortunately, Papagayo developed too quickly, and heightened interest in the area attracted many developers’ attention. Corners were cut, and the fragile ecosystem was once again in danger. When the Costa Rican authorities discovered the environmental infractions, they took immediate and responsible action – several area hotels were shut down and ordered to clean up their act.
Today, Papagayo is an example of good environmental practices in Costa Rica. The water is tested regularly for purity, beaches are kept clean, and hotels are held to high environmental standards. In fact, Papagayo's Arenilla, Manzanillo and Monte del Barco beaches are recipients of the Blue Flag, an environmental honor granted to only the country's cleanest beaches.