You'll find the scenic Gulf of Papagayo in northern Costa Rica on the country's Pacific coast. Curving in a horseshoe shape, the Gulf is in the Guanacaste region just north of the Nicoya Peninsula and northwest of Monteverde. Because it's home to some of the country's best beaches, it's a popular spot to simply enjoy the coast with sailing excursions, snorkeling adventures, or by watching the Pacific green turtles nest.
Many visitors prefer to use the Gulf of Papagayo as a hub for regional experiences, as this stretch of coastline is near both Palo Verde National Park and Rincón de la Vieja National Park. In these parks, you can view wildlife, go horseback riding, soak in hot springs, float down rivers, and more.
On the Coast
Of course, you can't visit the Gulf of Papagayo and not enjoy the coast! So go sailing, watch the sunset, snorkel amongst the coral reefs, and observe the beautiful moment when sea turtles nest on the beach.
Sunset Catamaran Sailing Tour
Hop aboard a beautiful catamaran at the Playas del Coco and sip tropical drinks as you make your way to a tranquil bay. Stop to enjoy a swim or stroll along the beach while your crew prepares a delicious buffet dinner. Then, as you make your way back to shore, sit and relax, watching the sky shift to orange and pink hues as the sun sets into the ocean. Read More
Pacific Green Turtle Nesting Experience
In the late summer evenings, when the sunlight fades, you can witness hundreds of Pacific green turtles nest on the beaches of the Gulf of Papagayo. Playa Minas beach is one of the best places to watch this natural phenomenon in action. After waiting patiently, the turtles will emerge, slowly crawling up the beach where they'll dig a hole in the sand, lay up to 90 eggs, and cover it before returning to the ocean. Read More
Snorkeling in the Catalina Islands
The Catalina Islands are a string of 20 volcanic islets. Although they don't look like much from above, you can snorkel underneath the surface and discover a unique ecosystem teeming with life. View giant manta and devil rays, sea turtles, parrotfish, moray eels, and much more. The rich coral reefs in the area attract these animals, and the experience of seeing them up close is truly unforgettable. Read More
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.
Although the Gulf of Papagayo is known for its beaches and scenic coastline, there's also plenty to enjoy inland.
Adventures in Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Rincón de la Vieja National Park is a huge preserve covering 34,000 acres of jungle, plus two volcanoes and plenty of the country's beloved flora and fauna. Experience it all with several adventures in the park, starting with a horseback ride and ending with a relaxing soak in hot springs. In between, enjoy thrilling zip lines across the jungle and lunch at a traditional hacienda restaurant. Read More
Palo Verde National Park Boat Tour & Artisanal Village
Palo Verde National Park is a wildlife enthusiast and birder's paradise. Experience this idyllic setting with a boat cruise, which will take you down the Tempisque River. Observe white-faced capuchin monkeys, caimans, crocodiles, and several bird species, including tiger herons, ospreys, ibises, and the Jabiru. Then, stop in the village of Guaitil to enjoy its displays of locally handcrafted pottery. Read More
Safari Float on the Corobicí River
Enjoy a thrilling float down the Corobicí River, which flows through the area's wildlife-rich jungles. You can observe monkeys, iguanas, bats, and numerous species of birds, plus the king of the Corobicí, crocodiles, all from a unique perspective. These giants call the area home, so you're bound to see a few on your river safari! Read More
How to Craft the Perfect Gulf of Papagayo Itinerary
So, how many days should you spend in Costa Rica? That depends on how much you want to see and do, but if you prefer to use one area as a hub for incredible day trips, the Gulf of Papagayo could be it! As one of the most connected regions in Costa Rica, Guanacaste pairs well with excursions in Monteverde, the Nicoya Peninsula, San Jose, Arenal/La Fortuna, and Tortuguero. If you'd like to focus on a combination of those regions, give yourself at least one week in the country—plan two weeks in Costa Rica to add travels to southern areas like the Osa Peninsula and Talamanca.
Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following itineraries that include experiences in the Gulf of Papagayo: