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Guanacaste is both a province and a popular tourism destination in Costa Rica; it includes the small cities of Filadelfia, Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Liberia, its capital in which is an international airport, the country's second largest. It is approximately 130 miles southwest of Costa Rica's capital San Jose. The Guanacaste area stretches to the Nicaraguan border, close to which is Guanacaste National Park, which is approximately 100 miles west of San Jose. The main tourism destinations (the best for Guanacaste MICE venues) are Playa Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Papagayo and Playas del Cocos.
The international airport serving the capital San Jose, named after national hero Juan Santamaria (SJO), is actually in the town of Alajuela, which is on the right side of the city for Guanacaste. Numerous flights serve the U.S. on Latin and American airlines. The airport in Liberia, Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LRI), has received increased traffic in the last few years and also has direct flights to North America.
While there are no convention venues in Guanacaste, MICE hotels are plentiful. Hotel venues in Guanacaste include the 701-room RIU Guanacaste, which is an all-inclusive and has five meeting rooms; the 406-room Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Cochal, which also is an all-inclusive property and has 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom; the 310-room JW Marriott Guanacaste, which has 7,223 square feet of meeting space, with its largest room able to host up to 400 persons; the 202-room Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa, which also has 8,000 square feet of meeting space, in its case for up to 300 persons indoors, as well as having space for 250 outdoors; and the 169-room Occidental Grand Papagayo, which is an adults-only all-inclusive haven and has a large ballroom for banquets and conferences, gardens with wonderful views and meeting rooms for up to 75 persons.
Unique MICE venues in Guanacaste take advantage of its beautiful coastline and lush countryside, and mostly consist of smaller, more laid-back properties, mostly as there was little here for tourists before the resorts came. Try Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin Rincon de la Vieja, which is close to the volcano and has 54 guest rooms, hot springs, pretty gardens, a canopy tour and horse stables; Jardin del Eden, which is on the Pacific Ocean and has 36 guest rooms in a variety of styles (African, Indonesian, Japanese, Mexican and Tunisian) and a palm-thatch beachside restaurant, and small bed-and-breakfast Mariposario Montezuma Gardens, which is on the tip of the promontory and thus not really Guanacaste but does have a large, lush butterfly garden, four guest rooms and a number of water activities. Liberia does have its own cowboy museum, the Museo del Sabanero, which is part of the Liberia Cultural Center and chronicles the main industry here before the tourists arrived. Those wishing to get onto the Pacific can hire a catamaran from Guanacaste Tours for sunset cruises and buffet-style meals, among other activities.
Restaurants also are mostly at overnight properties. Good choices include the poolside 1492 Restaurant at the Punta Islita Hotel, wonderfully isolated along a bumpy road, and the oceanside restaurant and bar at the Sugar Beach Hotel, but fine non-hotel choices include the Dragonfly Bar & Grill in Playa Tamarindo; Ginger, which has a jungle setting and a tree house dining area, and Citron, in Playas del Cocos and with a large deck.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica
Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LRI)
Approximate taxi fare: CRC 33460
Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
Approximate taxi fare: CRC 162398
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Guanacaste, Costa Rica
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