About: Guanacaste and Flamingo
The province of Guanacaste is named for the ubiquitous Guanacaste tree, Enterolobium Cyclocarpum. It’s distinctive parasol shape can be seen for miles across the fertile grazing land. Despite receiving about 60 inches of rain per year (compared with 36 in Seattle) the province is bone dry between the months of November and April- for six months there’s barely a cloud in the sky. This is understandably our high-season, when tourists can count on perfect weather, 24/7.
The rainy season has its charm too, though, and many residents and visitors actually prefer it. During the dry season the landscape is a dusty brown except where there is year-round water. Shortly after the first solid rain a spectacular transformation takes place, as patient seeds take their cue and dormant trees explode with fresh green shoots.
Billions of fireflies emerge from hiding in a single night and light up the pastures with surreal green flickering. Other creatures appear in waves with annual predictability- praying mantises, gold beetles, and treefrogs to name a few. And, while there will be a couple weeks of solid rain over the course the season, it’s more typical to have some sunshine most days, especially in the morning.
Historically Guanacaste is cattle country – with a twist: normal cows are not well suited to the climate so the ranchers raise Brahman cattle, originally from India, with huge floppy ears and a big hump on their back. The cattle industry has been in decline for years, however, and vast tracts of grazing land sit idle, making way for tree farms and reforestation. Although the cattle industry may be in decline, the cattle culture is alive and well in the local fiestas. Visitors to the area during the high season should try to experience one of these raw, dusty carnivals which center around a bull ring, usually built temporarily in the middle of the football pitch. Spectators sit on the rails of the ring while local guys do their best to stay on the backs of angry bulls, and other -usually less sober- local guys actually hang out inside the ring and taunt the bull for several minutes after the ride is over.
During the high season there’s a fiesta in a nearby town almost every weekend. We can tell you where, and help you get there.
The Flamingo Area
What we consider the “Flamingo area” basically encompasses Flamingo itself, and Playa Potrero (Potrero Beach) to the North. At the North end of Playa Potrero lies the town of Potrero, a typical coastal Tico village, and in the floodplain between Potrero and Flamingo is the relatively recent development of Surfside. Brasilito, a Tico town farther to the South, may also be included. Importantly, the area is not only a vacation destination, but a place where many travelers choose to make their home. Be sure to check out the full size interactive map.
Flamingo was one of Costa Rica’s first high-end resorts, originally revolving mostly around the marina and sportfishing tourism. Over the years the surrounding area has evolved into a destination for travelers on a budget, while newer resorts have drawn away many of the super- wealthy. Flamingo is still a destination for luxury travelers, but not exclusively. Beyond the shops and restaurants of Flamingo is a moderately upscale ex-pat community. Going up the hill and out onto the peninsula one can see properties in the six to seven figure range.
Surfside is a development in a North American style which dates back to the 70s. Its founders, from the Pacific Northwest, put in a grid of roads and created small lots suitable for budget retirees. For some thirty years the town grew at an almost imperceptible pace, then, a few years ago, there was an explosion in tourism, real estate, and construction. Surfside offers numerous opportunities for lodging, food, and entertainment. It’s an especially good choice for people who want to stay a bit longer without breaking the bank. [Warning: many people just don’t leave.]
At the North end of Playa Potrero lies the town of Potrero, a typical coastal Tico village. Like many Tico towns, it is built around a football pitch (soccer field), which acts as a town center. Although Potrero is often referred to as a “fishing village”, and despite the fact that Potrero men take their fishing seriously, for most it is a hobby and a means to dinner, not a career. Potrero is a great place to experience authentic Tico culture. There are several places to eat, all of them with Tico menus. There are bars, too, most notably Las Brisas, famous for its Wednesday ladies’ nights. There are places to stay, too, for those who want to immerse themselves in Tico culture-and who understand that Latinos have different definitions of “peace” and “privacy”.
A bit further South is the town of Brasilito. Having a mix of Ticos and ex-pats, Brasilito is significantly larger than Potrero, with a number of hotels, restaurants, and bars.