Bagaces Costa Rica – Guide From an Ex Gringo Resident

The town of Bagaces, Costa Rica, is where it all started for me in Costa Rica. This quaint, laid back town just off the Panamerican highway in Guanacaste is where I was an exchange student in the year 2000. Once I touched down there and lived locally with an amazing host family, my fascination for Costa Rica started to grow. Over two decades later, here I am, running a travel blog with a heavy focus on helping people get around Costa Rica.

Who would have thought a little town like Bagaces would be the home base of my learning, personal development, and lifetime of adventures throughout Costa Rica?

Well, here we are, and here is what I have to share with you about Bagaces Costa Rica! Known for it’s nature preserves, namely the Parque Nacional Palo Verde, El Rincon, and a few other attractions, let’s talk about all of it here in my guide to a place I called home for six months.

Bagaces

What is Bagaces Like?

  • Bagaces is a quiet, small town filled with natural beauty, authentic culture, and warm locals who openly accept the few visitors that pass through.
  • There are a variety of activities in Bagaces, from soaking in natural hot springs, tackling scenic hiking trails, to savoring traditional Costa Rican cuisine at local ‘Sodas’.
  • You won’t find any hustle-bustle in this town, just a laid back, small town vibe with very authentic people. This is a great place to stop for a quick, cheap meal, snacks, beer, or anything else as you traverse the Panamerican highway.

Essential Bagaces Experiences

While there isn’t any huge draw to the town, other than to experience true Costa Rican, off-the-grid type culture, there are a a lot of natural wonders around this town. Here’s a list of my personal favorite memories in Bagaces.

Llanos de Cortes Waterfall (Bagaces Waterfall)

One of the first memories I made was visiting the Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, which you can find just minutes off the highway. When I was studying here, this was somewhere you could visit and even camp out overnight at, but now the tourism-hungry country has turned this into a tourist attraction with an entrance fee, vendors, and a lot of signs to help get you there. While I do miss the days this was a more localized, private area that few people knew about (thanks Instagram and YouTube for ruining it!) this is a place I visit every time I pass through.

You’ll also hear locals call this “las cataratas.”

Once you arrive down the bumpy road you’ll be able to swim in the basin of the waterfall and bask in all the glory that is the Bagaces waterfall. This has been featured on commercials and is on many tourist-facing ads served by Costa Rica, and why wouldn’t it be? Its a picture perfect advertisement!

bagaces waterfall
This is a waterfall you have to see to believe!

Now, when I was studying here you could not only climb under the waterfall and onto the rocks, but you could also climb up the side of the waterfall and stand on the top of it! That’s not permitted anymore, which is probably a good thing. My local friends shared stories with me of people getting drunk and attempting to dive off the top into the the shallow waters below. Those stories never ended well.

Rio Perdido

The other top attraction is Rio Perdido. You can white water raft on this river and also hike the nearby trails. Explore the adjacent canyons surrounding the trails and even do a zip-line through the canopy.

Las Hornillas Hot Springs

Just outside of town, about 30-40 minutes north is the Las Hornillas Hot Springs. This is located at the base of Miravalles volcano,(one of Costa Rica’s many volcanoes) and you’ll immediately spot the pools of hot mud bubbling in front of you. You can not only hike this area, but you can sit in the mud baths that serve as a treatment reminiscent of a natural spa. There’s rinsing areas on premises, and the pool temperatures range from warm, to hot, to chilly water. Take pics here!

Mountain Biking

I kept in great shape biking around Bagaces. There is so much terrain to cover if you are up for an adventure, and the rocky, hilly landscape that always leads to water are beyond fun to explore. You can even just bike around the town as transit isn’t crazy and you won’t have to worry about many vehicles in the streets. Walking and biking are the main methods of transportation here for locals as they walk to school, the market, and to the local sodas.

Hit the Hiking Trails

Set out on an adventure along the most extensive hiking trail in Bagaces, stretching from Santa Rosa to Condovac for a distance of approximately 19.3 km, where you will be surrounded by stunning vistas at every turn. The adventurous spirit is called upon with the La Cangreja Waterfall trail that rises steadily and delivers immensely satisfying panoramic views as compensation for your efforts. Your senses are treated to a symphony of nature’s sounds – the calls of birds, the whispering forest leaves, and the soft echo of waterfalls nearby.

Taking precautions while enjoying these outdoor activities is essential. Always let someone know your itinerary and anticipated time back. These trails open up a world not only to avid hikers but also families with children who have a keenness for exploring among nature’s splendorous offerings in Bagaces. Gear up appropriately, ensure ample hydration supplies are packed, then venture forth into landscapes adored by both locals and visitors eager to uncover what makes this area uniquely inviting for all types of explorers looking to commune with nature.

The Scenery is Out of This World for a Small Town

I found this town to offer quite a bit in terms of just natural beauty. While it takes over two hours to arrive there, Bagaces is only 20 kilometers or so from the west edge of Lake Arenal, another area very near and dear to me in Costa Rica. Bagaces backs up to the Rio Salto on the west side, and the Rio Tenorio on the east. These are the two rivers I used to ride my bicycle to on a hot day, then take a dip, and bike back. It was great exercise!

However, if you could do one thing here, I insist you visit the Bagaces Waterfall – Llanos de Cortes as you’ll see it advertised on the highway.

Taste the Local Flavors

This is a typical “Tico Town” with a lot of charm and local flavors. You’ll find the sodas offering up the local cuisine at very low prices, including:

Restaurants in Bagaces

While these are all small, quaint establishments, you won’t go wrong eating at these as they all serve food Costa Ricans eat! After all, our motto is “live like a local.”

Soda La Fuente

soda la fuente

It doesn’t get any more local than Soda La Fuente. This tiny little diner style eatery offers all the local fare and amazing coffee.

Restaurante El Pueblo

Owned by my friend Cindy and her husband, this is one of the many establishments this entrepreneurial family owns and operates. We visited in August of 2023 and this was the best breakfast we had on our entire trip! Forget the luxury resorts we stayed at – this just hit different! I’m so glad to see Cindy doing well after all these years as she was critical in my mastery of Spanish and was a great friend to all of us fellow exchange students.

Adventure Activities in Bagaces

Adventure enthusiasts, take heart! The town of Bagaces is an idyllic setting for those seeking the thrill of outdoor escapades enveloped by Mother Nature’s grandeur. Renowned for its clear rivers and volcanic marvels, this locale serves as a quintessential stage for engaging in high-energy pursuits such as ziplining, river tubing, and mountain biking. Notably, the Rio Perdido Hotel & Thermal River offers unparalleled experiences with canopy tours and canyon explorations that are sure to accelerate your pulse and enthrall you with their intensity.

Bagaces invites you to dive into the thermal river’s natural pools or glide among the forest canopies on a zip lining quest — marrying excitement with Costa Rica’s untouched magnificence. Floating downriver on a tube provides an exceptional perspective on Bagaces’ terrain while embedding oneself in its local ambiance. Thus, Bagaces Guanacaste magnetizes global adventurers who seek both thrills and immersion in spectacular surroundings.

Best Time to Visit Bagaces

Visiting Bagaces requires good timing. The optimal period is the dry season, which lasts from December to April. This time frame is ideal for engaging in outdoor activities as visitors can expect clear skies and warm sunshine that allow for uninterrupted discovery tours. In these months, tourists flock to this town attracted by both its inviting weather and its lively culture.

On the flip side, those who venture into Bagaces during the rainy season should not lose heart. Despite regular rain showers possibly necessitating a light raincoat and adaptable plans, there’s much beauty to appreciate after the rains when landscapes flourish magnificently. To maximize enjoyment while staying safe amid potential flash floods and landslides prevalent at this time of year, keeping abreast with current meteorological forecasts and transportation conditions is crucial for an indelible journey.

Staying Comfortable in Bagaces Weather

When visiting Bagaces, prepare for the warm weather with temperatures hovering between 24 to 36 degrees Celsius (75-95°F). Opt for attire made of light fabrics like cotton or linen that allow your skin to breathe while you navigate the town’s streets or embark on its numerous hiking trails. As the area is often sunny and arid, it’s crucial to carry ample water with you at all times to maintain hydration levels and sustain your energy during excursions.

The best time for exploring nature along these trails is at sunrise when tranquility prevails and one can witness nature’s gentle stir from slumber. Doing so also allows you to avoid the peak heat and humidity that arrive later in the day. By adapting what you wear and timing your explorations around Bagaces’ climate conditions, not only will you comfortably enjoy traversing through this vibrant municipality, but also relish in both its bustling hubbub as well as quiet forest landscapes.

Accommodations in Bagaces: From Rustic to Refined

In Bagaces, accommodations range from quaint rustic escapes to polished modern abodes. Visitors can choose from highly-rated vacation rentals based on cleanliness and locale, including charming tiny homes, snug cottages, or expansive houses featuring their own private pools. For a unique lodging experience with an upscale twist, Airbnb lists exceptional farmhouses and villas that come well-appointed with amenities designed to enhance your comfort.

For those drawn to the natural world who want proximity to local attractions when they retreat for the night, may find solace in Bagaces’ various rustic accommodations.

  • A Hobbit Cob Cottage near thermal hot springs
  • A Mountain house providing both pool access and pastoral charm
  • Family-oriented dwellings boasting practicalities such as washers/dryers and secluded patios

These diverse options not only offer distinct charms, but also serve as perfect bases for exploring all that this region has to showcase in terms of its stunning nature reserves.

Getting Around Bagaces

Exploring Bagaces can become quite the adventure, especially since you’ll be dealing with privately-run public transportation systems that necessitate some forward planning and research. Delving into the town’s lesser-known spots becomes even more rewarding when you’ve got a handle on navigating bus lines, understanding their fares and schedules, as well as being ready to pay in cash when hopping on board. Keep in mind that comforts like air conditioning and Wi-Fi might not always be available. Touching base with your chosen bus service ahead of time can help ensure a trip that meets your expectations.

Unofficial bus stops can typically be spotted by groups gathered waiting or simply through inquiries about ‘La Parada’ amongst the residents. On journeys stretching out to other cities, buses providing locked compartments for luggage are reassuring – don’t forget to collect a receipt from the driver so you’re able to retrieve your items once arriving at your stop. Whether cycling around leisurely absorbing Bagaces’ ambience or embarking on an extended journey by bus is more up your alley, engaging with local modes of transport undeniably enriches one’s travel experience within this locale.

Summary

In the heart of Costa Rica, Bagaces presents an experience that goes beyond ordinary tourist endeavors, connecting deeply with one’s soul while rejuvenating their vitality. The town invites visitors to bask in the therapeutic embrace of its natural hot springs and tackle its demanding hiking trails, all while savoring authentic local flavors. With a unique blend of charm and excitement as well as helpful tips for smooth travels, Bagaces offers a visit replete with enrichment and anticipation.

When evening descends upon Guanacaste’s horizon, carry more than just visual souvenirs. Take home the geniality intrinsic to Tico hospitality along with an intimate understanding of Bagaces’ rhythmic culture. This travel guide seeks not only to spark your interest but also encourages you to uncover Bagaces’ splendor by venturing off the beaten path where adventure patiently awaits in every corner of this captivating locale.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some must-visit attractions in Bagaces?

Be certain to include in your itinerary a trip to the breathtaking Catarata Llanos de Cortés, take an adventure through Monte Caoba’s Rural & Hiking Tour, and relax at Rio Perdido’s hot springs or the ones owned by local families.

Is it safe to hike the trails in Bagaces?

Yes, it’s safe to hike the trails in Bagaces as long as you inform someone of your hiking plans and expected return for added safety.

Plus, the trails offer amazing views and a great opportunity to be close to nature!

Can I find unique accommodations in Bagaces?

Certainly, in Bagaces, a variety of distinctive lodging options are available such as quaint cabins and sophisticated villas equipped with contemporary comforts. These can be found on accommodation services like Airbnb.

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About 

Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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