Best Things To Do in Riu Guanacaste (Top Activities Nearby Reviewed)

Popular activities from Riu Guanacaste include ziplining through trees, rafting down wild rivers, exploring volcanoes, seeing rainforests and wildlife, and relaxing on the beach. Different tour packages, sold at the hotel or online, offer these activities. Your choice depends on what you’re looking to experience and your budget. 

If you’re feeling unsure about staying at the Riu Resort in Guanacaste and want to explore beyond the all-inclusive experience, there’s plenty to do nearby. When I first stayed at Riu Palace, I struggled to find recommendations for tours. 

Eventually, with the help of a friend, I discovered hot springs and rainforest tours nearby. Over time, I have done other activities—some even more than once. Now, I’ve compiled a guide to make it easier for you. 

In this article, I’ll share the top things to do around Riu Palace, how to get there, recommended tours, costs, and what you can expect from each activity. You’ll have lots of options to choose from, so the hardest part might be deciding which one to try first.

Key Takeaways

  • The majority of the fun activities around Riu Guanacaste are day trips offered by various tour companies. They can be found on the resort’s beach, or you can book the tour in advance online.
  • You can visit El Viejo Wetlands.
  • For national parks, consider Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Buena Vista Hotel, and Sensoria.
  • You can also take a more extended trip to the Miravalles area and see hot, bubbling mud. It takes about 1.5 hours to get there from RIU, depending on traffic.
  • If you like adventure, you can go ziplining at EcoDiamante.
  • For a more extended trip (more than two hours), you can visit Tenorio National Park to see the Rio Celeste. Make sure to start your hike early, as you can’t begin after 1 p.m.
  • You can visit the new Tapir Valley Nature Reserve.

Full Review of the Best Things to Do Around Riu Guanacaste

Keep in mind that Swiss Tours organizes the Hotel Riu Guanacaste’s tours. But they’re open to working with other tour companies, too. 

You can contact them to find out about the highlights of each tour and see which one gives access to any of the following activities:

1. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

  • Address: Guanacaste province, north-western Costa Rica, about 23 km (14 mi) from Liberia.
  • What to do here: Swing from tree to tree like a howler monkey; take a zip-line; go on a horseback ride; or enjoy the water slide and hot springs.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($125 per adult)

You can go to the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano in Riu Guanacaste with a tour company, ride horses through the forest, and visit the zip line area.

You will glide through the trees, spotting birds, monkeys, and butterflies. Then, for an exhilarating adventure, you will slide down a 400-meter water slide. 

Afterward, you can treat yourself to a mud body mask in the natural hot springs of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. 

You can then relax and enjoy a delicious organic lunch. Most tours to this destination include a bilingual guide, transportation, optional horseback riding, zip lining, water sliding, a visit to a sugar cane mill, mud baths, a waterfall visit, and a hot springs soak. 

2. Cruise the Palo Verde Wildlife Jungle

  • Address: Guanacaste Province, 30 km west of Canas.
  • What to do here: From a boat, you can spot wildlife such as white-faced, howler, and spider monkeys, 3-foot-long (1-meter-long) iguanas, crocodiles, and more.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($128 per adult)

For two hours, you will cruise along the River Tempisque in Palo Verde National Park. This is when you should keep your eyes peeled for animals like monkeys, iguanas, and even crocodiles. 

Don’t forget your camera! After the boat ride, most tours would have a tasty lunch made in a traditional Costa Rican style on wood stoves. 

Then, you’ll get to see how local artists make cool stuff with clay. 

Finally, all of the tours that have been done usually head to Coco Beach town, where people can check out the local markets.

3. Explore the Miravalles Volcano, Active Crater, and Waterfalls

  • Address: Costa Rica’s northern province of Guanacaste is near the town of Liberia. 
  • What to do here: Walk across the Miravalles Volcano’s secondary crater, natural mineral-rich mud baths and hot springs, and hike past waterfalls across the rainforest canopy on a swinging bridge.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($131 per adult)

A day trip to the Miravalles Volcano is another popular and fun activity around Riu Guanacaste. Most tours that offer this trip pick you up from your hotel. 

As for the trip itself, you’ll see quaint villages and cattle ranches along the way to the volcano site. This volcano is the second one that’s still active in the Guanacaste Mountain Range. 

The trip also involves taking a hike through the rainforest, where you can spot many waterfalls. The most exciting part for me is the volcano’s second crater, where you can see hot mud bubbling up. 

You can even put some of that mud on yourself and chill out in the natural hot springs. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a ride down the water slide. 

4. Visit Finca Verde Rain Forest to see sloths and wildlife.

  • Address: Northern Costa Rica, 25 km south of Upala.
  • What to do here: You can find all kinds of ornamental and medicinal plants, orchids, and fruit trees. You can also expect to watch birds, sloths, frogs, and butterflies, as well as learn about their life cycles.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($185 per adult)

Finca Verde Rain Forest is a family-run eco-tourism project in Bijagua de Upala that is committed to sustainable organic farming, creating a haven for birds and animals.

During a gentle hike, you can book a tour that will take you here and guide you in spotting sloths, lizards, hummingbirds, toucans, and even snakes.

Don’t miss the butterfly garden if you visit the garden, as it raises and releases rare butterflies and frogs back into the wild.

Finca Verde sits snugly between two volcanoes, Miravalles and Tenorio, adding to its natural beauty. If you love wildlife and nature in general, it’s a paradise.

5. Take a natural, tropical shower at Llanos de Cortez Waterfall.

  • Address: about 5km north of Bagaces and about 30 minutes drive from Liberia
  • What to do here: slip behind the 49-foot (15-meter) waterfall, sightseeing, shopping, and a delicious Canadian lunch. 

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($135 per adult)

Come to Llanos de Cortez waterfall to swim in the fantastic pool at the bottom of the waterfall and climb around on the rocks behind the water. Relax on the sandy beach and listen to the birds in the trees; afterward, head to Liberia, the central city in the area.

This is quite far from Riu Guanacaste, so to prevent stress, I don’t recommend you come here alone with a rental car. It’s better to be part of a tour group. 

In Liberia, you’ll walk along Royal Street and see some old houses. Some tour packages, like the one I recommend, will also check out historic spots like a long-gone school and a church that’s been around for ages. 

Then, there’s always a tasty meal and some souvenirs to pick up from the trip. 

6. Water rafting at the Tenorio River

  • Address: Playa Samar, a short distance from the beach.
  • You should try the challenging yet thrilling activity of water rafting.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($109 per adult)

If you’re looking for adventure outside the Riu Guanacaste resort, consider the Tenorio White Water Rafting Day Tour.

This class III or IV ride offers two and a half hours of pure adrenaline. After a drive through the countryside, you’ll reach the starting point. 

Paddle down the river, facing thrilling rapids and competing with other rafts. It’s a must-do if you’re an experienced rafter and adventure lover. 

There is also an opportunity for water rafting at the Colorado River, located in the Grand Canyon in the Guanacaste Mountain Range.

7. Hang out at Tamarindo, Conchal, and Flamingo Beaches.

  • What to do here: Picnic and enjoy outstanding views of the coastline.

Viator’s Recommended Tour ($67 per adult)

With the various ATV tours at the resort, you can easily book an ultimate beach adventure. 

It’s an opportunity to enjoy the sun-kissed shores of Flamingo, Conchal, and Tamarindo Beach, three of the top spots in the area. 

This is the place to be if you want to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and try other water sports outside the resort. 

Beachside shopping, local cuisine, and refreshing drinks are also available.

Check out my detailed review of my time on some of Guanacaste’s best beaches.

Pro Tip: Skip Long Road Trips for Activities Around Riu Guanacaste 

Around Riu Guanacaste, there are lots of fun things to do beyond the resorts. But if you’re thinking about going on longer trips, like to La Fortuna or Monte Verde, I wouldn’t recommend it, even if you have a rental car.

Those places are far from Riu, about a 3–4 hour drive, and it gets dark early, around 6:15 p.m. So, if you decide to go, you’d have to leave really early in the morning, and you’d have a rushed day.

Riu is not everyone’s favorite place to stay in Costa Rica. There are way more excellent hotels around. You chose it for a reason, right? Next time, maybe ask for recommendations.

In any case, if you’re seeking day trips, think about renting a car to avoid relying on resort tours. And if you do, make sure to check out the Hidden Garden Art Gallery on the way to Riu. It’s got some cool Central American art that’s worth seeing.

I hope you found this helpful. Then, in the comment section below, let me know which of these activities excites you the most.

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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