Tuesday February 13, 2024.

 Getting to Las Catalinas, Off the Beaten Path 


If you have just arrived at Liberia Airport and are eager to reach your home or hotel for some relaxation, Route 21 offers the most straightforward and convenient option of how to get to Las Catalinas, with paved roads. 

However, there are times when you might feel the itch to veer off the beaten path.If your adventurous spirit is restless, allow us to illustrate what deviating from the usual route looks like, and why it could prove to be quite a rewarding road trip. 


The Monkey Trail 


Situated through a mountain pass between Potrero and Playas del Coco, the Monkey Trail is a fun way to get from beach to beach. Although Route 911 now has asphalt for most of the way, the Monkey Trail does cross through a river at one point. This river can have huge fluctuations in the depth of the water and can be completely dry from December to April when there is not much rain in Guanacaste. In most cases, vehicles can navigate through the shallow water without any issues. However, if you are uncertain about the depth, it is best to wait until other experienced drivers have crossed to follow their route, or check out this Facebook Group for the most recent updates on the river levels. If you arrive at the Monkey Trail River and find the water level too high, do not worry. You can opt for the Congo Trail bypass, easily locatable on Google Maps. They typically charge around five dollars or require a purchase from their shop. Operating hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. 





how to take the monkey trail to liberia


Leaving El Prado, take Calle Camino las Catalinas to the right to drive to Portrero. In Portrero, you will drive by Hotel Bahía Esmeralda and continue to take the 911 through Nuevo Colon, Sardinal, and turn north (left) onto Route 21 in Communidad, continuing straight to Liberia, or the airport.  




how to take the monkey trail to playas del coco


Leaving El Prado, take Calle Camino las Catalinas to the right to drive to Portrero. In Portrero, you will drive by Hotel Bahía Esmeralda and continue to take the 911 through and Nuevo Colon, and when you get to the Mini Super el Pozo on the right side, the road veers right. Continue on Route 911 until Sardinal. At this intersection, you will see the Coco-Liberia bus stop, and you can take a left, heading North and follow the road straight into Coco. 






The Donkey Trail leaves from the Northeast side of El Prado to Zapotal Valley Road in town without any river crossings, but with stunning views.  One section can be slippery with a hill, so we recommend four wheel drive vehicles.


How to Take the Donkey Trail


Leaving El Prado, take Calle Camino las Catalinas to the left and use the northeast side exit. Drive to Zapotal Valley Road until you reach the Zapotal beach entrance and turn right onto the Riu Guanacaste Route / Ruta del Sol until you meet up with the Monkey Trail. Follow the same route as the Monkey Trail to get to Playas del Coco or Liberia. The map below shows it as the longer, more northern route.



Things to do Along the Way 


Eat at a Soda 




Enjoy authentic Costa Rican cuisine at a local "soda," a quaint roadside eatery typically family-run where you will find dishes like “arroz con pollo,” or chicken rice, and the famous “casado,” rice, beans, salad, and your choice of a protein like chicken, beef, fish, or cheese. 


Explore Colorful Costa Rican Towns 



Discover the charm of small Costa Rican towns in Guanacaste, where picturesque wooden houses surround soccer fields and quaint churches. Streets are often filled with pastel-hued homes and tiny "pulperias," or convenience stores where you can grab a snack. Some towns on the route: Communidad, Sardinal, Nuevo Colon. 




Get Stuck in “Traffic” 

A Guanacaste traffic jam is not your usual traffic. In this case, the usual hustle and bustle of cars is replaced by a charming sight: farmers herding their cattle from one pasture to another. Embrace the slower pace and take in the rural beauty as you wait for the gentle procession to pass. 




Stop at a Fruit Stand 

Make a pit stop at one of the fruit stands lining the roadside, where you can find the freshest, seasonal fruits Costa Rica has to offer. From ripe mangoes, to caimito, these tiny stalls burst with colorful, tropical treasure. Bring along some cash to support these small businesses. 




Add in a Visit to a Beach 

Include a beach stop in your itinerary. Living on or visiting the Gold Coast of Guanacaste offers unparalleled access to miles of shoreline. Take advantage of the opportunity to visit one of the nearby beaches such as Portrero, Playas del Coco, or Ocotal, all just a short drive away from Las Catalinas. 


To fully enjoy your trip, take a car with four wheel drive, bring a water bottle, and make sure you have GPS or a downloaded map. Regardless of your route, please adhere to the speed limit for your safety and the safety of wildlife on the roads and only use these routes during daylight hours. Costa Rica is all about taking life a little slower, so keep that in mind as you explore.