Liberia, 26 kilometers north of Bagaces , is the provincial capital. It is also one of the country’s most intriguing historic cities, with charming aged structures made of blinding white ignimbrite, for which it is called the “white city.” There’s a purity and simplicity to the cubist colonial houses.
Many old adobe homes still stand to the south of the landscaped central plaza, with high-ceilinged interiors and kitchens opening onto classical courtyards. Old corner houses have doors—puertas del sol—that open on two sides to catch both morning and afternoon sun. Many of the historic houses along Calle Real (Calle Central, between Avenidas Central/8) have been restored.
The leafy plaza hosts a modernist church—Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción de María—and colonial-era town hall flying the Guanacastecan flag. On the square’s northwest corner, the old city jail is still in use and has towers at each corner. At the far end of Avenida Central (also known as Avenida 25 Julio) is La Ermita La Agonía (tel. 506/2666-0107, 2:30–3:30 P.M. daily, at other times open by request, free) dating from 1854 with a stucco exterior, simple adornments, and a small Religious Art Museum. Behind the church is Parque Rodolfo Salazar, surrounded by old cottages.
The town has long been a center for the local cattle industry. A statue at Avenida Central, Calle 10, honors the sabaneros (cowboys). La Chácara Hacienda & Fiesta Brava (tel. 506/8350-1527, www.haciendalachacara.com ), 2.5 kilometers west of town, is a working cattle ranch with cowboy museum, horseback riding, plus trail rides. You can even help work the cattle. It has a traditional rodeo show at 5 P.M. Thursday.
Guanacaste’s savanna landscape is a perfect setting for My Africa (tel. 506/2666-1111, www.africamia.net , 8 A.M.–6 P.M. daily, $18 adults, $12 children), a private wildlife reserve at El Salto, nine kilometers south of Liberia. Elands, camels, ostriches, and zebras kick up dust alongside antelopes, giraffes, and warthogs; rhinos were to be introduced. You tour in an open-air safari Jeep; a special wildlife tour inside the fenced area costs $65 adults, $55 children. The facility includes a gorgeous waterfall.
The best time to visit is July 25, Día de Guanacaste, when the town celebrates Guanacaste’s 1812 secession from Nicaragua , with rodeos, bullfights, parades, marimba music, and firecrackers. A similar passion is stirred each first week of September for the Semana Cultural.
The Best Western Hotel & Casino El Sitio has a small casino (tel. 506/2666-1211, 4 P.M.–5 A.M. Mon.–Sat.). The Disco Kurú (tel. 506/2666-0769, $5 cover), across the street, pulses Thursday–Saturday and has karaoke Monday–Wednesday.
Multicines (tel. 506/2665-1515), in Plaza Liberia Shopping Center, one kilometer south of town, shows first-run Hollywood movies.
Restaurante El Zaguán (Avenida Central, Calle 1, tel. 506/2666-2456, 11:30 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Fri., 7:30 A.M.–10 P.M. Sat.–Sun.) hosts live music, from traditional guitar to electronica.
Café Liberia (Calle Real, Avenida 4, tel. 506/2653-1660, 10 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), in a 120-year-old building declared a National Monument, is a fabulous venue for poetry readings, dance classes, and music lessons.
Bohemians will appreciate the artistic events at Hidden Garden Art Gallery (tel. 506/8386-6872, http://hiddengarden.thevanstonegroup.com , 10 A.M.–4 P.M. Tues.–Sat.), five kilometers west of the airport. The gallery displays works by almost 50 local artists, some renowned.
SANSA and Nature Air offer scheduled daily service between San José and Daniel Oduber International Airport (tel. 506/2668-1032, www.liberiacostaricaairport.net ), 12 kilometers west of town. In addition to charter airlines, most major North American carriers have direct flights from the U.S. and Canada to Liberia. The airport has a bank, and immigration (tel. 506/2668-1014) and customs (tel. 506/2668-1068).
Pulmitan buses (tel. 506/2222-1650) depart San José  daily for Liberia from Calle 24, Avenidas 5/7, hourly 6 A.M.–8 P.M. (four hours, $7). Empresa Reina del Campo buses (tel. 506/2663-1752) depart Puntarenas  for Liberia from the bus terminal nine times daily 5 A.M.–3 P.M. (2.5 hours, $3). Buses from Nicoya  and Santa Cruz  depart for Liberia hourly 5 A.M.–8 P.M.
There are three gas stations at the junction of Highway 1 and Avenida Central.