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Why Las Catalinas? A Guide to Discover this New Beach Town

Las Catalinas is a unique place, one that espouses a new way of living in Costa Rica. At a glance it is a walkable pedestrian village that exists in harmony with its natural surroundings, and draws its character from a diverse set of influences from across the world. It’s a pioneering alternative from massive, all-inclusive resorts or standard luxury destinations, a place where the good life thrives and people are valued first and foremost.


There’s also a distinct way of life that has taken hold in Las Catalinas, one that is healthy, sustainable, fulfilling, and fun, and you’re invited to be part of it. Here are three reasons why Las Catalinas might be a great fit as your next destination.

One: “A Place to Come Together”


Las Catalinas has grown out of a shared vision of a better way to live. There is a place in the world for a way of living that is fun, healthy, sustainable, and more real and authentic than many other tourist-focused destinations or all-inclusive resorts.


come together

Building it in Costa Rica was not by chance; the country’s dedication to the environment and to its people, the welcoming nature of its citizens, and cultural values of a pure life are what inspires Las Catalinas’ way of living to this day.


What Elements Define the Las Catalinas Lifestyle?


It Is A Great Place to Walk – There is a natural connection that comes from walking, not driving, as you move about town. Many of town’s elements draw from its walkability.


It Is A Place Where Children Can Experience Freedom – This is important in its own right, and it is a key indicator of safe, thriving, welcoming societies worldwide.





There is a Natural Sociability – The town makes it easy and pleasurable to connect with the people around you, which makes life more enjoyable and fulfilling.


There Are Things To Do – Here there is a vibrant community of activity, social opportunities, achievement, and recreation that are fun and satisfying.


Beauty is Valued – Throughout town you will find beauty both natural and man-made, which lifts the spirits of all those who experience it.


Nature is Embraced and Protected – Because the opportunity to interact with nature within a short walk should be a part of everyday life.





The town’s architect, Juan Carlos Avelar, could not have summarized it better when talking to Travel and Leisure magazine’s Adam Leith Gollner on its redefinition of living well. In one sentence, Las Catalinas represents “Enjoying nature and giving the best of ourselves.”


A Pedestrian Enviroment


People just relate differently to each other when they are walking as opposed to driving. Walking creates the opportunity for chance encounters, and frequent meetings. Walking makes “just stopping by to visit” acceptable, even welcoming.


Whether it’s chatting and trading stories around the rocking chairs at Pura Vida Ride in the morning, getting to know all of the servers at the Limonada restaurant, saying “hi!” to friends having coffee on their porches, or crossing paths with the enormous iguanas that live on Paseo del Mar, Las Catalinas makes these kinds of encounters easy and natural.


A Community of Shared Values


Las Catalinas appeals to people with particular values: those who typically value nature and enjoy outdoor recreation, who are curious and eager to explore and learn, who appreciate those around them and enjoy making new friends.


If this describes you, there’s a good chance that you and the person at the next table might get along pretty well. Sure, they might be from a totally different part of the world from you and have a totally different story, but that’s the best part of meeting new people, isn’t it?


A Sense of Shared Experience and Purpose


In Las Catalinas, people play, socialize and work together in a lot of different ways. But despite all of their differences, the citizens of Las Catalinas always seem to be contributing to town and making it stand for something joyful, healthy, fulfilling, and sustainable.


It’s a powerful bond to share, and an important goal that everyone in town works towards in their own ways. No one knows what’s coming next.


“The People at Las Catalinas”


Las Catalinas owners and visitors were unanimous: what they like best about their town is the people.

  • “I like the kind of people that come to Las Catalinas.”
  • “I love the way the staff treats me like a friend.”
  • “I feel like I can just invite anyone at Las Catalinas in for a drink or dinner.”
  • “I love that people here are so easygoing.”

People are at the heart of the Las Catalinas core values, a fundamental part of this place from day one. Just look at the cast-iron sign placed in Plaza Danta some years ago that reads:


“Las Catalinas welcomes everyone who shares our values of respect, honesty, and love.”


‘But what are people at Las Catalinas like?’ you may wonder. They are:

  • Kind, considerate, thoughtful and honest. You can always find a smile and a supportive word walking down the street in Catalinas.
  • Curious, active, interested, and interesting. Whether they’re leading evening bike rides out on the hills, coaching courses on sustainable and healthy plant based diets, or hosting a talk on the Timeless Tropical Tradition of architecture, the people of Las Catalinas love to share their passions with those around them.
  • Lovers of nature, beauty, and other people. It’s common to see people out in the morning watching the parakeets in the trees, or hiking the trails with friends as the sun sets on town, or simply enjoying the afternoon breeze as they relax on the swim platform.
  • Easygoing, welcoming, and open minded. Part of life around here is the visitors and new residents that are always bringing something new to town. Quite simply, Las Catalinas wouldn’t have grown to what it is now without outstretched arms and friendly personalities.

“Building the Good Life”


Much of the way of living at Las Catalinas has to do with physical design: well designed places facilitate this way of life.


Las Catalinas’ buildings prioritize both timeless beauty and sustainability. In creating a walkable town free of motor vehicles, it maintains a low carbon footprint, encourages neighbors to meet face-to-face, promotes physical activity, and allows for the seamless intermingling of its residents and visitors with the natural world that surrounds them.


para ebook

When construction on Las Catalinas began in 2009, the team of developers, architects and builders designing the town had a vision in mind: creating an environmentally-sustainable new town while embracing the Costa Rican landscape and culture.


While many new developments prioritize modernity over tradition, the Las Catalinas architectural style combines New Urbanist influences with timeless traditional architecture, paying homage to the rich history of Costa Rica.


There are also a number of worldwide influences in town. Drawing from the successful elements of hillside towns and coastal villages that dot the Mediterranean landscape from Italy to France, Las Catalinas’ architectural plan begets waterfront and forest views, and creates areas in which residents and visitors can amble and assemble over busy thoroughfares.


Look also for nods in town to the architecture of cities throughout Latin America, influences that town connects with deeply. In Las Catalinas a combination of these classic architectural approaches have been implemented to create a town that feels familiar at the same time as it feels fresh and new.


The result is a town architecture that complements both its location and history, one that has been created using environmentally-friendly measures, reduced building times, improved insulation techniques, and using responsibly-harvested building materials to ensure that Las Catalinas will be as beautiful and sustainable in the short term as it will be for visitors a century from now.


Today Las Catalinas stands as a modern town with timeless roots, with few cars and no high-rise buildings, instead dotted with safe, walkable streets, communal gathering spaces, and ample room for small businesses to grow.


That is why Las Catalinas is so much more than a tourist attraction. In time it will house a collection of homes built facing the town’s parks and plazas, as well as schools, stores, recreation facilities, and businesses including inns and hotels. Throughout the town’s commercial and residential development, care for the environment will be a top priority, with energy-reducing and water-saving technologies implemented to create a sustainable future for generations of residents and visitors to come.


And although the architecture of Las Catalinas is what helps define the town’s aesthetic, the natural beauty that surrounds its residential center has influenced the development just as significantly. Las Catalinas encompasses 1,200 acres, and only 200 will be used for residential and commercial development, with remaining acreage left untouched and used to promote the re-growth of a tropical dry forest, a unique ecosystem for some of Costa Rica’s diverse and vibrant plants and wildlife.


How Las Catalinas Came to Be


Urban planners, civil engineers, architects, and designers all work in different ways towards the same goal -- to create places where people can thrive. There are as many different strategies to town building as there are towns in the world, but in recent years one particular movement has begun to gain momentum, a new architectural trend known as New Urbanism.


It is a fast-growing movement whose principles lie at the heart of Las Catalinas. New Urbanism prioritizes environmentally-friendly development, walkable neighborhoods, and a diversity of intertwining private and public spaces. The core elements of the New Urbanism movement seek to improve on the problems of suburban life, providing pedestrian towns, mixed-use buildings settled into compact neighborhoods, and harmony between private and communal spaces, all while maintaining freedom from the issues present in crowded city centers. New Urbanist communities are built upon principles of connectivity, sustainability and quality of life, all packaged into the quintessential neighborhood.


The creators of Las Catalinas envisioned a town that would advance the successes of the New Urbanism movement. And what better way to bring this vision to life than with the help New Urbanism expert, Douglas Duany? A professor at the University of Notre Dame, Duany has been involved in urban design projects in more than 10 countries and continues to play a pivotal role in the development of the town.


“Las Catalinas is actually at the advanced front of New Urbanism,” says Duany.


“It’s highly responsive to topography, incorporates narrow streets and provides every house a view as well as relative privacy, all of which were special requests from the outset of the project.”


The sense of unique value provided to each residence is one of the primary goals of the New Urbanism movement, and it is a part of what makes Las Catalinas unique from any other project in Costa Rica.


A Place Called Casa Brewer


All houses and buildings in Las Catalinas are unique, each with characteristic features, design choices, and materials. It adds a personal feel to each home, a factor that made a definite impression on Upscale magazine.


One such example is Casa Brewer, which was guided to its unique design by Atlanta-based home interior designer, Beth Webb.


Despite the nearly 1,500 miles between Atlanta, Georgia and Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Beth’s designs translate wonderfully into the language of the good life endemic to the tropical country.


Porches offer spectacular views of the sunset. An outdoor living room overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one side and the private courtyard and garden on the other. However, no space is more indicative of Casa Brewer’s iconic design than its outdoor dining room, "The Grotto", a place Beth describes as “pure theater, pure magic.”


Other Places to Call Home


Stu Casa and Casa Teja are also unique welcoming homes that reflect Las Catalinas’ architectural spirit.




Stu Casa




Casa Teja


“Enchanting Plazas”


Las Catalinas is a place that invites people in, a characteristic that is perhaps no better manifested than in its plazas. These common areas make excellent meeting points, providing a welcoming diversion for everyone.


Plaza Escondida


plaza escondida


On Paseo de los Niños, Plaza Escondida offers respite from the sun thanks to its shady palm tree perimeter. Known for its combination of form and function, Plaza Escondida’s colorful Cuban tile, herringbone brick, and cantera stone detailing offer an elegant place to rest.


Plaza Escondida's central fountain cascades down into a shallow pool that provides children and four-legged friends ample room to play, splash and cool down when the temperatures heat up.


Plaza Andalucía


plaza andalucia


Inspired by the stunning architecture of Andalusia, Spain, this plaza is also a gateway to Plaza Lucia. Like Plaza Escondida, Plaza Andalucía is outfitted with brick and cantera stone, while its star-shaped central fountain, positioned at the apex of an octagonal staircase, adds a touch of beauty to the area.


Set in deep blue Cuban tile reminiscent of Seville’s famous Plaza de España, the fountain’s slightly deeper pool makes it an ideal place to relax with your feet in the water and enjoy the breeze after a long day of exploring.


Plazas Las Terrazas


plaza las terrazas


Both Paseo Del Mar and Paseo de los Niños culminate in the leafy cobblestone of Plaza Las Terrazas. The smooth granite surfaces of the dual-tiered plaza are shaded by a canopy of almendro trees often bursting with wildlife.


Connected to the Beach Club via a footbridge, Las Terrazas is the perfect place to contemplate nature, set up a cozy chair and dive into a good book, have a picnic, or host an evening cocktail party.


"Welcoming, Rain or Shine"

Seasons are a fun part of life in Las Catalinas, and each has their own unique character. The dry season brings lots of sun, warm temperatures, low humidity, consistent winds from the east, and cooler evening air. Green season brings clear mornings, peaceful shade and some showers in the afternoon, cooler temperatures throughout the day, and breathtaking sunsets.


It’s a fascinating process to watch over time, especially as the rains come in late April. As the dry season winds down the landscape changes dramatically over a few weeks, leaving behind golds, browns, and pinks for a vibrant green. The daytime temperatures drop, and town settles into the gentle pattern of clear mornings, offshore sea breezes in the afternoon, a scattered afternoon shower, and clear sunsets. It is soothing, refreshing, and to many local residents it is the best time of the year.  


Two: “Adventures for Family and Friends”


Towns never exist in a bubble, and part of what makes Las Catalinas such a lively place to be is everything around it, from our community in Guanacaste to the natural world that surrounds us. It just makes life better, more full.


Adventures for Family and Friends in Las Catalinas


Tennessean magazine calls Las Catalinas an unusual vacation spot that “captures your soul.





“Residents and guests here are more likely to get up at 5 a.m. for yoga, hiking, kayaking or mountain bike rides. Use your trekking poles to explore the nearly 16 miles of dramatic hiking trails, which include routes that hug the coastline and ridges, climb to clifftop lookouts, or ‘for the hardcore hiker’ take you up the steep slopes of Las Catalinas’ central high peaks.” - Organic Spa magazine.


“One of the country’s top destinations for ocean sports.” - Southwest magazine.


It’s exciting that people around the world are starting to notice, but nothing can quite replace being here. Here’s a list of some of the best activities and excursions around town.


Sunset Trailblazing on McHenry Peak


The McHenry Peak Hiking trail sets off from the heart of town up through the foothills, before climbing up through the central peaks of Las Catalinas to look over town and beyond in a panoramic lookout point that presents stunning views in all directions.


The trail takes place across open ridgeline with a light, manageable gradient and steps along steeper portions of the climb. Ask anyone in town and they’ll recommend late afternoon as the best time for this hike, as the cool breeze and temperatures provide life to the trail, with the sun setting in the western sky over the Pacific Ocean and the Guanacaste Coast in golds and reds and purples.


Dive in with ConnectOcean


Inspired by David Hayes’ design and executed by architect Ricardo Arosemena and interior designer Andrina Fonseca, the Las Catalinas Beach Club is a beautiful oceanside gathering spot for local and visitors to socialize, swim, exercise, and relax.


However, what makes the Beach Club a top destination in town is ConnectOcean, a local organization working to protect, research, and preserve Costa Rican aquatic life. Collaborating with local researchers, naturalists, activists, and marine scientists, ConnectOcean offers environmental education and citizen science initiatives that help participants discover, connect with, and protect our planet. ConnectOcean also has a powerful focus on grassroots conservation, providing education and resources to the less fortunate members of the community.


One of ConnectOcean’s premier programs is the ConnectOcean Aquatic Academy and Dive Center, which serves members of the Las Catalinas community of all ages, abilities, and experience levels, from expert divers to young residents learning to swim to those overcoming disabilities.


Through the ConnectOcean Academy, students can learn to swim, get certified in scuba diving, participate in SWIM SAFE Costa Rica -- a drowning prevention program providing water safety skills -- go on outreach expeditions, learn lifeguarding skills, or take part in Sin Límites, an adaptive scuba, paddling, and surfing program designed for those overcoming life-altering injuries.


Dive in with ConnectOcean


A social hub with a mission of inclusivity and environmentalism, the ConnectOcean Aquatic Academy and Dive Center is poised to change more than just Las Catalinas. After all, the goal of the team is to empower citizens to change the world, a mission which extends far beyond town.


So whether you’re taking your child for their first swim lesson, getting back in the water after an accident, or are learning what role you can play in preserving our ecosystem and keeping our water clean, you’re creating skills that last a lifetime, aimed to teach us that we all have the ability to make a difference.


connect ocean 2


Ride the Trails


Mountain biking is a very popular sport in Costa Rica, taking place everywhere from back roads through mountains to jeep tracks in rainforests. However, most trails are improvised and can be a bit tricky to get to and navigate, which is why Las Catalinas residents are so proud of their trails. With access right from the heart of town, Las Catalinas has become quite the haven for mountain bikers, and you’ll find that most members of town enjoy the sport.


It took a bit for the trails to come to life, but once they were completed bikers around the country and the world began to notice. Town's first 10 kilometer bike route was completed in late 2011, quickly followed by its “discovery” by the Costa Rican and international mountain biking communities, and town never looked back. Since then, trails cover almost 50km of the mountainside and the coast, with options for riders of different skill levels.


The first trail runs around the perimeter of the Dantita bowl and maintains a more or less steady elevation with some minor ups and downs. It is built to hug the mountain, and gives expansive views of town, although the more narrow track is better suited for an experienced rider.


ride the tail las catalinas


Counterpoint the easier, more beginner friendly route over to the Zapotal Valley on the back side of Las Catalinas. Zapotal brings with it gentle terrain, prominent wildlife, and exploration down to some hidden beaches.





There’s no better way to hear more about mountain biking at Las Catalinas than from the people that actually do it. Here are a few examples of experts who have enjoyed our trails:


“We headed out to the trails that afternoon. We found them buffed and immaculate, with epic views of a tantalizingly cool ocean below.” - Martina Halik, Pink Bike.


“The trails at Las Catalinas preserve well their way through the so-called dry-forest (which seems an awful lot of like jungle to me) and offer an opportunity to test and improve our bike-handling skills and fitness in the Costa Rican summer.” - Clive Pursehouse, Peloton magazine.


“Though there are a few resorts and vacation areas that have nearby trails, almost none have the extensive mountain bike selection of Las Catalinas’ local shop, Pura Vida Ride.” - Lava Magazine.


Explore the Coast from the Water


Paddling at Las Catalinas is a trip worth taking day and night. One favorite of locals is to get out on the water, usually in a kayak, when there’s a full moon. In the evening air after the wind has died down, the glassy ocean, warm water, and minimal light pollution make for a breathtaking glide across the waves.


For the daytime, Stand-Up Paddle Yoga is a favorite activity of many visitors to Las Catalinas. The fast growing sport combines SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) with the ancient tradition of Yoga and the ideal cove conditions around dawn and dusk.





These amphibious yogis return to shore after a class with a stronger core, a balanced peace of mind and a new experience to share with friends and family.


paddle yoga las catalinas


Participate in the Las Catalinas TRI


Living in a place where biking and trail running paths collide with the sea, it’s hard not to be a fan of triathlons -- so the people in town decided to throw their own. Every February town hosts the Las Catalinas TRI, an event that takes place over 35 km of trails, coastline, and water all around Las Catalinas. It’s a major event that takes over town, and athletes come from all over the world to compete -- like XTerra World Champion Rom Akerson, a longtime competitor and big fan of the TRI.





Our town and surroundings also provide the ideal combination of easy access to trails, challenging terrain, and relaxing way of life for racers to train at a high level, like Leo Chacon and his colleagues from Hungary, who trained here for the Olympic Triathlon in 2016.


Journeys Beyond Town -- Inland Excursions to Reservoirs and Rivers


Part of being in Guanacaste is that Las Catalinas doesn’t exist in a bubble. If you’re interested in venturing beyond town and exploring the region there are hidden gems and exciting excursions to find, whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a day of more relaxed adventures.


Consider the rafting at Tenorio River. Costa Rican rafting is famous around the world, and the country has hosted the World Rafting Championship three times. So if you are a fan of the sport and looking for a high energy excursion, this tour should be on your list.


Big waves, long rapids, exciting drops and turbulent water will be the highlights of this Costa Rica rafting tour. This adventure lasts about 2.5 hours, and takes place along 20 km of a scenic river in the heart of a lively natural ecosystem. Catch your breath midway and share stories of the experience as you enjoy fresh fruit, snacks, and rehydrate for the second wave of the ride, a heart-pounding set of rapids that finish with a 12-foot waterfall drop.


Another option is an inland day trip, exploring rivers, hot springs, and waterfalls in some of the most vibrant natural areas of Guanacaste.


One example is the hot springs of Rio Perdido. Hidden away in the inland canyons and surrounded by rich tropical forest, Rio Perdido is a great choice for a relaxing day trip. The springs of are the main event here, with other offerings including a full spa, trails with expansive views of the canyons, sweeping landscapes, and the volcanoes beyond, and a number of other activities.


Another is the waterfalls of Kiwanda Maji, an area deep in the forests of Guanacaste with trails, waterfalls, and lagoons. Here you can immerse yourself in the Costa Rican rainforest by following an easy walking trail that will lead you to four different waterfalls. High points on the trail include Laguna Azul, a spring water lagoon whose water is tinted an electric blue and sources directly from the nearby volcano.


The nearby town offers the chance to taste delicious homemade cheeses, traditional tortillas and a cup of Costa Rican coffee at their own cheese factory. You can also visit the local farm and see donkeys, goats, sheep, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys and ducks, or enjoy lunch at their restaurant, set right beside Laguna Azul in the heart of the forest.


No matter what though, wherever you happen to find yourself on your adventures, be it around Las Catalinas or far afield, you can count on a place to come home, have a delicious meal, and share stories with friends when you’re done.

Three: “A Place to Celebrate Life”


The liveliness of the day to day in Las Catalinas is a fundamental part of what really makes this place feel like a town rather than a resort, but that doesn’t mean the people in town don’t know how to celebrate! Maybe the most important part of town is how it facilitates these special events and gatherings, where you can gather with friends, family, and the people you love and create lasting memories together.


A Place to Celebrate Life Las Catalinas


A Place to Commit


According to the Bridal Guide Magazine, if you are dreaming of warm sunshine, deep blue waters, and a tropical background for your big day then Las Catalinas is your place.


What better way to start a new chapter in life than doing it in place that was built on peace, love, and respect?


"Scenic spots for ceremonies include tucked away green spaces, plazas with fountains and a silver sand beach that has spectacular sunsets. Receptions that can be held on the beach, which fronts the Limonada restaurant or at the new Beach Club, a three-level spot with an infinity pool that converts into a dance floor. Event planners and local vendors are on call to give your wedding a special Costa Rican touch.


Take part in a flower workshop and make your own arrangements out of tropical blooms like orchids and ginger blossoms or order food trucks serving gallo pinto, the national dish of rice and beans. Mid-reception mini-carnivals are a Tico tradition: Guests don masks and traditional skirts and toast the couple with bubbles and sparklers"


-Bridal Guide, May 2016


And when it comes to the honeymoon, according to those in the know at Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Costa Rica and Las Catalinas rank among the Top Best Destinations.


wedding and honeymoon in costa rica las catalinas


Reconnecting with Friends and Family


Las Catalinas is an ideal place to get together with groups of friends for a few reasons. The first isn’t obvious, but the beauty of town is an important part of being creative and making lasting connections with friends and family. When you’re in a truly beautiful place, you find that it’s much easier to reach mental, physical and emotional state balance, which is fundamental to connecting with family friends. Combine these factors with the easy sociability of our town, and these gatherings are sure to be relaxed, natural, fun, and meaningful.


Reconnecting with Friends and Family


Here are a few tips as to the best way to plan your gathering if you’re in town. Find one house to be the headquarters for your group. Make this the official, always-available hangout place for the group, with smaller houses or flats handling extra sleeping spaces and private areas as needed.


This gives you a place to hang out that is just for you and your group, which is great for dinners, game nights, pool parties, or simply coming together to chat and enjoy the sunset over town.


From headquarters and smaller outposts, you’ll also have the option to get out and enjoy the different activities Las Catalinas has to offer. You’ll find gathering places like Limonada and our Beach Club, Playas Danta and Dantita, beautiful streets and plazas to explore, and the wonders of our 1000-acre nature preserve that surrounds town.


It’s a balance that’s key here, and part of what makes Las Catalinas a great place to connect. The private places to get away from it all, the relaxed spaces to hang out with your group, the community to engage with, the wide variety of activities in town and beyond, and easy movement between each by Las Catalinas’s walkable nature. There’s a reason you see so many groups of families and friends in town -- it’s practically tailor made for them.


Couple Travel


While Las Catalinas is excellently suited to spending time with family and friends, couples on retreat can find plenty to do around town. Up at the top of the hill, Casa Chameleon is an adults-only sunset hotel infused with the spirit of romance and adventure, featuring personal villas each with their own infinity plunge pool looking out over the Guanacaste Coast for sunset.


Partner travelers can also find plenty of places to stay among the streets of Las Catalinas, which have been listed among Sherman Travel’s top couples travel locations.


Couple Travel in costa ricas las catalinas


Add in the constantly improving culinary and wine scene in Las Catalinas (featuring new favorites like Copper & Stone Gourmet Grocery and Ponciana Restaurant) as well as the ever-growing list of custom excursions and personal trips, like an evening catamaran or a horseback ride along the coast, and you’re set for a memorable and adventurous getaway with your partner.


So Come By Sometime


Las Catalinas is a place that helps foster a way of life that’s easy to believe in, one that’s healthy, sustainable, fulfilling, and fun. It’s a place for gathering with family and friends and the people you love to make memories. It’s a hub for adventurers and explorers, for those who love to be outside, to be active, and to take in the world. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a place where people are valued, nature is protected, and the simple life is sacred.


Still though, it’s hard to capture what makes this place special in writing. So consider this an invitation to come stay in town sometime and take it all in for yourself.


Hope to see you soon!