The sunny, rural capital of Guanacaste has long served as a transportation hub connecting Costa Rica with Nicaragua, as well as being the standard-bearer of Costa Rica’s sabanero culture. Even today, a large part of the greater Liberia area is involved in ranching operations, but tourism is fast becoming a significant contributor to the economy. With an expanding international airport, Liberia is a much safer and surprisingly chilled-out alternative Costa Rican gateway to San José, which means more travelers are spending a night or two in this small but sweet college town, knitted together by corrugated tin fencing, mango trees and magnolias. And, though most of the historic buildings in the town center are a little rough around the edges and in desperate need of a paint job, the ‘white city’ is a pleasant one, with a good range of accommodations and services for travelers on all budgets. The streets in downtown Liberia are surprisingly well signed, a rarity in Costa Rica. Still, it's largely a launch pad for exploring Rincon de la Valle National Park and the beaches of the Península de Nicoya.