The North Pacific coast of Costa Rica is literally peppered with beautiful beaches.
Playa Grande itself is a lovely white sand beach, almost 5 km (3.5 miles) long, perfect for surfing, boogie boarding or simply sunbathing.
Below are some of our favorite beaches in the immediate area.
Directly north of Playa Grande, Playa Ventanas is “more of the same”, a long and wide (at low tide) white sand beach, with great waves for surfing and boogie boarding. Sunsets here are amazing – as indeed they are at most beaches in Guanacaste. Due to the proximity of the Las Baulas Part, there are usually very few people here, especially during the green season (May – October), and you will often find yourself the sole “owner” of 3-4 km of gorgeous white sand…
This is also the last beach that is accessible by car before the Las Baulas Park, but you can certainly continue north on foot if you’re an explorer at heart 🙂
Separated from Playa Ventanas by a rocky outcrop, this is a lovely little beach. Because there are no roads leading here, it is very private and you will rarely see other people on the beach. There are two ways to reach Playa Carbón, walk through a short jungle path from the north end of Playa Ventanas, or scale the rocks between Playa Ventanas and Playa Carbón at low tide (our preferred way).
Playa Carbón is rocky and fairly turbulent most of the time, so it is not necessarily a good place to swim, but it’s fun to explore, and it’s a great spot for sunbathing – and picnicking – privately.
Further to the north, beyond Las Baulas Park, lies famous Playa Conchal, a beautiful little beach covered with billions of tiny shell fragments that give it its name. The beach is only a 15 minute drive from Playa Grande. However the paved road stops at Playa Brasilito, so you can either walk the rest of the way south (10 minutes in the sand on Playa Brasilito) or drive on the dirt road that parallels the water if you have a car that can handle the sandy – and sometimes wet – conditions.
There is a Westin Resort on Playa Conchal, so it is usually busier and more touristy, but it is still absolutely worth visiting.
This beach is about 10 minutes further north than Playa Conchal. The region around Playa Flamingo is definitely more developed, there are several high-rises and hotels, and even a couple of shopping malls with restaurants, bars, etc. The waves here are a bit stronger, especially at high tide, but the views are lovely and the proximity of services makes it a good place to go for a full day of fun…
Tamarindo is a few minutes south of Playa Grande, on the other side of a narrow estuary. It is the most developed surfing town in the region, and has become a busy, even chaotic town in a very short amount of time. Development exploded in the early 2000s and many areas were actually overdeveloped with little or no overall planning. Growth has slowed down in the past few years and the infrastructure is slowly catching up.
However, because the Las Baulas National Park is a protected area, the Costa Rica government has enacted laws that make it impossible to build a bridge (or a road) directly across the estuary. So the only way to drive between the Playa Grande and Tamarindo is to actually make a 15-20 minute detour inland. The direct result is that Playa Grande remains a quiet, peaceful area, despite the presence of Tamarindo less than 2km down the coast.
During the day, it is possible to walk along the beach and hire a quick ride on one of the little boats along the mouth of the estuary. They usually charge ₡500 ($1) per person for the crossing. They all go home around 4:30-5pm, make sure you make it back before then or you will be stuck with an expensive taxi ride…
Tamarindo is a great place to take surfing lessons, visit tourist shops, and go out. For more pedestrian needs, there are also pharmacies, dentist and doctor’s offices, emergency clinics, etc. readily available.
There are many more beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, too many to mention. But we would feel guilty if we didn’t list the following two or three here – even though they are not exactly in the immediate vicinity.
Nosara is a quaint little town further down the Pacific Coast, about an hour and a half away. Right next to it is Playa Guiones, a gorgeous white sand beach that is well worth a visit if you have the time (or if you are in the neighborhood).
At the very south of the Nicoya Peninsula is the Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve, a beautiful tropical jungle that deserves a visit if you’re a fan of nature and hiking. There are a couple of beaches there that are absolutely beautiful, and that are only accessible through the main – and longest – hike in Cabo Blanco. They even have a couple of showers there, presumably because after swimming here, one has to hike back for a couple of hours to the main exit of the reserve…
Unfortunately getting to the south end of the peninsula is not as easy as it could be. Even driving non-stop, it will take several hours from Playa Grande. [See our Suggested Trips page]
Playa Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio, on the south Pacific Coast of the country, is internationally known for its amazing park and all the animal life and nature that it contains, but it also has two of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Getting there from Playa Grande is a long road trip, and you shouldn’t go just for this, but if you’re visiting the park anyway, make sure you take advantages of these beaches. [See our Suggested Trips page]