Guanacaste Beaches

Guanacaste is made up of 40 laid back beach towns each with a unique character offering something for everyone. Discover those beaches below. When you find a beach you like click on the the link to the list of  business and vacation resources for that area using the link below each beach description or you may find links to all beach directories here.

Tamarindo Beach- a wonderful surprise especially if you were expecting a Miami Beach kind of vibe. But if that was a pleasant surprise you are really in for a treat. Travelling in both directions from Tamarindo offers numerous small beach towns and hideaways and these are just the main beach towns described here. We will be travelling north first in this post from Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destination. We will then explore the southern Guanacaste beach towns and introduce you to so much of what the Gold Coast has to offer. So strap on your flip flops and lets get started. Note;  If you really jump off the beaten path there are many hidden coves and jewels which I will eventually cover but even these popular beach towns retain a laid back vibe each with their own character and something to satisfy every taste. I will explore some of the truly off the beaten path places in another post but these will definitely require an intrepid soul and a good 4 wheel drive vehicle. If you can swing it my best suggestion for a vehicle in Costa Rica is a Range Rover And even in that beast a few rivers and soft beach sand  occasionally got the best of me. (Picture a heavy duty tow truck backing up 2 miles outside of Tamarindo on a tiny jungle back road one day with my buddy Andre who said zig left when I should have zagged right. Anyway we got free paid the driver a fortune and then I  took him and Andre to El Vaquero for sushi and many many beers. All in all a great day. Range Rovers are the perfect vehicle for sure but lets get this party started. The first beach north of Tamarindo is Playa Grande but its actual name is Playa Zapotal but the slang moniker has won precedence over the years.

Playa Grande (Zapotal)



Playa Grande Directory

Playa Grande beach is miles long of fine, pale sand; perfect for those who enjoy a leisurely beach stroll and a warm ocean breeze. It is important to note that the entire beach coast is protected and belongs to Las Baulas National Park, meaning you must take care with the soft upper part of the beach as it may contain delicate turtle eggs waiting to hatch. Additionally, the beach is off limits from 6pm to 6am October through March to avoid disturbing the unique rhythm of sea Turtle nestings; the only exception for night time visitors includes a park guide and turtle watching tours the northern end of Playa Grande to Playa Ventanas and jump into beautiful snorkeling waters. Take care swimming in Playa Grande open sea, as the sea floor does drop steeply and rip currents can be strong.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal Directory

Playa Conchal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica and in a country loaded with beautiful beaches that is saying a lot. Playa Conchal is also the source of one of my  pet peeves. I lived in neighboring Brasilito beach for years and Playa Conchal was open to 4 wheel drive vehicles and many Brasilito locals plied their wares sold food, beers, tours and even hand made crafts but the owners of Conchal have closed it in recent years making it the exclusive playground for the rich mostly foreigners and basically  screwed the locals. Money versus the people who were born there and money won making it a decidedly less interesting place to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking beers and eating ceviche supporting my many Brasilito friends. In case its not clear this pisses me off and only Conchal’s big bucks pulled this off. You can still walk down there or come in through the resort but prepare to drop some bucks.



Known as one of the most exotic of the Gold Coast’s beaches in Costa Rica. Playa Conchal sees some of the best weather all year round. Unlike other beaches along the Pacific Coast, Playa Conchal is not a sand beach, but rather a beach that consists of millions of tiny crushed shells. The beach is no longer accessible by car, so if you want to spend a day enjoying its beautiful shores, plan to park at Playa Brasilito and walk for about 1km to reach the beautiful Playa Conchal! Playa Conchal is home to l, a luxury 5 Start Marriott Resort Hotel that offers private access to Playa Conchal. 

Brasilito is where I first arrived after my 11 day drive from Boston and  where I spent several weeks looking for a place. Brasilito is where all the employees of the big Conchal resort live and have small businesses and like many areas just outside of a resort its where the service employees come to unwind after work. Brasilito features a number of hole in the wall bars where the natives congregate and the party is occasionally raucous and always runs late sometime supported with man made jet fuel (If you know what I mean) anyway its lively and fun and the Brasilitenos embraced me once I showed my desire to master the local dialect. The Ticos will not correct  bad Spanish ( they consider it bad manners) unless of course you entreat them to do so which I did with a lot of Pilsen beers and a genuine desire to turn my college French into passable Spanish. (An admitted head start.) Once convinced of my sincerity and eagerness to learn I had many willing friends to help. This was not in any way a cultural exercise. I simply wanted to be able to talk to girls. HA!

 Playa Flamingo is the epitome of bliss. The beach truly deserves a spot on the best beaches in Guanacaste. Lying on Costa Rica’s popular Gold Coast Flamingo’s white sands and crystal clear waters sees most of its visitors during December and Easter holiday. 

If you’re looking for an incredible sunset, Flamingo can provide you with the most serene, fiery sunsets on the Gold Coast. Those who love sportfishing will fall in love with Playa Flamingo. Every July, Flamingo hosts an annual sailfish tournament where you’ll find tuna, snapper, sailfish and more!

For those who partake in aquatic activities, Playa Flamingo can provide a variety of ocean excursions for you to enjoy. Scuba diving is offered year-round where the shores are packed with marine life – starfish, coral reef, eels and reef sharks galore. For those who partake in aquatic activities, Playa Flamingo can provide a variety of ocean excursions for you to enjoy. Scuba diving is offered year-round where the shores are packed with marine life – starfish, coral reef, eels and reef sharks galore.

For the nature lovers, check out Santa Rosa National Park, the country’s first national park and home to 115 mammal species, 100 amphibian and reptiles, and 250 bird species.

You won’t find many amenities near Playa Flamingo as it has no village center. So those wanting a variety of restaurants and nightlife should check out the nearby town of Brasilito. 

Puerto Potrero Directory

Potrero is a hidden jewel in north-west of Guanacaste. This rural town embodies the old Costa Rican coast village style and is a tranquil spot away from other touristy places.

The main feature of this town is its inherent and simple beauty. The road remained unpaved for a long time because the locals chose it to stay that way although in recent years with the development of Las Catalinas  located beyond Potrero and formerly almost inaccessible by car the main road through Potrero has recently been paved; on Sundays you can still see children playing soccer in ‘la plaza’ and the locals going to church. Hotels or massive developments haven’t found their way to the Potrero and you can still see people lying in a hammock on their own land, just few steps away from the sea– like it used to be in every Guanacaste coastal village many years ago.

Although there are several small hotels and villas around with their own facilities, there are only few supermarkets and local restaurants to go to in town.  This is the place for people seeking quiet and relaxing time away from all the maddening rush of the city.

Nightlife goers can find a lot of  great bars and clubs in Playa Tamarindo on the south, and Playas del Coco on the north. Both are within an hour or less drive away from Potrero. Unless one considers ladies night at the Las Brisas beachfront bar at the end of Potrero beach which is usually a pretty swinging time.

Enjoy swimming, snorkeling or kayaking  the three Potrero beaches: Prieta, la Penca and Potrero, perfect for people seeking calm beach activities. Bring your own equipment, as you will not find equipment stores and renting services can be sporadic in the area.

Potrero can be reached both by public bus and by car. It’s a 45 min drive from Liberia, Guanacaste’s main hub, or  four to five hours drive from San José, but the trip is worthwhile. It can also be a nice place to start exploring the Papagayo Bay and traveling to other famous beaches like Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal, or visiting Santa Rosa National Park and Palo Verde Natural Reserve that are close by.


Playa Danta (Las Catalinas)

Las Catalinas directory

I used to hike this area before a shovel was ever turned and it was magnificent. It pains me to see it developed but developed it is and the place is still well worth a visit

Playa Ocotal

Ocotal Directory

3 km (1.85 miles) south of Playa del Coco lies Playa Ocotal, which is known to be one of the cleanest and quietest of Guanacaste’s beaches.What’s special about Ocotal is the misty air which has been said to be rich in negative ions, which in turn have positive benefits on the people, animals and plants.

If you’re looking for a great snorkeling location, Playa Ocotal is it. Because of cleanliness of the beach and the crystal clear waters, Ocotal offers great swimming and snorkeling. Here you will most likely be able to spot schools of fish, giant manta rays, turtles and even sharks. Close by you can explore the Catalina Islands which offer amazing scuba diving sites for the avid diver.

Playa del Coco

Playa del Coco is one of my favorites it is a truly bustling fishing village popular with locals and tourists alike offering many lodging and dining possibilities and just about everything else under the sun in Costa Rica including a few discos where the worlds oldest profession is still going strong. 

Playa Papagayo (Lanzarote)

Papagayo directory

In the south of Lanzarote is one of the most popular beaches of the island, Papagayo, a cove of white sand, reduced size and great beauty. Papagayo wins you over with its crystal clear, emerald green water which remains still all day long just like in a swimming pool. It’s perfect for taking up snorkeling and for enjoying the beauty of its depths or for letting the children splash about without having to worry.

Enjoy the Natural Monument of Los Ajaches

Situated in a hollow, which you can get to in just a few minutes by going along a track, it is in almost untamed surroundings but is well sheltered from the wind. In spite of where it is located, in the Natural Monument of Los Ajaches, there is a small beach bar on the hillside where you can buy drinks or have something to eat. The best time to enjoy it is evening. Access to the area for vehicles is not free of charge and there is a car park and camping area nearby.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is one of the more popular beaches in the North of Guanacaste. This is the type of beach to escape to if all you want to do is get some much needed R&R.Hermosa means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish, which is a no-brainer to describe the beauty of this aquatic gem. Although located between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, Hermosa doesn’t see as many crowds as its close neighbours. Stretching 2 km (1.25 miles) wide, Hermosa boasts plenty of trees for optimal shade.Hermosa means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish, which is a no-brainer to describe the beauty of this aquatic gem. Although located between Playa del Coco and Playa Panama, Hermosa doesn’t see as many crowds as its close neighbours. Stretching 2 km (1.25 miles) wide, Hermosa boasts plenty of trees for optimal shade.

When it comes to sustainability, Playa Hermosa demonstrates high environmental standards and excellent safety facilities, making it a winner of the Bandera Azul or Blue Flag award.

Hermosa has a small selection of dining options for you to choose from, which tend to do be on the higher end in comparison to other spots in Costa Rica.

When it comes to sustainability, Playa Hermosa demonstrates high environmental standards and excellent safety facilities, making it a winner of the Bandera Azul or Blue Flag award.

Hermosa has a small selection of dining options for you to choose from, which tend to do be on the higher end in comparison to other spots in Costa Rica.


Southern Guanacaste Beaches

Take a walk on Guanacaste’s wild side

Todays journey begins once again on Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica’s most popular Beach destination and down the Pacific Coast towards the Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste’s southern zone which offers many flavors of beaches.From the wild windswept turtle nesting beaches of Ostional to the  Health & Wellness rich Nosara and Samara both of which have become meccas for Yoga lodges, wellness retreats and a pronounced spiritual and healing community.  Couple that with considerably less developed beach front and a few world class surfing and turtle nesting site beaches, heading south of Tamarindo is really like taking a walk on Guanacaste’s wild side.

Playa Negra

Tamarindo beach does extend further south if you’re walking, melding into Playa Langosta, a sleepy little beach village  featuring a few lovely small hotels right on the beachfront peppered with several rather stunning beachfront Villas and of course The Langosta Beach Club, one of my favorite spots for lunch or dinner or wiling away the afternoon at a table under the palms with several cold Heinekens. I understand that the Beach Club has recently changed management so its hard to say until I revisit if the world class cuisine has maintained the same standards set by Arnaud and his lovely wife. However take heart I just learned that Arnaud has opened the Tamarindo Beach club in the heart of Tamarindo and I cannot wait to get back and sample what I am sure will be a culinary treat.

Playa Avellanas

So trekking to the Southern Guanacaste beaches requires you to jump in the car and come off Tamarindo beach and take the Santa Cruz road heading south. When I arrived 15 years ago this was a rough ride unpaved most of the way and a bumpy  treacherous drive during rainy season but in recent years this road as been paved enabling easy access to this dusty farm land that fronts the southern Guanacaste beaches The first sign of civilization heading south towards Nicoya is Hacienda Pinilla which in recent years has seen many more families residing within its borders and has become a Tamarindo bedroom community for the well to do even though many of the main American schools are a good 20 miles away in Brasilito. Hacienda Pinilla is a huge beach front development that has managed to preserve the untamed backdrop quite nicely and truly has a lot to offer families and vacationers alike principally security and natural beauty situated on one of Costa Rica’s most pristine surf beaches. Of course having a championship seaside golf course  helps maintain the property values along with a 4  star hotel. Add a secure beautiful environment and it is  no surprise that many well to do Expat families have taken up residence within its secure gated borders, fostering a rather cool tightly knit family oriented community that still centers the bulk of its daily activity in Tamarindo.

Hacienda Pinilla Golf course looking East away from the ocean

Playa Lagartillo (little alligator)

When it comes to best secret beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Lagartillo is one of them. Even though it’s just a few minutes drive from the popular Playa Avellanas, it normally doesn’t have more than a handful of visitors, even during the holidays. If you’re exploring this area of Guanacaste, then you definitely need to visit Playa Lagartillo!


Playa Lagartillo map


Playa Negra

Playa Negra has always been a pleasant surprise for me and my last trip down there was with my buddy Andre on a rainy windswept day and we felt like we had it to ourselves including the beach front hotel where we managed of course to root up a few Heinekens. Its untamed sleepy quality is always refreshing only a short drive from the hustle & bustle of Tamarindo. I lend kudos to my buddy Larry Graziano who is not only the real estate master down there but one of the nicest soft spoken men you will have the pleasure to meet. Larry had what I consider amazing foresight and settled his family and business down there way ahead of everybody. Of course Larry was attracted by the great surf which Negra has in abundance. Whether its surfing or the slightly untamed peaceful beauty you wish to experience contact Larry at his Playa Negra Realty office and he will happily show you the way.

Playa Negra, Costa Rica is an excellent beach to stay in Guanacaste for those looking to get away from the commercial beach towns. With sweet surfing waves, a laid back atmosphere and beautiful sunsets, visitors can’t go wrong with a few days at the underrated but incredible Playa Negra.


Playa Negra, Costa Rica map



Negra Beach

Negra in Spanish means black and Playa Negra is certainly a beautiful black sand beach. This beach is extremely rocky so be careful in low tide. It’s not the best for swimming but you can dip your toes in!

Negra beach

Since it has so many rocky reefs, in low tide you can walk around the tidepools.

Surfing Playa Negra

Playa Negra’s awesome surf break was featured in the Robert August Movie Endless Summer II. The beach has easy access for paddling out (though small take off zone) and very nice, hollow right hand barrels. If you go to surf, high tide is better as low tide exposes the vast rock bottom and is not recommended for anyone. Thanks to the consistent year round waves, pro surfers from all over the world come to surf at Playa Negra and it can get busy during swells.

This surf break is generally not the best for beginners though. It is better to go to Tamarindo to take lessons for first timers or Avellanas or Grande for beginners. However, when waves are small and there aren’t any swells, it is possible for beginners.

Playa Negra Hotels

There are not that many accommodation options in Negra but there are a couple of hotels. Hotel Playa Negra is the only beachfront hotel with bungalows, a restaurant, pool, yoga studio and a rancho. Some other hotels are the Cafe Playa Negra Hotel and Restaurant and Playa Negra Surf Lodge








Playa Negra is a great beach for a day trip or for a few days. Surfing is the main activity and you’ll see locals and tourists out there every day catching waves. If you’re not a surfer, unfortunately the beach is not the best for swimming but you can sunbathe, relax, have a drink on the beach and just soak up the sun.


Playa Negra is also close to many other beautiful underrated beaches such as Junquillal, Marbella, Callejones, and San Juanillo. Keep going down south and you can visit Ostional Wildlife Refuge and Nosara. Go up north and you’re so close to Marino Las Baulas National Park. Both Ostional and Marino Las Baulas are amazing places to see turtle nestings.

Even though Playa Negra feels like a worlds away, it’s still close to the developed beach towns up north so you have it all. Remote, quiet and beautiful beach but a short drive to tourist amenities and services.

Playa Marbella, Costa Rica (Playa Frijolar)

Although it may seem like Guanacaste beaches are very touristy, there a plethora of beautiful under the tourist radar beaches to discover. One of those beaches is Playa Marbella, about one hour south of Tamarindo and 30 minutes north of Nosara.

It’s a great surfing beach and for anyone looking for a off the beaten path beach to visit for a day. Although locally known as Playa Marbella, the true name of this beach is Playa Frijolar.

Playa Negra

Playa Junquillal

  Playa Junquillal is one of the beaches I visited on my very first visit to Costa Rica in 2002. I stayed in Tamarindo on that trip  as well as La Fortuna and Quepos before passing my first and last night at the Hemenway Inn in San Jose. That day I rented a scooter in Tamarindo and took to the dusty roads in exploration and ranged from Playa Junquillal to Playa Flamingo bar hopping along the way but managing to check on my good friends at the Land Ho Junquillal as these same proprietors own my favorite watering hole of the same name in Orleans on Cape Cod  and where I had some of my first serious conversations about Costa Rica. My friends had discovered Costa Rica and were quite obviously in love with the place tantalizing my intrigue and desire to explore. However I am certain that the scooter ride that day in that land where time  stood still is what captured my heart and whether I knew it at the time or not my every waking moment upon return from that first trip were lent to devouring everything I possibly could about a country I had clearly already accepted on a subconscious level would be my new home. The more I learned about Costa Rica’s commitment to ecological preservation coupled with the astounding variety of wildlife and micro climates  coupled with sublime natural beauty continually served to reinforce this growing love at first sight phenomenon and instant adoption of what would soon become my new home.  One must understand that growing up on Cape Cod which I can only describe as the most magical place on earth makes any place contending for my affection  need approach an almost mystical level and clearly speaks to my soul.  I am most fortunate to have discovered two such places in one lifetime.

LAND HO, Playa Junquillal - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number -  Tripadvisor

                                                                                                          Land Ho Junquillal


LAND HO!, Orleans - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor

Land Ho Orleans Cape Cod

Playa Lagarto


Marbella is a sleepy neighborhood in Guanacaste offering easy access to several untamed beaches  I would characterize as “off the beaten path” including:

Playa Pitahaya

Playa Blanca

&Playa Azul


This area of southern Guanacaste is quite  wild and untamed and from the Marbella beaches the coast road meanders hugging the coast coming upon the unique geographical point at

San Juanillo

This untamed stretch eventually turns into the Ostional wildlife refuge at

Playa Ostional

this wildlife refuge serves as one of the most important turtle nesting sites in the country

The next important beach town is Nosara. The town, which sits several kilometers away from the beaches has served this community well as it has precluded overdevelopment of the beach area resulting in a pristine laid back, authentic Costa Rica beach with a plethora of wellness and yoga lodges, Nosara is the rugged spiritual heart of Guanacaste and I was always quite impressed with the layout . The beach front businesses are almost hidden from view and I discovered some very relaxing spots exploring on foot and venturing off the beach for a beer or some ceviche. Tranquility pervades the atmosphere here and I absolutely loved it there one day when I took a solo drive down there to explore. A very enjoyable experience.

Playa Guiones

Located along the stunning coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Guiones serves as a great surfing destination in Costa Rica.

With 7 kilometers of sugar-white sand and ideal conditions for a variety of activities, this small town is a little slice of paradise in Guanacaste.

In fact, a couple hundred meters of the shoreline received a Blue Flag for its pristine, eco-friendly and well-maintained beaches.

Playa Garza

Playa Garza directory


This placid fishing village 15 minutes South of Playa Guiones will be memorable. Despite Playa Garza’s increasing popularity with tourists, families, and especially fisherman, visitors are often amazed that they can enjoy the golden sands and calm waters of Playa Garza with hardly another soul in sight.

Rocky headlands to the north and south make Playa Garza a natural harbor. These calm, crystal clear waters are a magnet for snorkelers, divers, kayakers, stand up paddlers and those simply seeking to relax. Playa Garza is famed as the base of operations for the local fishing industry. A variety of fishing charter vessels sit calmly in the middle of the bay waiting to take groups of eager fishermen out to the horizon to reel in the fish of their dreams.

Back on land  the town of Garza features a range of understated, yet warm and welcoming places to eat and relax which unsurprisingly offer up some of the best fish cuisine you’ll find anywhere.

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