Beach days that rock!
By Rodgers Bestgen
Let’s assume that your beach adventure is beginning in Tamarindo. You will not have to go far to explore some very cool hideaways within walking distance from Tamarindo beach. From there we will work our way “farther afield and get into some serious exploration and some truly wondrous and beautiful finds only a modest drive or scooter ride from Tamarindo.
Depending on what kind of day you are in the mood for you can head either north towards Playa Grande and the Tamarindo estuary or south towards the Playa Langosta estuary. Either direction will work no matter if exploring is your desire or a 4 star dining experience is more your speed. Crossing the estuary to Playa Grande on one of the small panga boats that hover there and charge a buck or two to cross opens up a very beautiful walk along the beach side (great shell hunting) or the ability to work your way through the beautiful paths that cut through the mangroves and come to the Playa Grande beach road. At the very end of this beach road where these paths will lead is a sleepy beach hotel that I always liked. Once you find the caretaker they are always happy to dig out a cold Pilsen to enjoy by the pool. Quiet and beautiful. Of course, you can also enter from the beach side or continue down the beach.
A word about the Tamarindo estuary
Spreading our blanket next to the estuary and enjoying the shallow rushing water used to be one of our Friday go tos. Usually with a nice bottle of French wine at El Cocodrillo just up the path to finish. Turns out el Cocodrillo is aptly named as in recent years the habit of feeding the Crocodiles (Cocodrillo in Spanish) has created a situation where the animals have come to associate humans with food . This unfortunately led to a few humans becoming food. Swimming across the estuary as I’ve done many times is no longer recommended.
Please dont feed The Crocodiles!
Walking south towards Langosta is worth the journey and two features make it so. Just past Nogui’s and El Pescador, two staunch mainstays at the south end of Tamarindo beach, it’s possible to come away from the water a bit and walk the natural grassy tree laden paths that constitute the meeting of ocean and land that remains before the secluded beach mansions and exclusive hotels that dot the beach onwards to Playa Langosta begin. Pristine.
This estuary provides the egress for all the water that builds from mountain runoff during the rainy season creating vast swamps that lie behind Tamarindo and Langosta and almost all beach towns in Guanacaste. This makes the mile hike from Tamarindo worth it as the wild life and serene beauty of this spot is unforgettable and as far as I know, it’s still safe to swim there. At least it was safe last time I swam there. If I hear otherwise I’ll let you know. So far nothing to report.
Food and drink
Langosta Beach Club
Ok first I must admit to being a bit of a food snob and was bereft until Arnaud and his wife took over the Langosta Beach Club. Not only is the food first class the view and ambience elevate this to a World Class destination Yes you might spend a couple bucks but you will be accommodated royally in the poolside cabanas that look like the inside of a Sultans tent each with an inviting champagne bucket and many culinary possibilities. My favorite kind of place. The food is first class in the French style and the beachfront tables are exquisite for lunch while the kids can surf a few feet away. The club even rents boards. My favorite go to day off here was to drink Heinekens with my buddy Andre at The pool bar and order whatever steak was on special that day. I think the last one was stuffed with goat cheese sorrel and mushrooms and cooked a perfect black and blue which is next to impossible to get done right here unless a fine cut of beef is used. In this case I believe Arnauld was using Argentine beef. You get the picture they take food seriously. Best to reserve a space on weekends and holidays if you want a cabana. Ask for Arnauld
Ok this was almost a Friday religion with us a few years ago Sushi and draft beers on the picnic tables behind the Witchs Rock Surf Camp. The house does their own brews and offers a very drinkable Indian Pale Ale thats one of my favorites. Watching the surf and beach action with Playa Grande sweeping off into the distance is a great way to spend a Friday afternoon. Plus the sushi is awesome. A don’t miss spot.
This one was usually a solo adventure with a book for me or occasionally with my girl. Coincidentally the bakery and kitchen is run during the day by the mother of Arnauld ( of Langosta Beach Club) and she keeps a solid affordable wine list and Panini menu and a few french stand by lunch entrees to enjoy at the quiet back tables overlooking the portion of the estuary where they used to feed the Crocodiles. The Crocs have fortunately moved further into the estuary and we no longer feed them. Right? This is one of my true favorites for a quiet beach day and I highly recommend it.
Playa Grande is of course next door to Playa Tamarindo but it’s a big beach and I’d recommend coming at it by vehicle although ive done a few entire days there on the hoof exploring and that’s wonderful too if you like a lot of exercise. There are lots of small beach hideaways where you can park your vehicle and wile the day away without seeing another vehicle. Playa Grande is considerably more laid back and lightly developed compared to Tamarindo. The long beach road that traverses the length of Grande is bordered on one side by the estuary where locals have homes with small docks that ply the canals of the estuary. It’s a cool ride and several pocket communities have sprung up back there. Lovely and quiet with a few hidden jewels
Los Baulas national park
As you wind your way north along Grande you are in this park which protects the area. There are a sparse few beach homes at this end as most building has been tied up in international court for years. Driving to the very north end offers several little hideaways for your 4 wheel drive vehicle that bring you right to the beach without doing harm. If nobody beats you to it you can enjoy a full day with the beach to yourself except for a few intrepid souls like me that walk the whole beach from Tamarindo. So private that it’s a favorite spot for nude sunbathing. Also a great spot for surf fishing when the estuary releases, also body surfing, and as I mentioned; Private.
The Great Waltinis
Talk about private this is one you can get lost trying to find driving. Better you grab a panga at the Tamarindo side, they will take you right to the dock up the estuary a bit. Great way to spend a day at a nice pool. Restaurant has typical food and a full bar for cocktails with real glasses.
This sleepy hotel sports a lot of potential diversions my favorite being the restaurant on the second floor of the hotel that overlooks the sparse beach trees and the surf. The setting is unique and rustic with a fine display of how the indigenous people use the Impressive native hardwoods. Breakfast here for me was a delightful treat and the fare, like the design, is true Guanacasteco. The second story beach view and ambience makes this worth the visit However even though its quiet they have a lot of tables and chairs ready. Good for big groups although ive never seen one there. The restaurant services the downstairs pool area that sports a few deliciously deep hammocks and a pretty path to the beach. Don’t miss the hidden heated Jacuzzi tucked into a lush corner of the pool area great chaise lounges and tables by the pool make this a great place to pass a day.
The beach bar attached to the back of the hotel is a favorite of mine. 5 stools, a great view, a great bartender, the best burritos in town, not to mention the nicest owner you could meet. A midwest girl that looks like she stepped off the cover of a California surf magazine which is why she’s here of course. A Very nice spot! This is a great walk from Tamarindo just look just behind the wooden lookout tower.
A word about swimming Playa Grande.
Playa Grande is very rough and tumble beach with multiple wave directions and rip currents. That’s why its a great surf spot. However, people are lost there every year.
Please be careful!
If you are ready to see the rural side of Guanacaste then you’re in for a great drive. The journey down these country farm roads were part of what grabbed my heart during my first visit in 2002. The dusty farm roads give the bucolic picture of a way of life unchanged in generations. The promise of the sparkling blue Pacific just over the next hill or mountain nearby give this dusty land an almost magical contrast and a sense of possibility while being transported to an earlier simpler time.
So the trip is great and the prize of Playa Avellanas equally so. Known as a surfers beach this rocky wind swept beach has a very remote feel and my friends Lisa And Andre and I went one day to find Lolas closed so we hiked a mile or so up the beach for lunch at the Hacienda Pinilla Beach club which is very nice ( real bar glasses)Walk a little further and you can hit The JW Marriott which is even nicer.
All in all a very untamed beautiful beach with a few Elegant options for
Food and drink
Our main reasons for trekking to Avellanas is of course the fabulous Lola’s beachside restaurant and bar. Great beach restaurant with a spread out floor plan and a constantly manicured seating area that transitions seamlessly from natural hardwood tables and chairs to beach. Good service and an eclectic menu combined with good cocktails make this a very popular spot on weekends I highly recommend the journey to Avellanas.
Heading north past Grande
I chose Potrero on a map during the two years I spent devouring anything I could about Costa Rica following my first visit in 2002. My reasoning was that the real estate within a forty mile radius of an international airport is historically the best performing real estate there is. Here I had Potrero on a map within this radius with the coast road dead Ending there. I figured this had to be a Winner and it was. Of course I quickly found out that renting an expensive beach house that I loved but did not need was my first and from what I hear, is a common big mistake among newcomers that are not millionaires.