top of page
Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 9.49.50 PM.png


Jeff Rasley


There are many beautiful beaches in the area. Some have black sand, some white sand, and some rocks or shells. If you want to pack for a day trip, we have two backpack coolers at the condo. There is also a JBL speaker that is water and sand/proof. If you take any of this equipment, please rinse it with fresh water when you return to the condo.


Beaches in Costa Rica are 100% accessible to everyone, so don't hesitate to pull up to a fancy hotel and ask which way to the beach. You'll find parking attendants at some beaches. You're not required to pay them, but they are friendly and take their job seriously, helping with parking/traffic and monitoring for security. If stopping to take a look for just a few minutes, tell them so and skip the tip, but otherwise, we recommend you give them a few bucks for their help.


There are many beaches in the area. Here are a few that we have discovered. Share your discoveries on the comments page so we can add them to this list.

  • Playa Ocotal - Head all the way down the hill. Turn left and park near Father Roosters. Ocotal is a beautiful black sand beach. It's recognized as a blue-flag beach, meaning it's one of Costa Rica's cleanest beaches. Ocotal is also known as one of the best places in Costa Rica to snorkel from shore. The island immediately to the West (left) protects Ocotal from most swells, making the shoreline one of the safest.  Snorkeling is good to the East (right) and West (left), around the rocky reefs.  Currents are minimal.  Keep an ear out for the howler monkeys. They move all around Ocotal and spend time in the trees in the parking lot at Father Roosters. Iguanas live in many of the trees at the beach.  You may also encounter nesting turtles. There is plenty of tree coverage for those who want shade.  Arrive early to secure a good spot under the shade. At low tide, you can scramble across the rocks around the southern point to playa Pez Vela, but make sure to have decent footwear. The scramble to the North won't get you too far before you have to take a swim. Some fishing operations and scuba/snorkel excursions launch from Ocotal. 

  • Playa Pez Vela (aka Azul) -  Just down the hill from Azul Paraiso. Turn left as soon as you hit Pez Vela road (at the bottom of one of the steep slopes on the way up to Azul Paraiso. At the security gates, tell the guards you're going to la playa and they'll let you pass. Pez Vela is a beautiful, clean, black sand beach and is a good snorkeling destination. It has good tree coverage if you want some shade. Currents are safe, but not quite as gentle as Ocotal.  Howler monkeys can sometimes be found in the trees.

  • Playas del Coco - Long beach with many access points. From Ocotal, turn left when you reach Coco and drive until you reach the U-turn.  This is the takeoff point for most fishing, diving, and snorkeling trips in the area, but it wasn't our favorite part of the beach. To get away from the crowd, turn right at the Mexican restaurant in Coco and follow the road to the north for many access points.  

  • Playa Hermosa - Hermosa means "beautiful" and it lives up to its name. White, soft sand. Large trees for shade. Low surf, safe for the little ones. It's a little further to the north (~10 min drive from Coco) but is worth a visit or two or three. The easiest way to reach Hermosa is to head from Coco back toward the airport (right turn coming out of Ocotal). A few miles out, turn left at 159 and go over a hill, dropping into a valley. Follow signs left toward Playa Hermosa. Walking distance to several restaurants.

  • Playa Panama - Continue north past Playa Hermosa. Playa Panama is set back in Culebra Bay, and the waves are very calm here.  Beaches are pleasant and beautiful. This area is quiet, with not too many dining options.

  • Playa Matapalo/Playa Zafiro - Playa Matapalo is the nearest beach to the south/west of Ocotal/Pez Vela. It's only about a mile to the south, but to get there, you have to travel inland to Coco, then back toward the airport. Shortly after leaving Coco (and before you reach the gas station on the right), take a right on 911, and follow the road to the Riu Hotel/Diamante Eco Adventure Park.  By Costa Rican standards, this is a well-maintained road, and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the ocean.  Travel just past the Riu (all-inclusive hotel), then take a right to reach Playa Matapalo.  Matapalo is a beautiful white sand beach, protected by a peninsula to the South/West.   Currents are minimal and Matapalo seems among the safest beaches, but you will see signs for Riptides.  Venture to the right (North/East) or the far left (West/South) if there are bigger waves, making sure to stay away from steeper slopes on the beach (steep slopes tend to be areas where there is a shore break).  For more privacy, scramble around the rocks to the far South/West to Playa Zafiro for a beautiful, well-protected stretch of Matapalo that faces north. At Matapalo you will find merchants and opportunities to charter fishing boats or jet ski adventures.

  • Playa Potrero  Potrero is another bigger town (not quite as big as Coco) about 45 mins to the south in the dry season (mid-Dec to April) and about 1 hr 15 mins in the wet season (May to mid-Dec). Leave Coco toward the airport and turn right at 911 toward Potrero. Mark Potrero on Google Maps and follow the road called The Monkey Trail (in the dry season). You'll reach a wide stream/small river that is safe to cross in the dry season. If you don't have a 4wd car, you can cut through the parking lot at the Congo Trail parking lot (an adventure park). The guard will charge you 5mil (about $8) to pass through, and your pass will be good for going back & forth until 5 pm (after 5 pm, you have to take the long way home).  Potrero has a black sand beach that is well protected by islands to the West/South at Flamingo.  There are tons of good eats and little bars on the beach.  Hemmingway's is right at the beach and has fantastic seafood. On the north end of the beach is the perfect dive bar. 

  • Playa Penca Turn north at Potrero and wind a few minutes around to Penca, down a short dirt road. It's among the most beautiful beaches in the area. White sand. Howler monkeys & Iguanas were observed. Incredible sunset. Not too crowded and may be one of the better spots if you want a little privacy.

  • Las Catalinas - Continue north of Potrero/Penca for 5-10 minutes and you reach a master-planned community called Las Catalinas.  On the way, you'll pass Sugar Beach, which is a short hike from the road. Just past the village, follow the trail down to Playa Danta. You'll find a large trail network with miles of trails over the bluff to the West.  A 15 min walk will take you to Playa Dantita. Hiking through the jungle can be hot & muggy, so make sure to carry plenty of water.  Howler monkeys have been spotted close to the trailhead.

  • Playa Flamingo Winding just south of Potrero, venture past the marina to Flamingo, a large, stunning white sand beach. Be aware of the shore break. It felt quite safe to play in the waves at Flamingo at low surf, but monitor the ocean before getting in. Pelicans and green parrots were found here. A few nice restaurants on the beach and a few merchants set up to sell handmade crafts. Margaritaville is on the North end of Flamingo - a little pricy for drinks. Further down the dirt road, Coco Locos is a fun spot for food and drinks right on the beach with decent prices.

  • Playa Conchal  Translation - shell beach. Beautiful, white sand beach further south of Flamingo by about 10 minutes. Good for R&R or snorkeling. Westin Resort is located just off the beach.

  • Playa Tamarindo  A good haul further to the south, Tamarindo is one of the largest towns in the region, and perhaps the most built-up tourist spot. It's known for its nightlife and for big crowds during spring break. Tamarindo has a long, beautiful beach and is a great place to learn to surf, because of its gentle break. Lots of shops in town and plenty of good places to get a bite/drink right on the beach. Serious surfers should head north to Playa Grande for bigger waves. Just north of Tamarindo is an estuary where crocodiles are known to live. You can go on tours to see the crocodiles, but don't venture too far north on the beach if you're playing in the water!

  • Playa El Jobo - About 2 hours north, near the border of Nicaragua.  Head toward Liberia, then go north to La Cruz.  Turn West at La Cruz and follow the signs to Dreams Las Mereas Resort.  Park behind the hotel for beach access.  Beautiful beach with lots of tourists and some locals.   Well protected.  Great swimming.  Lots of small trees for cover if you want some shade.  Reasonably priced food & beers off the beach at Lapa Lapa.

Photo Oct 21 2022, 5 13 05 PM.jpg
Photo Oct 27 2022, 1 02 48 PM.jpg
Photo Oct 27 2022, 1 07 30 PM.jpg
Photo Oct 25 2022, 12 45 12 PM.jpg
Photo Oct 25 2022, 12 46 48 PM.jpg
bottom of page