The distinct sound of a million tiny seashells gently shuffling with each lapping wave will forever be what we imagine when thinking of Playa Conchal. Usually specific beaches don’t make our destinations’ list, but for Playa Conchal in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, we’ve made an exception. Not only is the beach itself stunning, but its location, tucked away in a private cove, makes it the perfect place to escape all of the stresses of life. This post will give you everything you need to plan your own visit, whether it’s a relaxing day with the kids or a romantic week-long getaway.
The Setting at Playa Conchal
Sure Costa Rica has dozens of gorgeous beaches, but what makes Playa Conchal so special? Well, in one word, location. Playa Conchal is virtually cut off from the rest of the world. This is because to get there you either have to walk along the shore from the adjacent fishing village of Brasilito or be a guest at the exclusive Westin Golf Resort and Spa. Although it does take a bit of effort, once you arrive, you’ll be glad you did.
Situated between two rocky points, Playa Conchal has calm, aquamarine water which is great for swimming. To further entice, there are picturesque islets offshore and craggy cliffs on the far southern end.
But what makes Playa Conchal most unique is its sand. As we eluded to, this beach seems to be a magnet for seashells. Unlike anywhere else in the country, pink, white, and tan shells make up the sand. A gentle tumbling of waves breaks these treasures into polished granules that are not only pleasing to the eye, but easy on the feet too. It is these tiny fragments that got Playa Conchal (‘Shell Beach’) its name.
Available right on the beach in Playa Conchal are snorkel masks, jet skis, and kayaks. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas and there are usually vendors around selling pipas frias (cold coconuts), BBQ kabobs, and even frosty beers if you get thirsty for an Imperial. The beach usually isn’t too crowded so there’s plenty of room to lay down a towel, although shade on the sand can be sparse if you don’t rent an umbrella. The first time we went, we spent most of our time snorkeling in the clear water near the rocks at the northern end. The conditions weren’t the best, but it was still nice to spot some colorful fish right from the shore.
If you’re looking for more to do, the area has plenty of other activities. Horseback riding, ATV tours, sunset cruises, sport-fishing, and scuba diving are all available locally. On one of our visits, we booked a two-hour horseback tour from Brasilito and rode along the beach, past Playa Conchal, and out to a scenic vantage point on the nearby cliffs. After we got back, we had a tasty lunch at one of the small, locally owned seafood restaurants in Brasilito and shopped for souvenirs in a few of the stores nearby.
For those staying at the Westin, there are some more things to do. The resort has a professional 18-hole golf course, spa, workout facility, tennis courts, and a separate kids’ club to keep the little ones busy. For when you just want to relax with a fruity cocktail, there’s also the massive lagoon-style swimming pool.
Playa Conchal is located on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast. It is less than an hour from Liberia International Airport (62 km away) and only 20 minutes north of the popular surfing and tourist town of Tamarindo. As we mentioned above, the closest town to Playa Conchal is Brasilito, which has a good mixture of local culture and tourist amenities.
There are two ways to access Playa Conchal. Guests of the Westin can pass through a wide gate and stroll right onto the beach. For everyone else, the best way is to follow the beach south from Brasilito. It is possible to drive on the sand (like everyone else does), but it’s not a good idea. Driving on the beach is illegal in Costa Rica, and if you need a better reason, it just isn’t good for the wildlife or for keeping Conchal pristine and gorgeous. What we usually do is park along the soccer field outside of one of the restaurants in Brasilito and walk the ten or 15 minutes down the sand. It’s a really nice walk, especially if you splash your way along the water’s edge.
Tip: If you are worried about leaving your car, just ask a local restaurant how much it would cost for them to keep an eye on it. The area is generally very safe, but rental cars are easily identifiable to thieves so just don’t leave anything valuable in sight.
Westin Golf Resort and Spa
The obvious choice for lodging in Playa Conchal is the Westin Golf Resort and Spa (formerly Paradisus Playa Conchal) since it borders the beach. The Westin has rooms for just about every type of traveler, from the Family Beach Club if you’re coming with kids to the luxurious, adults-only Royal Beach Club for a more romantic setting. The resort is highly regarded for service, and though it is all-inclusive, the food at the seven restaurants is said to be above average.
Slightly farther from the beach is Reserva Conchal, which offers spacious, condo-style units that are great for groups. Reserva Conchal has its own beach club and restaurant and guests can also access the amenities at the Westin Resort.
For those looking for a more economical option but who would still like to experience the beauty of the area, consider staying in neighboring Brasilito. Hotel Conchal is a smaller, family-run hotel located just a short walk to Playa Conchal and even closer to Brasilito’s beautiful beaches.
With such a serene setting, comfortable accommodations, and activities for all, it’s easy to see why Playa Conchal makes our list of Costa Rica’s most spectacular beaches. We don’t make it back up to Guanacaste very often, but when we do, we always make sure to pay a visit to Playa Conchal. Until next time, we’ll just have to dream of those tiny seashells swooshing between our toes.
Have you been to Playa Conchal? What was the highlight of your time there?