One of the best places in Costa Rica’s popular Guanacaste Province to relax and unwind is Playa Hermosa. This small community along the northern Pacific coast draws repeat visitors year after year with its gorgeous beach and peaceful charm. Although its location makes Playa Hermosa feel somewhat isolated, the small but well developed town offers many amenities. You’ll find fine dining steps from the sand and varied accommodations, including condos, timeshares, vacation rentals, and hotels. In this post, we’ll share what you need to plan your visit to this beautiful beach town.
Playa Hermosa, which translates to Beautiful Beach, is located in northern Guanacaste Province. Keep in mind that Costa Rica has several beaches named Playa Hermosa, including near Jaco, Santa Teresa, and Uvita, but the one we are covering here is in Guanacaste. Liberia International is the closest airport, at about 45 minutes away.
Playa Hermosa Guanacaste (sometimes called Playa Hermosa GTE) sits between two points that divide it from the lively town of Playas del Coco to the south and Playa Panama to the north. It is situated in a valley with much of the real estate development in the surrounding hills. The town has two main ways where many businesses are located. The first and second entrances, as people refer to them, run perpendicular to the beach. There are also some businesses spread out along the main road to town and on the road closest to the ocean. On our last visit, we stayed on the second entrance and enjoyed being only a few blocks from the beach. Hermosa is fairly concentrated, however, so no matter where you are, you’ll be a walk or short drive to everything.
About Playa Hermosa
This small resort town is popular for those looking to relax in a tranquil setting. Playa Hermosa is seldom crowded and it is almost always possible to find your own spot on the sand. The destination tends to draw families who come for the calm ocean waters, as well as groups taking advantage of the vacation rentals and condos. Although Playa Hermosa has a good selection of restaurants, it does not have much nightlife. You can find a party scene in Playas del Coco, though, which is only a short cab ride away.
Beaches and Water Sports
The main attraction in Playa Hermosa is its beautiful light gray sand beach. This wide cove stretches about 1.2 miles (2 km) and has lots of palm and figs trees for shade. Swimming and water sports like jet skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and banana boat rides are popular things to do. The Gulf of Papagayo just beyond the bay is full of marine life. Sport fishing, snorkeling, and diving are especially good. Playa Hermosa has some local dive sites, and more advanced divers will enjoy exploring the Catalina and Bat Islands, where you can often find manta rays, white-tip reef sharks, and bull sharks.
Just around the point from Playa Hermosa is a little-known beach that we absolutely love called Playa Penca. This is a small cove with light gray sand and clear turquoise water. It is a good spot to just soak up the sun, but also has a reef with some awesome snorkeling. We have seen a lot of fish not far from shore, including some pufferfish, needle-nose fish, and stingrays. Hopefully this beach will remain easy for the public to access. Last time we were there, the adjacent property had been chopped. We heard it was for a future Ritz Carlton!
Directions to Playa Penca: Playa Penca is not marked and a little hard to get to. Here’s a map with the exact location. When you turn off the main road, tell the security guard in the booth that you’re headed to Playa Penca. He will take your license plate number. Follow the road to the parking area. It is very steep in spots with loose gravel so you will definitely want 4×4. Be sure not to leave anything in the car as this is a remote area and break-ins sometimes occur. This is also a great spot to see Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco from above so be sure to bring your camera!
Other Things to Do
From Playa Hermosa, you can organize all the usual tours out of Guanacaste. Zip lining, ATV, horseback riding, and catamaran tours are possible. Farther inland, you can find more day trips that lead to waterfalls, hot springs and mud baths, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. National parks within a couple of hours’ drive are Las Baulas National Marine Park (seasonal turtle watching), Rincon de la Vieja (volcanic features), Palo Verde (river boat tours), Santa Rosa (hiking and site of historic battle), and Lomas Barbudal (off-the-beaten-path reserve with a river and waterfall).
In the near future, we’ll be coming out with a complete guide to activities in northern Guanacaste. Click here to subscribe and receive it by email.
Playa Hermosa has a small, but satisfying, dining scene. One thing to note is that we find prices to be on the high end for Costa Rica. On our last visit, we ended up spending around $70 for the two of us on dinner every night. Here are some of our favorite restaurants.
We loved everything about our recent visit to Sandbar. Sandbar is a newer restaurant in Playa Hermosa that is making its presence known. They offer a creative international menu, which rotates regularly. On the signature menu, you can find classics like shrimp tacos, burgers, and salads, and a featured menu has more innovative choices like braised bacon in a cassava dumpling or a green curry lentil burger. Sandbar uses all organic produce and locally sourced meat and fish. They have a fun cocktail menu, local craft beer, and brunch on Sundays. Main road coming into town in the plaza at the entrance of Hermosa Heights.
A longstanding favorite in Playa Hermosa, Ginger offers refined tapas that are full of flavor. Many dishes are Asian or Indian inspired, but they also incorporate traditional ingredients like local fish. Some of our favorite small plates were the ginger rolls with poached salmon, spicy chicken samosas, and Thai red curry beef on plantains. Ginger is a romantic spot with a modern, candle-lit outdoor dining area. Just after the second entrance on the inland side.
Roberto’s is located inside La Gaviota Tropical Hotel on the beach. From the outdoor patio or tables set up on the sand, you can take in the beautiful view or watch the sun sink into the Pacific. Roberto’s has a basic bocas (snack) menu as well as rice dishes, burgers, and sandwiches. Their dinner menu features entrees like shrimp with avocado, Caribbean chicken, and tuna steak. Second entrance, on the beach.
Aqua Sport is another good option for a drink or casual meal on the beach. They have a big outdoor patio and some tables and chairs right on the sand. Typical bar fare like burgers and fish tacos fills the menu, but they also have traditional Costa Rican and even Peruvian specialties. Excellent spot for sunset and sometimes has live music. Second entrance, on the beach.
We had a wonderful stay at this small, family-run hotel right in the middle of town. Hotel Mangaby has simple, but spacious and extremely clean, rooms with A/C and hot water. Rooms overlook the gorgeous pool, which is quite large and surrounded by lush gardens. The small restaurant serves a made-to-order traditional breakfast. Hotel Mangaby is popular with visitors and you’re likely to see locals there as well. Double room, $70-100. Check Rates and Availability Here.
If you’re looking for more of a resort setting, consider Club and Hotel Condovac. This is a larger complex on the northern end of the beach that offers condo-style accommodations with kitchenettes. The facility is a bit dated, but very affordable. Condovac is situated on a steep hill so has nice ocean views. The two-bedroom villas are good for families and groups. Villas, $100-550. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Hotel Bosque del Mar
This beautiful boutique hotel is in a prime location on the beach. Suites are big, clean, and comfortable with separate living areas. The property has many mature trees, which draw wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, and hummingbirds. Bosque del Mar is good for couples, but also families and groups because some suites can be connected. Located on a quiet section of the beach, but a little far from restaurants and services so it’s nice to have a car. Junior Suite, $150-200. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Playa Hermosa is the perfect destination to spend a week relaxing on the beach or to close out a busy vacation. Although small, it has enough to keep you busy and plenty of restaurants to excite your pallet. We can’t wait to get back to Playa Hermosa ourselves, and can see why so many people return year after year.
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Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
- La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – La Fortuna is home to the mighty Arenal Volcano and is commonly paired with destinations in Guanacaste like Playa Hermosa. This post has everything you need to plan your visit.
- Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Playa Hermosa is a drive from most activities so having a car is recommended. See our tips before you hit the road and look for our rental car discount too!
- Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds – Another popular place to pair with Guanacaste destinations is the misty mountain town of Monteverde. Bring your jacket for this one as temps are much cooler than at the beach.