Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast is filled with busy beach towns, but there are still some quiet stretches of sand left to be discovered. One such place is Esterillos Oeste. This small town just south of Jaco is well known to surfers and locals but has remained off the tourist map so far. But with its proximity to San Jose, gorgeous beach, and restaurants only steps from the sand, it may not stay that way for long. In this post, we’ll share why Esterillos Oeste is worth a visit and give you some insight into what to expect for activities, restaurants, and hotels.
Esterillos Oeste is located off coastal Highway 34, about 1.5 hours from San Jose Airport and just 20 minutes south of one of Costa Rica’s most developed beach towns, Jaco. Although Jaco is only a short drive away, Esterillos Oeste remains quiet and peaceful. The town is surrounded mostly by patches of rice fields, grazing cattle, and thick tropical rainforest. Once you arrive in the modest town center near the beach, you will find a couple of small grocery stores, a few restaurants, no-frills lodging, and a mix of simple homes with larger houses in the surrounding hills. Mostly Costa Ricans live in Esterillos Oeste, but there is also a sizeable population of expats from around the globe.
There are two turnoffs for Esterillos Oeste. The main one is the first if you are coming from the north. Just past Esterillos Oeste (west) is Esterillos Centro (center) and Esterillos Este (east). These are separate, even smaller, beach communities with a handful of restaurants and accommodations. Continuing south, you will reach the busy Manuel Antonio/Quepos area in about 45 minutes. Here, you’ll find one of the most well-known national parks in Costa Rica and a plethora of tourist amenities.
We highly recommend a rental car if you’re staying in Esterillos Oeste so that you can explore the surrounding area. Be sure to check out our Rental Car Discount to save 10% on a car and get free extras.
Activities in Esterillos Oeste
Playa Esterillos Oeste – Beach and Tidepools
The beach is by far the town’s biggest attraction. Along the light gray sand, you will find local families barbecuing under the palms, fishermen putting out their boats, and surfers lined up for the next big wave. The beach is long and it’s easy to find a spot all to yourself. A beach trail/road runs along the ocean, making it easy to pull your car right up.
With its larger waves and riptides, the beach isn’t great for swimming. You can wade in the shallow waves, or for calm water, check out the tidepools on the northern end at low tide. These are a great place to bring kids to see the tiny crabs and fish living in the small pools, and also to swim. In between rock formations, there are a few perfect places to take a dip in the tranquil water. Here is a link to the tide chart to plan your visit. Low tide is best for exploring the tidepools.
To access the tidepools, you can park in the main area near the town center and walk along the beach. Even easier is to turn right on the paved road after Super Sol market and follow it until the end. Here, you’ll find another parking area right in front of the tidepools. When parking, make sure not to leave anything in your car. While the community is overall very safe, car break-ins do happen occasionally.
Watch our video to get a sense of how big the tidepools are.
Another notable attraction at Esterillos Oeste is the large statue of a mermaid jutting out of the tidepools. You can walk out to La Sirena at low tide to get a picture, or just view her from the shore at any tide.
As we mentioned, Playa Esterillos Oeste is a well-known surfing beach. It is the most popular of the Esterillos beaches, but usually doesn’t get too busy. Experienced surfers come here to take on the beach break, but it’s also a good spot for those just starting out. You will find a few different surf shops in town that offer lessons and rent boards.
Horseback Riding, Adventure Tours, and Wildlife
Not far from town are some great options for tours. Horseback riding tours will take you through the tropical forest to explore the countryside, see wildlife, and even visit waterfalls. A nearby adventure park offers thrill seekers zip lining, waterfall rappelling, and ATV. And, of course, there are a multitude of options in Jaco and Manuel Antonio, including catamaran tours, crocodile river tours, and kayak/SUP tours.
For wildlife, in Esterillos Oeste you will see Scarlet Macaws parrots flying overhead, iguanas, and many kinds of birds. To see the most during your visit, we recommend also checking out Manuel Antonio National Park for the day. This park has thick tropical rainforest filled with birds and animals, including monkeys (3 types) and sloths.
If you’d like help booking a tour for your time in Esterillos Oeste, we’d be happy to help. Contact us through our Tour Booking Service page or send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. We’ll need to know (1) the tours you’re interested in, (2) your preferred date, and (3) the number of people in your party, adults and children. We’ll then send you some information and help you book. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!
Restaurants in Esterillos Oeste
Esterillos Oeste has a few small local restaurants and new options have started popping up, offering more contemporary food.
Los Almendros is the most well-known restaurant in town and for good reason. The cuisine is fresh and made with local ingredients and housemade sauces. Asian-Caribbean fusion dishes like Pad Thai, Caribbean-style Chicken, and Jamaican Jerk fill the menu. Also features a fresh catch like mahi mahi or tuna and has vegan and vegetarian options. Open for dinner only. Located one block up from the beach, near the soccer field and under the almond trees.
El Patio Bar and Grill
El Patio has been open for only a short time but already has made quite an impression. Locals love the casual, but refined, fare and friendly service. They have a big Tex Mex menu, wings, and more upscale offerings like steak and fresh fish entrees. We think that the burger is one of the best in Costa Rica. Open for lunch and dinner. Located next to Super Sol grocery store, a hundred or so meters before the beach.
This chill pizza place at Hotel Rancho Coral is right on the beach, so a great option for grabbing a bite in between waves. The thin-crust pies are made in a brick oven with fresh, tasty ingredients. Rancho Coral is run by the same people as El Patio so you can expect the same friendly service. Open breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Doesn’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own. Located on the sandy beach trail/road to the left when the paved road ends; look for the thatched roof rancho shortly after the school. You can also access the restaurant from the inland side (follow signs for the school) and park in their lot.
For authentic Costa Rican food, there’s Soda Margarita. This super rustic restaurant is run by a local lady who serves up delicious traditional meals for breakfast and lunch. Our favorite dish on our recent visit was the arroz con camarones, a fried rice plate that was perfectly seasoned and full of shrimp. Located in a neighborhood on the very northern end of town. Look for the path to the left before you reach the parking area. The small restaurant is set back (near a large tree) and has a palm thatched roof.
Accommodations in and Around Esterillos Oeste
Being a small town, Esterillos Oeste doesn’t have a ton of accommodations. A few simple hotels and campgrounds are spread out along the beach. Airbnbs and vacation rentals can be found seaside or up in the hills just outside town, many with ocean views.
Hotel Rancho Coral
Right in Esterillos Oeste is one very good budget to mid-range option. Hotel Rancho Coral is a comfortable 7-room hotel on the beach, surrounded by thick tropical greenery. Rooms have varying bed configurations and can hold up to six people, making them a good option for families and groups. We recommend the Deluxe Villa for the best ocean view. The staff at Rancho Coral is very friendly, and the hotel has a delicious on-site restaurant (see above). $55-165/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita is another budget-friendly option. The hotel is also right on the beach, but in the center of town. Rooms are on the small side and simpler, but clean and comfortable and all have a kitchen for cooking and AC. One room has a direct ocean view. La Dolce Vita has a small pool. $45-85/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here.
Backpackers love the Spot, one block inland. This simple hostel has colorful private and shared rooms made from old shipping containers. Visitors love the owner who really makes the place feel like home. Private rooms starting at $35/night. Bed in a shared dorm, $10/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Higher End Option Nearby – Alma del Pacifico Hotel
Our pick for a high-end stay is Alma del Pacifico Hotel in neighboring Esterillos Este. This is a beautiful boutique hotel with 20 villas and bungalows on the ocean. The architecture of the hotel has unique artistic flair, with bright colors and lots of curvature. Some rooms have direct ocean views and private plunge pools. $160-500/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Since moving to the central Pacific coast earlier this year, we have fallen in love with Esterillos Oeste. It has quickly become our go-to place to hang out on the weekend. Our whole family loves to soak up the laid back beach vibe and enjoy the good food at the seaside restaurants. If you’re coming to the central Pacific coast, make sure to check it out too!
Have a question about visiting Esterillos Oeste? Ask us in the comments below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Esterillos Oeste? Check out these posts:
Rainmaker Nature Reserve: About 45 minutes from Esterillos Oeste is Rainmaker, a nature reserve with hiking through dense rainforest, hanging bridges, and waterfalls. Plan your visit with this post.
Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town: Learn about what Jaco offers for activities and restaurants. Includes some gorgeous secluded beaches, info on the weekly farmers market, and more.
Rental Car Discount: Esterillos Oeste is best explored with a rental car so that you can check out other area towns and things to do. Use our discount to save 10% and get free extras