The Guanacaste region, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, is a tourism hotspot known for its miles of beautiful beach. But those seeking a more remote feel won’t have to look far. Just south of the bustling destination of Tamarindo is the Playa Avellanas area. Here, the road turns to dirt and the jungle becomes undeveloped and pristine. In this destination guide, we’ll give you a feel for the Playa Avellanas area, its surrounding beaches, restaurants, hotels, and things to do.
The Playa Avellanas area is in northern Guanacaste Province, about 30 minutes south of Tamarindo. Playa Avellanas is the largest beach town in the area, though it is still quite modest in size. It doesn’t have a town center. Rather, a handful of casual restaurants and some surf camps and cabinas are spread out along the road to the beach.
About 1.5 km (1 mile) south of Avellanas is the quiet town of Playa Lagartillo. Small-town life abounds here. In between resident Ticos going about their daily business is the occasional small hotel or vacation rental.
Two kilometers (1.25 miles) past Lagartillo is the town of Los Pargos, best known for Playa Negra. This is another popular surf spot with more options for restaurants and accommodations.
The closest airport to Playa Avellanas, Playa Lagartillo, and Playa Negra is Liberia International (LIR), at about 1.5 hours. San Jose International Airport (SJO) is about 4 hours away.
Activities in the Playa Avellanas Area
Most people visiting the Playa Avellanas area come for its quiet, uncrowded beaches. Below is some more information about the beaches, as well as some other things to do.
For additional activities nearby, check out our Tamarindo destination guide.
Beaches and Surfing
Playa Avellanas is one of our favorite beaches in this part of the country. It’s well-known for surfing and has varied conditions for almost every level. The beautiful light tan sand is nice for walking, and you can explore the rocks at low tide.
But what makes this beach special is the fun seaside restaurant called Lola’s. Lola’s is the perfect spot to grab a frosty beer or fruity drink after a full morning of surfing, boogie boarding, or beach combing.
Read our post Playa Avellanas: Surf, Sun, and Fun in Guanacaste for more information.
The next beach past Playa Avellanas is Playa Lagartillo. This small beach isn’t well-known and you’ll often find no one else there.
A nice way to spend an hour or so is to walk the sand going south. Playa Lagartillo has a very wild feel, with interesting driftwood, rocky outcroppings, and untamed vegetation. Along the way, you’ll cross a small river and get a glimpse of the lush, green scenery inland.
The beach has some rocky spots as we mentioned, but you can swim if the waves aren’t too big.
Access to Playa Lagartillo is along a rustic 4×4 road/trail. This is directly across the street from the road to the Drift Away Eco Lodge. Here is a map with the location. The trail is narrow and can be muddy, so it’s easiest to just walk the five or so minutes. There is a small stream to cross in the rainy months, but conditions are fine and the water generally isn’t too deep. We did it with our two young children.
Another 10 minutes south of Playa Lagartillo is Playa Negra. This surfing beach is popular with locals and expats alike, who have made Playa Negra home because of its fantastic waves. The reef break is one of Guanacaste’s most famous.
Playa Negra has gorgeous light tan sand. Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s a fun spot because of all the surfers coming and going.
To get to this beach, look for the turnoff right as you’re coming into town (shortly after Corazon Coffee Roasters). Follow the dirt road to the end. You’ll come to a nice big parking lot with an attendant who will watch your car for around 2,000 colones ($3 or so). From there, just follow the brick path past the Playa Negra Surf Shop to reach the main area of the beach.
Those looking to recharge with some yoga will find several options in the area. Yoga studios and retreat centers are located in both Playa Avellanas and Playa Negra.
A great way to take in the area’s raw natural beauty is on horseback. Small local operators will take you along the beach or through the jungle to show you hidden spots that you wouldn’t find on your own.
Tours are available out of Playa Avellanas.
Amenities in the Playa Avellanas Area
Because the Playa Avellanas area is rural, we recommend coming stocked with the essentials. Larger grocery stores are farther away in Tamarindo, but there are some small markets that carry the basics.
There are no banks or ATMs nearby so be sure to carry some cash. Most restaurants do accept credit cards.
Restaurants in the Playa Avellanas Area
Since tourism is one of the main industries, one thing you will find plenty of is restaurants. Here are a few we have tried and enjoyed.
Lola’s (Playa Avellanas)
We mentioned this above, but Lola’s is a must-visit when in the Avellanas area. Over the years, it has become one of Costa Rica’s most famous beachside restaurants. With lofty wooden tables spread out along the sand among shady palm and almond trees, Lola’s always draws a crowd.
It’s a good place to grab a drink and an appetizer while watching the waves, or they have a full menu with a range of international offerings. Find the menu on their website.
Il Rustico (Playa Avellanas)
For authentic Italian food, head to Il Rustico on the main road in Playa Avellanas. This casual restaurant is owned by a young couple from central Italy. They have homemade pasta, pizza, and salads. Everything is delicious here, and they use high-quality ingredients. Our prosciutto pizza came complete with freshly shaved parmesan. Check out their menu on their Facebook page.
Jalapeño Eatery & Market (Playa Negra)
A staple in Playa Negra, Jalapeño Eatery & Market has been serving up breakfast and lunch to hungry surfers since 2008. They use high-quality, local ingredients (organic whenever possible) in their burritos, tacos, and salads. The eggs come right from their backyard, and the friendly owner will give you a tour of the cute chicken coop upon request. Be sure to try their homemade hot sauces!
Hotels in the Playa Avellanas Area
Accommodations in the Playa Avellanas area are smaller; you won’t find any of the elaborate resorts and hotels like in Tamarindo here. But there are plenty of nice places with all the amenities you would need. Most lodges and vacation rentals are set in the jungle or just a short distance from the beach.
Here is one great accommodation option in the area.
Drift Away Eco Lodge
Centrally located in Playa Lagartillo is the charming Drift Away Eco Lodge. This small lodge has a mix of accommodations set among flowering gardens and interesting tropical plants. One building houses the contemporary rooms, while four freestanding villas with kitchenettes are spread out in another part of the property.
This lodge is truly eco-friendly and sustainable, from their locally made soaps and cleaning products to the pool, which was made using reclaimed materials. A large yoga studio is located on-site. Guests get free use of bicycles, surfboards, boogie boards, and beach umbrellas.
One of the best things about the lodge is the staff, which is so friendly and welcoming. We really enjoyed our stay here. $75-300/night.
If you’re looking to explore Guanacaste’s lesser known beaches, the Playa Avellanas area has a lot to offer. Surfers will find no end to the area’s many amazing surf beaches. The wild, natural setting is also a great place to just relax and quiet the mind. After a few nights here, you’re sure to feel recharged and ready to start your next adventure.
Have a question about visiting the Playa Avellanas area? Or have you been before? Leave us a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:
Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience – Tamarindo has a totally different feel but can be a nice contrast from Playa Avellanas and convenient since it is close by. Learn more about this popular destination with this post.
Playa Pavones: Surfing and Seclusion on the Southern Pacific – Pavones is an even more off-the-beaten path surf destination in the rainforest-rich Southern Zone.
Rental Car Discount: When visiting somewhere remote like Playa Avellanas, we highly recommend a rental car so that you can explore. Check out our discount to save at least 10% and get free extras like a surfboard rack and cooler.