The Playa Avellanas Area: Going Off-the-Beaten Path in Guanacaste

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.

Playa Avellanas Area Destination Guide


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.

Road to Playa Avellanas
The dirt road to Playa Avellanas, coming from Tamarindo

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

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.

Playa Lagartillo

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.

Playa Lagartillo Costa Rica
The secluded Playa Lagartillo

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.

Playa Negra

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.

Surfing Playa Negra Guanacaste
Shredding the waves at Playa Negra

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.

Horseback Riding

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.

Lunch Lola's Playa Avellanas
Fresh tuna poke at Lola’s

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!

Jalapenos Mexican restaurant Playa Negra

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.

Villa Drift Away Eco Lodge
One of the villas at Drift Away Eco Lodge


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 ConvenienceTamarindo 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.


  1. Many years ago we visited Lola’s and learned it was named for their pet pig. The next time we went there was a new, younger Lola. Have they continued this tradition?

    1. So happy you know some of our history, fantastic! We had Lola and then Lolita. Now we have Ave y Ana (sounds like Avellana when you say their names together!) They’re sisters and are going to be about half the size of the others. You can see some photos on our Facebook or Instagram. You can get to both of those through our website 🐷🐷

  2. Hi Jenn and Matt!

    Your website and help with my questions has been wonderful. You have helped us decide on Playa Samara. We would like to book our rental car using your connection, but do not know where the nearest drop off is for Playa Samara. Do you have any idea? Also, for the time that we are at Playa Samara, we don’t need a car, so we hope to be using you folks to arrange a transport from Liberia Airport to Playa Samara.

    Our rental car arrangement would be P/U at Playa Samara or nearest location and drop off 1 week later at SJO.

    We are a group of 7 travelers in our family.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Eric, Glad your family’s plans are coming together!

      We appreciate you wanting to rent your car through our discount. Adobe Rent a Car does not have an office in Samara. The nearest location is in Liberia, which is probably too far for them to deliver it to you, unfortunately. You would need to get to Liberia if you wanted to pick up after Samara and use Adobe. There are other rental car companies in Samara if that doesn’t work.

      We can definitely help arrange your shuttle from LIR Airport to Samara. The easiest way is for you to go through our online booking engine. Here is the link to the shuttle for that particular trip.

  3. Thank you Jenn & Matt. I have been reading all your articles on destinations to go to and what each place offers and what to do. You are a wealth of information and I have found all your articles especially this one as a great resource to send to friends and family that are traveling down and looking for recommendations! Avellana is one of my favorite spots and love to head down here for the beaches and surf! And of course Lolas.

    1. Hi Kristina, Glad you are finding our articles to be helpful. Thank you for sharing them! We love Avellanas and Lola’s too. Wish we lived closer so we could go more often. Pura vida!

  4. coming dec 2021 for a 30 day stay. wondering about covid testing for return to the states. any convenient and reliable testing sites or labs in the vicinity? hate to have to think about that stuff but seems to reality now a days!

    1. Hi Brian, We have a whole article on Covid testing locations. Here is the link. Scroll down to Tamarindo. There are several options. You could also get tested at the airport before your flight.

  5. Hello Jenn and Matt,
    We are planning a family spring break trip with teenagers in April of 2022. We have rented a villa at Hacienda Pinilla. We are looking for a person or service to stock our fridge and cook few meals for us. Do you have any recommendations? I think we have direct access to Lola’s from our place, so we will be there alot also.

    also if you have any must do things for 16 year old boys, please let me know.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Kristin, We don’t have a recommendation for someone to do shopping for you, but if you ask your host at Hacienda Pinilla, they should be able to help you. This service is definitely available. And yes, Lola’s will be a great option for you!

      Your boys would probably enjoy a catamaran cruise, zip lining, and maybe surf lessons. ATV can be fun too and a great way to see different beaches in the area. Hope your family has a wonderful trip!

  6. Hello Jenn & Matt,
    We are a family of four are flying into LIB for a week just after Easter and looking for a place to rent. Our last trip was 5 years ago to Uvita and was very special. We had an amazing time and my daughters (11 & 12) haven’t stopped asking about coming back to CR! We are planning to rent a house and would like something off the beaten path but close to some nice beaches and wildlife. We have been discussing the areas surrounding Playa Avellanas vs Samara. Would you recommend one over the other?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Tucker, We think either the Avellanas area or Samara would fit what you’re looking for. Samara is less off the beaten path and has most everything in one main area. Playa Avellanas is more spread out and quieter. These areas will have less wildlife than Uvita but you will still be able to see some monkeys, birds, iguanas, etc. Samara has a ni e hike too where you can see wildlife – the Werner Sauter Reserve. Hope that helps you decide!

      1. Thanks for the reply. We actually decided to head back to the Uvita area, Coronado. We really loved the wildlife, greenery, fresh water streams, etc of that area this time of year.. Thank you again for your site! Love following your adventures and learning about things to do in CR. -Tucker

    2. Kristin, I just booked a trip in Jan to Hacienda Pinilla. I’ve found very few people who have been there – could you share your experience? We are looking for a low-key, safe experience but with the ability to do some fairly easily accessible activities. Did you choose to do any of the acitivites offered in the resort? Would love your feedback!

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