Last Updated: March 2, 2023
When you think of beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, you probably think of the shell-filled Playa Conchal, the pristine Playa Flamingo, and maybe even Playa Punta Uva with its caramel-colored sand and lush jungle backdrop. One area that typically doesn’t come to mind is Jaco. But just a short drive from this bustling seaside town is a gorgeous white-sand beach called Playa Blanca (sometimes called Punta Leona). It is one of the prettiest we’ve seen in Costa Rica. Below is everything you need to know to plan your visit to this hidden gem.
Playa Blanca is located just north of the town of Herradura on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. While just a 15-minute drive from the popular Playa Jaco, this beach is not well known among tourists. It is unmarked and many people think that you can access it only if you’re staying at the Punta Leona Hotel.
This is not the case. Like all beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Blanca is open to the public. It is a bit hidden, though, so you do have to know how to get there.
Getting to Playa Blanca
From Jaco or Playa Herradura, head north along the Costanera highway, 34. Just before the Punta Leona Resort, you’ll take a left onto a paved road. If you’re coming from Jaco, this road is shortly after a large restaurant called Los Guarumos.
Drive about 10 minutes along this road, passing fields and rainforest and then through parts of the resort. The road is paved at first, then turns to dirt and back to pavement again once you’re closer to Punta Leona.
Along the way, a security guard may take down your license plate number. If they ask, just tell them you are going to Playa Mantas (the beach right next to Playa Blanca).
Near the end of the road, you’ll reach a large parking lot. This is parking for Playa Mantas, the adjacent beach. Parking is currently 15,000 colones per day (about $28) payable in cash only. The lot has a gate and guard.
IMPORTANT: The parking lot is open to the public Monday through Friday only. See the Tips for Visiting section, below, for more information.
The first beach you’ll come to from the parking area is the gray sand Playa Mantas. This picturesque cove is also a nice place to spend the day if you can’t climb the rocks to get over to Playa Blanca.
Playa Mantas is a calm cove so good for swimming and has lots of tall palms and thick shrubbery for shade.
For more information about visiting, read our post, Playa Mantas: Calm Water and a Local Vibe.
Crossing Over to Playa Blanca
For those wanting to experience Playa Blanca, you’ll have to walk a few minutes south to a point.
Playa Blanca lies just on the other side of the point. The only way to get to it, unless you’re staying at Punta Leona Hotel, is on foot.
There are a couple of different ways to cross.
Crossing the Point at Low Tide
At lower tides, you can climb along the small rocks near the middle of the point. This is the easiest way as it’s fairly flat.
To do this, you’ll walk past the steep embankment (discussed below) and continue on the sand/rocks towards the point. You’ll soon see an opening through the rocks to cross to the other side.
Over the Embankment at Higher Tides
At higher tides, you’ll have to maneuver up a steeper embankment. This is before the point, right near where the sand ends on Playa Mantas.
A lot of people take this route since it drops you off closer to the main area of Playa Blanca.
You’ll see logs propped up to make the ascent a little easier. It is not too hard to get up, but not for everyone. Access it the other way at low tide if you have limited mobility.
Note: Playa Blanca is best accessed at low and mid tides. You’ll still have to walk along the rocks on the beach to get to the embankment, and these can be covered in water and slippery at higher tides. Here is a link to the tide chart.
Once you make to the other side, you’ll be well rewarded. With fluffy white sand, clear turquoise water, lofty palm trees, and even Scarlet Macaw parrots flying overhead, Playa Blanca is the epitome of tropical paradise.
For us, it is the most beautiful beach we have found along this stretch of the Pacific Coast.
Tips for Visiting Playa Blanca
Parking and Closures
Previously, the Playa Mantas parking lot was operated by the municipality and open to the public seven days a week. However, as of August 2022, Club Punta Leona is now administering it.
Some important changes have been made.
Now, the parking lot is closed to the general public on Saturday and Sunday and certain holidays. Only members of Club Punta Leona can visit during these times. The lot is open to the public Monday through Friday.
Parking is very expensive at 15,000 colones for the day (about $28). Payable in cash only.
There are no other options for parking in the immediate area, unfortunately. You can take a mini-bus to get to Playa Mantas, though. See our Playa Mantas post for more information.
How Much Time to Spend
As the beach is a bit of work to get to, plan to spend at least a few hours, if not the whole day. Bring along snorkel equipment if you have it for some casual snorkeling along the reef and rocks just offshore.
Be sure to carry whatever food and drink you’ll need for the day as there are no restaurants or amenities for the public.
We were thrilled to discover Playa Blanca years ago when spending time in the Jaco area. Now that we live nearby, we get back whenever we can. It’s a nice change from the surfing beaches typical along this stretch of coast. With its calm water for swimming, pristine white sand, and alluring water, Playa Blanca is surely a welcome oasis.
Last Updated: March 2, 2023
What’s your favorite beach on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast? Let us know in the comments below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:
Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials – Wondering what to bring for that beach getaway? Get practical tips and info with this list.
Family Travel: Visiting Costa Rica with the kids? We have many articles in our family travel section, with recommended activities, places to stay, and more.
Jaco Restaurant Guide: Check out our favorite restaurants in the Jaco area.
What a beautiful place! My family has visited Costa Rica a few times (I’ve missed out on the trip each time) I’ll have to pass this on to them for the next time they go!
Thanks Kayla. Playa Blanca is a beautiful spot. Hope you make it on their next trip to see for yourself!
Dear Matt and Jen, Thanks so much for this tip and the great directions. I’ve heard that you need to have a 4 x 4 to get to beautiful Playa Blanca. Is this true?
Thanks for your fantastic blog!
Hi Marsha, great question. No you don’t need a 4×4. The road is dirt and has small bumps but it is relatively flat and smooth. We saw a lot of regular cars making the trip when we went so you should be fine. 🙂
Playa Blanca is beautiful! One of Costa Rica’s hidden gems.
Fantastic article as usual. thank you!
Matt – Found your blog today. I’ve been living in Costa Rica for 8 months and have been trying to find a way around Punta Leona to Playa Blanca for some time…we usually go to Playa Bejuco or Esterillos Oeste. I have the kids all day tomorrow, so we will try out your route. Thanks for the website.
Excellent, glad to help!
We will be staying at villa Punta mar. Will we be able to access this beach from there. They said we have a golf cart to get to the beach from the house.
Hi Greg and Cindy, We aren’t familiar with Villa Punta Mar but it looks like it’s just north of Playa Blanca and the listing we saw said you can access the beach from the property so you should be able to no problem. Have a great trip- you’ll be in a really beautiful spot!
Hi guys, my wife and I are coming down to Costa Rica for 2 weeks. 2nd time this winter, we are staying in playa flamingo and heard about playa Blanca. We are looking to buy something on the beach. Any suggestions..
Hi Joe, There are some condos along Playa Blanca but we don’t know of anything specific for sale. Your best option would be to talk to a reputable real estate agent in Herradura or Jaco.
Thanks for this tip! We went to Playa Blanca while we were in Costa Rica. We needed to get back during high tide but the water was too high on the Playa Mantas side to get back. We walked on the road through the resort back to the parking lot. The guard didn’t stop us and we just pretended to know what we were doing. A tip for anyone who needs to get there or back during high tide!
Haha, good tip Judith! Thanks for sharing.
We just went to Playa Mantas today and sneaked a peak at Playa Blanca using your tip. We found both beaches very nice but Mantas had much calmer waves that were better for our young kids.
Also the “guard” was just a kid that asked us if we wanted him to keep an eye on our car in the hopes of getting a tip… a pretty common occurrence from what we have seen in different places.
Hi Peter, Thanks for the trip report. Glad you enjoyed the beaches and that Mantas was calm for your kids. Yeah it is usually pretty informal with the parking attendants here, but they definitely serve an important purpose and it’s always nice to tip them for their help. Sometimes at Playa Mantas they do have a set daily rate for parking, especially when it’s busy.
Is there a place nearby to pick up a picnic lunch to take with us?
Hi Laurie, Your best bet is probably the Auto Mercardo in Herradura. It’s a North American-style grocery store that has all the usual stuff plus premade sandwiches and a few other things. It’s right off the highway in a plaza where the traffic light is in Herradura. If you’re staying in Jaco, Panaderia Artisenal also has really awesome sandwiches.
Hi Jenn and Matt, thank you for your precises instructions to get to playa Mantas and Playa Blanca. My husband and me spent a beautiful day at this place and we also did snorkle. (Sorry for my approximatively english, I speak french, I’m not so good in english).
That’s great to hear, Nancy. Thanks for letting us know. How was the snorkeling when you were there? Did you see much?
Response from Nancy, 7/18/16: “We did a nice dive considering we did not expect to do on this side of Costa Rica. It was certainly not the best dive we did. There were a few fish in different colors. We especially enjoyed being isolated from others in such a beautiful environment.”
I visited Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca with my family last week. Both of those beaches are worth visiting and spending time at. The calm waters on Playa Blanca make it especially suitable for kids, of which we have 5.
I am a “tico” that have been living in CR all my life… and to be honest I haven´t visit playa blanca!! I tried to go there last march 29th, but we were not prepare, so we got to playa mantas just to know how to get there, I will try to go this weekend! Road still in good conditions, I do not have a 4×4, and I was able to get there in my car, and planning to go now in bike as I have been doing it for a year with my wyfe and some good friends, and I am pretty sure we still have to know a lot of other beautiful places here in CR!!
Thanks for sharing great things about our country!
Hi Carlos, Hope it works out for you and your wife to visit the beach this weekend. Thanks for commenting and checking out our website. We always love hearing from the locals. Pura vida!
We stayed at Villa Caletas (which is amazing, by the way) and made the short drive to Playa Blanca one day last week. It was just as you described and perfect. We very much enjoyed the vibe of families and friends grilling and drinking at the beach on a Sunday afternoon.
Your blog was a great resource during our trip and we look forward to getting back to CR soon.
Hi Bill, That’s great to hear that you took advantage of Playa Blanca, since you were almost right there. Glad you enjoyed the beach and your time in Costa Rica. Villa Caletas is in an amazing spot. We have been there before. Pura vida!
I’m leaving to Punta Leona tomorrow from San Jose via bus to Jaco. Would you know if there is a bus from Jaco to the resort or is taxi the only available means of transportation?
Hi Robin, Sorry we weren’t able to answer this in time. I don’t think there’s a bus so hope you were able to grab a taxi or a ride with someone.
How far is San Jose from this area by car??? We want to stay in this area, but visit the dog sanctuary Territorio de Zaguates which is near San Jose
Hi Faye, The Punta Leona/Playa Blanca area is about 2 hrs from that dog sanctuary (San Jose proper is closer but you have to drive into the mountains a bit to get to the sanctuary). You could do it on a day trip if you left early, but if you can squeeze in an overnight, that would make for a more relaxing visit.
Hi! Is it possible to take a taxi to this beach? We wont have a rental car but would love to visit here.
Hi Darlene, It’s definitely possible to take a taxi, but the beach is quite far from Jaco if that’s where you are staying, so the fare would likely be a lot for both ways. It would probably be cheaper to just rent an inexpensive 2wd for the day. If you end up doing this, check out our rental car discount. Adobe has an office in Herradura and can probably deliver the car to your hotel for you for no extra charge.
We are staying in Herradura. We did decide to rent a car from SJO and drive to the resort there. Is it necessary to have a 4×4 for that trip? About how far is playa blanca from Herradura?
No, it can be done in a regular 2wd. The road to the beach is dirt but in good condition. It’s around 20-25 minutes from Herradura.
Do you know if the local buses run from Jaco to the Playa Blanca area?
Hi Brittany, Any bus heading north on Route 34 (e.g., towards Tarcoles, Puntarenas, Orotina, or even San José) will pass by the road that leads to the beach. So you could take one of those and ask the driver to let you off at Punta Leona (make sure it’s not a direct bus, but instead is a local one that makes stops along the way). It is a very long walk from there to the beach, though. If you’re not comfortable trying to grab a ride, we’d recommend renting a car for the day. You wouldn’t need a 4×4 so it would be affordable (around $40-55). Check out our Rental Car Discount Page for more information.
Thanks so much!
Thanks for the tips on Playa Blanca and Playa Matas, Jenn and Matt. They are both beautiful beaches. We stayed at Hotel y Club Punta Leona from 6/15/17 to 6/21/17 and had a nice time. Some mornings during the weekdays, we practically had both beaches to ourselves. It was a very relaxing vacation.
That’s great to hear, Gene, especially that you had the beaches almost to yourselves. Thanks for sharing your experience!
We just got back from a weekend in Punta Leona and Playa Blanca. What a treat! We were treated with great weather, beautiful surf, Scarlet Macaws, a plentitude of Iguanas, crabs and other birds. We stayed with Alexandra and Stevewho hosted us via in their beautiful condo, complete with infinity pool, views of Playa Blanca and incredible breakfasts!
If you can, don’t miss Punta Leona, it is one of the most specials areas in Costa Rica.
Not sure if you will get this or not since your post was a while ago. We are considering staying in a condo at Punta Leona for four nights. Are there any restaurants and bars nearby other than what is at the Punta Leona Hotel? Have to make a decision! Thank you!
Hi Lisa, There isn’t much in the immediate vicinity of Punta Leona, other than what you will find at the resort. Up on the highway, you’ll find a few restaurants serving local food and Playa Herradura and Jaco aren’t too far away, but you do have to drive.
We are hoping to visit soon! Do you have any hotel recommendations?
Hi Sarah, Hotel Punta Leona is right there and there are some condos too. You could also stay in nearby Jaco or Playa Herradura, but these are a drive away.
Hi! Wonderful recommendation!! The beaches are beautiful. However, heed our warning….we went during low tide and we still did the steeper climb because of time and distance. It wasn’t too bad and we had a small cooler, a backpack and two light chairs. But, leave during low tide!!! We stayed for about and hour and a half and noticed the tide was coming up at playa Blanca. Once we crossed over to playa mantas, it was very dangerous. The rocks are slippery. I don’t care if you’re barefoot or have on great water shoes, good luck making it across these rocks. There was large driftwood washing up. I stayed low to avoid falling and suffering a severe injury, like head trauma. This being said, I was still drug across the rocks. We made it, frustrated but lucky we only walked away with scrapes and small cuts. We are active, healthy people who had just finished a very intense hike that morning. Just be careful!!!!
Hi Jenn & Matt,
Thanks for the great recommendation. I just visited Playa Blanca Today and it was it definitely worth.
Do you know how to get ther by bus
Hi Audrey, We recently answered this question. Please scroll up to our response to Brittany on March 6, 2018.
Holà Matt and jenn!
As you recommended, we went to playa mantas and then playa Blanca to spend the day.
It was awesome, one of the best beach to spend the day with kids.
(We had 5 on that day!)
We arrived a bit too late and had to wait for the parking but it was worth it.
Playa Mantas was great for swimming and playa Blanca was clear water with few waves.
Hi Matt and Jenn!
Yesterday we went to Playa Blanca following your directions.
– Currently there are works on the “dirt road” to Playa Mantas and the first small part of the road is paved.
– Now there is an official parking next to Playa Mantas which costs 1000 colons per hour. It is a big one. We’ve arrived late (around 2 pm) and there were still planty of parking spots.
– Between Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca there was a roap to help the climbing of the steep rocks.
– Attention! It is important to leave Playa Blanca well before the peak of the high tight (like 1,5-2 hours earlier).
Yesterday we’ve left only 1 hour before high tight (at 4:30 pm) and it was very challenging and scary to cross the rocks of Playa Mantas.
Thank you for all the helpful information on your website. It has been a true guide for us.
Mariya and Rogier
how does this beach compare with Manuel Antonio? We are thinking about going here instead of MA as it is closer to SJO.
Hi Vicky, Playa Blanca is just a beach, albeit beautiful, whereas Manuel Antonio is a town with a lot of amenities like restaurants and shops. There isn’t much around Playa Blanca- you would need to go to the Jaco area, which isn’t too far with a rental car.
Hey Matt and Jenn! Great article and you are right, Playa Blanca is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. I work in the area in vacation rentals. Since you last visited, there is now a much larger parking lot where the small one used to be, however, they charge 1000 ($1.70 on this date) colones per hour.
I’ve visited beaches on the Pacific Ocean side and the Caribbean Sea side of Costa Rica, and to me, Playa Blanca at Punta Leona pales in comparison to the Caribbean Sea’s Playa Blanca in the Cahuita National Park. Second to that would be Playa Bonita in Puerto Limón.
Is there anyone on Playa Mantas or Blanca renting chairs or umbrellas to use?
Hi Alissa, No, there are no chair or umbrella rentals on these beaches. There are chairs on Playa Blanca but they are for guests of the Punta Leona Resort.
Hi there, We will be staying in a condo right by Playa Blanca in June. Do you have any recommendations for a sailing trip from the local area? It appears the closest marina is Herradura.
Hi Joni, Yes, we do have a recommendation for a catamaran tour to Tortuga Island. It leaves from Herradura. Please just reply to this thread if you’d like us to send more details about the tour and help you with the reservation.
I would welcome any information about reputable sailing or boating for a family of 7.
Hello! Are there any locker areas on or near Playa Blanca? Thank you!
Hi Chelsie, Unfortunately, there aren’t lockers or any other amenities around. Only if you are staying at the Punta Leona Resort.
Hello, i visited on Monday Feb 6 and the parking fee was 10,000. A bit of a scam going on here … the initial ask was 15,000. When I objected it came down to 10000.
Parking rates are ridiculous
Hi Richard, It is definitely sketchy and frustrating. Yes, the new official rate is 15,000 for the day – way too much money. That’s crazy that they took less. Playa Blanca and Playa Mantas used to be our go to beaches so we aren’t too happy with how the municipality is renting the parking to the resort.
In any case, we’ve updated our posts with the new prices.