Last Updated: November 26, 2021
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 public parking for Playa Mantas, the adjacent beach. Parking is 1,000 colones per hour (about $1.50).
The lot has a gate and guard. You’ll take a ticket, then pay at the guard station before you leave (cash only).
Tip: Arrive early to get a parking spot. Although this beach isn’t well known by tourists, it is a favorite spot among locals and public parking is limited. Ticos from the surrounding towns and San Jose often hit up this beach for holidays and weekends. Sunday is typically the busiest beach day, followed by Saturday, so visit during the week if you can.
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.
At lower tides, you can climb along the small rocks near the middle of the point. This is the easiest way as the rocks are fairly flat.
To do this, you’ll walk past the steep embankment (discussed below) and continue on the sand out towards the point. You’ll soon see an opening through the rocks to cross to the other side.
At higher tides, you’ll have to maneuver up a steeper embankment closer to the mainland. A lot of people take this route, and 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
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.
Also 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: November 26, 2021
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.