Last Updated: October 24, 2019
The distinct sound of a million tiny seashells gently shuffling with each lapping wave will forever be what we imagine when thinking of Playa Conchal. Usually specific beaches don’t make our destinations’ list, but for Playa Conchal in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, we’ve made an exception. Not only is the beach itself stunning, but its location, tucked away in a private cove, makes it the perfect place to escape all the stresses of life. This post will give you everything you need to plan your own visit, whether it’s a relaxing day with the kids or a romantic week-long getaway.
The Setting at Playa Conchal
Costa Rica has dozens of gorgeous beaches, but what makes Playa Conchal so special? In one word, location. Playa Conchal is virtually cut off from the rest of the world. This is because to get there you either have to walk along the shore from the adjacent fishing village of Playa Brasilito or be a guest at the Westin Golf Resort and Spa or another resort that backs the beach. Although it does take a bit of effort, once you arrive, you’ll be glad you did.
Situated between two rocky points, Playa Conchal has calm, aquamarine water, which is great for swimming. To further entice, there are picturesque islets offshore and craggy cliffs on the far southern end.
But what makes Playa Conchal most unique is its sand. As we eluded to, this beach seems to be a magnet for seashells. Unlike anywhere else in the country, pink, white, and tan shells make up the sand. A gentle tumbling of waves breaks these treasures into polished granules that are not only pleasing to the eye, but easy on the feet too. It is these tiny fragments that earned Playa Conchal (Shell Beach) its name.
Available right on the beach in Playa Conchal are snorkel masks, jet skis, and kayaks. You can also rent beach chairs and tents for shade, and there are usually vendors selling pipas frias (cold coconuts), BBQ kabobs, and even frosty beers if you get thirsty for an Imperial. The beach usually isn’t too crowded so there’s plenty of room to lay down a towel. Shade on the sand can be sparse if you don’t rent a tent since there isn’t much vegetation so keep that in mind.
Playa Conchal has decent snorkeling right from the shore. In the clear water near the rocks at the northern end, you can spot some colorful fish. We’ve seen pufferfish, eel, needlefish, and schools of grunts. Mid or lower tides provide the best conditions.
If you’re looking for more to do, the area has plenty of other activities. Horseback riding, ATV tours, sunset cruises, sport-fishing, and scuba diving are all available locally. On one of our visits, we booked a two-hour horseback tour from Playa Brasilito and rode along the beach, past Playa Conchal, and out to a scenic vantage point on the nearby cliffs. After we got back, we had a tasty lunch at one of the small, locally owned seafood restaurants in Brasilito and shopped for souvenirs in a few of the stores nearby.
For those staying at the Westin, there are some more things to do. The resort has a professional 18-hole golf course, spa, workout facility, tennis courts, and a kids’ club to keep the little ones busy. For when you just want to relax with a fruity cocktail, there’s also the massive lagoon-style swimming pool.
Playa Conchal is located on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast. It is less than an hour from Liberia International Airport (62 km away) and only 20 minutes north of the popular surfing and tourist town of Tamarindo. As we mentioned above, the closest town to Playa Conchal is Brasilito, which has a good mix of local culture and tourist amenities.
Beach Access – New Parking Lot
Guests of the Westin and other resorts can pass through a wide gate and stroll right onto the beach. For everyone else, the best way is to follow the beach south from Brasilito. You used to be able to drive on this stretch, but the municipality has blocked access. Now the only way is to walk the ten or 15 minutes down the sand. This is a really nice walk anyway, especially if you splash your way along the water’s edge.
For parking, you can either leave your car along the soccer field in Brasilito or use the new parking lot on Route 180 (the road into town). We recommend the new lot. If you park along the soccer field, you can pay someone to watch your car for a few dollars, but this is still less secure than the new lot.
One of the resorts along Playa Conchal built the lot and now provides free shuttle service to Brasilito. The lot is large, guarded, and has outdoor showers and bathrooms. A comfortable, air-conditioned shuttle van runs from the lot regularly and will drop you off in Brasilito as close to the beach as they can. Just let the driver know what time you’d like to be picked up after your visit, and they will come get you.
This may sound too good to be true, but we have used the service and it worked perfectly and was free. Here’s a map with directions to the lot (the map point is approximate). Look for the sign on the right as you’re coming into Brasilito that says “Facilidades Ecoturisticas Brasilito.” If you pass the Alamo Rent a Car or small bridge, you’ve gone too far. Hours are 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Westin Golf Resort and Spa
The obvious choice for lodging in Playa Conchal is the Westin Golf Resort and Spa since it borders the beach. The Westin has rooms for almost every type of traveler, from the Family Beach Club if you’re coming with kids to the luxurious, adults-only Royal Beach Club for a more romantic setting. The resort is highly regarded for service, and though it is all-inclusive, the food at the 10+ restaurants is above average. $400-1,000/night all-inclusive, double occupancy. Check Rates and Availability Here.
For those looking for a more economical option but who would still like to experience the beauty of the area, consider staying in neighboring Playa Brasilito. Hotel Conchal is a smaller, family-run hotel in Brasilito, only a short walk to Playa Conchal. Although this hotel is located on the main road to town, the brightly colored building and nicely landscaped grounds make for a tropical escape. $60-160/night, double occupancy. Check Rates and Availability Here.
For more accommodation options in nearby Playa Brasilito, read our post Playa Brasilito: An Authentic Beach Town in Guanacaste.
With such a serene setting, comfortable accommodations, and activities for all, it’s easy to see why Playa Conchal makes our list of Costa Rica’s most spectacular beaches. Whenever we are back up in Guanacaste for a visit, we always make sure to go to Playa Conchal. Until next time, we’ll just have to dream of those tiny seashells swooshing between our toes.
Last Updated: October 24, 2019
Have you been to Playa Conchal? What was the highlight of your time there?
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
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Rincon de la Vieja National Park: This park has interesting volcanic features like steaming fumeroles and mud pots. Learn all about visiting with this post.
Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials: This quick list of all the essentials will ensure you’re prepared and ready for anything on your vacation.