Playa Conchal: The Allure of Shell Beach

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.

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

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.

Seashell Beach, Playa Conchal | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Activities

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.

 

The Calm Waters of Playa Conchal | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

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.

Horseback Riding at Playa Conchal | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

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.

Getting There

Location

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.

Hotels

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.

Westin Resort & Spa at Playa Conchal | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Westin Resort & Spa at Playa Conchal

Hotel Conchal

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.

Conchal Hotel | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Hotel Conchal in Brasilito

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

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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:

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall: If seeing a waterfall is on your list, you’ll want to take a day trip to the stunning Llanos de Cortez in Guanacaste.

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.

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20 Comments

  1. I was there 15 years ago and I agree … it’s the best beach in CR.
    Very remote and secluded, although that may no longer be the case with all these rave reviews 🙁
    Although we just returned from CR, we didn’t make it that far north this trip. Hoping to re-visit Playa Conchal on our next trip and would love to see it just as it was in 1999.
    Pura Vida!

    1. Hi Christina, we would have loved to see it in 1999 to see how it has changed. It’s still a stunning beach but is definitely growing in popularity with the resort nearby. Hope you make it back next time you’re in CR. Pura vida!

  2. This really takes me back. In 2008 my first trip out of the country was to the town of Brasilito, Costa Rica. My SIL got married on the resort, but it was so expensive! I am thrilled that you included the local Hotel Conchal because that is where my family and I stayed. You have to pay attention if you take a taxi because the drivers get it confused with the huge resort and will take you there instead. The British owner, Simon, was so friendly and always ready to help. We never wanted to leave (really, my husband talked about buying the place!)

    We walked everywhere and ate in the local restaurants and soaked up the local culture. Our kids were ages 11 years and 13 months and people told us it would be miserable to take them but they loved it, and we saw the wonder of the place through their eyes.

    That trip was life changing for all of us…and the travel bug bit us hard. July of 2015 we are selling everything and moving to Cozumel, Mexico with the goal of living there for a year. The kids are already asking if we can head down to Costa Rica after that, so I think we’ll be continuing south…see you in a few years!

    1. Wow, Amelia, what a great story! Hotel Conchal is a great spot. Sounds like your family needs to get back for another visit with Simon and to take in Brasilito’s cool local culture. Best of luck with the move to Cozumel- it takes guts to do it but we don’t have any regrets!

  3. We’re in the process of planning our trip in September to Costa Rica and we love all the info you have provided (just ordered your books to help us). We want to be you!!! Good life decison! So much to see and do in 3 weeks. Turtles are at the top, so have many places to see and hopefully it happens. You mentioned snorkeling at Playa Conchal and we love to snorkel. Where else can you recommend for the best snorkeling. We try to gear our trips around wildlife and snorkeling. We avoid group travel, high end hotels with crowds, and prefer quaint villages with local flair. Any advice you can share with must see villages within our travels and especially snorkeling would be appreciated. We start our trip from San Jose to to Ostional (Luna Azul Hotel), Tortuguerro, Cahuitz, Manzanillo. We will have a car and plan to spend 3-4 days in each place . Thank you for your time and help. Your website twoweeksincostarica.com has already been incredibly helpful in our planning. Can’t wait for the books to arrive. All the best to you both.

    1. Hi Kathy, It sounds like you have an awesome vacation planned. Your itinerary is great for your travel goals of wildlife and snorkeling. The weather on the Caribbean Coast is usually the best in Sept. and Oct. so that’s a great time of year to visit. We think it’s green turtle season in Tortuguero too. We haven’t snorkeled there yet but Cahuita is supposed to have one of the biggest reefs in Costa Rica so that’s a great option. You do need a guide to snorkel there though because the reef is within national park limits. Manzanillo has good snorkeling too and also Playa Punta Uva, just north of there. Punta Uva is one of our favorite beaches in CR. It’s gorgeous, usually not too busy, and has pretty decent snorkeling right offshore. Keep in mind that CR is not the best place in the world for snorkeling (sometimes the water can be cloudy) but it is awesome for wildlife so that balances things out. Another place with more consistently good snorkeling is Cano Island off the coast of Drake Bay, but that area is pretty rainy in September.

  4. Jenn & Matt –
    We are planning a trip to CR mid March 2017 for a very small wedding with our immediate family and a few friends. Playa Conchal looks to be a beautiful beach as a possibility for a simple wedding, but we also love the idea of something in the hills overlooking the ocean. I am curious if you know of any small hiking paths in the cliffs in that area (We are staying in a house close to Playa Hermosa) and if you know of any locally owned Tico restaurants for yummy (inexpensive, local food) wedding brunch near Playa Conchal or even back up near Hermosa. Any other thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated!! Thanks, Marla & Tony

    1. Hi Marla, That will be such a beautiful spot for a wedding. Right near Playa Hermosa there’s actually a little beach called Playa Penca that might work. There’s a hill on the access road where people sometimes watch sunset that would be great for a small ceremony. It has really pretty views of Hermosa and Coco. We have more info about this beach in our Playa Hermosa post.

      Brasilito (right next to Conchal) has a local seafood restaurant called La Casita del Pescado. They have tables right in the sand and could probably set up a bigger area for your group. Not sure of any sodas in Hermosa, but Sandbar has an amazing brunch (American style). Best of luck with the wedding planning!

  5. My family (husband and 3 kiddos) will be staying in at an all-inclusive in Guanacaste for a week the first part of June. Any suggestions for day trips/outings? I’ve read booking these outings is best saved until you arrive to CR. What do you think? This beach is on my list of must-sees!

    1. Hi Shelly, Lots of choices for things to do in that area. Some popular options are catamaran tours, horseback riding, and ATV. If the resort you’re staying at is the Westin Conchal, you should read our Playa Brasilito post too. That’s the town right next to Conchal, and in that post, we give a lot of ideas for little-known beaches and other fun things to do in the area. There’s also a lot for day trips out of Guanacaste, but you have to be careful that you’re not going to be in the car all day. A lot of the tour companies there market tours that are actually 3+ hours away each way.

      As for whether to book in advance, we always recommend doing so to reserve your spots as tours sometimes fill up. The exception is if you’re traveling during the height of the rainy season. Then, we recommend being a little more flexible with your plans in case of rain. But early June is early in the rainy season so you should be fine in terms of weather. Just try to get your activities in during the morning or early afternoon when rain is less likely.

  6. My mother’s side of the family plans a trip every year, and we just returned TODAY from Tamarindo. We visited Playa Conchal via several taxis on our last full day (yesterday).

    We rented tents and chairs, and ordered fresh spanner and lobster right from the beach. It was a wonderful experience and we really enjoyed the day so much. I’m still picking shells out of my daughter’s hair, lol.

    1. Hi Meaux, Sounds like you did it right. There’s nothing like enjoying some fresh seafood on the beach. Glad your family enjoyed Conchal. We are betting you’ll be back again soon. Pura vida!

  7. I found your site because of the (very helpful) info on driving into Monteverde. I’m flying in next week and have been using your site to learn about a bunch of different things, but this page actually made us change our plans. We are now going to Playa Conchal for 2 nights instead of a more northern beach. Thanks for all the great info!!

  8. I have been here and Playa Conchal was also MY personal FAVORITE!! So much so that I will be returning in less than two weeks with 12 other family members!! And I cant wait fo them to snorkel at this spot!! It was absolutely AMAZING!! This time we are staying at The Westin!

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