Playa Conchal: The Allure of Shell Beach

Last Updated: October 5, 2021

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.

Sand Made of Shells

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


Available right on the beach in Playa Conchal are snorkel masks, jet skis, and kayaks. You also can rent beach chairs and tents for shade. For refreshments, there isn’t much around, but vendors make up for that. You can find them selling pipas frias (cold coconuts), pina coladas, BBQ kabobs, and 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


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

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 for environmental reasons.

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.


There used to be a free shuttle from a large guarded parking lot across from the Westin, but this has been discontinued since Covid.

Now, parking is available right in the center of Brasilito. After you cross the bridge on Route 180 and enter the main area of town, look for the large parking lot on the left near the soccer field.

You can park here and attendants will watch your car for around $4. Be sure to not leave anything inside the car anyway, as always in Costa Rica.  

Once parked, you can make your way towards the beach and walk left, across Playa Brasilito to get to Playa Conchal.


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 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 5, 2021

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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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  1. Wow those are a lot of shells on the beach. They almost looked like crumbled nuts (I always have food on the brain :-). I’m surprised they didn’t hurt to walk on. They’re definitely beautiful!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!!

  9. 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!

  10. Hello from Boston! I was so pleased to find your site (and books!) as we plan our trip to CR in March. We are travelling with twin 11yo and staying in at the Westin for less than a week. Anything that you would say is a “can’t miss”? Also, given our limited time, would you recommend guided tours or should we venture out on our own. Thanks!

    1. Hi Marina, We would highly recommend a catamaran tour so that you can see some of the beautiful coastline. They include some time for snorkeling too. If you’re interested in horseback riding, that’s another good one. A lot of times these take you to secluded beaches. Would be fun to do a day trip to Tamarindo too. Feel free to contact us through our tour booking service page if you’d like recommendations for tours for these.

  11. My wife and I are retired and live full time in a condo in the Reserva Conchal gated community. We’ve lived in 6 other places in CR before settling in for good here. Tourism has been slow this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but is starting to pick up now. In addition to the Westin there is a new W Resort that opened last year – a very upscale 5 star hotel. Also, many condos are rented by the night or by the week on airbnb, VRBO, and similar websites. They can be a better option for family groups, wedding parties, and golf outings. Renters have full access to the gym, spa, pools, and restaurants at the Reserva Conchal Beach Club. The beach is the best I’ve seen in Costa Rica for swimming, paddleboards, kayaks, jetskis, etc, but it’s protected from the waves so surfing is out. Playa Grande and Tamarindo are nearby for the surfers.

  12. Just so you and others know, we tried to follow these directions and take the shuttle to the beach (along with another family from the states who apparently read this entry) and it doesn’t exist. We waited for almost an hour between calling the phone number on the sign and talking yo the people st the Marriott next door but it was a total waste of time. In the end we piled back into the car and just parked on the beach for $4. Looking tonight another site says this shuttle hasn’t been operating since the Covid shutdowns. Hopefully this review will help others.

    1. Hi Laura, We’re very sorry this happened to you. We weren’t aware that they are no longer offering the shuttle. We’ll update our post to let others know. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  13. My family went to this beach. It was rough water, crowded and not enjoyable at all. We decided to go back to the beach that you have to walk across before you go over the little hill to this beach. There was not a single soul on the beach we went to. The water was very calm, very shallow for a long way out and maybe my best beach experience ever. My question is this: why were we literally the only four people on that beach? I’ve always wondered if the locals knew something we didn’t because it makes no sense at all that everyone was over at the crowded beach with such rough water when they had just passed up the best beach ever. Can anyone explain? It makes me wonder what I was swimming with.

    1. Hi Kellee, Ocean conditions can really change. It sounds like the day you went to Playa Conchal, you didn’t have the nice, calm water that is typical for that beach. Locals love Playa Conchal. People like Playa Brasilito too, where you went after and enjoyed, but it’s usually not that crowded. It’s still a safe beach to visit.

  14. Hello,
    We were at Playa Conchal yesterday and it was stunning. It is safe, the locals were absolutely lovely, not pushy AT ALL. We have been to Costa Rica several times, visited Tamarindo, La Fortuna, Playa Grande, Monteverde, and Playa Conchal is right at the top. The locals, as they are everywhere in Costa Rica, were kind and generous. The water was stunning. Not to be missed, but do go early cause the sand does get hot! Afterwards we had a delicious lunch at Patagonia. We loved it and can’t wait to go back!

  15. Is the path from Brasilito difficult? Asking for a senior family member who uses a cane to walk. Thank you

    1. Hi Michelle, It’s just walking along the beach sand. Not a hard walk but it can be very hot if it’s sunny. The very last part has a sandy/rocky hill you have to climb over to get to Conchal Beach.

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