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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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