Imagine laying on a fluffy white-sand beach, backed by quiet mangroves. Your condo or vacation rental sits perched on a rocky point nearby. A beach umbrella flutters with the sea breeze. This, essentially, is what to expect in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica. Famous for its small sandy cove, this highly developed beach town provides travelers with high-end amenities and stunning sea views.
In this post, we’ll share everything you need to plan a visit to Playa Flamingo.
Playa Flamingo is located in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province along the northern Pacific coast. The closest major airport is Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, about one hour away. Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose is about five hours away.
All roads getting to Playa Flamingo are relatively flat and paved.
Playa Flamingo: Town Layout
Playa Flamingo has a different setup than other towns in Costa Rica. Most destinations are either set back from a main beach or centered around a downtown square or soccer field. But Flamingo has no real town center and the land behind its beach is sheltered from development because of a large mangrove forest.
Instead, each hilly end of this beach has been built up with condos, hotels, vacation rental homes, shops, and restaurants. The central area remains just pristine beach. On the northern corner of town, a large marina (currently being expanded) sits protected behind a rocky point.
Inland along the main road (Route 180) are a few other restaurants, hotels, and homes dotted into the landscape among farm fields and forest.
The beach at Flamingo is only about one mile long (1.5 km) but is the perfect spot to dig your toes in the sand and relax. Along the upper part of the beach, you’ll find some shrubby trees that provide a little shade. Beware, though, that some of these are manchineel trees, a type of poisonous apple. Sap from the leaves, bark, or fruit can cause a skin rash and blisters. You’ll be fine as long as you don’t touch them, and if you are worried, there are beach chair and umbrella rentals available too.
The sand along Flamingo Beach is a light, white color. It has a slight pink hue in certain light, hence the Flamingo name. The waves are generally small but can be powerful at times, so use caution when wading in.
The northern end of Playa Flamingo is usually the busiest. This is because it’s an easier walk from nearby accommodations, including condos and the Margaritaville Beach Resort.
The southern end is typically less busy, but a popular restaurant called Coco Loco (see Restaurants section, below) can draw a crowd around lunchtime and sunset.
About the Area
While small, Playa Flamingo has everything you need. Besides the beach, there are several great restaurants, a grocery store, some shops, and plenty of activities to keep you busy (see below).
Most amenities are located in one general area, so you’ll see lots of people getting around by golf cart. These can be rented in town and are a lot of fun!
Since Flamingo doesn’t have much local culture, those wanting to explore a bit may want to rent a car. With one, you can find a different feel in every direction. Just five minutes north is the town of Potrero, which has a mixed community of locals, expats, and tourists. Potrero is more spread out and has several different beaches to discover. We cover these beaches, as well as the town, in our Potrero post.
To the south of Flamingo is Brasilito, only 10 minutes away. This town has a more local feel. The village square and soccer field sits off the main beach, where some fishing boats are pulled up on the sand.
At the southern end of Brasilito is Playa Conchal. Conchal is a more developed beach and cove with all-inclusive resorts and condos just behind the sand.
Farther south is Tamarindo, about 30 minutes away. This is the largest destination in the area and famous worldwide for surfing. Tamarindo, built directly off the main beach, has more hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and nightlife than other towns around.
To save at least 10% on a rental car and get extras like a free second driver, check out our Rental Car Discount with Adobe Rent a Car. They are one of the most reputable companies in Costa Rica. You can find more information about them and our discount here.
Weather in Playa Flamingo
Curious about the weather in Playa Flamingo? This part of the country is the hottest and driest region of Costa Rica. It has a dry season from approximately December to April/May. During this time, the area sees little to no rainfall and many of the trees lose their leaves. This can make the landscape very dry and barren.
For this reason, some people prefer to visit after the first rains in May when things begin to green up again. Read our post, Guanacaste: Regional Snapshot for more info.
Activities in Playa Flamingo
While you may want to just lay on the beach when visiting Playa Flamingo, there are some fun local activities to do as well. Not surprisingly with the Pacific Ocean sparkling offshore, many of them get you out on the water.
A catamaran cruise is a fun way for people of all ages to enjoy the ocean and see some spectacular views. The entire coastline in Guanacaste is made up of beautiful points and coves. Time for snorkeling and swimming in one of the calmer coves is included. You never know what you might see off the side of the boat. We’ve seen whales, sea turtles, and rays before.
Most catamaran operators offer both a morning and afternoon tour. In the dry season, afternoon tours almost guarantee a spectacular sunset.
Sportfishing and the Flamingo Marina
With deep waters nearby, sheltered bays, and rocky islands, Flamingo is in a perfect spot for some serious sportfishing. In the deep water, many billfish species like blue, black, and striped marlin as well as tuna, mahi-mahi, and other trophies can be caught. Inshore, rooster fish are the sought-after species, but mackerel, jack, and snapper are common too.
The best months for offshore fishing around Flamingo typically coincide with the wetter months (May to November). During this time, the strong winds prevalent in Guanacaste during the dry season are not present. There is also more debris from river runoff, which attracts fish like mahi-mahi and tuna. During the height of the dry season (January to March), winds may be too strong to go offshore.
For now, private charter boats are loaded by panga (small boat) in Potrero Bay, just on the northern side of Flamingo.
Soon, the Flamingo Marina will be the starting point. This marina is currently being rebuilt and expanded to have 175 slips, a hotel and convention center, and more restaurants and shops. The first phase of the Flamingo Marina project is on track for 2021-2022.
Jet Ski Rentals and Tours
Another great way to explore some of the coastline is by jet ski. Rentals are available right on Playa Flamingo’s northern end. The smaller waves inside the cove make Flamingo a great spot to zip around and have some fun.
From Playa Flamingo, it is possible to explore other areas of the country as well. Some popular tours go to Rincon de la Vieja, a volcanic region inland, or Palo Verde National Park, a diverse wetland good for spotting birds and monkeys.
Restaurants in Playa Flamingo
Playa Flamingo’s restaurants offer a diversity of cuisine from casual to upscale. Here are some tasty favorites.
Located steps off the sand at the southern end of Playa Flamingo, Coco Loco is popular with both visitors and locals. Here, you can sip tropical cocktails and watch the waves lapping the shore. Most of the menu has casual offerings like small bites or sandwiches, but there are also dishes like risotto or surf and turf. We enjoyed the mahi-mahi sandwich and grilled chicken and brie baguette. They also had a nice kids’ menu complete with crowd pleasers like mac and cheese.
If you are looking for an upscale dinner spot, Angelina’s is it. They specialize in steak, but also have things like homemade pasta, freshly caught fish, and pizza. The atmosphere is also perfect with open air dining and an elegant feel. Many ingredients are sourced locally and selected based on the season.
Located on the second floor of the Commercial Center building on the northern end of town.
Amigos Taco y Beer
This tucked-away restaurant keeps it simple with just tacos, burritos, and bowls. The slow roasted meats and fresh veggies give each dish a lot of flavor. They also have canned local beer and margaritas to complete the experience. Located on the North Ridge next to Super Flamingo Mercado.
A long-standing favorite with the local community is Surf Box. Surf Box is a small café on the main road out of town with breakfast and lunch. They have an array of salads, sandwiches, bowls, and tacos. Lots of healthy choices but also comfort foods like ricotta pancakes and buttermilk waffles. The Cuban sandwich was one of the best we’ve ever had and we also enjoyed our quinoa bowl with shrimp. The fruit smoothie combos are also delicious!
Check out their Facebook page for the full menu. Located on the main road out of town, shortly after Banco Nacional.
A’lo Nico is another laid-back café for breakfast or lunch. The French owner puts a spin on many of the classics. You can find sandwiches like chicken pesto, creamy chicken, and tapenade. They also have several entrees and a full breakfast menu, including crepes. Has options for kids as well.
You can find their menu on Instagram. Located on the main road out of town, heading towards Brasilito.
Camparino Pizzeria Italiana
Located in the Commercial Center building, Camparino Pizzeria Italiana serves up authentic Italian delights. We had the wood-fired pizza with prosciutto and mushrooms as well as the spaghetti boloñesa. Honestly, if we didn’t need to try other restaurants in town, we would have been back the next day. They use quality ingredients like freshly shaved parmesan and cured meats.
See their Facebook page for the menu.
Accommodations in Playa Flamingo
Being a high-end destination, it should be no surprise that much of the accommodations in Playa Flamingo cater to the luxury traveler. There are, however, options for more affordable lodging.
Most of the nicer hotels and vacation rentals are located on the main points to take advantage of the ocean views. Scattered throughout and on the road out of town, you’ll also find mid-priced condos, apartments, and hotels. There is one all-inclusive resort that we’ll tell you about as well.
360 Splendor del Pacifico Residences
For those looking for a luxury escape, we recommend 360 Splendor del Pacifico Residences. These condos sit at the highest point in Flamingo and have amazing views of the ocean and surrounding tropical forest. The mid-size building has several options for fully equipped, contemporary condos. One, two, and three bedroom units are available, plus there’s a penthouse suite. The salt-water infinity pool is the perfect place to catch one of Guanacaste’s famous sunsets.
The gated property also has a spacious rooftop terrace with panoramic ocean views and a modern fitness center. We loved everything about our stay here. $200-1,000/night, depending on unit size and time of year.
Margaritaville Beach Resort
The Margaritaville Beach Resort is the only Margaritaville so far in Costa Rica. Formerly, the Flamingo Beach Resort, this all-inclusive (optional) resort is located directly across the street from Playa Flamingo. Because of its beach access and amenities, the Margaritavilla is a good option for those wanting an easy holiday. With on-site pools and dining, a gym, spa, game room, tennis court, children’s areas, and daily activities, you don’t have to stray far for everything you need.
Rooms range from standard to ocean-view suites. All-inclusive rate based on 2 adults: Around $229-600/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Casas del Toro
For a more authentic stay, there’s the charming Casas del Toro. This small hotel on the main road out of town has created an unexpected oasis. Once you pass through the large gate, you’ll come to several buildings that house the rooms, apartments, and villas. The units are basic, but have everything you need and are clean and comfortable. Some have a kitchen.
One of the best features of the property is the central courtyard. This area has been carefully planted with tropical trees and flowers, and is a wonderful place to relax. There’s also a small pool. $120-300/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Playa Flamingo is perfect for the traveler who wants to kick back, relax, and have amenities within reach. The beautiful beach, refreshing ocean waves, and tranquil feel of town will have you wanting more.
Have a question about visiting Playa Flamingo? Leave us a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your visit to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – Many visitors to Costa Rica want to experience both beach and volcanoes. Use this destination guide to plan the second part of your trip and see the mighty Arenal Volcano.
Best Hotels Near SJO Airport: Need to stay overnight near San Jose Airport at the beginning or end of your trip? Check out our top hotel picks for great views, friendly service, and convenience.
Shuttles in Costa Rica: Looking to keep your vacation simple? Using shuttles is a great alternative to renting a car in Costa Rica. Get airport pickup and be at the beach even faster. Check out this post for more info on how shuttles work, when to use them, and how to book.