Last Updated: November 1, 2019
One of the best places in Costa Rica’s popular Guanacaste Province to relax and unwind is Playa Hermosa. This small community along the northern Pacific coast draws repeat visitors year after year with its gorgeous beach and peaceful charm. Although its location makes Playa Hermosa feel somewhat isolated, the small but well developed town offers many amenities. You’ll find fine dining steps from the sand and varied accommodations, including condos, timeshares, vacation rentals, and hotels. In this post, we’ll share what you need to plan your visit to this beautiful beach town.
Playa Hermosa, which translates to Beautiful Beach, is located in northern Guanacaste Province. Keep in mind that Costa Rica has several beaches named Playa Hermosa, including near Jaco, Santa Teresa, and Uvita, but the one we are covering here is in Guanacaste. Liberia International is the closest airport, at about 30 minutes away.
Playa Hermosa Guanacaste (sometimes called Playa Hermosa GTE) sits between two points that divide it from the lively town of Playas del Coco to the south and Playa Panama to the north. It is situated in a valley with much of the real estate development in the surrounding hills. The town has two main ways where many businesses are located. The first and second entrances, as people refer to them, run perpendicular to the beach. There are also some businesses spread out along the main road to town and on the road closest to the ocean. Hermosa is fairly concentrated, so no matter where you are, you’ll be a walk or short drive to everything.
About Playa Hermosa
This small town is popular for those looking to relax in a tranquil setting. Playa Hermosa is seldom crowded and it is almost always possible to find your own spot on the sand. The destination tends to draw families who come for the calm ocean waters, as well as groups taking advantage of the vacation rentals and condos. Although Playa Hermosa has a good selection of restaurants, it does not have much nightlife. You can find a party scene in Playas del Coco, though, which is only a short cab ride away.
Activities in Playa Hermosa
From Playa Hermosa, you can organize all the usual tours out of Guanacaste. Zip lining, ATV, horseback riding, and catamaran tours are possible. Farther inland, you can find more day trips that lead to waterfalls, hot springs and mud baths, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. National parks within a couple of hours’ drive are Las Baulas National Marine Park (seasonal turtle watching), Rincon de la Vieja (volcanic features), Palo Verde (river boat tours), Santa Rosa (hiking and site of historic battle), and Lomas Barbudal (off-the-beaten-path reserve with a river and waterfall). We’ll cover some of these in more detail below.
Beaches and Water Sports
The main attraction in Playa Hermosa is its light gray sand beach. This wide cove stretches about 1.2 miles (2 km) and has lots of palm and figs trees for shade.
Swimming and water sports like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and banana boat rides are popular things to do at Playa Hermosa. The Gulf of Papagayo just beyond the bay is also full of marine life. Sport fishing, snorkeling, and diving are especially good. The best diving is at the Catalina and Bat Islands where it is possible to see manta rays, white-tip reef sharks, and bull sharks.
Just around the point from Playa Hermosa is a little-known beach that we absolutely love called Playa Penca. This is a small cove with light gray sand and clear turquoise water. It is a good spot to just soak up the sun, but also has a reef with some awesome snorkeling. We have seen a lot of fish not far from shore, including pufferfish, needle-nose fish, and stingrays.
Directions to Playa Penca: Playa Penca is not marked and a little hidden. Here’s a map with the exact location. When you turn off the main road, tell the security guard in the booth that you’re headed to Playa Penca. He will take your license plate number. Follow the dirt road to the parking area. It is very steep in spots with loose gravel so you will definitely want 4×4. Be sure not to leave anything in the car as this is a remote area and break-ins sometimes occur. This is also a great spot to see Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco from above so be sure to bring your camera!
Catamaran tours are a fun way to take in the scenery along the Guanacaste coastline. Boats leave from Playas del Coco and take you up the coast to a calm cove for some time to swim and snorkel. The one that we recommend is a big 65’ foot boat with plenty of room on the deck for sunning and relaxing. There’s also a large covered space below, out of the sun.
If you’re interested in setting up a tour, we work with an excellent company for this experience who we’re gone out with ourselves. Tours are around $85 per person and include unlimited cocktails and lunch. They start at 8:30 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. for sunset. See the Booking a Tour section, below, to get in touch.
Eco Adventure Park
A great activity with kids is the nearby eco-adventure park. This has an elaborate wildlife sanctuary with monkeys, sloths, toucans, and big cats that you can view close up in nicely maintained enclosures. The sanctuary provides a home for these animals that have been injured in the wild or confiscated from the illegal pet trade and are unable to be released back into the wild.
The park also has zip lining and some fun cultural activities like a coffee/sugar cane/chocolate tour. Different packages are available depending on what you’re interested in. If you’re interested in setting up a visit to the park, see the Booking a Tour section, below, and we can send you more information.
Boat Tour of Palo Verde National Park
A national park within a reasonable drive that is definitely worth visiting is Palo Verde. This park encompasses both land and water, but tours typically explore the wetlands of the Tempisque River. We recently did this tour with our two young children and it was excellent. On a comfortable covered boat, a guide will lead you along the river to see wildlife like monkeys, crocodiles, and many kinds of birds. We highly recommend one of the tours that will take you to a farm in the countryside after for a traditional meal cooked over a wood stove.
Palo Verde tours with lunch are around $105 per person adults and leave in the morning. Tours without lunch are $86 pp adults and leave at mid-day. Both include transportation from your hotel. If you’d like help making the arrangements, we can set you up with the operator that we went out with. See the Booking a Tour section, below, for more info.
Booking a Tour
If you’d like to book a catamaran tour, visit to the eco-adventure park, boat tour of Palo Verde National Park, or another excursion from Playa Hermosa, we’d be happy to help. Please contact us through our Tour Booking Service page or email bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com, and we will get back to you right away. We just need to know your preferred date/time, the number of people in your party (adults and children), and your pickup location if you need transportation. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!
Restaurant Recommendations in Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa has a small, but satisfying, dining scene. Here are some of our favorite restaurants.
Buzzed Monkey BBQ & Grill
A nice way to break up the rice and beans is with some tasty barbecue. Buzzed Monkey BBQ & Grill is a new restaurant in town serving up delicious, authentic southern BBQ. They have sandwiches and full plates with slow-smoked brisket, chicken, or ribs that come with homemade sides like mac and cheese, coleslaw, and fried pickles. You’ll also find a decent selection of local craft beer. Located in the lower level of Hermosa Heights, on the main road into town.
A longstanding favorite in Playa Hermosa, Ginger offers refined tapas that are full of flavor. Many dishes are Asian or Indian inspired, but they also incorporate traditional ingredients like local fish. Some of our favorite small plates are the ginger rolls with poached salmon, spicy chicken samosas, and Thai red curry beef on plantains. Ginger is a romantic spot with a modern, candle-lit outdoor dining area. Just after the second entrance on the inland side.
Roberto’s is located inside La Gaviota Tropical Hotel on the beach. From the outdoor patio or tables set up on the sand, you can take in the beautiful view or watch the sun sink into the Pacific. Roberto’s has a basic bocas (snack) menu as well as rice dishes, burgers, and sandwiches. Their dinner menu features entrees like shrimp with avocado, Caribbean chicken, and tuna steak. Second entrance, on the beach.
Restaurante Niromi By Hotel Bosque del Mar
Playa Hermosa doesn’t have a ton of restaurants so it’s worth visiting this one located at the upscale Hotel Bosque del Mar. Restaurant Niromi is open to the public for three meals a day and also has a tapas menu. They offer refined dishes like bourbon tenderloin, caprese chicken, and an assortment of fresh seafood dishes. The outdoor restaurant has a nice ocean view. First entrance to the beach.
Hotel Recommendations in Playa Hermosa
We’ve stayed at this small, family-run hotel right in the middle of town before and enjoyed it. Hotel Mangaby has simple, but spacious and extremely clean, rooms with A/C and hot water. Rooms overlook the gorgeous pool, which is quite large and surrounded by lush gardens. The small restaurant serves a made-to-order traditional breakfast. Hotel Mangaby is popular with visitors and you’re likely to see locals there as well. Double room, $70-110. Check Rates and Availability Here.
If you’re looking for more of a resort setting, consider Club and Hotel Condovac. This is a larger complex on the northern end of the beach that offers condo-style accommodations with kitchenettes. The facility is a bit dated, but very affordable. Condovac is situated on a steep hill so has nice ocean views. The two-bedroom villas are good for families and groups. Villas, $100-550. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Hotel Bosque del Mar
This beautiful upscale hotel is in a prime location on the beach. Suites are big, clean, and comfortable, with separate living areas. The property has many mature trees, which draw wildlife like monkeys, iguanas, and hummingbirds. Bosque del Mar is good for couples, but also families and groups because some suites can be connected. Located on the quieter southern end of the beach. $150-550. Check Rates and Availability Here.
La Gaviota Tropical
La Gaviota Tropical is another option for a higher-end stay. This cozy boutique hotel is right on the beach in the center of town. It has just five rooms with configurations ranging from a family room with a queen bed and bunk beds to a multi-room oceanfront suite for couples. One of the best features is the small rooftop pool. $125-300. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Playa Hermosa is the perfect destination to spend a week relaxing on the beach or to close out an action-packed vacation. Although small, it has enough to keep you busy and plenty of restaurants to excite your pallet. We can see why so many people return year after year.
Last Updated: November 1, 2019
Are you visiting Playa Hermosa? Leave us a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – La Fortuna is home to the mighty Arenal Volcano and is commonly paired with destinations in Guanacaste like Playa Hermosa. This post has everything you need to plan your visit.
Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – Playa Hermosa is a drive from most activities so having a car is recommended. See our tips before you hit the road and look for our rental car discount too!
Monteverde: A Forest in the Clouds – Another popular place to pair with Guanacaste destinations is the misty mountain town of Monteverde. Bring your jacket for this one as temps are much cooler than at the beach.