From the cafe-colored shores of Tambor Bay, a white-sand oasis lies in view just to the east. Intrigued, we recently made the trip to explore this beach, Playa Muertos, during a visit to Tambor. Playa Muertos is a little-known locals’ beach with a pristine island feel. It has stayed off the tourist trail because of its harder accessibility and remote location. In this post, we’ll tell you about Playa Muertos, including details on how to visit and what to expect.
Playa Muertos is located on Costa Rica’s southern Nicoya Peninsula. The small cove is situated between Paquera to the east and Montezuma to the west. It is part of the wide Gulf of Nicoya, where you’ll find some islands, including the popular Isla Tortuga.
The closest major town is Playa Tambor, though Tambor itself is still quite small. Montezuma, a small tourist destination with more amenities, is about 40 minutes away. The popular Santa Teresa/Mal Pais area is a little more than a one-hour drive.
Getting to Playa Muertos
Getting to any secret beach is always an adventure, and Playa Muertos is no exception.
The easiest way to get to Playa Muertos is to take a small boat from the village of Pochote. Boats go up the river into the bay, bringing you to Playa Muertos in less than five minutes.
Below are all the details you’ll need to make this trip. Keep in mind that this is a super authentic, informal process. You don’t need tickets in advance and there’s no set schedule.
Driving to Boat Launch Area
From Tambor, head east on Route 21 towards Paquera. In just a few minutes, take a right into the small neighborhood of Pochote. There is a sign. Then take another right at the sign for Camping Don Trino. This is a dirt road but flat and smooth.
You’ll follow the narrow road, passing some houses and thick mangrove forest along the way.
Soon you’ll approach the beach and arrive at Camping Don Trino (see map location). Drive along the sandy path until you can’t go farther and park off to the left.
Camping Don Trino is a campground with basic facilities where locals come, mostly on the weekends, to camp and hang out at the beach. It is also the location for the boat to Playa Muertos.
Once you’ve gathered everything you’ll need for the day from your car, walk towards the river. There was a rope blocking vehicles from entering this area at the time of our visit. You’ll pass a small house and building right next to the river. Some tour companies keep their boats here so there will probably be some people around.
Be sure to check in with someone from the campground to tell them that you would like to park there while you go to Playa Muertos.
When you get down to the river’s edge, there should be some simple speedboats waiting. You can ask one of them to take you to Playa Muertos. They’ll help you load up into the boat, and you’ll agree to a time for them to come get you after for the return to Pochote.
When we visited Playa Muertos, our captain was Armando. Armando had long curly hair and was dressed in a long sleeve rashguard. He had a couple of helpers along with him. A young boy gave us a shy smile, while a teenage boy helped with our bags and got us on the boat.
We had our own two young boys with us. Not knowing what to expect, we made sure to put our then two-year old in a lifejacket, just in case.
The boat ride was smooth and quick, though. We sailed over the gentle waves of the bay and arrived at the beach in under five minutes.
Armando and his team jumped out of the boat once we reached the shore and helped us out. It was a water landing, since there is no dock at Playa Muertos. Exiting the boat into thigh-deep water was a little challenging with all our bags and our two-year old, but we made it. The crew was very helpful.
Playa Muertos – The Beach
Arriving by boat to a beach is special enough, but when the beach itself is pristine and gorgeous, that tops off the experience.
Playa Muertos is a white and tan sand beach with a wild feel. You’ll find tall palms stretching towards the turquoise sea, lofty driftwood anchored to the sand, and a thick backing of jungle.
Although the beach is not very big, it stretches far enough in both directions so that there’s plenty of space. The main area where boats drop off tends to be the busiest.
On weekends and holidays, locals flock to Playa Muertos, looking to escape the crowds of the city. During the weekday, the beach is almost deserted.
If you walk to the right towards the point, there are plenty of interesting places to sit and explore, away from everything.
One of the most interesting features of the beach for us were the rocks. Small to medium red, orange, brown, yellow, green, and blue pebbles collected in certain areas near the water. The constant wave action made them appear smooth and perfect, almost as if they had been in a rock tumbler.
Activities at Playa Muertos
Playa Muertos is a rocky beach, with several areas carved out by black volcanic outcroppings. We tried snorkeling in one sheltered area to the right, but conditions weren’t good on the day we visited. The water was murky, and we couldn’t see to the bottom, even though it was perfectly sunny. We were able to see a few things like a large puffer fish and some small reef fish. So snorkeling is possible under the right conditions.
Before we visited, we saw a lot of pictures of crystal-clear water that you can see right through. While the water was beautiful on our visit (in January), it was a little choppy and not as clear.
Banana Boat Rides
A tour company offers banana boat rides right from the shore. We saw some locals taking advantage of this and it looked really fun!
Planning Your Visit to Playa Muertos
Parking at Camping Don Trino is 2,000 colones (about $3) for the day.
The boat ride is 3,000 colones (about $5) round-trip per person.
You do not need to make reservations for parking or the boat. The boats do not run on a set schedule but are there every day of the week. If one is not there when you arrive, just wait a few minutes. Most likely, one will be returning from Playa Muertos after having dropped people off.
Other Ways to Arrive
You also can kayak to Playa Muertos. It’s about a 30-minute paddle from Pochote, best done at higher tides. Kayak rentals are available in Pochote.
We’ve also heard that you can drive most of the way to Playa Muertos, around the mangrove forest, then walk 30 minutes in from where the road ends. This walk must be done at low tide. It isn’t easy, with a lot of rocks to traverse. We definitely recommend taking the boat instead. It’s cheap and simple once you know the process!
What to Bring
Since there are no amenities at all, be sure to bring everything you will need for the day. Some obvious musts are a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
You’ll see locals with big bags of food and even coolers filled with drinks. Pochote doesn’t have any large grocery stores, so stock up before arriving in Paquera, Montezuma, or Santa Teresa.
Be sure to wear shoes that come off easily for the beach landing.
A dry bag is a good idea to make sure your electronics don’t get wet on the boat ride.
The beach has a thick backing of trees with a good amount of shade so you probably don’t need an umbrella.
There are no trash cans at the beach so be sure to carry everything out with you. Sadly, we did see quite a bit of trash.
Visiting Playa Muertos is definitely an adventure and will make you feel like a local. The boat ride brings just the right amount of excitement to make visiting this beach feel like a special outing. We highly recommend making the trip to Playa Muertos if you’re staying on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.
Have a question about visiting Playa Muertos? Ask us below.
Looking for more information to plan your visit to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
A Bioluminescent Kayak Tour on the Nicoya Peninsula – This is another great activity on the Nicoya Peninsula. Seeing plankton light up in the ocean at night is a truly unique experience.
Montezuma: A Bohemian Beach Town – If you looking for an off-the-beaten path beach town, Montezuma may be it. It has maintained a small feel over the years, but still has a good amount of restaurants and things to do.
Playa Carrillo: A Favorite Locals’ Beach in Guanacaste – Though more popular, Playa Carrillo near Samara is another favorite beach among locals in Costa Rica.