Remote jungle wilderness is not for everyone. Many people come to Costa Rica looking for a warm, sunny location that has conveniences nearby. In a nutshell, that describes Playas del Coco. This beach town, just 30 minutes from an international airport, is a mixing pot of many North Americans, Costa Ricans, and Europeans. Coco Beach, as it is also called, has the comforts of home. There are modern condos, high-speed internet connections, and international restaurant choices. In this post, we’ll share much more about Playas del Coco so you can plan a visit.
Location & Town Layout
Playas del Coco is conveniently located only a half-hour from Guanacaste’s LIR International Airport. The drive is easy along mostly flat, paved roads. Costa Rica’s other international airport, SJO in San Jose, is about 4.5 hours away.
The town of Playas del Coco is built within a deep valley that follows the curve of its wide seaside cove.
There is one main road that runs perpendicular to the beach. This road has many of the town’s stores, restaurants, banks, and supermarkets. From there, side roads take you to various neighborhoods. These consist of lots of condos, some in gated developments and others ungated.
Right on the beach is a long boardwalk with a few small parks, playgrounds, and basketball courts. The boardwalk is a popular spot where locals walk their dogs, exercise, and gather for sunset.
The tan colored beach has gorgeous views of the surrounding hills, the vast collection of moored boats, and a few offshore islands.
Situated in the country’s Guanacaste region, Playas del Coco has some of the driest weather in Costa Rica. While it may rain often during peak wet season (especially September & October), there are several months where it barely rains at all.
The driest months are January through March. During this time, there may not be a cloud in the sky. Temperatures can soar into the 90s (32+° C), and the foliage in the surrounding hills turns a bit brown with drought. Once occasional rains return in April and May, the hills turn back to a vibrant green.
For more about the country’s weather patterns, read our post, Weather in Costa Rica: What You Need to Know.
The biggest draw of Playas del Coco is that the town is set up right along the beach. It is also centrally located so that you can visit other beaches to the north and south.
The Main Beach – Playas del Coco
The main beach, Playas del Coco, has dark tan sand and calmer water since it is sheltered within a deep cove. There are waves but nothing big enough to surf on. Because the water is more tranquil, it is a popular spot to moor fishing boats, sailboats, and local pangas.
Along the main beach are a couple of smaller streams, which sort of cut the beach into sections.
While the name of the beach would imply there are a lot of “cocos” or coconuts, most of the beach is backed by shrubby shade trees, with just a scattering of coconut palms.
On weekends, holidays, and during the dry season (December to May), Playas del Coco is popular and busy. During off-peak months it is more relaxed and quieter.
While Playas del Coco is nice, there is a lot of development and, therefore, the sand and water is not the most pristine. For those looking to explore nearby beaches, it is easy to hop up and down the coast.
Just to the south is Playa Ocotal, which is a much smaller cove that has unique black sand.
To the north is another beach town called Playa Hermosa. Though smaller than Coco, Playa Hermosa is a fun town to spend the day. It has its own restaurants, a more relaxed feel, and is generally less busy than Playas del Coco.
For more adventurous beachgoers, there are some remote beaches worth checking out.
One is Playa Penca, which sits between Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa. This beach has calm waters, snorkeling, and white sand. Access is through a rough 4×4 road.
Another is Playa Nacascolo, a bit farther north on the Papagayo Peninsula. This beach is accessed through private resort properties via a shuttle van. The calm waters and wildlife make it worth the extra effort.
Other Activities from Playas del Coco
Sport fishing is a popular activity out of Playas del Coco. Onshore and offshore trips leave right from the main beach in town. It’s common to catch tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, sailfish, and even exotic species like roosterfish.
Diving in Costa Rica is a little different from other destinations around the world. Instead of elaborate coral reefs, the focus is more on exploring ocean structures. This includes rocky walls, pinnacles, and ocean caves.
The marine life found within close proximity to Playas del Coco includes large schools of rays (spotted eagle and manta rays), white-tipped reef sharks, moray eels, and fish like grunts, grouper, snapper, angelfish, and sergeant majors.
With Playas del Coco as your home base, you can travel inland to see some other unique environments in Costa Rica. Two popular day trips are to the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano area or Palo Verde wetlands.
Rincon de la Vieja
Costa Rica is as famous for its volcanoes as it is for its beaches. The closest active volcano to Playas del Coco is Rincon de la Vieja. This volcano is about 1.5 hours east of the beach.
In Rincon de la Vieja, you can visit the national park to see volcanic activity literally coming out of the ground. Along the trail are volcanic steam vents, bubbling mud pots, and acid lagoons.
Also in the area are the Rio Negro Hot Springs, which are naturally heated by the volcano’s thermal energy and quite relaxing. Volcanic mud baths are also available.
And just outside the national park is the wonderful Oropendola Waterfall. This easy hike has you cross a unique hanging bridge over beautiful blue water. Once you reach the falls, there is a small swimming hole.
Palo Verde Wetlands
For wildlife and especially bird lovers, there are the Palo Verde Wetlands. This low-key activity is also about 1.5 hours away and normally booked as a guided tour with transportation.
A boat ride through the rich wetland ecosystem will let you see monkeys, crocodiles, and lots of bird species like herons, kingfishers, ducks, and if you are lucky others like the Roseate Spoonbill or Scarlet Macaw.
For more about the Palo Verde wetlands, including a cultural element to the tour we took, read our post, Palo Verde National Park: A Wildlife Tour Through Guanacaste’s Wetlands.
Playas del Coco has an active nightlife with many busy bars and lounges, a couple of dance clubs, and a casino. Live music is popular, especially during peak tourism months.
International sports games (American football, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.) also can be found at some of the sports bars in town.
With an international lineup of restaurant offerings, dining in Playas del Coco provides a culinary tour of culture and flavor. With everything from Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, and Mexican offerings to typical Costa Rican food, juice bars, and coffee shops, you are sure to find some favorites. Here is a short list of some that we have tried.
Numu Taproom and Bistro by Chef Nicolas
Built by one of Guanacaste’s best breweries, this taproom has more than great IPAs and farmhouse ales. The upscale tapas menu is perfect for sharing, and larger entrees like snapper wrapped in banana leaf or beef tenderloin are great dinner choices. There is even a fun kids’ menu. Numu has an upscale ambiance, and often has live music and special events. In Pacifico Village Shops near Auto Mercado.
For breakfast or lunch near the beach, check out Café Corazon. This cute coffee shop has strong coffee and a yummy menu. We loved the peace sandwich and waffles, and our omelet was perfectly cooked. They also have delicious fresh fruit smoothies. The environment is relaxed. Open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and until 6 p.m. on weekends. Closed Monday. Located at the end of main street near the beach.
Santorini Greek Restaurant
Perfect for a nice dinner out, the elegantly decorated Santorini Greek Restaurant serves up delicious Mediterranean cuisine. From classics like spanakopita and gyros to local seafood like grilled octopus and calamari. Don’t forget desert too; you can’t find treats like baklava in many Costa Rican restaurants. Located on main street.
Buzzed Monkey BBQ
For real southern barbeque, Buzzed Monkey is the place. The giant smokers out back hold the secret to mouthwatering brisket, ribs, chicken, and pulled pork. The atmosphere is totally laid back and the drinks are strong. They often have sports games on. Previously located in Playa Hermosa, we were glad to find them at their new spot in Playas del Coco. Located on a side road a few blocks from main street.
Villa Italia Restaurante
For authentic Italian like homemade pasta, ravioli, and gnocchi, head to the upscale Villa Italia. The open kitchen in the dining room lets you see, behind the scenes, how much love gets put into each dish. For those wanting to dine outside, a few tables face main street. Located near El Coco Casino.
We happened upon Java Coffee in the neighborhood we were staying in. They have a big menu of hot and cold coffees, detox, immunity, and energy smoothies, acai bowels, bagels, and salads. But the favorite among our kids were the two-inch-thick waffles with whip cream and strawberries! Located at the corner of Avenida Las Palmas and La Chorrera.
Accommodations in Playas del Coco
The most popular accommodations in Playas del Coco are by far the plethora of condos and vacation homes. These can be booked on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.
From simple one-bedroom condos with a kitchenette to extravagant ocean view homes with infinity pools, Playas del Coco has something for every budget.
Long-term rentals are also popular as the same visitors often return every year to beat the cold weather in their home country and meet up with friends they have made.
Although most lodging in Playas del Coco is vacation rentals, a few basic hotels are also available.
Laura’s House B&B
Laura’s House is a small bed and breakfast just a couple of blocks from both the beach and main street. Rooms are simple but clean and comfortable and have air conditioning. The bright yellow building is sure to make you feel welcome, as are the friendly hosts. Has a small pool. Around $65/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Luxury Coco Villas
This small complex has seven condo-style units, all surrounding a pool. The basic two-bedroom villas have a lot of space, ideal for families or groups. It is in a good central location, just behind the main drag. Around $125/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Stretching from the center of main street towards the surrounding hills, Pacifico is a large-scale residential development. This gated resort community has a mix of modern condos and larger residences. The property is nicely landscaped and has huge lagoon pools snaking through. Guests have access to the pools, beach club and restaurant, and fitness center. Pacifico can be booked through sites like Airbnb and booking.com (see one option here). Starting around $300/night.
With beaches, supermarkets, restaurants, and plenty of friendly locals or travelers to share a drink with, Playas del Coco is a destination where you can get comfortable and relax. It’s no wonder Coco Beach is a favorite spot for expats and return visitors.
Have you been to Playas del Coco? What are your favorite things about this lively beach town?
Looking for more information to help you plan your trip? Here are some articles:
Playa Hermosa: Guanacaste’s Northern Beauty: Looking for a more relaxed beach town? Check out Playa Hermosa right next to Playas del Coco. It has more options for traditional hotels and a gorgeous beach.
Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town – Jaco, on the central Pacific coast, is another lively beach town with good nightlife and a lot going on. Learn more about it with this post.
La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – To experience the rainforest, you can easily pair a visit to Playas del Coco with La Fortuna/Arenal. La Fortuna has all of Costa Rica’s quintessential adventure activities, waterfalls, and hanging bridges, plus Arenal Volcano.