Located in Guanacaste Province, right next to some of the region’s most popular destinations, is the unassuming town of Potrero. Driving through, you may not think much of this rural beach area. But upon closer look, you will discover a charming community that is perfectly situated for exploring some of Costa Rica’s most gorgeous beaches.
In this post, we will share our recent visit to Potrero. We’ll give you an idea of the layout, restaurants, and accommodations. We’ll also highlight some area beaches you won’t want to miss.
Northern Guanacaste Province is made up of a couple of different clusters of beach towns. The most visited is the busy Tamarindo and its surrounds. This includes the beach towns north of Tamarindo like Playa Grande and then Playa Conchal, Playa Brasilito, and Playa Flamingo. Potrero, just five minutes past Flamingo, is the last major town you’ll come to in this group.
Geographically, Potrero is literally at the end of the road. While farther north there are more destinations like Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and the Papagayo, these are separated from Potrero by mostly wild jungle. The one road that does connect them, Route 911, was recently paved. However, it is still narrow, slower, and impacted by seasonal flooding. This keeps many people away, giving Potrero a typically quiet feel.
Town Set Up
Potrero is divided into two main areas. Coming from the south, you’ll enter a neighborhood called Surfside. It runs from the beach just inland.
Within Surfside is a small residential development. It’s made up of vacation homes and private residences, with a few businesses in between. Many of the properties are owned by expats, but you’ll find some Costa Ricans too. Some streets have mostly high-end vacation homes, while others are more mixed, with empty lots or simple structures.
These quiet streets are a couple of blocks away from the beach, and are dotted with towering Guanacaste trees. You can often hear the calls of howler monkeys coming from the treetops.
If you keep heading north along Route 911, in a few minutes, you will come to the older area of town. This has more of a local feel, with a soccer field, school, church, smaller homes, sodas (local restaurants), and a few basic grocery stores. This area is closer to Playa Penca and Playa Prieta (see below).
Activities in and Around Potrero
The focal point of Potrero is definitely the beaches. Not only does it have the main beach right in town, but it has great access to some lesser known spots as well. Below are some beaches worth exploring.
Potrero Bay runs all the way from the southern point in Flamingo up to the northern end of Potrero, near the soccer field. Since the bay is sheltered, the water is fairly calm and swimmable. You’ll see people on stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, or even small sailboats that can be rented in town.
Playa Potrero is not the most scenic beach in the area, but its dark tan sand is still a nice place to spend an hour or two. Especially since it is seldom busy. Sunsets here are also really nice!
The beach doesn’t have much shade, as most palm trees are set back. But there are a few fig trees with nice cover just in front of the Bahia del Sol property.
The next beach on the northern end of town is Playa Penca (see cover photo, above). Not to be confused with the Playa Penca near Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste), you can find this beach by looking for the small sign just past the soccer field on the left. There’s a small parking area right as you come to the beach, and a sandy beach road continues up the coast.
Playa Penca has beautiful light sand (almost white) and clear turquoise water. Usually the waves are small and great for swimming, but that can change depending on conditions. It doesn’t have much for shade so keep that in mind.
On the other side of Playa Penca is Playa Prieta. This is a lesser-known beach because it is slightly harder to get to. You can either walk the beach trail from Playa Penca or drive via an unmarked side road (directions below).
Once you arrive, you will discover that Playa Prieta is well worth the effort. It’s a great place to spend the day, with a lot of shade from short, shrubby trees. The sand is a pretty, light tan, and the water is clear and perfect for swimming. You can also boogie board in the small waves.
Be sure to take the short walk to the northern end to see the rocky, vegetated point.
To drive to Playa Prieta, take the main road going towards Las Catalinas just after the soccer field in town. In about one km (0.6 miles), look for the turnoff for Villas Estival on the left. This is a steep road (best with a higher clearance vehicle) that leads to the small hotel and also a public parking area for Playa Prieta. There aren’t many spots so be sure to arrive early on weekends when it is busier with locals.
A guard will watch your car in exchange for a small tip. Still, be sure not to leave anything inside the car, as always in Costa Rica.
Playa Danta and Playa Dantita
Another 15 or so minutes north of Potrero on the road to Las Catalinas are two more beautiful beaches.
Playa Danta is a calm cove with light gray sand that fronts a development called Las Catalinas. Although this is private property, all beaches are public in Costa Rica so you can still access the beach. Playa Danta is popular with locals, especially on weekends.
Just on the other side of the point is the remote Playa Dantita. To get here, you take a short hike through the forest or walk along the rocks at low tide. The white sand and clear turquoise water, along with the nice backing of tropical shrubbery, make Playa Dantita the perfect place to waste away the day.
For more information on visiting Playa Danta and Playa Dantita, including how to access, read our post Playa Dantita: A Serene White Sand Beach in Guanacaste.
Another nearby beach that we’d be remiss not to mention is Playa Flamingo, five minutes south of Potrero. This is one of Guanacaste’s most famous and is best known for its clean white sand.
Flamingo is more developed, so this beach is busier and has amenities like beach chair rentals and restaurants nearby.
Playa Conchal & Playa Brasilito
Only 15 minutes south of Potrero, you also have the beaches of Playa Brasilito and Playa Conchal. Playa Brasilito is more of a locals’ beach. It’s a long stretch of sand and has some beautiful little islands just off the northern end.
Playa Conchal, just south of Brasilito, is a really special beach. Here, the sand is mostly made up of tiny broken shells and the water is clear and usually good for snorkeling. Playa Conchal is home to the Westin Reserva Conchal Resort, but if you aren’t staying there, you can still access the beach on foot. Our post, Playa Conchal: The Allure of Shell Beach, has much more info, including instructions for parking in a secure lot.
In addition to the beaches, other things to do in the Potrero area include stand up paddleboard, kayaking, and sailing. Equipment can be rented from the Costa Rica Sailing Center on Playa Potrero.
Catamaran tours are also available out of nearby Flamingo. These take you along the coast and to secret beaches for swimming and snorkeling.
Dive and snorkel tours are another fun way to enjoy the ocean. The area has many companies that will take you to the Catalina Islands or Bat Islands to see things like manta rays, turtles, moray eels, puffer fish, and other interesting tropical fish.
For those looking for some adventure, the nearby Diamante Eco-Adventure Park has a super long zip line overlooking the ocean. They also have an animal sanctuary and cultural tour so it’s easy to spend the whole day.
Restaurants in Potrero
Potrero is relatively small, but still has several great restaurants. In addition, you’re right around the corner from Playa Flamingo, with even more choices.
Here are some spots to check out in town.
The Shack Restaurant and Bar
The Shack is a staple in Potrero. It has been around for several years and is a locals’ hangout. This friendly spot serves casual food in their open-air restaurant right on the main road in Surfside. With lots of TVs, it’s a good place to watch the game while sipping a local craft beer. The food isn’t fancy but nicely done. We really enjoyed our Mahi sandwich and burger with hand-cut fries. Check out their Facebook page for the menu and info on live music.
Carpe Diem Cafe
This cute café is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a little pick-me-up. Grab one of their sandwiches to take to the beach or treat yourself to a homemade Belgian chocolate donut. They are delicious (and huge)! Carpe Diem has a small outdoor dining space and a couple of tables inside as well. Located in a commercial building on the main road shortly after the soccer field.
El Castillo (The Castle) is a more upscale, but still casual, option serving an array of international cuisine. Offerings range from grilled octopus and Mediterranean tuna steak to homemade ramen soup. We loved the chipotle tequila shrimp with jalapeño grits, which was flavorful and perfectly seasoned. Fridays are popular with rib night! Located in Surfside on the corner of the main road near the beach.
If you’re craving Italian, look no further than La Forketta. They have wood-fired pizza and typical offerings like cured meat plates, bruschetta, and spaghetti, lasagna, and ravioli. Visit their Facebook page for the full menu. Located in Surfside on the corner of the main road and Route 911.
Accommodations in Potrero
Potrero is a great destination for families and larger groups because of its many vacation rentals. You can find these in Surfside and in other neighborhoods around town.
During our visit, we stayed right in Surfside and thought it was a great location. We were just a ten or so minute walk to the beach, and restaurants were right around the corner.
Overall, the nightly rates for vacation rentals in Potrero are lower than other nearby destinations, like Tamarindo or Flamingo.
Potrero has some smaller hotels and also one mid-size resort for those looking for a hotel experience. Here are a few good options.
Libelula Lounge & Lodgings
This super chic, eco-friendly hotel has a beautiful property in Surfside. Nestled under the Guanacaste trees, you can try glamping in one of their stylish platform tents or opt to stay in an enclosed villa with A/C. Libelula Lounge only has a handful of rooms, so the property feels very intimate. Rooms are spaced out nicely and are only a short walk from the spacious pool. Reused and reclaimed materials are used throughout and add a lot of character to the spaces. Around $115-200/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Horizon Lodge is a small property with four modern condos set high on a hill. Everything here is about enjoying the view. Huge windows and outdoor spaces overlook the tropical forest and ocean in the distance. Has a small, but nice, infinity pool. Deluxe One Bedroom or Two Bedroom Apartment, $180-200/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Bahia del Sol Beachfront Boutique Hotel
This hotel fronts Playa Potrero so you can walk from your room right onto the sand. While small, Bahia del Sol still has a resort feel, with a large pool and swim up bar, many loungers, and a restaurant on-site. It’s perfect for couples, with Suites and Deluxe rooms, as well as families who can stay in a Family Suite. Keep in mind that some rooms are in a better location than others. $145-350/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
If you’re looking to explore some of the Guanacaste region’s amazing beaches, Potrero is a great home base. It’s just a short drive to well-known spots like Playa Flamingo and Playa Conchal, and lesser known ones are right around the corner. While small, the town still has all the makings of a great vacation.
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Have a question about visiting Potrero or have you already been? Leave us a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your visit to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Tamarindo: Where Paradise Meets Convenience – Looking for a little more going on? Check out Tamarindo. This bustling beach town south of Potrero has more restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Samara: Guanacaste’s Most Overlooked Beach Town – Samara is another smaller beach town, in southern Guanacaste Province. It has a nice downtown with restaurants, shops, and accommodations just steps from the beach.
Costa Rica Rental Car Discount: We highly recommend a rental car when visiting Potrero so that you can explore the area beaches. Visit our rental car page for 10% or more off the base rate, plus free extras like a second driver and car seats. You can even request a free cooler for those beach trips!