Potrero: A Home Base for Beaches in Guanacaste

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.

Playa Penca, Potrero



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.

Adjacent to this development is a main road that leads to Potrero Bay. Along this stretch are some restaurants, stores, the Costa Rica Sailing Center, and even a craft beer brewery.

Beach road Surfside Potrero
The main beach access road in Surfside

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.

Playa Potrero

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.

Potrero Bay, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Playa Potrero

Playa Penca

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.

Playa Prieta

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.

Playa Prieta Guanacaste
The beautiful Playa Prieta

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.

Playa Dantita Guanacaste
Playa Dantita

Playa Flamingo

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.  

Other Activities

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.

Burger The Shack Potrero
Delicious burger at The Shack

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.

Donuts Carpe Diem Potrero
Belgian chocolate donuts at Carpe Diem Cafe

El Castillo

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.

El Castillo restaurant Potrero

La Forketta

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

Vacation Rentals

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

Libelula Lounge Costa Rica
Glamping at Libelula Lounge

Horizon Lodge

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

Bahia del Sol Hotel Costa Rica
The grounds at Bahia del Sol Beachfront Hotel


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!

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Manuel Antonio Hotel Guide: Ocean Views, Rainforest, and Wildlife
Orosi: A Valley of Green
Playa Bejuco
Playa Bejuco (Puntarenas): A Destination Between Destinations
Santa Teresa Destination Guide
Santa Teresa: Costa Rica’s Trending Beach Town


  1. Nice story and coverage of the Potrero area. We were based in Playas Del Coco while we lived in Costa Rica. One of our favorite areas to venture to was Potrero to experience a relaxing day.
    At the north end of Playa Potrero we found La Brisas Restaurante Bar. Farther south in the middle of Playa Brasilito I hope you discovered Indira Bar and Restaurant (behind the futbol field) which looks pretty dilapidated but the food is excellent. High tide waves are an awesome sight.
    You definitely find a way laid back Pura Vida lifestyle there compared to Flamingo, Tamarindo, or even Playas Del Coco. It has a lot of native Costa Rica characteristics with very friendly Ticos.

    1. Hey Nick, I am retired and I am seriously considering moving to Costa Rica from Atlanta, Ga
      I am looking for someone I can speak to regarding questions I have.
      Can you please help me or forward my email.
      Thank you very much Nick.

      1. Hi Dolores, We have lived in Costa Rica for 7 years and spent some of that time in Guanacaste. If you would like someone to help with questions about your possible move, we are doing a video chat service for a limited time. Here is the link with more information. 

    2. Hi Nick, Thanks for reading and sharing your experience from when you lived in Playas del Coco. We didn’t make it to Las Brisas Restaurant while we were in Potrero but we’ll check it out next time. We’ve seen Indira in Brasilito before but didn’t spend much time in Brasilito this trip. Not sure they are open these days. A lot of things on the beach in Brasilito had closed last time we were down there, when the government stopped allowing people to drive on the beach to get to Conchal.

      Yes, Potrero definitely has a more laid back and authentic feel than some of the busier tourist destinations in Guanacaste. Thanks again for commenting and pura vida!

  2. Great, let all the tourists know about the one beach that wasn’t clogged with gringos!! Leave something for the Ticos to enjoy.

  3. You are talking about some of my favorite places in CR. Playa Conchal is a lovely dream. A beautiful swimming beach with the ocean a multitude of different shades of blue. Brazilito is not much of a town though. Our favorite area is Samara. It is seeing expanded growth there. Especially with the Defresnes family youtube videos bringing many expats into town. Samara Beach is great for swimming and beginning surfers. Neighboring Playa Carillo next door gives Playa Conchal a run for its money as one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. We have enjoyed Samara the last 3 years in a row and are so disappointed that we will be unable to go this December with things being as they are right now.
    Costa Rica gets in your heart and in your mind. I feel the pull to return every day. Lucky for you to have made the move that many of us feel too scared to do. Enjoy.

    1. Hi Joni, We love Samara too. It’s similar to Potrero in that it’s a little smaller and less busy than other places in Guanacaste. Great beach and good for swimming. That’s sad that you will miss your annual December trip. Hope you can get back here soon!

  4. We used to stay at Playa Hermosa, but when our hotel was booked we found Bahia del Sol and fell in love with Potrero. We have stayed several places and have eaten everywhere, and we just love it! We enjoy the laid back feel and have become friends with many friendly locals and expats. We are coming back in February 2021, and renting a condo. From there we are planning to buy a property in Surfside

    1. That’s great, Tom! We can definitely see why you like Potrero. Hope you have a great visit when you come in February and best of luck with your plans to buy property. Pura vida!

  5. On our first visit to CR in 2018, we stayed at the Sugar Beach Resort near Potrero and loved it! We’re planning a return trip in 2021, and may be scouting for a semi-permanent residence in the area. Can’t wait to get back!

  6. Our family is traveling to Potrero in January and I have a couple of questions about service availability in town. Thanks so much!

      1. Do they have ATMs that work with American cards in Potrero? How far is the closest gas station from town? We are traveling with our kids (teens/pre teen), any tips or tricks you would suggest?

        1. The nearest ATM is in Flamingo, about 5 minutes away. Here’s a map link with the location. It’s a Banco de Costa Rica. All ATMs in Costa Rica work with foreign debit cards, you just may be charged a fee. Here’s a link to our Money Matters post with more information about that.

          We think the closest gas station is in Huacas right on the main road, about 15 minutes from Potrero.

          I can’t think of anything specific with teens and preteens. But maybe the Sailing Center in town would have some activities going on that they might like. Here is their Facebook page with more information. It looks like they have some camps going on end of December/early January.

  7. Great info! We will be staying in Potrero in Dec. Can you walk north from Playa Potrero to the white sand beach of Playa Penca or is a car or taxi necessary? Thx.

    1. Hi Bev, It could be a fairly long walk depending on where you are staying in Potrero. You could do it though, by walking to the northern end of the beach, then cutting back inland towards town to take the little side road to Penca. You may be able to walk the rocks at low tide as well but we aren’t totally sure. We have always driven when we’ve visited.

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