Located just north of Tamarindo in Guanacaste, is the charming beach community of Playa Grande. Playa Grande offers a laid back, smaller beach experience compared to its neighbors. It carries a protected beach status as part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park. So you won’t find that much active nightlife, a multitude of hotels or a fancy resort. The main street has a few restaurants, a small supermarket and a surf shop. Playa Grande boasts misty brown sands and pearly blue waters. The long stretch of beach is void of any trees which gives it a rather unique feeling of infinity. Playa Grande is the ideal destination for the surfer who finds Tamarindo a bit too crowded and wants more of a challenge!
Marino Las Baulas National Park
For longer than anyone can remember, giant Leatherback turtles have been making their way ashore to lay their eggs. These sea turtles, also called Las Baulas, are not only one of the largest marine reptiles, but also one of the most endangered. Since the area was named a National Park in 1990, the serious conservation efforts began to change the turtle’s numbers for the better. Because of the protected nature of the Leatherback turtles, only visit them along with a guide. It lessens the impact on the area. Learn more about these majestic sea creatures but never forget to respect their natural process!
Paradise for the solo surfer
The surf breaks are varied and moderate to high making Playa Grande the perfect spot for surfers of all abilities. The low tides are great for beginners wanting to perfect their skills. The high tides, on the other hand, will offer a fun challenge to the intermediate or more advanced surfers. According to the local surfers, Playa Grande is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for the solo surfer. Tamarindo is right next door and has consistent low to moderate waves. This makes it the best place to take some lessons for those first few paddles out into the water. But that does mean it is a bit more difficult for those wanting to experience the freedom of the waves. Playa Grande attracts a smaller crowd and has breaks with more intensity. Great for those wanting to step it up a notch!
There will be days when you are looking for something else to do besides enjoying the remarkable surf. Playa Grande is close to some great nature excursions. A memorable trip will be a kayak tour on the Rio Matapalo estuary that borders the area. You will see tons of monkeys, tropical birds, and other animals!
If you wish to snorkel or swim, you best avoid doing that at Playa Grande. The rip currents and surfers make it rather unsafe to do so. Instead, make your way to the neighboring Playa Ventanas. This part of the beach is generally even less crowded and offers more opportunities for those wanting to enjoy the water in different ways.
Referred to by the locals as TamaGringo, Tamarindo is Playa Grande’s extroverted neighbor. Extremely popular with tourists and expats, Tamarindo combines great waves for the beginner surfer with an intoxicating nightlife. Playa Grande carries some of the “expat overspill” from Tamarindo which can give you an idea about the popularity of this beach. From Tamarindo your tour options are a lot more varied. Go on the highly rated Guachipelin Adventure tour combining ziplining with horseback riding. Or take day trips to some of Costa Rica’s most famous treasures. Visit Rincon de la Vieja and experience the country’s amazing biodiversity. Or take trip to Rio Celeste for the bluest waters you will ever see.
Visit between December and May for the beach: This is the Costa Rica dry season and will offer you the most rewarding weather!
Visit during the rainy season for the leatherback sea turtles: If you would like to spot some turtles, you are actually better off traveling during the rainy season. That is when they are most active.
Rent a car: Costa Rica has invested greatly in its roads and getting around has become incredibly easy by car.
Bring your own umbrella for shade: If you want to relax on Playa Grande, make sure to bring your own umbrella for shade. The beach doesn’t have any trees.
The easiest way to get to Playa Grande will be to take a domestic flight to Tamarindo airport with Sansa. It costs about $70 and takes approximately 30 minutes. Tamarindo is only about 20 km removed from Playa Grande. From San Jose you can rent a car, take a shuttle or private transfer, but keep in mind that it is about a 4 ½ hour drive. If you fly into Liberia, you will be able to arrive in about 1 ½ hours by rental car, shuttle or private transfer.
There aren’t too many restaurants around but the ones that are, offer amazing cuisine. La Marejada has a varied menu but is most notable for its super fresh ceviche. El Huerto offers some great Italian food fused with local flavors. All restaurants have a loungy, relaxed type of feel in keeping with the beach’s reputation as a quiet haven.
Where to stay
Since it has acquired the status of a national park, certain rules and regulations must be maintained in Playa Grande. The comfort and natural process of the turtles have to come before everything. One thing that is said to disturb a turtle, is bright light. This is why the condos and hotels all have subdued and soft lights outside, if any. It gives the beach a rather romantic and fantastical atmosphere. The Playa Grande Park Hotel follows this tradition. It combines impeccable rooms and comfort with the rustic feel of a hacienda. The hotel makes you feel at home and blends in nicely with the natural surroundings.
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Located on the Pacific Coast in the Guanacaste Province, Playa Grande is easy to get to from Liberia and San Jose by car, shuttle or private transfer.