Visiting Playa Ocotal
Playa Ocotal is located at the entrance of the beautiful and highly developed Gulf of Papagayo in the province of Guanacaste. The International Airport of Liberia (LIR) is only 30 minutes away, making Playa Ocotal an excellent destination for a stress-free vacation in the sun! The beach conjures up pure mystery and romance. Its sands are volcanic black, the waters are a bright blue and the fresh ocean air is tinged with white mist. These mists are said to have healing properties making this area beneficial for people, animals, and plants alike. These uniaue qualities makes Playa Ocotal one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. The Gulf of Papagayo is famous for its resorts as well as its close proximity to some Guanacaste’s most well-known natural treasures. This makes Playa Ocotal the perfect location for a well-rounded trip!
Snorkeling and scuba diving
Playa Ocotal may be small, but there is plenty to see. The rocky formations flanking the beach make Ocotal a wonderful place for snorkeling. You may have to travel further for a bigger chance to spot Manta Rays, turtles and sharks. But you will be rewarded by large schools of colorful fish in beautiful, clear waters. Scuba diving training and tours are available at every level. The best scuba diving spot in this area of Costa Rica is the nearby Catalina Island, where you can see the more sought after giants like rays and turtles!
One of the best ways to see a beach, is from the ocean! Playa Ocotal, as well as the rest of the Gulf of Papagayo, has rather tranquil waters. This means you can engage in some oceanic kayaking rather than restrict yourself to rivers. Prepare yourself, though! It may seem easy but the oceanic current, however soft, will be a challenge for your muscles!
Explore the Gulf of Papagayo
Playa Ocotal is the entrance to the Gulf of Papagayo which means there are many more beaches to explore. Head 3 km north to the old fishing town of Playas del Coco, now converted to a place ideal for a drink and a party. The fishing culture is still very much alive here so take a tour as you go! Head further north to Playa Hermosa and discover why the locals awarded this beach the name beautiful. Venture a little further still for one of the best family beaches in the Gulf, Playa Panama. The waters are so tranquil you can enjoy a swim and otherwise appreciate the great calm of the ocean. The best way to explore the whole Gulf is either by renting a car or by organizing a private boating tour. These tours can also take you to some more remote beaches only accessible by boat!
Rincon de la Vieja
As a national park known for its incredible diversity, you can’t visit Guanacaste without also visiting Rincon de la Vieja. Proudly towering over the city of Liberia, the volcano’s fertile grounds give birth to a great variety of flora. Admire the intense purple and subtle shimmer of the guaria morada, Costa Rica’s national flower. Push your body and your mind by engaging in the wide range of river adventures and hikes. Unwind in the mud baths, waterfalls and natural springs. Spot some of Costa Rica’s most famous birds and monkeys and explore the history of cattle farming in the Guanacaste Wild West.
Santa Rosa National Park
Speaking of history, how much do you truly know about Costa Rica’s past? It may easily be forgotten in favor of beaches and jungles, but this country’s history is well worth exploring. In Santa Rosa National Park you can learn more about Costa Rica’s victory over William Walker with a tropical dry forest backdrop. Discover how Walker’s defeat was key in the development of unity as well as creating a national identity! Are you a keen surfer? Then you simply have to make your way to Witches’ Rock at Playa Naranjo!
Palo Verde National Park
After beaches, volcanoes and history, a proper jungle experience is overdue! Palo Verde National Park is sometimes a little overlooked in favor of the imposing Rincon de la Vieja. Unjustly so! Some of the best activities include cycling through the park to spot some wildlife and boating up Rio Tempisque. Head a little further close to Isla de Parajos for a chance to see some beautiful birds.
Visit between January and March: Explore Playa Ocotal and its surrounding treasures during the dry season! Even though Guanacaste is the region with the least amount of rainfall, this way you won’t find yourself stuck in an unexpected storm.
Rent a car: Renting a car is the best option to explore the Gulf of Papagayo and the rest Guanacaste has to offer.
Bring factor 50 sunblock: The sun in Guanacaste is no laughing matter and can get quite intense. Protect your skin with factor 50 sunblock or more!
Make your trip a varied one: Playa Ocotal is only one of so many treasures in this area. Make a list of places you want to visit and hit all the iconic ones.
Playa Ocotal is very easy to reach. Located at about 30 minutes from Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia (LIR), your best option is to fly in from your country of origin or from San Jose if you start your trip there. Once there, you can take a shuttle or rent a car to head to Ocotal. With Liberia laying at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 21, you can easily rent a car from San Jose as well. If you prefer to take a private shuttle from the capital you can do so, but keep in mind that these could cost around $200 where shared shuttles will cost you between $50 and $100.
There is one restaurant in Playa Ocotal that comes so highly rated, it has reached a legendary status. Father Rooster is located right at the beach and offers local cuisine and seafood as well as vegan and gluten free options. If you are looking for a wider selection of restaurants, Playas del Coco is only 3 km away and offers an extensive choice of places to dine. For some local flavors as well as tasty seafood, Soda Mediterranea should be on top of your list. For a good breakfast, make sure to give Gallo Pinto a try! The delicious, national dish of Costa Rica.
Where to stay
The Gulf of Papagayo is home to some of the finest Hotels of Guanacaste. If you are looking for 5-star all-inclusive luxury in a stunning resort, look no further than Hotel Riu Ganacaste at a couple of kilometers from the beach. This resort offers extreme comfort and elegance in enchanting surroundings. For a beautiful, beachfront boutique option, head to Playas del Coco and stay at Cafe de Playa!