For those who crave long walks at sunset and afternoons lounging in tide pools, ecological Blue Flag-recipient Playa Junquillal is a two-kilometer stretch of white-gray sands and beachfront wilderness – an outdoor paradise where jungle tumbles into sea, tide pools swirl, and boulders crumble into rocky reefs. Here, bluffs reach toward palm trees, the surf churns with seafoam, and the River Nanda Mojo cuts a swath through a 500-acre estuary and natural paradise.
Yes, this is Playa Junquillal – pronounced, hoon-kee-yal– a quiet retreat almost as hard to locate, as it is to pronounce. Located 10 miles south (as the toucan flies) of Tamarindo, this quiet corner of Costa Rica is a testament to the beauty of isolation: nearly deserted beaches, powerful surf swells (experience surfers only!), and molten sunsets that sizzle as they hit the horizon, Junquillal also marks the northern border of important sea turtle nesting beaches, both for olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
Our Playa Junqillal travel guide takes you to and through the best this secluded beach town has to offer.
Playa Junquillal Overview:
Location: North-Pacific Costa Rica, aka The Gold Coast, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Tamarindo
Average Temperature: 75-96º F (23-36º C)
Landscape: Lots of tropical ocean, protected turtle beaches, and dry and wet forest
Closest Airport: Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) – about 80 minutes
Top Activities: Turtle-watching, Surfing, Snorkeling & Scuba Diving, Horseback Riding, and Sports Fishing
Top Attractions: Beaches, Catalina Islands (scuba & snorkeling), Ostional Wildlife Refuge
Great for: Couples & Honeymooners, Anglers, Families & Family Reunions, Destination Weddings, Nature Lovers
We Recommend: For when you crave the quiet but don’t want to stay too far from world-class restaurants, Playa Junquillal is an isolated (yet Tamarindo-adjacent) natural wonderland.
About Playa Junquillal:
Somewhere in the wilds of the Pacific coast, where arcing waves crash onto pearlescent sands, Playa Junquillal stands as a bastion of wildlife conservation and natural beauty – of waters so clear, you can spot fish and rays beneath the surface, and forests so inviting that sloths, howler monkeys, and wild parrots are regular sightings.
Junquillal is another world. Strikingly beautiful, with a smattering of palm trees and nearly deserted beaches. Epically sporting, with world-class inshore and offshore fishing. Impossibly natural, where sea turtles nest and howler monkeys hoot. And spectacularly challenging, with some of the best surf on the Pacific.
Here, there are no ATMS and boogie boards could almost count as a form of transportation. Here, visitor spend their days basking in the sun and surfing the sea, and evenings dining oceanfront and watching sea turtles lay their eggs. Here, hooting howlers and burbling laughter play your vacation soundtrack. Here, anglers still fish with hand lines, as they have for generations. Here, lullabies take the form of surf, crashing on rocky outcroppings.
Indeed, Playa Junquillal is another world. A wonderful world. From the white-sand Playa Blanca to the north, over the steely sands of Playa Junquillal, and sweeping south to rocky Playa Callejones, black-sand Playa Negra, and the fishing village of Playa Lagarto, the Pacific’s turquoise-green waters hug the coastline, tide pools, and snorkeling reefs.
Let’s start with the musts for your bucket list: the golden sun that demands you lounge, warm sands that demand sun-bathing (or, at least, long walks at sunset), and luxury yachts that beg for afternoon snorkeling. Add in sea turtle-watching, canopy tours, snorkeling and scuba diving, and that world-class sport fishing, and we’ve still just scratched the surface of our Playa Junquillal travel guide.
And that’s because Playa Junquillal is also close to just about everything: about 80 minutes to the newly expanded Daniel Odúber International Airport in Liberia, and even closer to nearby draws, including Nosara and the Ostional Wildlife Refuge (more turtles!), Rincón de la Vieja National Park, Playas del Coco, Palo Verde National Park, and so much more.
With no shortage of things to see, places to explore, and great vacation homes to stay, this pristine town has options for every traveler, every adventurer, and every leisure pursuit. Our Playa Junquillal travel guide will get you up to speed.
Sea Turtle Protection in Playa Junquillal:
Junquillal marks the northern boundary of the Nicoya Peninsula’s important sea turtle nesting beaches. Just 25 miles north of Ostional Wildlife Refuge, this is the beach your guide book forgot: both leatherbacks (October to March) and olive ridleys (July to November) lumber up these beaches, digging hundreds of holes to lay their eggs.
Though Playa Junquillal is not officially protected as a national park or wildlife refuge, the local community and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have banded together to protect these important sands. Community education, protection from poachers, turtle tourism, and beach cleaning – check out that Blue Flag! – have all made Junquillal one of the cleanest, most beautiful, and most wildly natural beaches on the Pacific.
When to Visit:
In Costa Rica, there are two seasons: the dry season (December-May) and the green/rainy season (June-November). But, Playa Junquillal is a little different.
Of course, there is a sunny“dry” season and a wetter “green” season – plus, a turtle season (July through March) – but the surf and sun are excellent all year. Beyond that, as far as tourism is concerned, Junquillal also has a high summer season and a mid-season. Here’s a quick overview:
- Dry Season (Dec through Easter): Think of this as the sun-sun-sun! season. As in, an almost-zero percent chance of rain. As a result, pony up for the highest prices of the year.
- Mid-Season (Easter to mid-June): Also known as the shoulder season, mid-season represents a great bang for your buck, with good chances of all-sun, all-day but lower prices.
- Summer Season (mid-June through mid-August): Coinciding with Costa Rica’s mid-year summer break, this season sees prices rise to just under those of the true high season.
- Green Season (mid-August through mid-Dec): With daily rains, prices drop to the lowest rates of the year.
When you visit will, of course, depend on your schedule. But, you should know that there’s something to love about Playa Junquillal, every month of the year.
Things to Do in Playa Junquillal:
Playa Junquillal is one of the Pacific Coast’s most serene spots and yet, it’s still packed with plenty to see, do, and experience. From world-famous turtle-watching and epic sport-fishing, to adrenaline-rich canopy tours and spouting whales, our Playa Junquillal travel guide is all about the best, the most entertaining, and the most unforgettable things to do in the area.
Sport Fishing: Costa Rica’s Gold Coast is world-renowned for superb deep-sea fishing, but we’ll do you one better: We go full fun with the BEST boat and the BEST crew ever! Treat yourself to both inshore and offshore sport fishing and gear up (literally) to reel in marlin, sailfish, yellow-fin tuna, roosterfish, and wahoo.
Surfing: Playa Junquillal’s big waves and strong surf are not good for swimming but they’reexcellent for surfing! The crowds are few and the waves are legendary – strong, fast, and often big – with reef breaks and strong currents. It’s the realm of experienced surfers only. Board rentals are available.
Turtle Nesting: The beaches of Playa Junquillal are famed for turtle-watching throughout most of the year – July through March. Book a nightly turtle tour and you could find yourself on the beach, a red flashlight in hand, watching as olive ridley and/or leatherback turtles lumber up the sand, dig a hole, and lay their tiny eggs (that will hatch in just a few short weeks!).
Catamaran Sailing: Just north of Playa Junquillal, Tamarindo offers a coastline dotted with luxurious yachts that offer up half- and full-day sails. This is definitely a choose-your-own-adventure-kind of place, with sailing excursions bundling in your choice of snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, or dolphin & whale watching, followed by a beautiful Pacific sunset. Snacks and meals (and sometimes booze) are included.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving: Junquillal is well known for its excellent snorkeling, especially during the rainier months of May through October, when visibility reaches up to 80 feet. In addition to reef snorkeling along nearby beaches (with calmer waters than Junquillal), snorkeling tours depart daily for the Catalina Islands, a small archipelago just a 20-minute boat ride from Junquillal. Take the trip and you could see all manner of undersea life, including nurse, whale, and white-tipped reef sharks, as well as cow-nosed, devil, and spotted eagle rays.
Wildlife & Nature Tours: Imagine oodles and oodles of nature confetti, dropping down onto one small beach town. That’s Junquillal. And with that confetti, comes wildlife. Wildly wild wildlife: howlers that hoot from the trees, whales that breach offshore, olive ridley turtles that crawl onto the beach, and plenty of water fowl along the estuary. This is a delight for nature-lovers, birdwatchers, and wildlife aficionados of all stripes.
ATV Tours: Roar up the bumpiest of backroads and rainforest trails on an ATV tour around Junquillal!
Canopy / Zipline: Our favorite area zipline tour is located on a 150-year-old Costa Rican horse and cattle ranch, with 11 zip line cables, a swinging bridge, and a thrilling rappel.
Casinos: You may not expect to find casinos in the middle of a tropical paradise, but here they are! State-of-the-art facilities include electric roulette wheels, Vegas-style slot machines, poker tournaments, and more.
Golfing: Got golf on the brain? You won’t be out to dry in Junquillal, which offers easy access to Hacienda Pinilla’s incredible Mike Young Golf Course (10 miles), as well as Reserva Conchal’s 18-hole, 72-par Garra de Leon Golf Course (27 miles).
Horseback Riding: If you’ve ever dreamed of trotting down a secluded beach, the wind in your hair, you’ll love Junquillal. This is an area of lovely coastline and rugged backroads, gentle sea and rock reefs – the perfect terrain for horseback riding in paradise.
Believe it or not, these are just the highlights. There is so much more to Playa Junquillal than a list of things to do, although we’ll certainly try! In addition to the activities listed above, you can also enjoy tubing/rafting, ocean kayaking, luxury spa days, and even day trips to Palo Verde National Park (wetlands and wildlife-watching) and Rincón de la Vieja National Park (hot springs, hiking, horseback riding and more!).
Note: We always recommend pre-booking all your activities, transportation, chef services, etc. before you arrive, so you don’t spend your vacation… well, planning your vacation. If you’d like any help, our in-house concierge, Cristina (send her an email), can recommend perfect activities for your group – and book them on your behalf, absolutely free!
Things to See in Playa Junquillal:
In addition to our things to do, no Playa Junquillal travel guide would be complete without a comprehensive list of things to see, too. Because you could easily spend an entire vacation perusing Junquillal’s powdery sands and epic surf, scenic estuary and spectacular scenery. And hey, if you just want to relax by the pool, we fully support that, too!
Beaches: Junquillal’s gray and black sands are famed for its warm sun, shaded coast, gentle waves, and superb clarity. Dive in!
Ostional Wildlife Refuge: If the beaches of Playa Junquillal don’t have enough turtles for your liking, head 25 miles south to Ostional Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s most important nesting sites for olive ridley turtles.
Las Baulas National Marine Park: Once-in-a-lifetime experience, coming right up! Las Baulas National Marine Park is home to one of the world’s most important leatherback turtle nesting sites. Time it well, and you can see either nesting mothers or their tiny hatchlings!
Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge: Home to its own estuary and just 30 miles (by car) from the wildlife-rich Tamarindo Estuary, Junquillal offers immediate access to natural wildlife refuges where saltwater jungle seeps into mangroves and wetlands that house monkeys and coatis, waterfowl and basilisk lizards.
Catalina Islands: The beautiful Catalina Islands are Junquillal’s favorite spot for excellent scuba diving, especially during the rainy months. Keep your eyes open for starfish, living coral, reef sharks, and some of the world’s best manta ray sightings!
Where to Stay in Playa Junquillal:
We freely admit, we’re biased! We have fully embraced the vacation home lifestyle – privacy and total freedom, plus plenty of space to spread out, prepare meals, and lounge by your private pool.
And that’s why we’re thrilled to announce that we’ll soon be expanding our vacation homes into Playa Junquillal. Next up: Vacation rentals with ocean views and feet-in-the-sand locations, secluded pools and expansive gardens. We promise, they’ll be worth the wait!
Of course, when you rent with us, you also have access to free concierge services – all the extras you’d expect of a five-star hotel, including full vacation planning, babysitter services, private chefs, and much more.
Getting There & Around:
We are all about comfort and convenience – not to mention, the bare minimum of stress – and that’s why our perennial pick for the best way to get to Playa Junquillal is via airport shuttle: Choose this option and your driver will be waiting at the airport upon your arrival, ready to whisk you away to Playa Junquillal. There are no lines, no long waits for a shuttle to the rental car parking lot, no negotiating fares with Spanish-speaking taxi drivers, no interminable lines for buses or shared shuttles – none of the typical arrival hassles.
That said, if you’re driving to Playa Junquillal from the Liberia International Airport (LIR), your best bet is to download Waze, a free GPS app, to your smartphone. The basics: From the airport, take Route 21 south to Route 160 southwest, and then follow signs to Playa Junquillal.
If you opt for a shuttle, once in Junquillal you can have a rental car delivered to your vacation home. Or, skip the car in favor of walking, biking (beach cruisers are available for around $10 per day!), and taxiing to where you need to be. Private drivers are also available for daily or weekly hire.
And that, friends, wraps up our Playa Junquillal travel guide. If there’s anything, in particular, you’d like to know, please post a comment or get in touch!