Tamarindo Day Trip: Beach Hopping

Playa Conchal near Tamarindo

Playa Conchal is famous for its pink sands, which come courtesy of crushed seashells. And check out that turquoise water! No wonder it’s one of the most famous Tamarindo beaches…

There’s something special about doing nothing – or, almost nothing – when you’re on vacation. For at least a day. Live a little! Because you deserve the relaxation. The sand between your toes. And the joy of a day at the beach. Ten of them, actually. Beaches, not days, that is. Because we’re beach-hopping on another Tamarindo day trip!

We’ve mapped our favorite Tamarindo beaches from north to south, starting a little more than an hour north of downtown. Along the way, if you see any stretch of sand that calls to you, stop! Make it eleven, or twelve, or twenty beaches. And, be sure to bring your camera!

  1. Sugar Beach / Playa Pan de Azúcar

Your beachcombing day trip begins in the far north, off the beaten path and near our neighboring town of Potrero – about a 45-minute drive from Tamarindo, if you’re counting – on a beach of soft sands, warm water, and seclusion. You may even have the place all to yourself.

Because, if we’re spilling the tea, there’s this little secret among those of us who really know Tamarindo: Playa Pan de Azúcar, aka Sugar Beach, is a local favorite. Pristine, beautiful, and a natural paradise, Sugar Beach is a haven of white sands, blue ocean and spectacular wildlife, including racing iguanas, warbling birdsong, and hooting howler monkeys.

  1. Playa Flamingo

Playa Flamingo sunset

There’s a reason why Playa Flamingo makes our list of much-visit Tamarindo beaches!

Idyllic and beautiful, Flamingo Beach carves a white, sandy crescent from Guanacaste’s famed Gold Coast. Welcome to nearly a mile of super-soft, powder-fine sands and gently lapping waters, plus that otherworldly beauty you can only find at the beach: waters so clear, you can see the rays and fish swimming at your feet, and forest replete with howler monkeys, sloths, wild parrots, and other animal sightings.

Add to that one of Costa Rica’s largest marinas – many area sportfishing and other tours begin here – beachfront horseback riding, stand-up paddle boarding, and other beach-y activities, and Playa Flamingo is the kind of place where you can get more than a suntan.

  1. Playa Conchal

If there’s one of our many Tamarindo beaches that gets much of the acclaim, it’s Playa Conchal – and for very good reason. One of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa Conchal (or Shell Beach, in Spanish) is incredibly scenic – but also, popular and therefor somewhat crowded. Of course, it’s nothing like what you’d find on Waikiki, but as our country’s beaches go, it’s definitely one of the more populous.

That said, it deserves a definite spot on your day trip list: As Costa Rica’s only official pink-sand beach – FYI, more an accumulation of tiny pink shells, rather than powder-soft pink sand – we like to say it’s more rosé than roses. Pink but not baby pink. Calm waters are perfect for snorkeling, swimming, or just wading, and Conchal’s palm-lined sands are the perfect place to steal a bit of warm sun.

  1. Bahía de los Piratas / Pirate’s Cove

Skipping from well-known to well-hidden, Bahía de los Piratas, aka Pirate’s Cover or Playa Piratas, is a little-known and more-often-than-not deserted beach just south of Playa Conchal. We love its quiet sands, scenic location, and near-total isolation, but what really seals the Pirate deal is ultra-calm swimming waters and postcard-perfect views of the small and rocky off-islands.

  1. Playa Grande

Witchs rock surfing

Surfing, sea turtles, and soft sands – it’s the Playa Grande trifecta!

If you’ve perused our posts even a bit, Playa Grande needs little introduction: Located just north of Tamarindo, across our famous (or is it infamous?) estuary, Playa Grande lives within the protected boundaries of Las Baulas National Marine Park, an important nesting site for leatherback turtles– officially, the world’s largest marine turtle and a vulnerable species.

But, it’s about more than the turtles: Expansive and pristine, Playa Grande is one of Tamarindo’s famous hotspots for intermediate and advanced surfers. Not to mention, it’s a haven for beach-goers, beach-strollers, and anyone who seeks a quiet place to build sand castles, drink in the sun, and take a long walk along the beach.

Note: To get to Playa Grande, always drive or take the lancha (about $1) across the estuary. There are crocodiles in the river, and they aren’t shy.

  1. Tamarindo Beach

Well, of course no beach-combing list could be complete without mentioning our very own (and very famous, if we do say so ourselves!) Tamarindo Beach. It may have been the beach that put our town on the map, but it’s so much more than that.

Playa Tamarindo unrolls over more than a mile of soft, blonde sands abutting famous surf that swings from mild to monster. FYI, this is a great place to stop for lunch, as Tamarindo is lined with restaurants and shops. And yet, it’s still spectacularly beautiful and one of our favorite places in the region. (Surprise, surprise – right?) So, expect warm smiles and warm sunshine, with a side of scenic palms and plenty of surfing talent to watch.

  1. Playa Langosta

Playa Langosta travel guide - beachfront sunset

Sunset at Playa Langosta. Can you imagine yourself here?

Down a dusty dirt road, just a mile south of Tamarindo, Playa Langosta offers up a stretch of white sand and rocky outcroppings. Decidedly quieter and less developed than its big brother to the north, Langosta Beach is the place you go when you want a quiet day at the beach (plus a swimming hole or two).

Add in startling sunsets, a truly beautiful setting, and quick convenience (about 5 minutes) to all the surf shops, restaurants, and other services you might want during a day at the beach, and we think you’ll see why Langosta snags a spot on your must-visit list.

  1. Playa Avellanas

Peruse any list of Costa Rica’s best beaches – heck, make it a list of the best beaches in Central America! – and you’ll inevitably stumble upon Playa Avellanas. Located along the shores of Hacienda Pinilla, Playa Avellanas is one of the cleanest, most pristine, and most scenic Tamarindo beaches – and also a haven for surfers and sun-worshipers alike.

About that surf: Swells come in from both the north and south here, birthing waves that climb tall and crash hard – as high as 18 feet, during high surf season! That said, Avellanas can also be tranquil and quiet, offering gentle waters, powder-soft sands, and an afternoon of tranquility.

Bonus: Playa Avellanas plays host to the extremely popular (we could even say famous!) Lola’s restaurant, an amazing place to hang out, one of the top beach bars in Costa Rica, and just an all-around great place to chill and enjoy the sun!

  1. Playa Junquillal

leatherback sea turtle in Playa Junquillal

Leatherback sea turtles (and olive ridleys, too) nest at Playa Junquillal

Playa Junquillal is beach alchemy – that perfect kind of place, where arcing waves crash onto warm sands and howler monkeys hoot in the trees. This is a place dedicated to wildlife conservation and pristine nature: palm trees line deserted beaches, fish swim beneath clear waters, and famed surf forms amazing waves.

  1. Playa San Juanillo

Dreamy white sands, turquoise waters, and a secluded location – Playa San Juanillo is the intersection of two lovely beaches, joined as a scenic beach peninsula. There’s no one here. (Probably.) There aren’t many facilities, either. But that’s what makes it such a special choice for your final beach of the day: It’s quiet, it’s scenic, and it’s different from almost every other beach near Tamarindo. Embrace the isolated beauty!

And, there you have it: 10 beaches and one amazing day of beach-hopping, sun-bathing, swimming, surfing, and all other manner of sand-dusted fun.

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