Costa Rica's Southern Pacific coast area, from Playa Guapil in the north to the mouth of the Terraba River in the south, provides a stretch of countless beaches, each unique in its own way, for you to explore. You can swim or wade in the surf, stroll on golden sands, kayak through caves, enjoy a picnic under the shade of coconut palms, or watch the pelicans and water fowl that inhabit the shorelines.
|Punta Ventanas Beach|
You will enjoy dramatic sunrises to the southeast, as well as some of Costa Rica’s most fabulous Pacific sunsets to the northwest. Regardless of the weather or season, you’ll be hypnotized by the beauty. Less than a couple of hours from Jaco, and a little over 3 hours from San Jose.
Playa Ventanas (Windows Beach) gets its name from the beautiful sea caves that line the north and south ends of the beach. The two caves on the north end extend from the beach out to the ocean, a distance of about 50 meters, and during certain tides create a sort of "blowhole" effect. Pressure from each wave blows a large cloud of steam out onto the beach. The caves on the south end of Ventanas beach tunnel deeply into the rock and inspire thoughts of hidden pirate treasure. The plentiful vegetation and howling monkeys will add to the Treasure Island sensation.
To get to the beach, turn at the Ventanas sign on the Coastal highway and drive as far as you can - perhaps some 800 meters, then leave the car and walk some 200 meters to the beach, or you can leave your car in the private property just before the beach (a charge of 350 colones per vehicle per hour may apply) and walk some 100 meters to the beach. On this family owned property there are basic showers and bathrooms which may be used for a fee.
Pinuela is a well-maintained small beach at the southern edge of the Ballena Marine National Park. From Pinuela beach one can enjoy a clear view of the ‘Three Sisters’ rocks in short distance, with the larger ‘Ballena’ rock further in the background. The beach is generally calm and gentle, making it a popular shelter and landing point for local fishermen as well as fishing excursions. On Sundays and holidays (or whenever the park gate is manned), a park fee of 600 colones per person for locals or $6 for tourists is charged.
Ballena Beach teems with wildlife, from the hundreds of species of birds to whales that come during the months of December and January to Ballena Rock and the Three Sisters Rocks. Ballena beach as well as the ocean, are part of Ballena Marine National Park. Many park wardens are staff-quartered along this beach and the park entrance gate here is always manned. The charge is 600 colones for locals and $6 for tourists. There are outdoor showers, picnic tables and recycle trash bins. The beach has light-beige powdery sand which is especially enjoyable for strollers during low tides.
One of the most isolated beaches along the south coast, Arco is also one of the most spectacular. With no motor road access at all, the beach is a stunning sight of ‘rainforest meets the sea’. Near perpendicular cliff faces of hundreds of meters high tower over a wide, flat, sandy beach, giving beachcombers a one-of-a-kind experience. Arco can only be accessed via a short trail over a small headland at the northern end of Ballena, and is best enjoyed one hour before and after low tide.
Park tickets need to be purchased at the Ballena entrance; for precaution, inform the ticketing staff of your intention to hike over to Arco so that they can verify the tide conditions and advise you of any time constraint for returning safely.
Colonia Beach is a local ‘Picnic’ beach with stone picnic tables and chairs lining the beachfront in both directions from the national park’s gate. On Sundays and holidays one can expect a vibrant scene with large Costa Rican families gathering here for day-long revelries, bringing music, food and toys for kids. The park gate is manned on Sundays and festive days and there is a charge of 600 colones per person for residents and $6 per person for tourists. The shower facility here, although basic, is an advantage.
Playa Uvita is especially well-known for its ‘whale tail’ formation at the northern end of the beach, a kilometer-long sand bar with gently lapping waves on both sides, leading to an impressive sprawl of layered coral rocks at the fin of the tail. The sand bar is best accessed during low tide when it transforms into a scenic walkway, with the long sweep of Hermosa Beach on one side and Uvita Beach on the other.
Wild and beautiful, Playa Hermosa stretches for miles. The northern end of the beach is a little pebbly, and is popular with beginner surfers. Further south, the beach becomes flat and sandy and one can enjoy a peaceful stroll often without another soul in sight.
Pueblo Nuevo Beach
One of the most attractive beaches along Costa Rica's southern coast, Playa Puerto Nuevo has firm and powdery sand which makes it a perfect strolling or jogging beach. The beach is mostly deserted except on Sunday and holidays, when it transforms itself into a bustling playground for local Costa Rica residents and visitors. The golden hour leading to sunset, with its gentle surfs and a flat wide beach, this beach truly fulfills anyone’s dream of a tropical paradise.
San Martin Beach
The short trail to Playa San Martin from the main road is situated next to a large private gated garden compound - the beach signage can be easy to miss. The beach is at the end of a sharply descending footpath. San Martin beach is in a world of its own in a small hidden cove, perfect for solitude and privacy.
Just south of Dominical and a stone’s throw from the Costanera highway, Playa Dominicalito is a scenic beach with interesting rock formations at both ends of the 2km stretch. The beach is bordered by the Costa Paraiso Lodge to the north, where one finds a small cove and a natural ‘pool’ surrounded by rocky outcrops, and Punta Dominical to the south, where the ‘Parcela’ restaurant presides. The sunset on Playa Dominicalito is known to take one’s breath away by the sheer intensity of colors.
Long well known as a surfers’ beach, Playa Dominical has its tranquil moments for those seeking solitude and reflections. Strolling towards the middle stretch and further north, one encounters surfers from all over the world, as well as locals who call 'Tortilla Flats’ home, an area encompassing a quaint mix of hostels and hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, water sports kiosks and internet cafes. Predictably, the atmosphere around Tortilla Flats can be extremely animated during special surfing events and tournaments. For visitors these occasions offer a unique cultural experience and an opportunity to mingle.
Access to this spectacularly wide and flat beach is through Baru Wildlife Refuge, either by foot or by car. Enjoy watching the abundant wildlife such as krill, pelicans, iguanas, birds, hermit crabs, or just remain pleasantly inactive under the shade of numerous palms and trees that grow on the edge of the beach.
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