Coco Beach, Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go

The rich dark sand of Coco Beach, Costa Rica, stretches about three km (1.8 miles) from end to end. This ocean paradise is one of the most popular beaches in the entire country for locals and tourists alike. It is also becoming an expat and retirement haven for many North Americans and Europeans looking to enjoy the Pura Vida year-round. 

Playas del Coco, as it is locally known, isn’t much of a surfing beach, but it is a great place to swim, relax, and fish. The town of Coco is a fishing village, and locals make the most of it! 

Check out the tips below for planning your trip to Coco Beach and what to do while you’re there.

Where is Coco Beach in Costa Rica? 

aerial view of Coco beach

It’s along the Pacific Coast, in the Guanacaste Province, not far from Nicaragua. It lies in the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Papagayo, making it a calm water haven. 

Best things to do in Coco Beach

Head to the beach! 

Best for sun worshipers and people who enjoy fishing.

creamy sand on Coco beach Costa Rica

It is no surprise that going to the beach is the number one thing to do here. Playa Coco Beach, Costa Rica, is a fantastic place to swim and relax year-round. The gentle waves and cool waters are inviting for all types of travelers, except big-wave surfers. 

Of course, you may have a day or two with a few small swells which bring out the skimboarders. 

Surrounding the beach, you’ll find cliffs and gentle, rolling hills. The backdrop of the green mountains against the sparkling blue water is an epic contrast and absolutely gorgeous. 

The best part of this beach is its sunset views. Its location along the Pacific coast is perfect for watching the sun go down with a cocktail in hand as the sky fills with stunning oranges, pinks, and purples. 

If you’re wondering which is better, Coco Beach vs. Tamarindo, it all depends on why you came to Costa Rica. If you’ve come to surf and party, Tamarindo is for you.

On the other hand, Coco is much smaller than Tamarindo and definitely more laid back. So, it’s the perfect place for a quiet, chill holiday. 

Enjoy some water activities

Scuba diving and snorkeling

silver fish and brown coral

Due to the excellent location on the coast, you have an insane amount of options for fun under the sun. Once you’ve spent some time chilling out at the beach, you can easily plan a few adventurous water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, or surfing. 

Playas del Coco is one of the best spots in Costa Rica for diving since it is so close to several islands. You can quickly get to the Bat Islands, Catalinas Island, and Monkey Island directly from the shore, and there are lots of scuba diving shops in town to help plan your trip.  

All three make great day trips out on the water. And you can dive with sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, octopuses, and plenty of other marine life. 

If scuba diving isn’t for you, it is just as easy to snorkel. Bring your own gear or rent from a beach club or shop for a small fee. Lucky snorkelers can see porcupine fish, moray eels, sting rays, and sea turtles.

It is also possible to kayak or head out for a sunset sail with a guide directly from Coco Beach, so there really is something for everyone! 

Fishing

Because you’re in a fishing village, it would be a shame to miss out on some excellent fishing opportunities. You can go on deep sea excursions offshore or keep it closer and fish inshore. If you plan a trip, you’ll likely catch mahi-mahi, red snapper, and sailfish.

Nearby surfing

Witches Rock in Costa Rica

Even though you can’t really surf at Coco Beach, it is still possible to catch some waves during your trip. If you’re an intermediate or expert surfer, head to Witch’s Rock. This is one of Costa Rica’s most famous surfing spots and is only a 45-minute boat ride away.

If you’re a beginner, head to Tamarindo Beach instead. The waves are much calmer, and you can also take some surfing lessons. Plus, it’s only about an hour and a half drive from Tamarindo to Coco Beach, so you can easily plan a day trip to enjoy some surfing. 

There are island hopping tours as well. You can set off around the Gulf of Papagayo, keeping your eyes peeled for hidden pristine beaches and caves, fantastic snorkeling spots, and plenty of marine life. 

Relax in the park

Parque Amor de Temporada is a lovely little park with a boardwalk. You can scoop up a delicious pipa fria (cold coconut water) or a copo (Tican snow cone) and watch the sunset. This park is the perfect place to listen to some live local music and watch the world go by. 

Definitely head here after a long day at the beach. 

Shop in Coco Town

Pura Vida sign near Coco Beach, Costa Rica

Coco Beach’s main street has several interesting shops to spend an afternoon browsing. You’ll find souvenir shops near the beach entrance selling jewelry, handbags, wood carvings, hammocks, and countless trinkets. 

This is also the best spot to find Pura Vida signs and stickers, traditional coffee and various gifts. 

Head to happy hour or enjoy the nightlife

row of happy hour drinks by the beach

Don’t let the chill vibes of Coco Beach fool you. While it may look like a sleepy town during the day, it certainly comes to life once the sun goes down. 

Several bars and restaurants offer a lovely happy hour while the sun is setting. 

There are several bars, so you’ll find one that suits your needs no matter what you’re looking for. There are large bars that blast music and serve delicious cocktails, a sports bar with several TVs, and a few lounges that offer live music and chilled-out vibes. 

The best thing about Coco Beach’s nightlife is that all the bars have open-air seating. So grab a drink, enjoy the sea breeze, and people-watch as much as you like. 

In town for Christmas or New Year? 

You’ll get to experience one of the biggest parties in the country! People party on the beach and celebrate the holidays in style. 

Take a day trip from Playas del Coco

view of Coco Beach from the water

Day trips from Coco Beach, Costa Rica, are effortless to arrange because it’s so close to many attractions. However, the hardest part about planning your trip will be deciding what you’d like to see and do. 

Depending on your time, you can easily design several different itineraries to ensure you hit every destination on your list. For example, you can visit several stunning beaches or hop around between forests, volcanoes, and islands, all in a matter of hours. 

Coco Beach is one of the best locations to base yourself to explore as much of Guanacaste province as possible. 

Here are some of the best day trips you can take:

Heliconias Rainforest Reserve

sloth eating a leaf

This is the place for a Guanacaste sloth tour! Within two hours of driving, you’ll be able to see some sloths in the wild after exploring the tropical rainforest. The reserve is set up in two distinct sections: the primary rainforest, where you can walk around and soak up Costa Rica’s natural beauty, and a second reserve, home to wild sloths. You’ll walk the reserve with a guide and keep your eyes peeled for some local furry friends. 

Rincón de la Vieja

This phenomenal national park is known for great hiking, especially in the Las Pailas sector. Plus, you can feel the immense power of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano, the largest and most active volcano in Guanacaste Province.

There are several different trails in the area, each with a varying degree of difficulty. So head here for the perfect day of exercise and to see more of this beautiful country. It’s only about an hour and 15 minutes away from Coco.

Diamante Eco Adventure Park

Only 30 minutes from Coco Beach, you’ll find Diamante Eco Adventure Park. This park has some of the best zip lining in the country, including a superman zip line over a kilometer long with a breathtaking ocean view. 

You can also take a canopy tour while you’re here!

Rio Celeste

sky blue water and jungle with a bridge

About 2.5 hours away, inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park, is one of the country’s most charming and magical places, Rio Celeste. Hike through the park to see a rushing waterfall and an other-worldly sky-blue river.

Tenorio River

One of the most exciting things you can do in Costa Rica is white water rafting, about 1.5 hours from Playas del Coco. The Tenorio River has epic class 2-4 rapids with the verdant green rainforest as a backdrop.

Palo Verde National Park 

This tropical dry forest is home to thousands of species of birds and other wildlife. 

The dry rainforest ecosystem is actually endangered in Central America and is rather impressive. Take a boat ride down the Rio Tempisque in search of birds, iguanas, and monkeys. 

Be sure to arrange this before you arrive. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to hire boats once you get there.

This is a quick 1.5-hour drive from Coco Beach.

Hacienda el Viejo

If you are craving an exclusive experience, head to Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands. It is a fantastic spot to learn about Costa Rica culture or enjoy a boat ride down the Tempisque River. 

In addition, the property has its own private wildlife refuge that you can tour and even go rum tasting!

Hacienda el Viejo borders Palo Verde National Park and is only an hour and a half away.

Arenal

Arenal in Costa Rica

Head to Arenal to explore the gorgeous rainforest, take a dip in the hot springs and marvel at the volcano. 

This is an absolute must-do while visiting Costa Rica. However, because it will take about three and a half hours to get from Coco to Arenal, you may want to stay a night or two.

Monteverde

You can’t come to Costa Rica and not zipline through the awe-inspiring cloud forest. You can make the 3.5-hour journey on your own or go on an organized tour. Again, you may want to stay overnight because it’s so far. 

San Juan del Sur

Did you know you can cross the border into Nicaragua on a day tour? Coco Beach is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Juan del Sur, one of Central America’s best surf destinations. So if you love to surf or are interested in adding another country to your “Places I’ve Been” list, this is an easy way to do it!

Weather in Coco Beach

View of Coco Beach, Costa Rica

Coco Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica weather is typical of the region. 

Because it is tropical, you can expect a dry and a rainy season. 

The dry season lasts from December to April. While temperatures tend to hover consistently around 33℃ (low 90s℉), the area is very dry and arid during these months. 

March and April are the hottest months, with temperatures pushing 38℃ (100℉).

Visiting during the dry season means you’ll have plenty of clear days to soak up the sun and enjoy the beach. But, unfortunately, it’s also when it will be more crowded. So, be sure to book your accommodation early and be willing to pay higher prices during these months.

The rainy season runs from May through November, with rain pretty much every day in August, September, and October. A typical day during the rainy season will start cloudy but dry and continue on and off with showers in the afternoons and evenings. Temperatures will cool down a little at night, and the mountains will turn a lush green. 

The benefit to traveling during the rains is that it won’t be as crowded, and you’ll be treated to some breathtaking views of the green mountains.

May and June are the shoulder season and could be ideal if you don’t mind a few scattered showers. Plus, you’ll have the benefit of fewer people and some sunshine. 

Something else to note is that when it rains, it rains hard! Expect a 20-30 minute downpour before the clouds fade away, and the weather changes. 

On the other hand, if you’re visiting in the dry season, you may experience some water shortages. Between the overall dryness in the region and the surrounding hotels and resorts, a lack of water is inevitable. You can limit your impact while visiting by using water sparingly. 

Packing list essentials for Coco Beach

sun peeking from behind the mountain on Playa del Coco Costa Rica

Coco Beach, Costa Rica, is the ultimate beach getaway. To prepare for your trip, you’ll want to pack the following: 

  • Bathing suits
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera/GoPro
  • Waterproof bag
  • Waterproof phone pouch for underwater pics
  • Hiking shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Snorkel equipment
  • Fishing gear 

How to get to Coco Beach, Costa Rica

Costa Rica sign

If you fly into Liberia Airport (LIR), you can quickly go from Liberia to Coco Beach via shuttle bus in about 45 minutes. It is also possible to take a local bus. It will save you some money, but it will take double the time.

Coco Beach is 243 km (~150 miles) northwest of the capital, San José. If you plan to land in the capital and then set off for your beach adventure, you’ll spend about 4.5-5 hours driving to the beach. There is a shuttle service from San José to Coco Beach, which is great if you don’t want to rent a car. 

If you are looking to save some money, take a public bus. This trip will take about five hours and 45 minutes.

If you plan to get to Coco Beach from Monteverde, you can grab a bus or shuttle. The ride will take about three hours.

As you can see, there are plenty of options to get you to Coco Beach. But, no matter how you choose to travel, you’ll definitely enjoy your time in Costa Rica. Especially if you add this fantastic beach getaway to your itinerary. 

Map

FAQ

Can you swim at Coco Beach?

Yes! It is a lovely spot for swimming and sunbathing pretty much year-round. 

Is Coco Beach safe?

Yes–It is not a hotspot for crimes against tourists. It is always a good idea to stay vigilant, though, and keep an eye on your belongings

What is the closest town to Coco Beach?

Coco is an actual town with plenty of amenities. 

What is the closest airport to Coco Beach?

Guanacaste Liberia International Airport is about a 45-minute drive away.

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