Playa Conchal, Costa Rica: Why it’s a Bucket List Beach
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica, is rated one of the top beaches in the country. Find out why it’s so unique and what activities you can do there.
You might not have heard of Playa Conchal, Costa Rica, before reading this blog, but we can straight up tell you it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Central America. A total bucket list beach. And why is that? Unlike anywhere else in the country, the sand on this beach is made up of crushed pink, white and tan shells. The word concha means shell in Spanish, and playa means beach, so Shell Beach pretty much sums it up.
Below we’ll unpack everything from how to get there, what to do, and why you’ll be planning a trip asap.
Where is Playa Conchal?
Playa Conchal in Costa Rica is on the northern Pacific Coast in the Guanacaste province.
If you fly into Liberia International Airport to Playa Conchal, it will take you just over an hour in a minivan to complete the journey.
If you fly into San Jose airport (SJO) and don’t mind traveling a bit, a bus or minivan from San Jose to Playa Conchal takes about five hours.
Playa Conchal Beach:
What to expect
Don’t travel here looking for a lively town. Instead, come for the beach, which is tucked away in a private cove. Conchal is all about peace and quiet. Being lazy and recharging your batteries while you listen to the palm trees swaying overhead and the rustling of howler monkeys from the forest.
Isn’t that what an ideal day at the beach is all about?
There are no high rises in sight. Or cars honking as they pull in from the highway. It’s absolute bliss.
You can expect beautiful turquoise and pale green waters at Playa Conchal (Guanacaste province), Costa Rica. The views are stunning, too, with sailboats and fishing canoes just off the beach and neighboring islands in the distance.
The real allure is the glistening colorful shells that make up the sand along the shore. The waves break and polish the tiny treasures making them soft to lay or walk on.
Be respectful and don’t take any home with you—if everyone did that, the beach would lose its natural beauty.
It’s possible to rent beach chairs and tents to protect you from the sun.
Pro tip: Sometimes, the waves can get pretty intense, so be careful if you visit with children.
How to access Playa Conchal
Unfortunately, there is no direct car access to the beach anymore unless you are staying at one of the 5-star resorts nearby.
It’s best to park your car in the nearby town of Brasilito. Look out for the large parking lot near the soccer field. If using GPS, set Brasilito Park as your final destination. There will be a small fee for your car to be attended to for the day.
On the plus side, you get to stroll along the beautiful Playa Brasilito before reaching Playa Conchal. The walk will take you approximately 20 minutes one way.
Watersports at Playa Conchal
There are plenty of watersports at Playa Conchal: snorkels, jet skis, and kayaks are available to hire.
Make sure you head to the northern end of the beach for snorkeling. It’s the best spot for colorful fish, eel, pufferfish and needlefish. If you’re lucky, you may even see a manta ray. The best time to spot marine life is at mid or lower tides.
Pro tip: Between Brasilito and Playa Conchal, there is a viewpoint that provides stunning views of both beaches. You can reach it by following a small trail off the main track. It’s not marked, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Playa Conchal has no public bathrooms, showers, or toilets on the beach.
Restaurants and Bars
Since there is no town center at Playa Conchal, it’s best to stock up at one of the local restaurants in Brasilito before heading to the beach.
Don’t stress if you forget.
A few local vendors wander along the shell-sand selling refreshments such as pipas frias (cold coconuts), grilled kebabs, fresh ceviche, and of course, the local Costa Rican beer, Imperial.
Best activities around Playa Conchal
If you plan to spend a few days in the area, check out some things to do in the neighboring towns. Below are our recommendations:
What better way to explore the area than on horseback?
Departing from Playa Brasilito, you can ride along the beach past Playa Conchal and out to a beautiful vantage point nearby.
If you haven’t ridden a horse before, don’t stress. Tour guides will be there to assist you.
Catch some waves or learn to surf
While there is no surfing in Playa Conchal, why not plan a road trip to some of the neighboring beaches for the day? The two main beaches with decent waves are Playa Grande and Tamarindo.
From Playa Conchal, it will take 35 minutes to reach Playa Grande and 45 minutes to get to Tamarindo.
While Tamarindo is the better-known of the two, Playa Grande is less frequented due to its more remote location. Yet, it has some great surf shops, restaurants, and convenience stores.
Surfers flock to Playa Grande as the waves are continuously decent throughout the year. It’s best suited for intermediate to advanced surfers.
Tamarindo is one of the top surfing meccas for all levels of experience in Costa Rica. You can easily find surf schools if you are just starting out.
However, if you’re not a surfer, there are still areas of this beach that are calm and perfect for swimming.
Go scuba diving near the Catalina Islands
The underwater caves, arches and volcanic rock formations that create the Catalina Islands make for a unique scuba diving experience. On top of that, the marine life will amaze you—sea horses, schools of fish, turtles, manta rays and even white-tip reef sharks.
The 20 uninhibited islands aren’t far from the mainland, but you will need to take a boat from one of the diving centers in Playas del Coco—the main hub for dive centers, approximately an hour’s drive away.
As the area is prone to strong currents, it’s advised that only experienced divers visit.
Set out at sunset on a sailing tour
There is something so special about a romantic evening out on a sailboat. As you cruise around the bay, you will jump in the warm glistening water and snorkel the area before watching the sunset.
Most group tours depart from Tamarindo, a 45-minute drive from Playa Conchal. Otherwise, if you are looking for a private tour, you can find boats departing from Flamingo, which is only a 15-minute drive from Conchal.
Pro tip: Watch out for dolphins, whales and turtles as you cruise around!
Hike in the local volcanic region of Rincon de la Vieja National Park
For nature lovers, spend the day at Rincon De La Vieja. Even though the volcano in the national park is considered active, it is safe to visit.
There are seven main hiking trails to choose from in this dry tropical forest. Just be cautious to check the skill level first, as they range in difficulty, length, and terrain. If you prefer a leisurely stroll followed by an afternoon relaxing, leave time for the mud pools and hot springs.
If you would rather not go alone, you can join a tour. Some even include ziplining, horseback riding and a relaxing spa. By opting for this option, your guide will spot all the wildlife you’d probably miss, such as armadillos, sloths, coatis, spider monkeys and many bird species.
Pro tip: The national park has two parts, Las Pailas and Santa María. But if you are driving yourself, it’s best to enter from the Las Pailas entrance, as the roads are better paved and do not require a 4WD.
Test out your golf skills
If you are a fan of golf, you’ll love playing on Reserva Conchal, the 18-hole golf course on the outskirts of Playa Conchal. The legendary Robert Trent Jones II designed it. It is impressive that not one banyan tree was removed when the course was designed. You’ll also find a number of ponds and lagoons on the course.
Pro tip: If you haven’t played before, not to worry. You can take a lesson from the pros.
Weather in Playa Conchal
There are two main seasons on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The dry season is from December to April, and the green (or rainy) season is from May to November.
The hottest months in Playa Conchal are March and April when temperatures reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
One benefit of traveling during the early months of the green season (May, June and July) is that days tend to be filled with sunshine. There may be small afternoon showers, but the landscape is lusher and super green. And since it is out of peak season, prices are more reasonable, and you can enjoy a less crowded beach.
The months of September and October are when the most rainfall occurs, so it is less desirable to travel to Playa Conchal during these months.
Packing list essentials for Playa Conchal
You are going on a beach holiday. Pack your favorite swimsuit, a quick-drying beach towel, sunglasses and a hat. Besides the essentials, there are a few items that we recommend bringing:
- Sneakers or walking shoes – if you plan to walk from Playa Brasilito to Playa Conchal, you will need a decent pair of shoes as it’s a 20-minute walk one-way.
- Insect repellent – there are lots of species of insects in Costa Rica, so it’s best to come prepared.
- Lightweight waterproof jacket – an essential item to bring, particularly if you visit during the rainy or shoulder season. Although most downpours don’t last long, you don’t want to get stuck!
- Day backpack – there’s nothing worse than carrying all your gear to the beach, so a small backpack will come in handy.
- A spare lock – something that’s easy to forget, but if you are leaving your backpack on the beach when you go for a swim, it’s always a good idea to lock it up so you don’t have to worry.
- Water bottle – nothing is worse than running out of water, so bring your own to fill it up. Especially if you are planning to visit Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
- Underwater case for your phone – Your friends and family will be amazed at your underwater snaps of fish, eel, and, if you are lucky, turtles.
Besides adding Playa Conchal to your itinerary, check out Bookaway’s other routes in Costa Rica.
Tamarindo Airport is only 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Playa Conchal. However, it primarily services domestic flights from San Jose and Liberia. If arriving internationally, the closest airport is Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia.
In general, the area is safe, but common sense is advised. For example, don’t head off for a walk along the beach and leave your valuables behind, and make sure nothing of great importance is left behind in the car.
The distance between the two areas is 18 kilometers (11 miles) and will take you approximately 45 minutes by car.