The Ultimate Guide to Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica
Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, is more than its white-sand beach. The high-end seaside town has activities galore. Here’s your ultimate guide
When you think of Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, clear blue water and brilliant white sand spring to mind. And they should. Yet, the dream beach on the Pacific coast is only some of what makes up the appeal of this seaside town.
Playa Flamingo has no shortage of activities. There are national park tours, sea turtle viewing, horseback riding, diving and snorkeling. Additionally, deep-sea fishing off Flamingo is among the best in the world for marlin, sailfish, snapper, tuna, and numerous other species.
Here’s everything you need to know about Playa Flamingo in Costa Rica.
The Playa Flamingo area
Playa Flamingo takes advantage of its natural paradise-like setting as one of the finest and whitest beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Yet it provides the comforts you’d expect from a high-end vacation destination. Flamingo has a well-established reputation for luxury living.
For more than 20 years, a legal dispute with the dominant landowner prevented the town from development. After the conflict was finally resolved, the neighborhood began to flourish again. Yet, in a more upscale way.
Most Costa Rican locations are centered around a downtown square or soccer field. Others are separated from a prominent beach. However, Playa Flamingo lacks a true town center because a sizable mangrove forest protects the area behind its beach from development.
Instead, condos, hotels, rental homes, stores, and restaurants have been constructed on this beach’s mountainous ends. And as a result, most of the Playa Flamingo town is nicely positioned on the hillside.
Its two centerpieces are a spotless beach and a large marina nearby, shielded by a rocky point on the town’s northern edge.
The main road follows the beach and is lined with hotels and restaurants. There’s also a small plaza with banks, convenience stores, and other shops.
Getting around Playa Flamingo
As Flamingo is a small seaside town, you can get around on foot or by golf cart. For the most part, everything is within walking distance of the beach.
You’ll need to rent a car if you want to see other beaches and villages.
There are cabs to the surrounding cities. But since the beaches are far from each other, the cost will add up quickly. It’ll also depend on where you’re staying in Flamingo. There are hotels close to the beach and holiday rentals on the hillside.
Playa Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica
You’re probably wondering, “Where are the flamingos?”
We have to disappoint you.
Sure, it’s a lovely stretch of beach. But you’re not likely to see any flamingos on Playa Flamingo. Instead, the name derives from the slightly pink-hued sand.
The largely undeveloped Flamingo Beach is only one mile (1.5 kilometers) long. It’s the ideal place to sink your toes into the sand and wind down.
The waves are typically small. But exercise caution nevertheless. They can be intense at high tide.
The northern end is often the busiest part of the beach due to all the adjacent lodgings and the Margaritaville Beach Resort.
A few shrubs and trees offer shelter. However, some of them are manchineel trees, a toxic apple variety. Don’t touch them. Their bark or leaf sap may cause a skin rash and blisters. Better to rent a recliner and umbrella than park yourself under a tree on this portion of the beach.
The southern end usually is less crowded. However, the well-known restaurant Coco Loco can attract a crowd at lunch and dusk. But more on that in a minute.
Things to do in Playa Flamingo
The Playa Flamingo area, where the mountains tumble into the sea, boasts a lot of things to do.
Golfing fans love the 18-hole golf course.
Adventurers get their money’s worth on ATV and canopy tours or while hiking through the jungle.
As this high-end seaside town is on the north Pacific coast, there’s much to do on the sea. Say hello to a tipped reef shark. Scuba diving at the Catalina Islands near Playa Flamingo is a fantastic experience.
Take plenty of Insta-worthy shots on a sunset cruise. And swim in the clear water. For a day of fun on the water, catamaran trips leave from Flamingo and travel to Potrero and nearby Sugar Beach.
Hop on one of the numerous fishing charters.
Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, offers the world’s best deep-sea fishing off the coast. You can catch marlin, yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, sailfish, roosterfish, swordfish, and snapper all year long.
You can catch waves at Tamarindo, where surfing and surfing lessons are legendary. It takes about half an hour by car to get from Playa Flamingo to Tamarindo.
Day trips to National Parks
Flamingo makes a great home base in Guanacaste. It allows you to take incredible day trips as well.
Fly through the rainforest at breakneck speed on a ziplining adventure in the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s also great for riding a horse or going white-water rafting. It’s only a one-hour-and-40-minute car drive from Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica.
Two hours east of Playa Flamingo, Palo Verde is a natural reserve. It’s a wetland excellent for spotting exotic birds and cheeky monkeys.
Head to the Santa Rosa National Park, a 90-minute drive north, to find otherworldly waterfalls.
Hiking enthusiasts love Rio Celeste in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. Costa Rican legend states that God dipped his brush in the turquoise Rio Celeste when he painted the sky.
Other attractions worth visiting are the 90-meter-tall (295-foot) Rio Celeste waterfall, which feeds a misty-blue pool.
Do you prefer to stay on the beach, soaking up the sun? Punta de Pelencho, Playa Mina, Playa Lagartillo, Puerto Viejo Conchal, and Playa Prieta are a few less popular regional beaches worth visiting.
Where to eat in Playa Flamingo
The restaurants in Playa Flamingo offer a variety of cuisine, from fast food to fine dining. Here are a few delectable classics.
A’lo Nico is on the main thoroughfare that leads out of town and into Brasilito. It’s a relaxed cafeteria-like establishment serving both local and foreign cuisine.
The French owner gives many of the classics a new twist. Sandwiches come in flavors like chicken pesto, creamy chicken, and tapenade.
They also provide various dishes and an extensive breakfast menu, including crepes.
Kid’s meals are available.
Angelina’s restaurant is excellent for fine Italian and regional cuisine.
It’s in the northern part of town on the Commercial Center building’s second floor.
Angelina’s chef sources locally grown seasonal ingredients. Although they are known for a juicy steak, they also serve crispy pizza, homemade pasta, and fresh seafood.
The setting has a posh feel, so dress accordingly.
Amigos Taco y Beer
Stop at Amigos Taco y Beer if you’re searching for something simple but delicious.
It’s a small restaurant that keeps things straightforward. As the name suggests, it offers tacos, burritos, bowls and beer (and margaritas to complete the experience).
Each dish has great flavor thanks to the fresh vegetables and slow-roasted meats.
This restaurant is next to the Super Flamingo Mercado on the North Ridge.
They also have a honk-for-tacos takeaway service.
Camparino Pizzeria Italiana
Camparino Pizzeria Italiana is housed in the Commercial Center building.
It offers delectable Italian cuisine classics like spaghetti bolognese and woodfired pizza.
And at Camparino, they take pride in their craft and ingredients, using only the best.
Coco Loco is a bar and restaurant on the beach at the southern end of Playa Flamingo.
Delicious food makes it a favorite spot for both tourists and locals. Not to mention, it’s a terrific place to see the sunset and enjoy happy hours.
Come here to sip tropical drinks while listening to the waves crashing ashore.
Coco Loco serves light food like sandwiches and small snacks as well as hearty offerings like risotto and mouthwatering seafood.
Gracia At Mar Vista
Gracia at Mar Vista hides in the hills between Brasilito and Flamingo, inside the Mar Vista gated community.
It’s not the cheapest restaurant in the area. But as a guest, you can also jump in their infinity pool.
If you come at sunset, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Playa Flamingo.
Surf Box is a well-known breakfast and lunch cafe.
They serve burgers, smoothies, and coffee in an unassuming cafe on the major route out of town near Banco Nacional. It has long been a neighborhood favorite.
Sweets like buttermilk waffles and ricotta pancakes, salads and sandwiches, bowls, tacos, and many nutritious options are all available.
Weather in Playa Flamingo
Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s hottest and driest region, with temperatures consistently high from December to May.
If you’re a sun worshipper, it’s the perfect time to visit. Temperatures reach 27°C to 29°C on average (approximately 82°F).
From March to April, it can be as hot as 32°C to 38°C (90-100°F).
The area sees little to no rain during that time, and many trees lose their leaves, creating an arid scene. Because of this, some visitors prefer to go in May when it starts to rain and the landscape turns green again.
The rainy season lasts from mid-May to the end of November. And the wettest months are September and October.
Packing list essentials for Playa Flamingo
Everybody says you should pack lightly, so here’s a list of what you really need in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica:
- Sunglasses and a hat
- Bug spray
- A webcam
- Rain gear
- Aloe vera gel when you’re burnt
Needless to say, if you forget anything, you can buy most of these items in town.
How to get to Playa Flamingo
You can take a bus or a minivan from Liberia to Playa Flamingo. It’ll take between 1-2 hours.
Alternatively, hop on a 5.5-hour bus or minivan ride from San Jose to Playa Flamingo.
If you want to arrive by car, it’s roughly a 1.5-hour drive from Liberia Airport. Want a fully paved road? Use the Waze route on the map. Ensure it takes you through Huacas via Routes 21 and 155.
Do not travel Route 911. It’s an unpaved, small, and typically congested road.
It’s only 41 kilometers (27 miles)—about a 1.5-hour drive.
Yes, but use caution if you’re in an unknown area. Petty theft is not unheard of, so keep your belongings in your sight.
Yes. The light-pink-sand beach has water that gets deep quickly. But rip currents are rare since it’s in a sheltered bay.