Your Ultimate Guide to Playa Grande, Costa Rica

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Playa Grande, Costa Rica, is one of the most beautiful surfing beaches in the entire country. 

Located in Marino Las Baulas National Park in Guanacaste province, this beach is the perfect place to catch some impressive waves.

Not a surfer? Fear not! 

The bright cerulean waters and soft tan sand are enough to make any beach bum fall in love with Playa Grande. In addition, the beach is separated from crowded Playa Tamarindo, giving travelers a more relaxed experience to laze in the sun, surf, or enjoy a sunset walk on the beach.

Playa Grande has no public buses or transportation options, and many things are spread out. 

Additionally, there isn’t really a town center, so grabbing supplies at a pharmacy, picking up snacks at the supermarket, or even drawing money at the ATM can be a bit of a mission if you don’t have a car. Because of this, consider visiting for the day from Tamarindo or renting a car so you can enjoy all Playa Grande has to offer!

If you do rent a car, there is a decent parking lot near the main entrance to the beach. They charge a nominal fee, but it is very convenient, especially if you want to explore the area. Just remember to lock up your valuables.

Things to do in Playa Grande

Head to the beaches

If you enjoy the sunshine, clean ocean air, and the sound of rolling waves, this area is for you! 

Playa Grande

Best beach for surfing or relaxing.

Playa Grande Costa Rica

The best things to do in Playa Grande are surfing, sunbathing, and taking very long walks on the beach. 

The shoreline extends for 4.5 km (~2.8 miles) and faces due west, which makes it the perfect location to watch the sunset each evening. It’s such a magical moment when the sky fills with stunning oranges, pinks, and purples.  

Dante’s Rock signifies the beach’s northern end, while the Tamarindo Estuary denotes the southern border. In between, you’ll find a quiet stretch of sand dotted with picture-perfect dunes as a backdrop. 

Pro tip: While the beach is beautiful, there isn’t much shade, and there aren’t any amenities other than a single restaurant near the main parking lot. So come prepared with your own umbrella to protect yourself from the sun and bring snacks. 

There aren’t any public restrooms, showers, or changing rooms either, so keep that in mind.

Playa Ventanas

Best beach for splashing around in the surf.

Playa Ventanas in Costa Rica

Playa Ventanas, also called Windows Beach, is located just north of Playa Grande. Don’t let this beach’s size deter you. This small-yet-stunning arc of sand is the best place to sunbathe and wade in the water. 

You’ll find that the surf isn’t nearly as intense at Playa Ventanas, so if you aren’t interested in surfing and prefer calmer water, this is the place for you!

Playa Carbon

Best beach for a unique afternoon.

aerial view of black sand beach

Playa Carbon is an absolute must-see when visiting Playa Grande. This stunning black sand beach can be reached from Playa Ventanas, either by trekking over a small hill or walking past the point at low tide. 

The sand here is almost pure black and the darkest you’ll find in the entire country. Such a stark contrast between the dark sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. You can snorkel here if you bring your own gear as well. 

Playa Carbon is definitely one of a kind!

Playa Langosta

Best for beachcombers looking for the perfect collection of seashells.

women lying on beach. Costa Rica is written in sand

You’ll find Playa Langosta just south of Tamarindo. This is the perfect spot to walk along the powder-soft sand to get your 10,000 steps in for the day. 

During your walk, you will definitely find some impressive seashells, and you may even be lucky enough to find a sand dollar.

Langosta Beach has several tidal pools during high tide. These are the perfect little spots to swim, relax, and watch the sun go down. 

It is also possible to surf here. 

Take a surfing lesson

surfers walking into water

There are so many different places you can rent a board and take surf lessons in Playa Grande that it truly is the ideal place for all levels.

The beautiful long stretch of beach has been marked off for different levels of experience, so there is no excuse not to try it!

As an advanced surfer, you’ll have the opportunity to catch consistent beach breaks. 

Novices can try their hand in the whitewater closer to shore. It’s an excellent system because you won’t be on top of each other, and beginners have an area to practice and perfect their skills.

Explore Las Baulas National Marine Park

black and white monkey

Las Baulas National Marine Park, also called Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, is a protected marine zone spanning 171 square km (~65 square miles) in and around Tamarindo Bay. This protected park includes the beaches of Playa Grande, Playa Carbon, Playa Ventanas, and Playa Langosta, as well as estuaries and mangroves dotted throughout the area. 

During your visit, expect to see plenty of wildlife, such as snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, tropical birds, and lizards. There is also a good amount of marine life to check out too, including colorful fish, corals, and rays. 

Check out turtle nesting locations

sea turtle swimming

Playa Grande and Las Baulas National Marine Park are important nesting sites for leatherback turtles. Unfortunately, their numbers have been declining, but conservation efforts are in place to protect the turtles and their nests.

While it is very rare to see turtles on your own, it is possible to organize a turtle-watching tour. Local rangers can provide tour info. 

Pro tip: Turtle nesting season is from October to February. However, you’ll have higher chances of seeing these wonderful creatures in December and January. 

If you’re dead set on seeing turtles, you are better off heading to Ostional Wildlife Refuge, about a two-hour drive south of Playa Grande. June through December is the best time to go, but you must organize a trip with a guide. 

Day Trips from Playa Grande 

If you’re based in Playa Grande, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, you’ll have some pretty incredible day trips at your doorstep.

Tamarindo

Tamarindo Beach Costa Rica

Visiting Tamarindo Beach, just 20 km (~13 miles) south of Playa Grande, is an absolute must. 

It’s the perfect place to learn how to surf or practice your form. There are consistent waves daily, making it the ideal spot to hone your skills. 

While you are here, you can also participate in water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Because Tamarindo is a bigger town, there are more options when it comes to tours. 

You can also hire a boat for a sunset cruise to round out your perfect day trip.

If you’re tired of Playa Grande’s laid-back and relaxed vibes, head to Tamarindo for a bit of liveliness. There are more shops, restaurants, and bars, so you’ll definitely be able to get your fill of the local hotspots and stock up on amenities before heading back. 

If you are based in Tamarindo, it is possible to take a boat, which is the fastest option. The ride is usually packed with locals and surfers and is a cheap, quick option to get to Playa Grande for the day. 

Even though Tamarindo is right next door, it is separated by an estuary, making it a little more complicated to get between the two towns. It is important to note that you cannot swim across the estuary! 

Don’t let the short distance fool you–it can be very dangerous. The river is inhabited by crocodiles, and there have been attacks on people who attempt to swim across.  

Flamingo Beach

manta ray in blue water

Located just 18 km (11 miles) north of Playa Grande is Flamingo Beach.

You can spend the day relaxing in the mesmerizing blue waters or head out for a fishing or snorkeling tour. The snorkeling tours will stop at small, secluded beaches and excellent reefs for a chance to see lots of marine life.

Flamingo Beach is also a great departure point for scuba diving adventures. There is a plethora of tropical fish, manta rays, sharks, and sea turtles to see. If you aren’t certified, you can do a discovery dive, so you can take advantage of all the action.

In addition to Flamingo Beach, you can visit Playa ConchalPotrero, Avellanas, or several hidden gems along the coast. All these beaches are about 20-40 minutes from Playa Grande Beach, Costa Rica. 

Adventure trips near Playa Grande

If you are looking for something other than beach time, there are loads of activities within a couple of hours of driving time. Another reason to rent a car.

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park in Costa Rica

Palo Verde National Park is about two hours east of Playa Grande. If you drive the 81 km (~50 miles), you’ll be treated to some pretty epic scenery along the way. 

And once you arrive, you’ll be glad you made the trip.

The park protects several species of birds and reptiles, the Tempisque River, and the surrounding valley. It’s the perfect place for a wildlife boat tour.

Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands

sugar cane fields

Plan a trip to Hacienda El Viejo, about 58 km (~36 miles) east of Playa Grande. Take a tour of this private wildlife refuge and sugar plantation during a day tour. The family-owned business offers cultural tours, rum tasting, and wildlife safaris. 

It is definitely worth the hour’s drive!

Diamante Eco Adventure Park

zip line

This exciting, adrenaline-inducing park is home to an ocean-view zipline, a botanical garden, and a beach club. It is only 35 km (~22 miles) from Playa Grande, making it a great place for a day of adventure! 

Weather in Playa Grande

Playa Grande in Costa Rica

Playa Grande, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, is blessed with warm temperatures year-round. You’ll find temperatures ranging between 31°C (87°F) and 36°C (96°F). However, the best time to travel here is during the drier months, from January to April or December.

Between April and November is the rainy season, and September is the wettest month. Therefore, this is not the most ideal time to travel to the beach, but you will have more options and better prices for accommodations and transport.

Packing list essentials for Playa Grande

misty day at sunset in Play Grande Costa Rica

Playa Grande is any surfer’s dream vacation. To prepare for your trip, you’ll want to pack the following: 

  • Bathing suits
  • Sunscreen
  • Surfboard (you can also rent one, so don’t worry!)
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera/GoPro
  • Waterproof bag
  • Hiking shoes
  • Water shoes

How to get to Playa Grande

Overview of Playa Grande Costa Rica

Playa Grande is about 65 km (~40 miles) from Liberia International Airport. You can quickly get from Liberia to Playa Grande via a one-and-a-half-hour shuttle.

Or you can rent a car and drive yourself. The road from Liberia Airport to the main entrance of Playa Grande is paved. So you won’t need a 4×4, as you do in most of Guanacaste. 

Otherwise, you can take a bus from San José to Tamarindo and then hop a taxi the rest of the way to Playa Grande. The journey will take about five hours, though, so settle in with a great playlist or podcast.

Map

Take a moment, and check out Play Grande and its surroundings.

FAQ

Is Playa Grande Safe?

Yes! But like everywhere in Costa Rica (and the world, for that matter), it is essential to stay vigilant to protect yourself and your belongings.

What is the closest town to Playa Grande?

Tamarindo is the closest, located about 45 minutes away.

What is the closest airport to Playa Grande?

Tamarindo Airport is the closest domestic airport. But Liberia is the closest international one.

Can you swim at Playa Grande?

If you are a confident swimmer–yes. However, this beach is known for big swells and intense rip currents, making it great for surfers but not as enjoyable for swimming.

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