Escape the Crowds at Playa Herradura, Costa Rica

Planning a family holiday? Head to Playa Herradura, Costa Rica. The sparkling turquoise water is calm and there are plenty of activities

Herradura feature

Originally a small fishing village, Playa Herradura, Costa Rica, is now a popular spot for tourists looking to stay close to the action of nearby Jaco. It is far enough away that you can retreat to the horseshoe-shaped beach with dark, compact sand where yachts and fishing boats bob in the calm waves. 

Playa Herradura

Playa Herradura in Costa Rica

Playa Herradura (horseshoe in English) is in the Puntarenas region on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. 

Known as an ideal beach for families, this 2 km (1.2 miles) pebble and sandy beach is surrounded by lush forest. Swim in the sparkling turquoise water without the crowds of nearby Jaco Beach or surf the waves in Playa Hermosa. 

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a large marina at Playa Herradura, so there are a lot of boats coming and going. Therefore, it’s best to be cautious when swimming, particularly with children. 

Restaurants in Playa Herradura

You will have no trouble finding Tico cuisine—fresh fish tacos and cold local beers on Herradura Beach, Costa Rica. However, the best place to find them is towards the southern end. Be sure to head to El Pelicano—it is known as a fisherman’s paradise with some of the best seafood in town.

For those who prefer more glitz and glamour, Los Sueños Mariott Resort and Marina is at the northern end of the beach. Inside the resort are four waterfront restaurants where you can find everything from an Italian steakhouse to Asian cuisine. 

Parking in Playa Herradura

While there isn’t an official parking lot, you can find parking in the makeshift car park only steps from the beach. Otherwise, you can park in Calle Central (Central Street), which runs parallel to the coast.

Top activities near Playa Herradura 

Try your luck at one of the best fishing spots in Costa Rica

fishing boats in marina in Costa Rica

If you are a big-time fisherman, it’s no surprise that you have pinpointed Playa Herradura as a must-visit. It is one of the best places to fish in Costa Rica.

At the marina, you will find fully equipped fishing boats that take tours in hopes of catching marlin, tuna and mahi-mahi.

If you time your trip right, you may witness the sport fishing tournaments held in the area every year.  

Head out on a parasail, jet ski, or kayak adventure 

2 parasailers and a boat

One of the best things to do in Playa Herradura, Costa Rica, is to enjoy some water sports activities. 

Suppose you are staying at Los Sueños Resort. In that case, they can help to arrange sea kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing and even white water rafting tours for you. 

Otherwise, there is a company near El Pelicano restaurant on Playa Herradura where you can hire SUPs and kayaks. Or you can take a lesson and join a tour. 

For a wider selection of watersport activities, head to the nearby town of Jaco. 

Take a day trip to Carara National Park

colorful toucan on a branch

Carara National Park, only 21 km (13 miles) from Playa Herradura, is one of the top attractions in the area.

For wildlife enthusiasts, be ready to spot wildlife and try your luck at bird watching. It is an easy place to come without a guide, as all the trails are well-marked with information about the national park. 

However, we suggest visiting with a guide who will definitely increase your chances of spotting macaws, toucans, monkeys, sloths and deer.

Another draw is the Crocodile Bridge, famous for hundreds of crocodiles relaxing on the banks of the Tarcoles River.

Pro tip: The best time to visit is early morning when the animals are still active before it gets too hot.

During the dry season, the park is open from 7 am to 4 pm and 8 am to 4 pm in the rainy season. 

Surf at the nearby beaches 

surfer upside down over a wave

There are two beaches worth mentioning for the best surf breaks in the area, Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa. 

Jaco Beach 

As Jaco is the largest beach town closest to San Jose, tourists and locals alike come here to surf the waves. From Playa Herradura, it will take you 13 minutes by car. 

The waves are suited to beginners and intermediate surfers—advanced surfers may not find it challenging enough. For the best surfing experience, you will need to come at high tide. 

There is a great selection of surf schools in town, as well as places to rent a board. 

Playa Hermosa 

While Jaco isn’t suitable for advanced surfers, Playa Hermosa is certainly more challenging. The surf break at this beach is one of the best in Costa Rica. 

You’ll find consistent barrels at this beach, but you must be cautious as it is fairly rocky. 

From Playa Herradura it will take you 24 minutes by car to reach Playa Hermosa. 

Weather in Playa Herradura 

aerial view of Playa Herradura, Costa Rica

If you are flexible with your travel dates and don’t mind crowds, the best weather is from December to mid-April. Yes, it will be hot. But there is hardly any rain, making it optimal for long days at Playa Herradura. Expect temperatures to hover from 80-85°F (26-29°C) during the day. 

Jaco gets incredibly busy during these months, so you will notice an overflow into Herradura. Don’t expect it to be as quiet as other times of the year.

After mid-April until the end of July, days are still hot and sunny. However, it’s not uncommon to experience afternoon thunderstorms. Nothing says beach holiday more than spending the morning in the sun followed by an afternoon siesta.

The least desirable months to visit are from August to December, when the weather is more unpredictable. Chances are, you will experience some sunny days. However, there may also be days when it rains constantly.

Packing list essentials for Playa Herradura

person sitting on sand at sunset

The best thing about a holiday in Costa Rica is the laid-back atmosphere throughout the country. So forget the fancy dresses and high heels. Instead, pack some comfortable shorts, t-shirts and a few pairs of swimwear. Beyond that, here are a few items that you won’t regret bringing:

  • Hiking shoes/sturdy footwear – A must if you are planning any hiking trips to the Carara National Park. 
  • 50+ sunscreen – Nothing ruins a holiday more than burnt skin!
  • Waterproof backpack – It’s useful to bring a small day bag that can double up for trips inland and to the beach. 
  • GoPro or waterproof case for your phone – There are so many fantastic beaches in Costa Rica, so what better way to capture memories than underwater? 
  • Small first-aid kit – You never know when you might need band-aids, crepe bandages or antiseptic wipes. They don’t take up much room, either. 

How to get to Playa Herradura

view of Playa Herradura Costa Rica marina

Playa Herradura is approximately 97 km (60 miles) from San Jose International Airport. The easiest way to get from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Playa Herradura is by taking a minivan. The trip will take you two and half hours.

Another option is to drive to Playa Herradura from Liberia, which is home to Liberia International Airport. From there, you can take a three-hour minivan.

If you are already staying in the nearby town of Jaco, it will only take 13 minutes by car. 


What is the closest airport to Playa Herradura?

San Jose is the closest International Airport which is 97 km (60.2 miles) away.

What is the closest town to Playa Herradura?

You will find basic amenities in Playa Herradura but keep in mind it’s a small beach town. The nearby town of Jaco, only 13 minutes away, is more developed and has a greater variety of stores, restaurants, and bars.  

Is Playa Herradura safe?

It’s important to exercise caution throughout Costa Rica. However, in general, Playa Herradura is considered safe. Nevertheless, as with anywhere you travel, be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave your personal belongings on show. 

Can you swim at Playa Herradura?

Yes. This beach has calm waves and is the perfect place to swim for all ages. But remember, there are a lot of boats in the area, so be cautious.

Posted November 21, 2022
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Kate and Olly of KO Travellers
Kate Torpy and Oliver Neville of KO Travellers are travel bloggers and content creators from Australia. They caught the travel bug from a young age and have not looked back since. The things they love about travelling the most are meeting new people, experiencing diverse cultures and exploring lesser-known corners of the world. Whether they are on assignment or travelling for pleasure, they document their travels on Instagram and provide detailed accounts on their Blog. From picturesque landscapes to island paradises, they cover it all - even the underwater marine world.
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