Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Playas del Coco is one of the best known beach towns in the country. Although it is one of the smaller beaches in the Guanacaste region, it is still full of nightlife and activities.

During the main holidays such as New Year and Easter, Playas del Coco becomes packed with Ticos (nickname for Costa Ricans) from the city. Located in the Golfo de Papagayo, visitors can see whales, dolphins, stingrays, and turtles as well as wildlife on land. The sea is full of fish that you might see jumping from shore, a good indicator of a healthy ocean.

Many tourists use Coco as their anchor location as lodging is cheaper and it is  in relatively close proximity to all the attractions and then venture off to explore the rest of Guanacaste. In the past decade, Playas del Coco has become a popular place for expatriates or retirees of the United States and Canada as it offers a relaxed and easy living style with highly agreeable weather year round. 

Playas del Coco Location

Playas del Coco is located on the pacific side of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region. Guanacaste is the northwestern province of the country bordering Nicaragua.

How to get to Playas del Coco.

The closest airport to Playas del Coco is the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, about a thirty minute drive. There are plenty of taxis you can take from the airport to Coco, which costs about $40 each way. There is a bus called Pulmitan de Liberia that runs from Liberia to Coco multiple times a day which costs 550 colones one way, (a little more than 1 dollar) and takes about one hour. The local bus from Liberia will stop in the airport instead of the main road and costs about the same.
But if one is coming from Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, it’s about a 4 hour drive. The Pulmitan busses also service  Playas del Coco from San Jose daily. The cost of a one way ticket from San Jose to Playas del Coco is around $8 dollars or 4,095 colones and takes around 5 hours.

You can book a local shuttle-company such as Interbus or Grayline that can pick you up from the airport and bring you there which costs around $42 one way.

Playas del Coco Weather

In Costa Rica, there are no seasons like fall or winter. Being so close to the equator, the country is classified as tropical and experiences rainy and dry season with sun all year round. Dry season is from December to April and rainy (green) season is from May to November. Sunrise and sunset stay the same, around 6AM and 6PM everyday. In Playas del Coco on the north pacific side of the country, the weather is dry with lots of tropical dry forests in the area. During dry season, the sun is quite strong and intense and it is the time of the year when most of the tourists and snowbirds come. It can consistently stay at 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) and above for weeks. The months of rainy season make the air sometimes humid as it can rain a few hours a day.

 

Playas del Coco Local People.

The people from Playas del Coco are very friendly. They are very proud to be Gunacastecos (residents of the Guanacaste province) and they call themself “coqueños” (from Coco). They are normally dark skinned and very strong workers but due to the increased immigration lately you can see a white blue eyed person and she or he might be a Playas del Coco local.

The locals love to hangout at the beach, especially in the park where they usually all meet up. Normally on the weekends you can see families enjoying the sun, having lunch on the beach, or walking with their kids. Since there are many hotels around, most of the locals work in the tourism or in the fishing industry because the ocean is very healthy and it’s easy to catch good quality fish to sell or trade.

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Restaurants in Playas del Coco

Restaurants in Playas del Coco.

There are plenty of restaurants in Coco. Many bars and restaurants that serve typical bar food – burgers, nachos, fried chicken, taquitos and enchiladas, but you can find many typical restaurants and sodas in Coco as well. If you’re looking for traditional Costa Rican food, the list below depicts the main places that sell local food in Playas del Coco.

Traditional Costa Rican food consists of a lot of rice, beans, and meat and they are very adamant about using only fresh and local ingredients which is easy to do as their vegetables and fruit are readily available and incredibly tasty!

Sodas are very common in Costa Rica. They are like a mini-restaurants that sell traditional food and usually have outside seating.

You can find all of these sodas except the last one along the main strip of Coco.

  1. Soda Los Pelones
  2. Soda La Teresita
  3. Soda Papagayo
  4. Jardin Tropical

 

Some of the traditional plates are gallo pinto (rice and beans), casado (variation of rice, beans, meat, plantains, and salad), and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).

Other restaurants will sell food other than typical Costa Rican food. They have Italian, pizza, mexican and barbecue but if you’re looking for authentic Indian, Asian, or any other exotic foods, you’re a little out of luck in Playas del Coco. However, if you go to San Jose, you might easily it’s incredibly find more authentic international cuisine.

The list below depicts the most popular places to find international food.

  1. Villa Italia – Italian
  2. Taste of Texas – barbecue
  3. La Caveja – Italian
  4. Cafe de Playa– International
  5. Hotel Coco Palms and Restaurant – International + sushi
  6. Claudio y Gloria – International
  7. Papagayo Seafood –  seafood
  8. Pollo Crispy- fried chicken
  9. Luna de Plata – French
  10. Andre’s Beach Bar and Pizzeria – Pizza

Additionally, there is a bakery called Tico’s bakery that makes delicious empanadas and tasty treats. A few smoothie places: Cosechas, Juice House and Mandarin. On the beach there are lots of vendors selling copos (shaved ice with syrup and condensed milk) and pipa fria (coconut milk). Delivery is almost non-existent here except for a few private vendors.

Lodging in Playas del Coco

In Playas del Coco , there are no big resorts or luxury hotel chains. The hotels are locally owned businesses but still have respectable accommodations to fit your needs. It ranges from hostels to cabinas to condos to hotels, from prices as low as $20 a night up to $150 depending on the season. One will find that most hotels are smaller number of rooms and include simple living quarters but still offer comfortable lodging and excellent hospitality. Many people that come for a longer vacation period rent a vacation home or a condo since there are quite a number of them in Coco. You get more privacy and it will be cheaper than to stay in a hotel. Backpackers might feel frustrated with the lack of hostels since hostels aren’t as common in Coco as in Playa Tamarindo. However, the price difference between a hostel and budget hotel is not that drastic, so those who prefer hostels will have limited options.

Many of the snowbirds (mostly Canadians) own a condo and stay there for the dry season when it is winter in their home country and go back during rainy season when it is summer up there. Timeshares are also available and they are a good option for those looking to have a place but just for a one or two weeks’ stay.

Here is a list of the main hotels in Coco:

Hotel Coco Palms: restaurant, a bar and a 24 hour mini market.

Hotel La Puerta del Sol

Laura’s House Bed and breakfast

Toro Blanco

Coco Beach Hotel and Casino: casino and restaurant.

Hotel M&M: beachfront

Rancho Armadillo

Hotel Villa Casa Blanca

Hotel Pato Loco Inn

Hotel Chantel

For those looking for long term rentals, there are quite a few offers in condos, apartments or cabinas.

Las Palmas, east of the main road at a ten-minute walk from Coco beach, is one of the biggest complexes that houses hundreds of retirees every year. Within Las Palmas
are multiple different types of condos, apartments and studios welcoming both foreigners and locals. Most complexes contain 8-15 units with their own pool, private parking and laundry along with a security guard and the area also has houses, restaurants, and a Realtor’s office to help you find your perfect vacation home. Plenty of units are for sale or rent, long term from 6 months to a year and short term, on a weekly or monthly basis.

Pacifico is another beautiful complex, newer than Las Palmas but further from Coco beach. It is situated inside a locked gate with guard so you must be a resident to enter the property. These are more for vacationers with heavier pockets as these are two-store condos equipped with very modern furniture, amenities and a beautiful beach club. These are considered luxury condos and they offer many extra features such as airport transportation, limo/car service, and complimentary high speed internet and cable.

Activities and tours in Playas del Coco.

In Playas del Coco there are plenty of things to do. You can find activities for those seeking adventure and thrills and ones for families with kids and seniors. You can enjoy motor sport activities,jet skiing and snorkeling, you can go hiking in national parks, take boat trips around the gulf, go zip lining, horseback riding, ride atvs, enjoy natural

hot springs, go kayaking/canoeing, and that’s just a taste of the abundance of fun activities. Coco is well known for scuba diving and sport fishing and there are many places in town that offer these activities including equipment and transportation. Additionally, there are many boat tours in Coco that offer morning snorkeling or a sunset cruise and they take you around the gulf and show you different beaches such as Hermosa and Panama.Playa Hermosa, Playa Buena and Playa Panama, a few popular and lovely beaches are only a fifteen minute drive away. You can try your hand at surfing at Playa Tamarindo and marvel at the shells instead of sand beach, Playa Conchal, both about an hour drive away. Playas del Coco is in very close proximity to many landmarks such as Palo Verde, Rincon de la Vieja, andVolcan Tenorio, even Nicaragua!

There are many local travel agencies such as Shaman tours that offer over twenty different tours in Guanacaste ranging from wildwater rafting and bird watching to visiting Nicaragua. International companies exist here as well such as Swiss travel that can help you quench your adventurous thirst. Most hotels work with the local tour companies so you can easily book your tour through them.

 

Bars and nightlife in Playas del Coco.

The three biggest bars are located on the main street of El Coco: Lizard Lounge, Coconutz and Zi Lounge.

Lizard Lounge is the bar where most of the locals hang out, it also has the loudest music and a dance floor. Most young people like to come here to dance and watch the soccer games. Zi Lounge displays a modest look, with a small stage for DJ’s and live musicians and offers free Wi-Fi. You can find a mix of locals, families and tourists of all ages there. Coconutz is usually filled with older gringos and if you are missing your Monday night football, don’t worry! As a sports bar, Coconutz usually plays American football games on a big screen. Each bar offers a different entertainment or feature every night such as live music on Wednesday nights, ladies night on Thursday, karaoke on Tuesday nights and more.

All the bars are open with counter seating along the perimeter so you can have a drink, eat, and watch people to your heart’s content.

Andre’s beach bar and pizzeria is also on the main street of El Coco and they offer free Wi-Fi and free calls to the US and Canada.

For those wanting to relax on the beach and have a drink, there is one bar called La Vida Loca. This bar has live music, hosts events and like Coconutz, is usually filled with gringos. Another bar near the entrance of the beach is a popular local hangout spot and they sell local food and play lots of salsa music.

The nightlife in Coco is limited to the main street as it is where the majority of the restaurants and bars are. There is a small park and boardwalk by the beach where one can sit and watch the stars, listen to live music or the crashing waves and enjoy a drink.

On the main street there is one casino, part of the Coco Beach Hotel and Casino. It is a small casino with one room filled with slot machines and one roulette table and another one with three tables for poker and blackjack.

One common thing to see is locals hanging out in the street, sometimes drinking and sitting by their cars. Ticos love spending time with their friends and family and they’re pleasantly satisfied with just sitting outside, enjoying the night.

Coco's Beach

Coco beach is situated within the Golfo de Papagayo and stretches 3 kilometers from point to point. The sands are more of a dark grey-brown and the water is not quite as blue one normally sees in other beaches in Guanacaste. The bay houses many different species of fish which makes it an excellent fishing spot. Coco waters are very suitable for swimming and bathing. Kid-and adult friendly. Three islands can be seen from the shore where many divers go to swim and to observe sharks, octopus, turtles and stingrays. Many hills and cliffs surround the horseshoe shaped beach and it is a beautiful view to see with green mountains and hills and blue water.

Living in Playas del Coco

Costa Rica is known for its laid back living style. Living at the beach, one has to have an easy going attitude about life and leave the stress behind, completely opposite of other places in the world. An important concept one has to get used to in order to adapt to life in Costa Rica is learning how to deal with Tico time. They don’t like to rush and instead, take their time to get things done, even at work. Jobs are limited and cost of living is high compared to the rest of the country but Ticos care more about quality time than materialistic things. Driving down the street, you see locals hanging out in front of their houses and in the streets, riding their bikes or chatting with neighbours. It is normal to visit someone’s house without calling first and popping by on a whim.

Some downsides to life in Playas del Coco is that it is a small town and if one is looking for a particular item, a trip to Liberia must be made. A law exists in Costa Rica that a gas station cannot stand within a certain distance from the water so the nearest and only gas station is in Sardinal, a community about 20 minutes away. Costa Rica is very environmentally friendly. Government sponsored company that checks and inspects your car and your car must pass all inspections to be allowed on the road. One example of the tests they do is checking your car’s gas emissions.

 

But… if you are a nature lover, look no further! That is what makes Costa Rica the amazing country it is. Nature lovers flourish here, there is a lot to be seen and done in Coco. You can go offshore fishing, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, watch monkeys, run on the beach and much more. Wake up in the morning to watch different types of birds chirping and congo monkeys howling and go to sleep with cicadas humming and more monkeys howling. You can see many types of vibrant birds and giant colorful butterflies everywhere and the flora is a treat for the eyes. Lime, mango and coconut trees grow like weeds providing the freshest and most luscious fruit. There is a reason why so many people move down here post-retirement as it is perfect for someone looking for a relaxed and slower paced life embedded in nature. It’s an attractive place to get away from the cold or for someone who needs to leave their stresses of life behind. Costa Rica has been named as the happiest country in the world and has been in the top ten happiest countries for many years and that’s why so many people migrate to this country- to live a full, happy, and enriched life.

Health and Security in Playas del Coco

Playas del Coco has a public clinic run by the government called Ebais that anyone can go to. It doesn’t matter where you are from, whether you live in Costa Rica or are a tourist, they have to take care of you. There is a law that even if you have no money or insurance, the doctor must attend to you (what a great healthcare system!). They provide attentive care and are open Mon – Fri, 7AM to 4PM. If there is an emergency during the night or weekends, there is a private clinic called Coco medical clinic you can call and of course there is also 911. If you end up needing to go to the hospital, they will take you to the nearest hospital in Filadelfia, about twenty minutes away.

There is a police station right in front of the beach and they always have cops watching the town. They know that Coco is a touristic town so they make sure to keep it safe. You will see security guards at the hotels, restaurants, and even the supermarket. Costa Rica has no army so they rely heavily on their police force to keep the country safe.

Since Coco has such great weather and so many activities, you can find many facilities for sports and working out. There is a local gym, Coco gym that offers evaluations and free trainers, open seven days a week. There is a club called The Club at Coco Bay that also has a gym, a pool, a sauna and tennis courts.

Coco is a very family oriented town so it is incredibly safe, not much crime happens but being a very touristic town, tourists just need to be smart and use their common sense. Everybody is there for the same reason, to have an awesome vacation and relax!

Shopping in Playas del coco

Shopping in Playas del Coco consists mainly of small businesses as the nearest mall is in Liberia but there are plenty of souvenir shops and boutiques if you’re looking for gifts to bring back home or a little something for yourself.

Souvenir shops line the main street of Coco and near the entrance of the beach. The shops boast a huge stock of handmade wood-carved sculptures, jewelry, handbags, clothes, hammocks, and a plethora of trinkets. You can find traditional coffee makers and clothing, Pura Vida signs and all sorts of animal statues.

There are a couple boutique shops, Keep it Classy and Ciao Bella for the women looking for cute clothes, swimsuits or accessories. All the jewelry is handmade by local artisans which range from simple beautiful teardrop or chandelier earrings to seashell bracelets, made from local materials straight from the beach.

The Congo Arts and Crafts Cafe in Pacifico is partly cafe partly boutique. This is where shoppers will find more high end pieces and sophisticated art.

If you’re interested in buying snorkeling gear, beach wear or surf equipment, you can find them at the dive shops. Rich Coast Diving has snorkeling gear such as fins, masks and breathing tubes andadditional scuba diving equipment. For those wanting to browse a surf shop, go to Arenas next to the Auto Mercado. This store has sunglasses, board shorts, swimsuits and flip flops for those who forgot their beach
necessities.  Four major supermarkets reside in this small town, all within a few miles of each other (two are across the street from each other). Megasuper, Super Luperon, Auto Mercado and Super Compro have all the food and goods you need. Megasuper is tucked away inside a plaza off the main street and it’s a bit smaller than the rest but they have good sales every month and good quality meat. Super Luperon has a flower shop and a gift/book store on the second level. Auto Mercado has the best produce and Super Compro has a small deli inside. Each market displays similar
prices, there is not one market that has all their inventory cheaper than another.

You’ll never have trouble finding that perfect souvenir to remind you of your fabulous vacation in Playas del Coco.

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