One of the greatest things about visiting Playas del Coco is that you’re close to many attractions. Not only are there a several beautiful beaches nearby but you can plan out your whole trip doing something different every day, you can go from island to forest or beach to volcano in a matter of hours!
Coco’s advantageous position makes it easy to experience so many wonders of Costa Rica. It’s an excellent home base to explore Guanacaste. Here are our favorite day trips from Playas del Coco.
The 10 Best Day Trips from Playas del Coco
Catarata Llanos de Cortes
This is one of our favorite waterfalls in the country and we always bring our friends and family here. It’s a big waterfall with multiple casacades and a large pool to swim in. It’s a bit hidden in the forest, in fact you can drive right by it on the InterAmerica highway and never know it’s there which is why we like to call it our little oasis. It makes for a wonderful day trip especially in the heat!
It’s about a hour drive from Coco and you can read our Catarata Llanos de Cortes guide.
We recommend going early in the morning so you can have the waterfall to yourself and in the afternoon, you can explore Liberia, head back to Coco or visit the African Safari adventure park on the way back where you can see giraffes, zebras and other animals.
Combo Adventure Tour
If you’re looking for adventure and excitement, you have to do a combo adventure tour, it’s one of the best day trips from Playas del Coco. There are quite a few in Rincon de la Vieja National Park, about an hour and drive from Coco that you can choose from. Each one has slightly different activities and they are all incredibly fun!
Guachipelin combo tour consists of a canopy tour, white water tubing, horseback riding, waterfalls, and a separate hot spring and mud baths. Read more about it here.
Buena Vista combo tour has a canopy tour, waterslide, horseback riding, waterfall, hanging bridges and their own hot spring and mud baths. You can read more about it in this post.
Borinquen is located on a hotel and they have their own canopy, hiking trails, spa, mud baths, hot springs, and waterfall. Find out more about Borinquen on Day 2 in this article.
There is also Canyon de la Vieja Adventure Park and Rio Perdido that offer similar activities. We did the river tubing and hot springs at Rio Perdido and it was really fun!
Vandara is another one with a waterslide.
There are a few different places you can beach hop from Coco.
~45 minutes: The Catalinas area, such as Playa Danta, Playa Dantita, Playa Portrero, Playa Penca, Playa Prieta, and Sugar beach. Beautiful beaches, great views on the main road and hiking.
Barra Honda National Park
This is not usually the activity that comes to mind when people think of Costa Rica but it is incredibly interesting. In Barra Honda National Park, you explore various caves up to 250 meters deep!
It’s not ideal for those who are extremely claustrophobic since you crawl down holes barely bigger than the average human being but it was an exhilarating experience. You see all sorts of interesting stalagmite formations in the caves including ones that look like fried eggs!
It’s about a 2 hour drive from Coco so you can drive yourself or go on a tour. It takes around 4 hours for the whole activity, so it takes the whole day. You can also hike in the national park and check out the various viewpoints.
Ostional Wildlife Refuge
If you want to see turtles in Costa Rica, head to Ostional Wildlife Refuge about a two hour drive from Playas del Coco. This is one of the most important locations in the world for Olive Ridley sea turtles since hundreds of thousands of mothers come to this area to lay their eggs.
The best time to see turtles is during green season on an arribada, the period of time where majority of mothers come to shore. If you go during an arribada, you can see thousands of turtles crawling onto shore, digging holes and laying eggs. You can also see baby turtles hatching and crawling out to sea. The big arribadas are generallyfrom July – December in Ostional.
You can go on your own or go with a tour company but make sure you check when is the best time to go and when an arribada is so you don’t miss them.
Palo Verde National Park
Palo Verde National Park is one of the most important parks in the country since it contains an endangered ecosystem in Central America, the tropical dry forest which is home to thousands of birds and various wildlife. Take a boat ride down the Rio Tempisque to see crocodiles, birds, iguanas, frogs and monkeys and the 15 different kinds of habitats.
It’s about an hour and a half drive from Playas del Coco and there is another hacienda in the national park called El Viejo Wetlands that you can visit as well. The El Viejo Wetlands is a sugar cane farm where you can learn about how they process sugar cane, zipline, hike the nature trails and go on the wildlife watching boat ride.
South Pacific Beaches of Guanacaste/Puntarenas
The Pacific coast has no shortage of great beaches and it’s worth venturing outside of the Papagayo area to explore more of them. In the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula (Guanacaste) you have Playa Samara, Nosara and Playa Guiones.
You can read about Playa Samara on Day 5 in this article. I’ve been surfing at Guiones before and it was really fun,. These ones are about a 3 hour drive from Coco.
In the southern part (Puntarenas) you have Mal Pais, Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen. This area is popular with surfers, yogis and people who are interested in seeing a more local Costa Rican beach town. These beaches are at least a 4 hour drive from Coco so you will have to make it an overnight/weekend trip to really enjoy them.
Boating (Snorkeling/Scuba Diving)
One of our favorite activities is going boating in the Gulf of Papagayo. We’ve taken our friends and family and every time we go we see something exciting like dolphins and whales. It’s a fun way to explore the Gulf, see marine life, visit hidden beaches and the snorkeling is way better. You can swim with big fish, turtles and manta rays and see sea stars, sea urchins, pufferfish, tropical fish and eels.
If you’re interested in going boating, we recommend going with our friend Marcy who owns his own boating company and can take you on boating, surfing, fishing, snorkeling and beach hopping tours to the best spots that other sailing companies don’t go. Click here to read more about boating in the Gulf of Papagayo.
If you are a scuba diver, the diving in this part of the country is excellent. You can go out on a boat to Monkey Head, Tortuga Islands, the Catalinas and the Bat Islands to dive with hammerhead sharks and huge manta rays.
Arenal and Monteverde are two very popular destinations in Costa Rica and though they are both about a 3.5 hour drive away from Coco, it makes for a really fun day trip. Enjoy the hot springs, waterfall or the national park in Arenal and go ziplining, walk the hanging bridges, take a coffee tour or go wildlife watching in Monteverde.
You can go on your own or go with a tour company who will handle transportation for you if you don’t want to drive. They’ll arrange all the activities with you before hand so you’ll make the most of your day there. A day trip from Coco costs around $170 for both depending on the activities.
I actually recommend spending more time in both areas if possible but if not, a day trip gives you a wonderful taste of the many different natural landmarks, ecosystems and micro-climates that exist in Costa Rica.
Playas del Coco is actually just a 2.5 hour drive away from the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Penas Blancas. If you got the time, you should take advantage of Nicaragua. Not only is it that close to Coco but it’s cheaper, very beautiful and really different from Costa Rica.
You can go on your own but it is a bit of journey if you take the public transportation. You can drive your rental car to the border but it can’t cross. The best way to experience Nicaragua as much as possible in one day is to go on a one day Nicaragua tour. They’ll take you to Managua, Masaya, Granada, Lake Apoyo, Lake Nicaragua and hit all the major spots.
We offer a $10 discount on the Nicaragua tour.
And one more day trip is Rio Celeste. Here is our guide to hiking Rio Celeste. It is about a 2 hour drive from Coco and can be hiked in one day. See this magical blue river tucked in the volcanoes of Guanacaste!
Where to stay in Playas del Coco
- Budget: Hotel M&M. They’re on the beach with a hostel-like atmosphere. They don’t have AC but it’s a good place for a short stay. If you want AC and nicer rooms, stay at Toro Blanco which is right behind and only a little bit more expensive. Also an excellent option for families as their rooms have a sitting area, pool and a kitchen.
- Luxury: Villa Buena Onda. It’s up in the hills so you get an amazing view of all of Coco. It’s adult only so perfect for honeymooners and couple getaways.
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Hopefully this list gave you some ideas of the amazing day trips from Playas del Coco. These are our top picks and if you have any questions about tour companies, renting a car or other activities, feel free to email us or leave a comment!
Read about more things to do in Costa Rica!