As part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park, Playa Grande in Costa Rica is an important beach not just for surf lovers but for the nature and wildlife. Located along the Tamarindo Bay, Grande plays a key role in leatherback turtles nestings. Though the beach is open to the public, visitors aren’t allowed to go after nightfall in order to protect the turtles and their babies.
With tan colored sand and bright blue waters, it’s a beautiful surfing beach in Guanacaste that locals adore and visitors from all countries seek out. Separated from Playa Tamarindo by the Matapalo River, Grande offers travelers a less crowded beach to catch the perfect wave.
Playa Grande map
From Liberia International Airport, take a right. Continue on this main road through Comunidad, Filadelfia, and to Belen. Once you get to Belen, you’ll see many signs for Playa Grande. Follow those and take the left into Matapalo (you’ll see another sign). Take another left at the intersection where the road curves a bit and keep going until you reach the beach.
There is a small parking lot you can park at (you may have to pay) and you’ll see a restaurant/bar to the right and the beach up in front of you. Grande beach is a vast one with no trees around so if you plan to have a beach day, be warned there are no shady spots unless you bring your own umbrella.
But if you’re a surfer, you’ll in the right spot. Grande has constantly been known for having some of the best waves for both beginners and pros.
With consistent and moderate surf breaks, beginners can sharpen their skills during low tide and the pros can enjoy bigger swells, especially during March to November. Although there are usually many surfers out in the water, it is a fairly long beach and less popular than Playa Tamarindo so it is easier to find a spot.
Waves are not suitable for swimming so it’s not advisable to go for a swim. Visitors also need to be aware of rip currents and if they want to do snorkeling or swimming, they can go to Playa Ventanas right next door.
There are plenty of things to do nearby such as the Rio Matapalo for kayaking and wildlife watching. Playa Grande is not open after dark so don’t plan any bonfires or parties as it is a protected area.
Other activities are available outside of Grande such as ziplining, hiking, sailing, kayaking, and much more on the Tamarindo side.
Where to Stay
A few hotels line the beach or are on the road on the way to the beach so you won’t have to waste any time getting from your room to the water. Click here to see the hotels available in Grande. Most are at affordable prices and are mostly boutique or small hotels/inns.
There is also a surf camp at Playa Grande so you can surf all day every day of your trip.
Where to Eat
Like I mentioned earlier, there is a restaurant/bar on the right side of the parking lot. There are also a few sodas and places to eat in the area such as Ripjack Inn (part of the Hotel Ripjack Inn), Kike’s Place, The Marber, El Huerto Pizzeria and the Great Waltini’s at Hotel Bula Bula.
Visiting Playa Grande
If you’re visiting Playa Grande to see the leatherback turtles, know that the population of nesting mothers has declined quite drastically. You have to go with a guide since the beach is not open to the public after nightfall (6 PM) and it is not a guarantee you’ll see one. Ask when is the arribada as that is the best time.
If you’re visiting to surf, you can bring your own or rent a board there. The closest and most popular place to rent is Frijoles Locos (love that name, it means crazy beans) and they also give lessons. For a group lesson up to 4 people, it costs $30 for 90 minutes. Private instruction is more expensive at $120 for 90 minutes.
Want to read about other surfing beaches in Costa Rica? Here you go!
Dominical: Popular surfing and hippie beach town in the South Pacific Coast
Jaco: Popular surfing beach town, only 1.5 hours from San Jose. Most developed beach town
Mal Pais: Small fishing village by Santa Teresa. Great surfing waves and fishing
Esterillos Oeste: Small beach town about 20 minutes south of Jaco. Great surfing waves, few hotels, nice local atmosphere
Junquillal: Nice, local beach in the small rural Junquillal town in Guanacaste. About 30 minutes south of Tamarindo
Puerto Viejo: Local part of Conchal beach in Guanacaste