If you’re staying in the Gulf of Papagayo area and up for a day of exploring and adventure, head to Playa Cabuyal, a lesser known white sand beach. It’s soft tan sand and inviting baby blue waters is one of our favorite beaches to visit by car.
Plan your trip to Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica with our guide below. Updated May 2020.
Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica map
Playa Cabuyal is 27.5 kilometers (17 miles) from Liberia International Airport (30 minute drive). It is a 40 minute drive from the closest beach town of Playas del Coco.
How to Get To Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica
From Liberia International Airport, drive out of the airport towards Route 21 and take a right onto the main road. Continue for about 10 minutes until you see a large intersection and sign for “Do-It-Center” and signs to Playa Panama and Four Seasons pointing right. Turn right here onto Route 253 and follow that road all the way for about 18 kilometers (11 miles) until you hit an intersection with a sign to Cabuyal.
Turn right at the sign and continue until you reach the parking lot of Cabuyal. When you turn here, it turns into a dirt road.
You can find Playa Cabuyal on Google Maps and Waze.
You’ll come upon a small parking lot. There isn’t a parking fee or parking guard. Although there is a parking lot, it is not secure or under surveillance so make sure to roll up windows, lock doors and do not leave any valuables in the car.
Not necessarily. You can get there with a normal car in the drier summer months like January – April and drier months like June and July. If you visit during the rainiest months of September – December, it is recommended to have a high car for comfort and safety.
Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica
With pillow sand and calm blue waters in a natural setting, Playa Cabuyal is exactly the type of beach we love. What makes this beach so special is that nothing is around. No houses, no hotels, nothing. Simply a beautiful, quiet beach.
It’s not hidden in that you need to have a 4×4 to get there or it’s in the middle of nowhere, but it is a beach that sees a noticeably lesser amount of visitors than others in the area like Playa Hermosa or Playas del Coco. As we visited in June which is rainy season, the surrounding mountains were green and lush. If you visit during summer months January – April, they will be yellow and dry.
Services or Amenities
Surprisingly, this beach has amenities like picnic tables and bathrooms so you can spend an entire day here as long as you brought some food and water. With plenty of trees around, you can set up a nice cozy spot with a blanket or hammock under the shade.
We visited in June in the middle of the week and there was only one other local family there. The man was fishing and the woman was walking on the beach with her son and baby. That’s it! It may get a bit more “crowded” on weekends or holidays with more locals but we absolutely loved having the beach pretty much to ourselves.
This is one of the perks of visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season – less crowds!
The road was fine, not muddy or slippery with big pot holes and we had great weather. We did drive there in our Hyundai Galloper 4×4.
By afternoon around 3 PM or so, it started getting very cloudy and began raining a little bit when we left. This is typical rainy season weather on the Guanacaste coast. Dry with off and on clouds in the morning and then dark and cloudy in late afternoons with chances of rain.
Can you swim at Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica?
Yes! The waves were fairly calm when we went. Although we didn’t bring out swimsuits, we waded in until knee length to cool off. However, we were barely in the water for more than 10 minutes before we realized that there were manta rays everywhere.
I love wildlife as much as the next person but there were so many that I didn’t want to get too close and these guys were surfing the waves not even 6 inches from us.
So we got out of the water and decided to climb some trees and enjoy the view.
I don’t know if the manta rays are always there but there were so many when we visited. So just keep your eyes open when you jump in the water!
Enjoy a Beautiful Quiet Beach
Playa Cabuyal is about a 40 minute drive from Playas del Coco but is absolutely worth the drive. Get away from the crowds, the tourists and busy beach towns to beautiful Cabuyal for some peace and quiet. We went on a weekend and saw no more than two local families there, fishing and enjoying the day with their loved ones.
Want to read about other lesser known beaches in Costa Rica? Check these out!
Hiker Gal says
Just returned from watching sunset here. Absolutely gorgeous and quite crowded with cars lined up parked along road (a Saturday evening). Only saw one picnic table though was under a tree in a shaded area. Definitely would want to bring a covering if here during the day since didn’t see much shade. Super close to Playa Panama and about a 45 min drive from Carrillo Sardinal (10 min from Payas del Coco). Roads are in great condition which allows for faster travel.
Went in March of 2022 and it is our favorite beach of the 5 we visited in the area, mild surf, soft light sand and shallows that go out quite the distance. We also liked the mangrove brackish water area on the south end, saw some fresh/brackish water puffer fish! No rays unfortunately that we saw.
One possible negative I do have to report though is it looks like a very small hotel may have been built since this page was written along with a bar. We went on a weekday and while I wouldn’t call it crowded the parking lot was full with around a dozen cars. On the plus side there was a guy in a reflective vest watching over the parking lot. Still a great beach but not quite as abandoned as used to be.
Bonnie Heavenor says
Hi Sammi, really enjoying all your fabulous info & stories. Heading that way in Feb & want to see Playa Cabuyal beach and maybe see some leatherbacks??? How far is it from Casa Conde in Playa Panama? There’s 12 adults with no transportation of our own. Txs for your help…..cheers
The best place to see leatherbacks is in the Las Baulas national park at Playa Grande about 1 hour and 15 minute south of Playa Panama. You’ll have to contact a tour operator to book a tour because the public is not allowed on Grande at night and you have to go with a guide. Unfortunately leatherback nestings are not very frequent there anymore so most companies don’t have the tours, it’s not a guarantee to see leatherbacks even during nesting season.
Just got back from our first trip to Costa rica and everytime I was looking up something your site popped up and I found it super helpful, thanks!!! Also we got your discount at diamante, very appreciated!
Hi Donna, so glad to hear you had a good time and the blog was helpful! 🙂 Thank you for reading!
Hi there. We are thinking of going today but are looking for a place with some waves for boogie boarding. Are there enough waves here to boogie board or do they form close to the beach?
Hi Courtney, the waves are Cabuyal are generally not that big so I’m not sure how good it is for boogie boarding but it’s worth going anyways, the beach is super nice!
Can the Manta’s harm you? I always thought they were harmless. Going to be in that area in a few days and would love to see some Mantas.
Hi Erich! Manta rays aren’t really harmful since they are filter feeders and don’t have the spikes on their tails. We almost stepped on them which is why we ran out of the water, they were swimming super close to shore and didn’t want to invade their space!
Thanks! I am just wanting something laid back, fun, lots of nature and a slow pace. I love Costa Rica and am so happy to be going back! I will be reading through your posts/book and really appreciate what you guys do!
You’re welcome! Samara is really pretty and has a more chill vibe compared to the surf towns up north of Jaco. Sunsets there are gorgeous
I would have gotten out of the water too! Yikes. I have a question. I am planning a trip to Costa Rica. I have been once before, about 10 years ago. I stayed near Arenal, and then in Puerto Viejo and a night in San Jose. This time, I am thinking of Playa Samara. I have heard good things about it. I am bringing my teenage sons and have heard it is a good “starter” place to learn surfing.
Do you have any thoughts on this destination? Thanks!
Samara is a nice beach, I haven’t surfed there so I can’t say how the waves are but it is good for beginners and you can take lessons there.