In Southern Guanacaste, you can find one of the most picturesque beaches in Costa Rica: Carrillo. Palm trees dot the shore of this pristine crescent shaped beach, making it look like a sparkling Caribbean paradise. Carrillo is also one of the beaches that have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag (Bandera Azul) award, given only to the cleanest beaches in the country.
Visitors love Carrillo for its tranquil and non-developed atmosphere, beautiful beach and lovely coastal views. The beach town Puerto Carrillo has less than 500 year round residents, maintaining an authentic Costa Rican small town vibe. It’s an excellent beach to get away from crowded Samara, especially for families.
In this guide, you’ll find out how to get to Carrillo and other important tourist information.
Carrillo, Costa Rica map
Puerto Carrillo is in the southern zone of the Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast. Playa Carrillo is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Samara and about a 2 hour drive from Liberia International Airport, the closest international airport.
How to get to Carrillo Costa Rica
Driving: The fastest way to get to Carrillo is by car via Route 21 and 150 going through Santa Cruz and Nicoya. This is on a paved road, a 4×4 is not necessary. You can check out our Costa Rica car rental discount here.
Shuttle: You can take private or shared shuttles to Carrillo. A shared shuttle from San Jose and Liberia to Carrillo is around $59 USD per adult. Click here to read more about Costa Rica shuttles. A private shuttle is around $130 USD from LIR Airport.
Bus: There is a daily bus from San Jose with Empresa Alfaro at Terminal 7-10 at 12 PM and 5 PM (only in high season). It is a 5 hour ride and costs about 4,500 colones (~$8 USD USD). There is also a bus from Nicoya with Empresa Traroc 400 meters east of the Municipality. They run Monday – Saturday at 5, 5:45 AM, 8 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, 4:30 PM, 6:30 PM , 8 PM and 9:45 PM. This bus takes about 1 hour 15 minutes.
On Sundays, there are buses from Nicoya to Samara at 6 AM, 8 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, 6:30 PM and 8 PM. If you’re coming from Liberia, the best way would be to bus from Liberia to Nicoya then to Samara.
The Carrillo local airport is closed to the public and is only open for private charters and the government.
Now that we have the logistics out of the way, we can talk about Carrillo beach and how absolutely gorgeous it is with it’s bright blue clear waters, tall coconut palms and clean tan sand. It is truly one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica!
During low season (May – November), you will find only handfuls of tourists at Carrillo lounging around and soaking up the sun.
Waves are very calm at Carrillo, making it much better for swimming and bathing, especially for little kids. The soft inviting sand is perfect for sunbathing and relaxing. There are some rocky reefs on either side of the beach, suitable for some decent snorkeling.
There aren’t any hotels or restaurants on the beach itself, which is why many people love and prefer Carrillo over other beaches in Guanacaste. You won’t hear music blasting from bars or be approached by any solicitors. There may be locals pushing around copo stands and selling pipa frias (cold coconut water) but that’s about it!
Although Carrillo beach is normally very quiet and empty, it does get quite busy on weekends and holidays with local tourists. Costa Ricans like to camp and have barbecues on Carrillo.
You can park along the road parallel to the beach. It is a paved road and you’ll see many cars parked there.
Puerto Carrillo Town
So what about the town?
The tiny Puerto Carrillo town sits up on the hill of the southern end of the beach. A surprisingly well paved and nicely laid out boulevard runs parallel to Carrillo beach. Follow the boulevard south (away from Samara) to reach where the town and most of the hotels, supermarkets and restaurants are.
Puerto Carrillo actually became famous due to their excellent fishing, specifically sport fishing. You will see many fishing boats parked in the bay and fishing tours going on every day.
Playa Carrillo Hotels
There aren’t a ton of hotels in Carrillo but that keeps it quiet. We stayed at the Nammbu Beachfront Bungalows which was extremely nice. They have a big pool, spacious rooms and beautiful views of the beach.
Hotel Palmeras Carrillo and Hotel La Posada are two other options for a boutique, mid range hotel. However, there are way more Airbnbs than hotels in Carrillo so check those out if you don’t find a hotel you like in your budget. (Get $20 Airbnb credit for new accounts here).
If you don’t want to stay in Carrillo, then Samara is your next best option as that is a much bigger town with more hostels and hotels. We recommend staying in Carrillo if you want to be in a quieter beach but keep in mind that there isn’t too much there. There are way more restaurants, supermarkets, banks and other services in Samara which is 4 kilometers away.
Due to this reason, it will be a lot easier to stay in Carrillo with a car. Without a car, you will need to taxi back and forth which will add up and there really isn’t too much around.
Playa Carrillo Weather
Carrillo is in the Guanacaste province, which is one of the hottest areas in Costa Rica. Even better is that this area gets sunny days almost all year long and experiences typical tropical weather in Costa Rica. Dry season (beginning of December to end of April) sees temperatures in the 90s F (34 C) with sun every day.
Rainy season (beginning of May to end of November) is not quite as intense in this area. There may be some rare off and on showers in May and June as it doesn’t get rainy until about August. Even still, the typical rainy season day is very sunny and hot in the mornings and cloudy and rainy in the late afternoon and evenings.
Playa Carrillo Restaurants
Although there aren’t a lot of restaurants in Carrillo either, you can find a couple of Costa Rican sodas (traditional local restaurants) and nice places to eat. Chez Nous is a really nice place that has mostly seafood. Hula Jungle has good drinks and pizza.
Things to Do in Playa Carrillo
You’re probably wondering if there is anything to do in Carrillo being such a quiet beach. Undoubtedly, the most popular thing to do in Carrillo is relax. It’s a beach that most people visit for a day from Samara to escape the crowds but there are also other fun things to do in the area.
You can go sportfishing, horseback riding, ziplining at Wingnuts or surfing at Samara. You can also see turtles at the nearby Camaronal Wildlife Refuge on a turtle tour. I recommend checking out the Samara Info Center or seeing if your hotel can set you up with tours with transportation if you want to do tours in Carrillo.
Read about other beaches and beach towns in Costa Rica below!
Montezuma: Small beach town in Nicoya Peninsula
Tamarindo: Popular surfing beach town in Guanacaste
Jaco: Developed beach town, famous for surfing
Puntarenas: Small local fishing town and port
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