Playa Conchal, Costa Rica has one unique characteristic which makes it an incredibly special beach that visitors can’t miss: it has white shells instead of sand. For this reason, it is always on the list of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Visitors make a dedicated trip to Guanacaste specifically to see this beach, it is that incredible!
If you’re planning on visiting Conchal, check out our tips for visiting below to find out how to get there, where to stay and what to do in our guide.
This post was updated March 6, 2020. There is a new way to get to Conchal as they don’t allow cars to drive there anymore. Check the directions section for more information.
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Playa Conchal, Costa Rica map
Conchal is in Guanacaste, the northwest province of Costa Rica. It is a 1 hour drive from LIR Airport (Liberia International Airport). Conchal beach is 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) from Liberia Airport and 273 kilometers (169 miles) from San Jose.
How to Get to Conchal Beach
Driving directions from Liberia Airport
When you exit the airport, drive back onto the airport boulevard and take a right onto the main road. Continue until you see the signs for Playa Tamarindo, Flamingo and Grande, around thirty to forty minutes.
You’ll pass another town called Belen and turn right at the gas station. Continue for about another 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) and turn until you reach another town called Huacas. Drive a little past the main intersection (Tamarindo to the left) and turn right at the next main intersection. Keep going on this road until you reach Brasilito and you will drive past a small bridge. There you will see lots of street parking and signs to leave your car.
Do NOT turn to the left and try to drive towards Conchal (where Hotel Brasilito is). That access is completely closed and the road is super narrow so if you turn in, you will have to back out.
You can find directions on Waze or Google Maps. However, you will need to enter Brasilito or Playa Conchal Access Parking as your final destination. I’ll talk more about why below.
New Conchal Parking Lot
As of 2019, the direct beach access to Conchal has been closed to vehicles so the only way is to walk across Brasilito beach. If you’re staying at the Westin, Reserva Conchal or W Costa Rica, you have an exclusive access to Conchal beach.
For the public, there is only one way to get to Conchal and it’s by walking across Brasilito beach which takes 10-15 minutes. There are 2 ways to get to Conchal beach if you’re driving.
Option 1: Park your car in Brasilito town and walk to Conchal from there. There is no secure parking lot, it is just street parking. There will be local “parking guards” who will charge you for parking (around 3-5,000 colones depending on time of day and year) but this is not a secure parking lot and it is not insured. You are right at Brasilito beach so it’s a tad quicker than option 2. If you choose this option, you can enter in your GPS Brasilito Park.
Option 2: Park your car in the secure parking lot right outside Brasilito town and take the shuttle to Brasilito. You will still need to walk across the beach to get to Conchal but this parking lot is free, secure, has cameras, a security guard and there are bathrooms, showers and changing rooms.
The bus from the parking lot to Brasilito comes every half an hour or whenever there are people. If you arrive after or before the half hour, the guard can call the shuttle for you.
The parking lot is open from 6 AM to 6 PM to the public and the last shuttle that picks you up in Brasilito back to the parking lot is 5 PM. On the way to Brasilito coming from Huacas (like from Tamarindo), look for the Ebais clinic with 3 big generator tube things out on the street on the right hand side. The parking lot is right after this building and there is a sign. If you reach the Alamo office on your left, you’ve gone too far.
Our Recommendations for Getting to Conchal
We personally like to park in the secure parking lot in Brasilito rather than the street parking in town. I parked here on March 5, 2020 arriving in the afternoon around 230 PM to visit Conchal beach with a friend. If you use GPS like Google Maps to get here, it is called Playa Conchal Access Parking.
The secure parking lot has a security guard the whole time and he greets you when you enter the lot to help you find a space. He will take down your name and license plate number and call the shuttle for you. We waited 5 minutes for the shuttle to come get us at the parking lot.
Once the shuttle arrives, the driver takes you to Brasilito beach (in front of Hotel Brasilito) and drops you off there (2 minute drive). For pick up, you can call him or arrange a time for pick up and you meet at the same place. The shuttle is an air conditioned van and we were the only ones in March!
He then picked us up promptly at 430 PM and drove us right to our car. He did ask us if we wanted to use the bathrooms first but we didn’t need to. The guard and driver were super nice and it was a very easy and seamless process.
I personally feel safer parking our car here rather than leaving it out in Brasilito town on the street as there is a security guard and cameras. And the bathrooms and changing rooms are very nice and clean at the parking lot.
So for us, we personally recommend to park at this parking lot but you will see a ton of tourists street parking in Brasilito town. Parking there is a bit more convenient since you are right in Brasilito and do not have to worry about getting the shuttle since the last one is at 5 PM back to the parking lot.
The Walk Across Brasilito Beach
Once you get to Brasilito beach, just walk to your left all the way down. You’ll see a bunch of people walking since Conchal is a popular beach. It’s an easy walk as Brasilito has fairly compact dark sand and takes about 10-15 minutes.
Once you get to the other end, you’ll come upon a small hill which on the other side, is Conchal beach. You made it!
An Alternative Option
However, if walking 15 minutes on the beach sounds too much for you, you can also drive directly to Puerto Viejo on Conchal (you can find it on Google Maps) and park there. This is the very west side of Conchal beach. They have parking right at the beach. If you want to see the shells, you will need to walk to the other end of Conchal beach (around 15 minutes)
A4wd/4×4 recommended, especially in rainy season. Please be careful with your valuables if you drive and don’t leave anything visible in your car.
Conchal is one of the most visited beaches in Costa Rica and it can get very crowded on the weekends. And since the Westin Resort and W Costa Rica is on the beach, you will find a lot of local vendors trying to sell souvenirs and offer tours. But that doesn’t deter from the breathtaking beauty of Conchal!
As soon as you step onto the shore you’ll be delighted to see that the sand is actually composed of tiny pieces of sparkling white shells!
The glimmering colorful shells are a perfect accompaniment to the warm turquoise waters and this is why Conchal is one of the most beloved beaches in Costa Rica. You can’t find other beaches like this one and both locals and tourists fall in love at first sight.
Conchal’s waves are not that calm though so be careful if you have little ones. The waves do get pretty strong! We have also even seen a manta ray jump on a girl who was swimming in the water so keep an eye out!
The east end of the beach has a ton of shells as you can see in the photo. The further west (or to the left) you go, the less shells you see. Conchal used to have a lot more shells many years ago but people kept taking them. So please, leave only footprints and take only memories when you visit Conchal!
If you walk towards the west side of the beach, you’ll see a small estuary. Reserva Conchal protects the mangroves, estuaries and dry tropical forest.
Things to Know About Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
This beach gets incredibly packed on weekends during December – April, Christmas and Easter.
Now that they have closed the beach access, it is very nice with no cars, ATVs or big vehicles around. They have also prohibited most street vendors and hawkers. We saw a few stands of locals offering some jewelry, snorkel equipment/chairs/canopies, kayaks and fruit and they were not really pushy.
Best time to visit
You can visit Conchal beach any time of the year. We personally love the shoulder months of May, June and November as it’s very green with less people. When we visited in November, we practically had the whole beach to ourselves. It was gorgeous!
Conchal, Costa Rica Weather
Since Conchal is in Guanacaste, one of the hottest and driest provinces in Costa Rica, it is sunny and hot there all year long. It follows the typical tropical dry and rainy season patterns with December – April as the dry season and May – November as the rainy season.
The temperature can get up to the mid 90s (35 C) in March and April which are the hottest months. The rainiest months are October and November and gets quite humid during those months. During dry season, the surrounding mountains turn yellow and very dry. In rainy season, it turns a very deep green and it is so beautiful to see the bright turquoise water and glittering white shore surrounded by a lush forest.
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica Hotels
The only hotels actually on Conchal are the W Costa Rica, Reserva Conchal and The Westin Conchal Resort & Spa. The Westin in an all-inclusive resort, the W is not. The Reserva Conchal has houses and apartment rentals.
Here are a couple of other options:
- Hotel Brasilito
- Boutique hotel right on Playa Brasilito, only a short walk away. Offers oceanfront rooms starting at $79 USD.
- Hotel Conchal
- 12 room boutique hotel with garden and pool views, also just a short walk away from the beach. Rooms start at $60 USD.
You can also consider staying in Potrero or Brasilito town as there are more options for hotels, inns and vacation rentals.
Things to do at Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
If you want to do any of the activities below by renting equipment from the locals, you will need to bring cash and Costa Rican currency is best.
Renting Chairs and Canopy at Conchal Beach
There are a lot of locals at the beach renting out chairs, snorkel equipment and canopies on Conchal beach. When we visited in March, it cost 10,000 Costa Rican colones (~$18 USD) for canopy, beach chairs, drink service and snorkel equipment for 2 people. This was the price a local guy gave me, calling it the afternoon special since we arrived at 3 PM. All the canopies are right by the rocky part of the beach where you can snorkel and that end of the beach has the most white shells.
It would probably be a little bit more expensive earlier in the day but I thought it wasn’t too bad considering snorkel equipment is usually expensive to rent. And the canopy was very big and had 4-5 chairs.
You can go snorkeling at Conchal but the waves are a bit strong and the only place to snorkel at the beach is on the east end right when you get to the beach from Brasilito. This is also where there are the most shells.
You can rent snorkel gear on the beach for $20 USD (last time I checked) or see how much it would be if you get the chair/canopy combo like I mentioned earlier. You can see some small colorful fish and if you’re lucky, you might see a manta ray!
You will find a lot of locals on the beach offering jet ski rentals. You can negotiate a price and go on a tour or jet ski on your own.
Jet ski rentals are usually expensive but it’s really fun.
We’ve also gotten massages on the beach before. You’ll see quite a few massage stands set up and it’s pretty cheap! Last time we went, it was around $35 USD for an hour.
Kayak and SUP
You can also rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards at Conchal beach.
You can swim at Conchal beach but waves can get a bit rough. Swimming at Conchal beach is not suitable for young children, babies or toddlers. Additionally, Conchal does experience rip tides so always be aware if you go out in the water.
The water is so refreshing and comfortable, especially after the walk on the beach. We couldn’t wait to jump in!
When you arrive at Conchal beach, there is a small hill separating Brasilito and Conchal. We saw a couple of ladies sitting at this point selling jewelry but what many people don’t know is that if you follow the trail up the small hill, you get stunning views of both Brasilito and Conchal.
It’s a narrow trail going through the bushes so be very careful since there are some loose rocks. In dry season, the trail is much easier to see since the plants are dead but in rainy season, it may be really overgrown and you may not see it.
I love this viewpoint as it allows you to soak in all the beauty of Conchal beach.
Best Conchal Day Trips
Conchal beach is in an excellent location in Guanacaste, perfect for a home base. There are fun things to do in the area and many day tours available.
Some of our favorite day tours from Conchal are Flamingo snorkeling and fishing tours, Diamante Eco Adventure Park, Guachipelin adventure tour, Ostional Wildlife Refuge, boating in Playas del Coco, Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Arenal Volcano and Monteverde day tours, Nicaragua one day tour, Rio Celeste, Catarata Llanos de Cortes and visiting nearby beaches like Tamarindo, Langosta, Avellenas, Mina, Brasilito, Potrero, Flamingo, Danta and Las Catalinas.
You can even take a scenic Costa Rica helicopter tour and see Guanacaste from above!
You can read more about things to do in Conchal here.
Want to read about other beaches in Costa Rica? Here you go!
Flamingo: An upscale beach community very close to Conchal, has a large marina, great scuba diving and fishing
Jaco: A booming surfing beach town only 1.5 hours from San Jose. The most developed beach town in Costa Rica
Mal Pais: Small fishing village in Nicoya Peninsula near Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa: The booming surfing town in the Nicoya Peninsula
Playa Cabuyal: A local favorite white sand beach in the Gulf of Papagayo
Playa Prieta: Small local beach near Las Catalinas near Flamingo
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