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.
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.
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
It is important to note that there is no direct car access to Conchal beach anymore. Visitors have to park their car in Brasilito, the neighboring town and walk across Playa Brasilito to get to Conchal Beach. This is about a 20 minute walk one way.
For GPS purposes, you can set Brasilito Park as your final destination, that is the now the Brasilito Parking lot and closest place to park to the pedestrian entrance. Do not drive towards Hotel Brasilito, that is a dead end as the access is now blocked. 4×4 not required.
If you’re staying at the Westin, Reserva Conchal or W Costa Rica, you have an exclusive access to Conchal beach.
Where to Park to Get to Conchal Beach: Brasilito Parking Lot
The “Brasilito Parking” is right in the center of town and close to the pedestrian entrance.
There will be parking “guards” (a woman or man in an orange vest) who will charge you $4 USD or 2000 CRC (better to pay in local currency) to park. We still recommend to not leave any valuables in your car, roll up all your windows and lock your doors.
We also saw some people parking on the street outside the lot. You won’t have to pay the fee but it’s street parking so be even more cautious of making sure you don’t leave any valuables in the car.
The Walk Across Brasilito Beach
From this parking lot, facing the ocean, walk to your left down a little road and you’ll come onto “Brasilito Beach Front” road (walk towards where the red car is in the picture above).
Once you get to Brasilito beach, just walk to your left all the way down. The road comes to a dead end for cars, just keep walking left.
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 15 minutes.
*Make sure you keep your shoes on for this walk. During the day, the sand gets VERY hot, like holy crap, my feet are burning hot. *
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
There is one alternative way to get to Playa Conchal by car. You can drive to Puerto Viejo on Conchal (you can find it on Google Maps) and park directly on the beach. This is the very west side of Conchal beach.
However, if you want to see the white shells, you will need to walk to the other end of Conchal beach (around 15-20 minutes). The side of Puerto Viejo doesn’t really have the white shells or as clear of water since it’s closer to the mangrove/estuary. This is why Puerto Viejo is more popular among locals as most tourists go to the side with the shells and clear water since it is much prettier.
A car with high clearance is recommended for Puerto Viejo, especially in rainy season. Please be careful with your valuables if you drive and don’t leave anything visible in your car. It is not a secure parking lot.
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.
Bring drinks, water, food, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, bathing suit, etc. There are no stores or anything at Conchal. There are locals selling drinks.
No public bathrooms, changing rooms or showers.
We saw a few stands of locals offering some jewelry, snorkel equipment/chairs/canopies, kayaks and fruit and they were not really pushy.
Waves at Conchal beach can get strong for swimming so be careful.
During dry season on some nights, there is bioluminesence at Conchal beach! This is random though and it doesn’t happen every night, so you will need to have luck on your side to see it.
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 called Punta Conchal. The entrance is a bit non-discreet so a lot of people just walk right past it. 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.
From this viewpoint, you can also see Brasilito beach on the other side.
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 Catalinas Islands scuba diving, 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, Rio Celeste, Catarata Llanos de Cortes and visiting nearby beaches like Tamarindo, Langosta, Avellenas, Mina, Brasilito, Potrero, Flamingo, Danta and Las Catalinas.
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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Hi from Seattle!
Hotel Conchal is very nice and friendly. However, access to the Conchal beach seems less so. We are here in November and it’s Really raining hard. The walk from Brasilito looks to require fording a stream, which is quite strong due to the rain and, we fear, teeming with nasty runoff that we’d rather not cross. It is so disappointing that the Hotel Estates could close off access by simply calling themselves a reserve. The entrances were blocked by huge gates with attendant in a glass booth, very Exclusive and intimidating. I hope the people of Costa Rica will in future demand further public access as do Hawaiians.
The route from Puerto Viejo was impassible as well, we had a small sedan and it is nearly 6 k of deep potholes.
Edward from Seattle says
Hi. We’re here at Brasilito during a tropical depression. It’s really rainy! Unfortunately that makes walking to Beach access challenging as there’s no shoulder let alone sidewalks in town. Walking to Playa Conchal from Brasilito beach isn’t so inviting as the stream is swollen from the rain and is fast and carrying who knows what though we did see some fording it. It’s too bad the hotels Don’t provide ( or are forced to provide) beach access to Conchal. We may try to just ask for access at the W or try to drive around to Playa Vieja though we have a sedan.
I thought there used to be a shuttle between brasilito parking and conchal. guess not.
Unfortunately they took it out during COVID, I don’t think it’s operating again from last I heard
We are going to the Westin at playa conchal this June. Will we need water shoes for going to the beach here? We are also going for three days to Arenal (staying at arenal observatory lodge)to do eco-termales Hot Springs and hanging bridges park so just trying to figure out what the best combination of shoe choices would be?Trying to choose between sneakers, trail running shoes (waterproof), closed-toed hiking sandals, and plain water shoes. Thank you so much. All the information you put out is so helpful!
You can check our post on Best shoes for Costa Rica
Lyn Fox says
The weather and water was beautiful yesterday. The walk through the river an experience.
The vendors were, as already mentioned, very intense. (I let my argentinean husband do all the talking.)
Unfortunately Covid changed the locals and while we took basically nothing but a towel and sun lotion, sun glasses and a hat, water and a snack with us, and my husband took a nap on our stuff while I was alone in the water and we left it with a tico family with baby while we jumped together in the water for 10min… some items took off on their own while the family was busy running after the baby for 20-30 sec.
(We all looked at the baby and not our stuff of couse.)
It is what is it. Unfortunately the new normal. It happens up north as much as down south. Stealing got bad at the beaches over the past 4 months.
So do not take anything to the beach that is important or dear to your heart.
Mike Thomas says
The north end of the beach has the shells and rough surf. When you swim with the shells expect to find shells later in places you wouldn’t expect The south end is much calmer and better swimming.
You used to be able to drive onto the beach. We were told someone was hit by a car so they closed the road. We’ll be there this summer.
K. Cale says
How far of a walk from parking to beach ??
If you park at Brasilito close to the pedestrian beach access, I think it’s around 20 minutes or so.
We went to Conchal today and feel that, unfortunately, the people selling crafts and activity tours were extremely pushy. We couldn’t even park the car without them claiming there was a parking fee. We said no over and over again to tours, beverages and food, and they were quite relentless. The beach is certainly very special and beautiful with lots of interesting tidal pools around the rocks. But some of the time we spent there was busy trying to push peddlars away.
Hi Lisa, yes unfortunately I felt it too last time we went 🙁 It didn’t used to be that bad, in fact the first few times I went to that beach in 2010 there were barely anyone there but now that COnchal’s gotten super popular with more luxury developments, the locals have gotten really pushy. Now we always drive all the way to the south end of the beach as much as possible to avoid that since they all stay around the north end (where you come in from Brasilito) and at the entrance of the Westin. Sorry to hear about that Lisa because no matter how beautiful a place is, that can really ruin an experience.
Playa Conchal is a beautiful beach. One of our favorites. Went there today and surprisingly it was not to crowded. We were concerned about leaving our luggage in the car, so we called Hotel Conchal and asked if we could leave our luggage there for a fee. They not only said yes, but didn’t even charge us. We still paid them and had some fish tacos for lunch. I must say the Costa Rican people are really friendly and helpful. We had a blast traveling around the northern part for two weeks.
Thanks for your kind words and glad it worked out at Conchal!
what’s the water temperature like there? does it change with the season? i went to playa ocotal in march last year and it was freezing!
It depends, it’s generally very warm but some times of the year depending on the winds and cold fronts from up north the water can get cold.
Terry Dadd says
Sammi- Thanks for the great tip about the new parking, lot however, I would let people know that the parking lot is the right, if you are coming from the Tamarindo side. Or in other words from the south. If you are coming into town from the north or Flamingo side you have to actually go through Brasilito to get to the parking which then is on your left.
We visited Playa Conchal today, used your great advice but took us a little longer to figure out where the parking was.
Terry and Elizabeth Dadd
Hi guys, sorry I meant to say when you are heading to Brasilito from the Tamarindo side as it’ll be on your right hand side.
Hope you had a good time!