If you’re looking for a super chill, relax and local surfing beach, head to Playa Esterillos Oeste. Esterillos actually consists of three sections: Esterillos Oeste, Centro and Este stretching down the Central Pacific coast with Oeste as the most popular out of the three. Though the entire area of Esterillos is fairly big, Esterillos Oeste town is very small and the beach is not very crowded.
Here is our guide to visiting Playa Esterillos Oeste.
Playa Esterillos Oeste Location
Esterillos Oeste is 122 kilometers (76 miles) from San Jose, a 2 hour drive. It is 15 miles (24 kilometers) and a 25 minute drive from Jaco.
How to Get to Esterillos Oeste
The best way to get to Playa Esterillos Oeste is to drive. The route from San Jose International Airport is mostly on Route 27 and Route 34, both highways with paved roads.
From Guanacaste Airport, you will want to go on the Interamericana highway 1, then Route 27 and exit at the Jaco/Manuel Antonio exit and continue south from there. There is one toll booth for ~190 CRC (you can pay in USD, credit card or local currency which is the best option).
The entrance to Playa Esterillos Oeste is on the right hand side and you can’t miss it, there is a huge sign of a mermaid. Make sure you turn at Oeste since there is also a Esterillos town and Playa Esterillos Este which is different. You can use your GPS.
From both San Jose and Liberia, it is all on a well paved road except for when you turn into the beach town entrance. This road becomes unpaved but you won’t need a 4×4. The pot holes do get bigger in rainy season but a 4×4 is not necessary.
It is highly recommended to rent a car if you are visiting this beach or area as it is hard to get around without one. There aren’t a ton of restaurants or big supermarkets right in town and there aren’t a lot of taxis. We didn’t see any Ubers here either.
If you drive, make sure not to leave belongings in your car and never leave your belongings alone at the beach.
Playa Esterillos Oeste Beach
Playa Esterillos Oeste beach has dark sand and dark blue waters with constant waves. It’s not that nice for swimming but ideal for surfing. Palm trees line the long coast of Esterillos and you will see many local families playing in the sand and tide pools.
Although this beach may not have white sand or crystal clear turquoise waters, it offers an unforgettable experience for visitors with its empty shores, fun waves and beautiful views. It’s definitely somewhere to go for those who want to stay at a non-touristic beach town in Costa Rica! This beach is also very clean and has lovely sunsets.
Do keep in mind that if you go in the water to swim or bathe, be very very careful to not go too far. Don’t swim if you aren’t a strong swimmer or if it looks too strong/choppy. This beach can experience rip tides and strong currents, which are dangerous to anyone, whether they’re a strong swimmer or not. If you’re surfer, this beach is more ideal for intermediate surfers – not first timers or very beginners as Playa Esterillos Oeste is more of a surfing beach.
Esterillos Oeste Mermaid statue
*As of August 2023, the mermaid statue seems to have been swept away and they have found only parts of this iconic statue 🙁 *
Besides surfing, Playa Esterillos Oeste is famous for one other interesting characteristic: a mermaid statue. If you head to the north end of the beach, you’ll see her looking out into the water. During low tide, you can actually walk all the way up to her for a photo.
I asked the locals what her name was and her history but no one knew. They call her vagabunda (homeless woman) because for as long as they can remember, she’s been sitting out in the water all day and night.
Playa Esterillos Oeste Town
Esterillos town is very small, as in the typical small Costa Rican beach town with unpaved roads, one or two small pulperias (convenience stores) and a couple of restaurants.
It’s still rural but it has grown quite a bit the last few years. More and more foreigners know where this little beach town is. Even the city Costa Ricans go to this beach for a weekend getaway since it’s only about a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose.
Tourists that don’t like the commercialism of Jaco are drawn to Esterillos since it still has the feeling of a rustic Costa Rica beach town where chickens crow all day and night, cows and horses roam freely in the pasture next door and police cars are nowhere to be seen.
Though most of the people who live in Esterillos Oeste are all locals, there are some foreigners as well and they have built some big luxury communities and gated neighborhoods in the area.
Playa Esterillos Oeste Hotels
When it comes to lodging, you won’t find any luxury or upscale places. There are a few campsites and rustic or budget – mid range places to stay. As most of the visitors to this area are there to enjoy the beach or surf, the hotels in Esterillos Oeste are basic but comfortable.
We stayed at Hotel La Dolce Vita which is right on the beach with secure parking and small apartments. The rooms had a small kitchen, living space and separate bedroom area.
You can also find vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb. We booked a room through Airbnb at the Teak Boutique Hotels. It was ideal for surfers with a super cozy common area, hammocks, kitchen and spacious rooms.
The only thing about this place is that there isn’t a secured parking lot. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving our Mitsubishi Montero Sport on the street at night so we left it at the La Sirena Hotel which has a large secure parking lot.
You can find some vacation rentals up in the mountains outside of Esterillos. Many of them are luxury homes, owned by foreigners who rent out their house or property.
Playa Esterillos Oeste Restaurants
There aren’t a ton of dining options in Esterillos Oeste. The best place in town is Los Almendros for yummy Caribbean and local food.
For sodas, there are several in town. Soda Margherita and Soda Ana are two excellent ones and cheap. For 2 typical breakfasts with coffee, we paid $11 USD at Soda Margherita.
There are many more dining options in Esterillos Este, Centro and off the Route 34 outside town.
Things to Do in Playa Esterillos Oeste
Though there aren’t a ton of things to do in Playa Esterillos Oeste itself. The best things to do are relaxing at the beach, horseback riding and surfing. However, there are many day trips you can take from there. You can visit Manuel Antonio National Park, Carara National Park, Rainmaker Park, Nauyaca Waterfalls. Make sure to visit other beaches nearby like Playa Bejuco.
Playa Esterillos Oeste’s serene atmosphere, laid back surfing vibe and rural town attracts visitors who aren’t interested in a touristic beach town. If that is what you’re looking for, then this is a great place for you to visit.
Read about other beaches in Costa Rica here!
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