If you’re looking for a quiet beach to stay at in the Gulf of Papagayo, check out Ocotal Beach. This small black sand beach is just a mere 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the popular beach town of Playas del Coco.
This post will help you plan your trip to Ocotal Beach whether it’s for a day trip or using as a homebase in Costa Rica.
Ocotal Beach Location and Directions
Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica Map.
Ocotal beach is 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Liberia International Airport and 235 kilometers (146 miles) from San Jose International Airport. Playa Ocotal is about a 30 minute drive from Liberia International Airport.
How to get to Ocotal
Driving from Liberia Airport: Ocotal is about a 35 minute drive from Liberia Airport, all on good paved roads. You can use a GPS device or Google Maps/Waze. The road is completely paved all the way so you can perfectly get a sedan. Get our Costa Rica car rental discount here.
Bus: If you are taking a bus, you will have to take a public bus to Playas del Coco and then taxi to your final destination. If you are taking shared shuttles, they will go to Ocotal hotels. From the airport, if you are not renting a car, book a private transfer which is around $60 USD total. Contact us if you’d like to book a shuttle.
There is street parking at all the entrances. It is not an official parking lot, there is usually a local guy there (wearing an orange vest) who will offer to watch your car for a fee. Do not leave any valuables in your car and make sure to roll up your windows and lock your doors.
You do not need a 4wd or 4×4 to get to Ocotal Beach. The road is completely paved.
Playa Ocotal has dark sand and clear blue waters. This beach is surrounded by hills and cliffs and is much quieter as there are fewer tourists. There are only a small handful of beachfront businesses, keeping the vibe more chill and relax.
It’s such a great beach to visit for families because waves are not that strong and there are always a lot of local families around to mingle with.
Ocotal’s chill atmosphere, local vibe and fun waves make it a nice beach to escape the busy crowds or use a homebase. It has decent snorkeling, beachfront hotels and restaurants and is a great launch point if you want to do scuba diving or fishing. Additionally, Playa Ocotal has the “Blue Flag” meaning it is recognized as one of the cleanest beaches in Costa Rica!
There are plenty of trees for shade and both ends have rocky reefs, making it great for snorkeling, fishing and walking around tide pools in low tide.
It’s not a very long beach but it is big enough that you can find a spot all to yourself even on the weekend. It’s fun to walk around the tide pools, I saw a beautiful sea star once!
During low tide, you can sit on the rocks and play in the spray of the waves when they hit the rocks. It was a ton of fun and the local kids were having a blast.
Playa Ocotal experiences typical tropical weather with a dry and rainy season. Since it’s in Northern Guanacaste, which is one of the hottest and driest areas of Costa Rica, it is sunny and hot for most of the year.
Dry season is from December to April and rainy is from May to November but this area tends to have a longer dry season than the rest of the country. You can read more about Costa Rica weather in this post.
So make sure to pack your sunglasses, bathing suites, plenty of sunscreen, after sun gel and your summer clothes!
There isn’t too much in Ocotal in terms of hotels, restaurants and nightlife but there are a couple nice hotels in the area such as Hotel Ocotal B&B and Hotel Villa Casa Blanca.
There are also many vacation rentals and condos like Los Almendros de Ocotal which is beach front. You can find many Ocotal vacation rentals on Airbnb and VRBO.
As for food, there is one beachfront restaurant called Father Rooster that has good drinks and food like burgers, sandwiches and wraps. Another restaurant, Picante which is inside Hotel Bahía Pez Vela is a more upscale dining restaurant that has good seafood.
Things to Do in Ocotal Beach
If you’re staying in Ocotal as a home base for your vacation in Costa Rica, you will have plenty of fun activities and day tours to choose from. Ocotal is in a great location as it’s close to many beautiful beaches and not terribly far from national parks, waterfalls and adventure parks.
Since Coco beach is terrible for snorkeling, whenever we want to go swim with the fishies, we head to Ocotal which has clear water and lots of rocks on the side. The right side of the beach is the best place to snorkel at Ocotal since there are a lot of rocks. You can see many different little tropical fish hanging out there.
You can rent snorkel equipment, kayaks, and canoes at Ocotal by the entrance of the beach near Father Rooster.
Ocotal is also a great launch point to go scuba diving since it is near several excellent scuba diving sites such as Monkey head rock, Tortuga Islands and the Bat Islands. You can sign up for a dive with Rocket Frog Divers who depart from Ocotal.
Drinks at Father Rooster
Father Rooster is the most popular restaurant in Ocotal since it’s right on the beach. They have yummy drinks and good sandwiches. Great place for happy hour sunset drinks!
Ocotal is a nice beach but if you want to see a white sand beach, then you have to go boating in the Gulf of Papagayo. You can go on the open sailing tours like Marlin del Rey out of Coco but we recommend a private boating tour from Coco so you can visit more beaches, snorkel longer and have the boat all to yourself.
See howler monkeys
There are always troops of howler monkeys on the beach. Keep your eyes out in the trees and listen for them!
We love riding our bikes at beach towns. When we lived in Ocotal, Yeison and I used to bike from Ocotal to Coco everyday. Great workout!
For nightlife, you will need to go into Coco. Coco has a lot of bars with live music, a casino, beach front bars, a park and souvenir stores.
How to get around Ocotal
If you plan to use Ocotal as a home base for more than 1 or 2 nights, we recommend to rent a car. It is easy to get around since the beach isn’t that big but as there is no “town center” it’s a bit spread out. Additionally, you will have to go back and forth to Playas del Coco to go to the bank, grocery shopping, nightlife, etc. so it will be easier and safer with a car.
We do not recommend to walk, especially at night as it is about a 50 minute walk from Coco to Ocotal.
A lot of people will rent a golf cart which can work for Coco to Ocotal. This can work for a few days and for just getting around town. So if you’re staying for just a few days or do not want to rent a car, you can rent a golf cart and then book day tours with transportation when you want to do an excursion.
Want to book day tours from Ocotal? Get our Guanacaste day tours discount!
There are also many taxis in Ocotal and Coco.
Ocotal Day Tours
Here are our favorite day tours from Ocotal.
- Diamante Eco Adventure Park: For a fun day full of adventure, head to the Diamante Eco Adventure Park. They have the longest ocean view zipline in Costa Rica, an animal sanctuary and cultural experience. Get 10% off the park in the following link for our Diamante discount. About a 45 minute drive from Ocotal.
- Guachipelin Combo tour: For adventure and nature, do the Guachipelin combo tour in Rincon de la Vieja. It’s a full day of ziplining, horseback riding, white water tubing, hot springs and mud baths in the tropical dry forests. 1 hour 45 minute hour drive from Ocotal
- Rio Celeste: If you’re looking for a hike in the tropical rain forest, you must go to Rio Celeste to see the sky blue river. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica! About a 2.5 hour drive from Ocotal.
- Visit Tamarindo/Conchal: We recommend visiting Tamarindo/Conchal/Flamingo to see other beaches and beach towns in Guanacaste. They are about a 1 hour drive south of Ocotal. Tamarindo also has great surfing.
- Catarata Llanos de Cortes: This beautiful waterfall is an oasis in the desert. You can swim, have a picnic or walk up to the top. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Ocotal.
- Hacienda El Viejo: Local Costa Rican family estate that offers cultural, nature and wildlife tours. Great place to learn and experience Guanacaste traditions and culture. About a 1 hour drive from Ocotal. Request your Haciendal Ei Viejo tour with our discount!
Living in Ocotal
Many expats and imimgrants live in Ocotal or own a vacation rental and come down to escape the winter up north. Most of the foreigners who live there are people who prefer the quieter atmosphere of Ocotal. They still have all the conveniences of Coco and go back home to a quiet, peaceful beach.
We personally lived in Ocotal for 9 months but decided to move back to Coco as Ocotal was too quiet and all our friends lived in Coco. However, Ocotal is a nice beach to visit for the day or stay at for a relaxing beach vacation.
Read about other beaches like this one!
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Thank you for all of the great info! Do you know where is the best place to rent a bike for an extended time in Coco or Ocotal? I am staying in Ocotal for two weeks. Gracias!
I think the Las Palmas neighborhood has bike rentals, there also used to be a place near Tico’s Bakery
We stayed in Ocotal in June of 2019, it was a great home base. We rented cars and found driving surprisingly easy! Really enjoyed yelling “Reductor!” at every speed bump! Father Roosters is a great restaurant, loved walking down there after a long day of sightseeing, dinner never disappointed. The day we went fishing they even prepared our fresh caught fish for dinner!
Really enjoy your blog, thanks for all the tips! We loved our trip to Costa Rica and will certainly visit again!
Hello. Is it possible to walk to ocotal from coco?
Yes, you will have to follow the main road, you cannot walk on the beach from one to another. It’s about a 1 hour walk from Coco to Ocotal
ahh! thank you so much!
Awesome! Thank you so much for your quick reply. Funny, I had contacted Travel Mother and she said I should reach out to you, but I already had 🙂 So I think we have decided we do want to stay in Coco due to the fact that we like to have walkable restaurants and shops. We would like to stay somewhere very near the beach, is there a B&B or hotel you would recommend over the other? It’s so hard to tell only on Google. M&M was one we were considering. Thoughts? Thank you!
Haha I actually just saw that! Emily is awesome. I suggest Toro Blanco, we’ve stayed there before and it’s a really cute hotel 1 minute walk from the beach. The pool is super nice there and the rooms have a kitchen and sitting area with tables and rocking chairs. Hotel M&M is closer to the beach (but really there is no difference, M&M is beach front but Toro Blanco is 1 minute walk, you can see the beach from the hotel entrance). Hotel M&M is actually more like a hostel but for the price, it’s pretty expensive, especially considering they don’t offer air conditioning and it is VERY hot in April. There is another one right between the two hotels called Hotel Coco Palms but Yeison wasn’t a fan of it when he stayed there. Hope this helps 🙂
We are going to a wedding at RIU in April. It’s just down from ocotal it looks like on your map. We don’t want to stay at the all inclusive, we prefer local cuisine and experience. Would you recommend ocotal or playas de coco?
Hi Janetha, actually there is no road that directly connects Ocotal to the Riu. The Riu is kinda in the middle of nowhere and from Ocotal, it’ll be about a 40 minute drive on a gravel road, or like a 5-10 minute boat ride. Ocotal and Coco will give you both local cuisine and experience, but between the two it’s up to whether you want to stay in a town or you want somewhere quieter. Ocotal to Coco isn’t too far, but there isn’t really anything in Ocotal except Father Rooster’s restaurant and a couple others. No sodas, just the “fancier” restaurants. So for groceries, nightlife entertainment, cheaper food and things like that you’ll have to take a taxi or bike if you have one to Coco. The time it takes depends on where you stay in Ocotal but it could take 20-30 minutes to Coco downtown if you walk.
Hi Joan. We have never been to that hotel so can’t give any opinions on it. We don’t know anything about Little Dreams in Ocotal except we have passed by it a few times and the only thing I know is you can’t have pets. There are a couple hardware stores in Coco you can go to for that kind of stuff.
There are golf carts for rent in Coco, there is one behind the Soda Oasis or you can go to Las Palmas to rent one.
Joan Baird says
Great info. Thanks so much. What # do I call for a taxi pickup from Ocotal to Coco
Hi Joan we don’t have numbers for taxis. You can ask a restaurant or hotel to call you one.
Joan Baird Canada Calling says
Hi Joan from Toronto Canada Calling Arriving Hotel el Velero , Playa Hermosa Jan 2016 for 6 weeks Any issues at this hotel you know of Want to look at a studio condo Little Dreams in Octocal Want a ground floor and a quieter location than Coco Like to be able come and go from a base Where can I find a furniture store and carpenter/tiler if I need to up date the studio Love Tico culture Why do I either renting a souped golfcar or a car In Coco???
Cant wait for January 2016 Plan is to stay for 3 months Jan – end of March
Any other tips like grocery store for the basics would ideal
Brent Kezama says
How was Little Dreams ? We are staying there in Jan/Feb.
Any good suggestions for where to stay in Ocotal?
Any one stay at the Spyhouse?
Mm i have never heard of Spyhouse but I know villa casa blanca is really nice and.ocota beach resort. The area is quite small so theres just a couple hotels actually in Ocotal.
Plan to visit ocotal in just 4 weeks time. Do you have any current news or tips? Weather, bars, food, music, activities, etc.
Not much has changed since the article… there is another restaurant called Picante at Ocotal which is really nice. No bars at Ocotal just a couple restaurants. The weather has been great for tourists – sunny, no rain but we are in the middle of rainy season so we are hoping to get more since it has been too dry. Pretty much the same! 🙂
This is a great resource! Thanks for all the work you put into creating this article. =) Playa Ocotal is in our near future!
Thanks Emily! It’s a really nice little beach, hope you enjoy with your family 🙂
Love reading all your info! Heading to Coco area for 6 months soon…need all the help I can get! 🙂
Great to hear! If you have any more questions feel free to ask! 🙂
Becky Padmore says
We’re thinking of visiting Costa Rica soon so this is really useful for us!
by Sammi says
That’s great to hear! You will have tons of fun, it’s such a beautiful country. If you need more tips and advice on Costa Rica, we will be posting more about about things to do and places to see. Thanks for checking out our blog :)Hope you guys make a stop here soon!
joyce reebals says
Sheila Grant has been here before (with me) She should have come
this time (I asked her) and she would be having as much fun as we are!
by Sammi says
Yes it’s too bad she couldn’t come ! Tell her to come next time for sure ! 🙂
Sheila Grant says
I should be there!
by Sammi says
Hi Sheila! Yes, if you ever get the chance, definitely come visit! And if you ever need any advice or have questions, don’t hesitate to ask us! 🙂 pura vida!