If you’re looking for a less busy beach in the Gulf of Papagayo in Guanacaste, head to Playa Ocotal, just a mere 3km distance away from the popular beach town of Playas del Coco.
Playa Ocotal can barely count as a town when compared to Coco but it’s a nice beach to escape the busy crowds. Ocotal has decent snorkeling, a restaurant right on the beach and plenty of shade making it a lovely place to spend a relaxing day at a quiet each.
**This post has been updated in November 2018.**
Playa Ocotal Location and Directions
Drive down the boulevard until you reach an intersection with downtown in front of you and a Super Compro on your left. Take a left here. Keep going on this road and stay to the left. You’ll drive for a couple kilometers and when you pass the La Colina apartments on your right, stay to the right. Take the next right to get to the beach. This is about a 25-30 minute drive.
Biking takes around 15 minutes from Coco downtown or you can take a taxi which costs around $6 one way.
Playa Ocotal Beach
Ocotal also has dark sand like the neighboring beaches but the water in Ocotal is a clearer blue. This beach is surrounded by hills and cliffs and is much quieter as there are fewer tourists.
There are plenty of trees for shade and both ends are rocky, 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.
This is a wonderful beach to go with families since the waves are super calm, there’s a lot of shade, plenty of parking, a restaurant on the beach and lots of locals. It’s a nice beach to visit to experience something different than Coco beach.
We took an aerial video of Playa Ocotal you can watch below.
Playa Ocotal Weather
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.
So make sure to pack your sunglasses, bathing suites, plenty of sunscreen and after sun gel and your summer clothes!
Playa Ocotal Hotels and Restaurants
There are also many vacation rentals and condos in Ocotal like Los Almendros de Ocotal so that is a good option if you want to stay there. Many of them are on a hill so they have a wonderful view of the beach and sunset.
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
Our favorite thing to do at Playa Ocotal is snorkel. Coco beach is terrible for snorkeling so 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 species of tropical fish hanging out there! There aren’t huge fish, turtles or manta rays but there are lot of cute little colorful fish.
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.
There’s also a rope swing on the right side that is a fun little extra. It’s in the trees so unfortunately you can’t jump into the ocean which would be soo cool but it’s still a really fun attraction for the kids (and grownups like us!)
If you don’t feel like snorkeling, there’s plenty of trees around to grab a shady spot and lay down. You can also walk around on the rocks and watch the pelicans hunt for fish, have a drink on the beach, or grab some food at Father Rooster. Keep your eyes out in the trees too, we’ve seen many troops of howler monkeys hanging out!
A couple other fun things to do in Ocotal are jet skiing and beach hopping/snorkeling (read about our favorite beach hopping tour in the Ocotal area here). For day trips, Ocotal is in an excellent location to explore the Guanacaste area. Some recommended day trips are the one day Nicaragua tour, Diamante Eco-Adventure Park ziplining and Rincon de la Vieja National Park combo adventure tours.
Living in Playa Ocotal
Many expats live in Playa 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 than Coco since it is a really small beach and town. They still have all the conveniences of Coco (large supermarkets, restaurants, bars, nightlife) so they can have a fun night out and go back home to a quiet, peaceful beach.
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Want to read about more beaches in Costa Rica? Here are more beach guides
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