Playas del Coco is one of the more popular beach towns in the country for both locals and tourists. It’s well-known for being a family friendly town and favorite party spot for the holidays.
Although it is one of the smaller and not quite as beautiful beaches in the Guanacaste province, it is full of nightlife and fun activities to do such as scuba diving, sport fishing, and snorkeling. It used to be a small fishing town but in the past decade, it has grown immensely to become the beloved little beach town it is today.
Playas del Coco is a popular place for expatriates or retirees of North America as it offers a relaxed and easy living style with highly agreeable weather year round.
In this guide you’ll read about the beach, where to stay, where to eat, what to do and more.
Click the section to skip to it.
- The beach
- Local People
- Where to eat
- Where to stay
- What to do
- Health and Security
Playas del Coco is located on the pacific side of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region. Guanacaste is the northwestern province of the country bordering Nicaragua.
How to get to Playas del Coco
The closest airport to Playas del Coco is the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, about a 25 minute drive. You can get to Coco from the airport a variety of ways.
- By bus: The Pulmitan de Liberia (public bus) runs from Liberia to Coco from 5 AM to 7 PM every hour which costs 550 colones one way (~$1).
- By shuttle: You can book a shuttle which costs $50 for 1-4 people. It’s the most convenient and comfortable way. If you want to book a shuttle and need recommendations, please send us an email on our contact page.
- By taxis: There are many taxis outside the airport that costs around $50-60, just make sure to take the official red ones, not the orange or pirate taxis. I know people who have been charged $65 for this short drive!
- By car: Many people rent a car and pick it up once they land at LIR. The drive to Coco from the airport is very easy and straight forward. If you’re planning on renting a car, take advantage of our 10-25% discount off a car rental and 33% off GPS including a free 2nd driver.
If you’re coming from San Jose, it’s about a 4 hour drive. The cheapest transportation method is to take the bus, which costs around $8 dollars and takes around 5 hours. Read our complete guide to San Jose to Coco.
Playas del Coco Beach
Coco beach lies within the Gulf of Papagayo and stretches 3 kilometers from point to point. The sands have a dark grey-brown color and the water is not quite as blue one normally sees in other beaches in Guanacaste, it seems more blue-grey than blue-green.
Coco beach isn’t a surfing beach, but does house many different species of fish which makes it an excellent fishing spot. Swimming and bathing are perfectly suitable for Coco waters and the waters are very kid and adult friendly. Some times of the year the waves get big depending on swells.
Three islands can be seen from shore where many divers go to swim with sharks, octopus, turtles and stingrays. Many hills and cliffs surround the horseshoe shaped beach and it is a beautiful view to see with green mountains and hills and striking blue water.
See what Playas del Coco looks like from the sky!
And see what the town looks like!
In Costa Rica, there are no seasons like fall or winter. Being so close to the equator, the country is classified as tropical and experiences rainy and dry season with sun year round.
Read more about weather in Costa Rica.
In Playas del Coco during dry season, the sun is quite strong and intense. It can consistently stay at 90 – 100 Fahrenheit and above for weeks. Coco is known for being one of the driest and hottest places in all of Costa Rica with a longer dry season. It generally doesn’t start raining constantly until around August with October as the peak rainy month. March and April are the hottest months.
Due to the dryness and shorter rainy season, Coco constantly experiences water shortages and droughts.
Rain in Playas del Coco (May 2013)
The people from Playas del Coco are very friendly. They are very proud to be Gunacastecos and they call themselves “coqueños” (from Coco). The locals love to hangout at the beach to skateboard, swim, and play basketball or futbol.
If you’re looking for to try traditional Costa Rican food, check out one of these sodas which are local Costa Rican restaurants.
- Soda Los Pelones
- Soda La Teresita
- Soda Mi
- Jardin Tropical
- Soda Local
All these other restaurants sell food other than typical Costa Rican food. Unfortunately there isn’t a huge variety of food in Coco.
- Villa Italia – Italian
- La Caveja – Italian
- Cafe de Playa– International
- Hotel Coco Palms Restaurant – International + sushi
- Claudio y Gloria – International
- Le Coq – Lebanese, another one of our favorites
- Papagayo Seafood and steak – steak and seafood
- Las Olas – seafood and steak
- Luna de Plata – French
- Johann Bisto
- Soda Oasis
- Hard Rock Cafe
Our favorites are Le Coq, Hotel Coco Palms Restaurant and Soda Los Pelones. The bars also have good food, our favorite is ZI Lounge for pizzas and burgers.
In Coco, there are no big resorts or luxury hotel chains. All the hotels consist of locally owned businesses and ranges from hostels to cabinas, condos and hotels with mostly mid range to high end prices. There are few cheap budget options.
If you’re looking for a resort or all inclusive, the closest is the Hotel Riu which is about a 30 minute drive from Playas del Coco.
Here are our picks:
- Our top pick is Toro Blanco, a beautiful hotel that’s a one minute walk to the park/beach and next to town. Mid range, comes with an equipped kitchenette, swim up bar and nice pool with pretty lights.
- Room with a view: Hotel Chantel. Located up in the hills, this boutique hotel has great ocean views and a rooftop restaurant. Prices run on the higher end, starting at $90. Apartments range from $100-200
- Budget close to the beach: Laura’s House Bed and breakfast. Small B&B, two minute walk to the beach and five to town.
- Hostel: Hotel M&M. They are right on the beach and has a great hostel atmosphere but rooms don’t have AC. Prices aren’t cheap either, doubles are about $60. The next best option are the cabinas next to Toro Blanco. You can get a bed for as low as $10 a night in rainy season.
For more in depth tips and advice on where to stay, check our accommodation options in Coco post.
If you’re looking for other options besides hotels, Airbnb (get $20 credit here) has quite a few listings for a really great price. My friend got a two bedroom, two bathroom condo with a private pool, internet, cable, parking lot and security guard in one of the most popular neighborhoods for just $50 a night.
There are a ton of fun things to do in Playas del Coco.
Scuba diving: Playas del Coco is one of the best spots in Costa Rica for scuba diving since you’re close to several excellent islands like Monkey Head, Bat Islands and Catalinas.
Fishing: Since Coco is a fishing village, the fishing here is among the best. You can go in shore or off shore fishing to catch marlins, mahi mahi, sailfish and more.
Other activities are kayaking, sailing and SUP (stand up paddle boarding). You can rent kayaks, take a SUP lesson and go on a morning or sunset sailing trip. There is also a booze cruise.
When tourists come to Coco, they usually enjoy the beach/town for a day and the rest of the time, go on tours. Coco’s location makes it an excellent home base to explore national parks like Rincon de la Vieja, go beach hopping, take a day trip to Nicaragua and to discover Guanacaste.
Our favorite activity? Boating around the Gulf of Papagayo. This is the best way to experience all the wonders of this part of Costa Rica such as hidden white sand beaches, caves, amazing snorkel spots and marine wildlife. We always go with our Tico friend who owns a boating company and takes us on private tours. Read more about it here.
Even though Coco may look like a small quiet town during the day, it all changes at night. The three biggest bars are located on the main street of El Coco: Lizard Lounge, Coconutz and Zi Lounge.
All the bars are open with counter seating along the perimeter so you can have a drink, eat, and people watch to your heart’s content. Bars on the beach are La Vida Loca, Tiki Coco and Ancla.
During weekends and holidays, music blasts from all the bars and there’s always a party going on. Sometimes they’ll have live music and you can dance the night away. If you’re in Coco during New Years, you’ll get to experience one of the biggest parties in Costa Rica!
The nightlife in Coco is limited to the main street as it is where the majority of the restaurants and bars are. There is a small park and boardwalk by the beach where one can sit and watch the stars, listen to live music or the crashing waves and enjoy a drink.
Health & Security
Playas del Coco has a public clinic run by the government called Ebais that anyone can go to. There is also a private clinic in town called Coco Medical Center.
There is one main veterinarian clinic in town in Pueblito Norte of Las Palmas, Veterinaria Dr.Sharine Alice, by appointment only. There is a police station right in front of the beach by the park which is where you will report to in case of emergency.
Shopping in Playas del Coco consists mainly of small businesses but there are plenty of souvenir shops if you’re looking for gifts to bring back home. Souvenir shops line the main street of Coco and near the entrance of the beach and boast a huge stock of handmade wood-carved sculptures, jewelry, handbags, clothes, hammocks, and a plethora of trinkets.
You can find traditional coffee makers and clothing, Pura Vida signs and all sorts of animal statues. Though the souvenir shops have lots of items, I prefer Sussy Souvenirs which is near the park at the main entrance of the beach.
Living in Playas del Coco
Costa Rica is known for its laid back living style and that is certainly proven in Playas del Coco. Living at the beach, one has to have an easy going attitude about life and leave the stress behind.
However, life is not necessarily easy in Coco, jobs are limited and cost of living is high compared to the rest of the country. Prices are very similar, if not more, to the states.
Are you considering moving to Playas del Coco? Read more about if it’s the right town for you here.
Many foreigners come to Coco with the intention of opening a business such as a bar or hotel, but they find that business is very difficult in a small tourist town and many places close soon after they open. This is the reason why Coco is popular with digital nomads instead.
But there is a reason why so many people move down here post-retirement, as it is perfect for someone looking for a relaxed and slower pace of life. It’s an attractive place to get away from the cold or for someone who needs to leave their stresses of life behind.
If you want to know even more about this beach town, you can check out these articles:
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