Playas del Coco in Costa Rica is a popular beach town for both locals and tourists thanks to its close proximity to the Guanacaste Airport and tons of fun ocean activities. Coco is a very family friendly destination in Costa Rica, offering plenty to do and see for a fantastic beach vacation and winter escape.
In this guide you’ll read about Playas del Coco, where to stay, where to eat, what to do and more to help plan your visit.
Playas del Coco Beach and Town
The dark sand beach of Playas del Coco lies within the Gulf of Papagayo and stretches 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from point to point.
This small coastal village was known for excellent fishing for many decades but it became a top tourist destination in Costa Rica once people discovered that it was a very suitable launch point for tons of other activities like surfing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Swimming and bathing are perfectly suitable with nearly year round gentle waves. On some days when there is a swell, waves are perfect for skim boarding. On those days, you’ll see lots of local kids skim boarding and having fun.
Sunsets at Coco beach are amazing and when we lived there, we would walk out to watch them almost every day.
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.
Coco town is very small with one main boulevard (Route 151) going all the way to the main park and beach entrance.
There are many bars, restaurants and shops in downtown. The small neighborhoods are right outside the center of town.
See what the town looks like in the video below!
Playas del Coco is located on the North Pacific side of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province.
How to get to Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is 243 kilometers (151 miles) and a 4.5 hour drive from San Jose. Playas del Coco is 27 kilometers (17 miles) and a 30 minute drive from Guanacaste Airport.
The closest airport to Playas del Coco is the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport or Guanacaste Airport (LIR is the airport code).
By bus: The Pulmitan de Liberia (public bus) runs from Liberia to Coco from 5 AM to 7 PM every hour costing ~550 colones one way (~$1 USD). You will need to walk onto the Highway 21 to flag down this bus as it doesn’t normally pass by the airport.
By shuttle: You can book a private shuttle which costs around $65-80 USD for 1-8 people. Private shuttle drivers will pick you up directly at the airport.
By taxis: Make sure to take the official taxis from the taxi stand.
By car: Many people rent a car and pick it up once they land at Liberia Airport. The drive to Coco from the airport is very straight forward and only about 25 minutes. If you’re planning on renting a car, take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount.
Uber: Don’t count on using Uber from the airport – police do catch Uber drivers and remove their license plates. It’s better to book a private shuttle instead.
From San Jose
If you’re coming from San Jose, it’s about a 5 hour drive to Coco beach. The cheapest transportation method is to take the bus, which costs around $8 USD per person and takes around 5.5 hours. Read our complete guide to taking the bus from San Jose to Coco.
You can also take a local flight to Liberia airport and then shuttle/bus/taxi/drive to Playas del Coco. Shared shuttles from San Jose to Coco are available as well.
A private shuttle from San Jose to Coco costs around $300 USD total for 1-8 people. In case you’d like to book a private shuttle, please contact us for a quote.
How to Get Around Coco Beach
Coco is a very walkable town. However, it is very hot so make sure you are prepared for the intense sun if you’re walking out between 10 AM to 4 PM. There are also golf carts, ebikes and escooters for rent which are fun ways to get around.
Playas del Coco Weather
Playas del Coco experiences the typical tropical season weather: dry and rainy. However, it does have a longer dry season than the rest of Costa Rica due to its location and surrounding mountains. Dry season is normally December through April but Coco can become drier earlier and stay drier longer than the rest of the country.
Temperatures consistently stays around high 80s to low 90s F (31-33 C) during dry season. It looks like a yellow desert because it becomes very dry and arid. March and April are the hottest months and we have seen our thermometer at 40 C (104 F) many times in March.
As for rainy season, which is May – November, day and night time temperatures cool down to about mid 70s F (24 C) and is very comfortable.
Playas del Coco usually doesn’t start raining consistently until around August. October is the peak rainy month. During rainy season, a typical day is cloudy and dry in the morning with off and on showers in late afternoon and nights. As soon as this area gets a few hard rains, the mountains turn very green.
May is considered a transition month so it may be super cloudy but not rain much at all. June may rain a bit more in the afternoons and nights but still with dry mornings. In July, it dries up for a few weeks and feels like summer so July has great weather.
By end of August or so, there will be more afternoon and night rains. It is not typical for Coco to rain all day, it is usually off and on showers in the late afternoons and nights.
Rain in Playas del Coco
Here’s a short clip of rain in Playas del Coco during May. This is a very good representation of a typical rain in the rainy season. It rained very hard like this for about 20 minutes. When it stopped raining, the clouds cleared up and it became very sunny and humid. On and off rains are characteristic of tropical weather.
Something else to know about Playas del Coco is that due to the dryness, shorter rainy season and surrounding resorts, Coco constantly experiences water shortages and droughts.
Playas del Coco Restaurants
Here are some of our favorite places to eat in Coco.
- Soda La Teresita – local food, beachfront, reasonable prices.
- Villa Italia – Italian, decent prices, excellent pasta.
- Claudio & Gloria: Beachfront, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pasta, burgers, seafood, meat, Costa Rican. They can also cook your catch for you.
- Cafe de Playa– Beachfront, lots of seafood options. Yummy drinks and nice spot to watch the sunset while having some cocktails. Live music on some days.
- Le Coq – Lebanese, wraps, hummus, falafel. One of our favorites. In downtown across from Coconutz. Very reasonable prices.
- Chorotacos – fresh burritos, bowls, tacos and wraps. Reasonable prices. At the entrance of the Las Palmas neighborhood.
- Johann Bistro – coffee, sandwiches, Costa Rican food, sushi, a bit of everything. Reasonable prices and close to the beach near the park.
- Heladeria Italiana 0039 – Amazing gelato. In downtown near Coco Beach Hotel
- Java Coffee: Chill place for coffee and food. Nice breakfast spot.
- Masala: Really good Indian restaurant.
- Zi Lounge, El Ancla, Bambu Beach Bar and Coconutz are bars with excellent happy hour and typical bar food. Coconutz has great craft beer. Bar El Ancla will cook your catch for you.
- Tortuga Bar: Beachfront restaurant bar and grill. Will cook your catch for you. We had yummy cold drinks.
- Simbiosis Bistro: Great spot for breakfast/brunch.
- Soda Mar & Tierra Doña Flor: Little soda across the La Puerta del Sol hotel in a small back road. Good traditional food for reasonable prices.
- Cafe Corazon: Nice little cafe near the beach with coffee, breakfasts, waffles.
Playas del Coco Hotels
Coco doesn’t have a ton of hotels and they’re more modest, basic places (but clean).
- Toro Blanco: a modest hotel one minute walk to the park,beach and town. Mid range, comes with an equipped kitchenette, swim up bar and pool.
- Hotel Colono: Right in downtown, surrounded by restaurants and across from the Super Compro. 15 minute walk to the beach.
- Hotel La Puerta del Sol: another mid range option close to the beach with a pool. 5 minute walk to the beach. They have a restaurant nearby that is very good called The Garden Bar.
- Hotel Villa del Sol: Right across from the beach, a bit dated hotel but clean, in a great location and has a pool. The property is big with outdoor seating and a barbecue area. 20 minute walk to town or short taxi ride.
- Hotel M&M Beach House: They are right on the beach and has a hostel atmosphere
All Inclusive Resorts
If you’re looking for a resort or all inclusive in the area, there is the all-inclusive Hotel Riu Guanacaste which is about a 30 minute drive from Playas del Coco.
There are a few more resorts on the Papagayo coast, all about a 20-30 minute drive from Playas del Coco such as Four Seasons, Secrets (all inclusive), Planet Hollywood (all inclusive), Occidental Papagayo (all inclusive) and Andaz (boutique resort). Right now, there is construction going on building a Waldrof Astoria and Ritz-Carlton in the Papagayo Peninsula.
Vacation rentals are very popular in Playas del Coco as there are very few hotels.
There are a couple popular neighborhoods for these vacation rentals such as Las Palmas (not gated, 2 minute walk to the beach, standard prices, typical 1-2 bedrooms apartment in a 10-12 unit community) and Pacifico/Breeze Private Residence (luxury, 2-3 floors, gated, 20 minute walk to the beach). But there are many other condos and neighborhoods for rentals on VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway.
Here is a review of one of the more local Airbnbs in Coco.
Things to do in Coco Beach
There are a ton of fun things to do in Playas del Coco. Thanks to its excellent location on the coast, there is a plethora of ocean and land activities to enjoy for day trips.
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 Islands. There are many scuba diving shops in town such as Rich Coast Diving, Deep Blue Diving and Summer Salt.
Although you can’t surf at Coco beach, you can take a 50 minute boat ride to Witch’s Rock in Santa Rosa National Park, one of Costa Rica’s premiere surf spots. This is for intermediate and expert surfers. If you are a beginner or first timer, it is best to go to Tamarindo beach for lessons.
Since Coco is a fishing village, the fishing is one of the best in Costa Rica. You can go in shore or off shore fishing to catch red snapper, mahi mahi, tuna, sailfish and more.
Other activities to do in Playas del Coco are kayaking, sunset sailing, watching the sunset on the beach, happy hour and hanging out at the local park. There are also snorkeling tours and sunset sailing tours like Kuna Vela and Marlin del Rey.
Our favorite activity – beach hopping and snorkeling in Gulf of Papagayo
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.
Coco beach is not that pretty but right around the corner are some stunning white sand beaches with clear waters. Likewise, you can’t snorkel at Coco beach but you can at boat access only snorkel spots just a short ride away!
We always go with our local friend who owns a boating company and takes us on private tours. Best way to see all the beautiful beaches and coastlines, see marine life and go snorkeling!
When tourists come to Coco, they usually enjoy the beach/town for a day or two 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, learning about Costa Rican culture and seeing wildlife at Hacienda El Viejo (get 7% off), ziplining at Diamante Eco adventure Park (get our 10% promo code) or hiking the blue Rio Celeste river.
Find out what the best day trips from Coco are here.
Sample Playas del Coco Itineraries
As we lived in Coco for 4 years, we’ve had many friends and family visit us. Here are some ideas of itineraries.
4 days (car not necessary)
- Day 1: land at Liberia Airport, rest, watch sunset on beach, have dinner at Zi Lounge.
- Day 2: Full day beach hop, snorkel and fishing in Gulf of Papagayo. Do a 10 AM to 6 PM tour to see the sunset from the boat.
- Day 3: Rest, sleep in, do some shopping, walk around town. Food recommendations: El Coq, Soda Teresita or Papagayo Seafood.
- Day 4: 1 day adventure tour at Hacienda Guachipelin for ziplining, horseback riding, hot springs, mud baths and white water tubing. Or Diamante Eco Adventure Park for ziplining, animal sanctuary and cultural experience.
1 week: using Coco as a homebase and renting a car. Lots of adventure!
- Day 1: Land at airport, rest, etc.
- Day 2: Full day beach hop, snorkel and fishing. Rest, shower, get dinner at one of the bars in town.
- Day 3: Rio Celeste hike. This is a full day activity with around 4.5 hours driving total.
- Day 4: Diamante ziplining. Go in the morning for best weather. Relax and rest the rest of the afternoon.
- Day 5: Visit Tamarindo beach town. 1 hour and 15 minute drive one way. Take a surf lesson.
- Day 6: Rest, shop. You can drive around to explore some more beaches if you like. Check out Playa Hermosa, Ocotal or Panama. If you want to explore, head down south to Playa Conchal (1 hour one way) to see a unique white shell beach.
- Day 7: Fly out
Playas del Coco Nightlife
Even though Coco may look like a small quiet town during the day, it all changes at night. The biggest bars are El Ancla, Bambu, Coconutz and Zi Lounge. Coconutz is a sports bar with multiple TV’s everywhere and they always have some big game on. Zi Lounge has live music on the weekends and is a more chill atmosphere.
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. Coconutz is a sports bar that always plays all sorts of games and matches and they have great craft beer.
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 Christmas and New Years, you’ll get to experience one of the biggest parties in Costa Rica!
Additionally, there is a small park called Parque Amor de Temporada with a nice boardwalk where one can sit and watch the sunset, listen to live music or people watch. You can also enjoy a nice fresh coconut water (pipa fria) or a shaved ice treat (copo).
Playas del Coco has a public clinic run by the government called Ebais. There are also private clinics like Coco Medical Center and Costa Doc.
There are several souvenir stores in Playas del Coco. The souvenir shops line the main street of Coco with lots of wood-carved sculptures, jewelry, handbags, clothes, hammocks and trinkets.
Though the souvenir shops have lots of items, I like Sussy Souvenirs which is near the park at the main entrance of the beach. The Pacifico Village Shops also has some cute stores with nicer trinkets, jewelry and gifts.
As for supermarkets, there are several options in town. The Auto Mercado is the more high end market with more international products, and then there is also the Maxi Pali, Mega Super and Super Compro. There is also a Coco Sunday Market for organic produce, food, trinkets and treats (Sundays, 10 AM to 2 PM, small).
Living in Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is a popular place for Canadian, American and European expatriates, immigrants and retirees as it offers a relaxed and easy living style with highly agreeable weather year round. This is what many people are looking for when searching for their new home in Costa Rica and they find it in Coco.
These are just some reasons why so many people move to Playas del Coco as a retiree 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.
We lived there for 4 years and have many family and friends who are still there. Although we don’t live there anymore, we enjoyed our time in Coco and love visiting!
Read more beach town guides below!
Samara, Costa Rica: Family friendly beach town in South Guanacaste with surfing and a chill atmosphere
Flamingo, Costa Rica: Small upscale beach community in North Guanacaste with a white sand beach and marina
Jaco, Costa Rica: The most developed beach town and the surfing mecca of Costa Rica in the Central Pacific
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica: Small party beach town on the South Caribbean coast
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