Playas del Coco in Costa Rica is one of the more popular beach towns in the country for both locals and tourists. 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. Additionally, Playas del Coco is a popular place for expatriates, immigrants and retirees of USA, Canada and Europe as it offers a relaxed and easy living style with highly agreeable weather year round.
In this guide you’ll read about the beach, the town, where to stay, where to eat, what to do and more to help plan your visit.
This post was updated June 2020.
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- The beach and town
- Local People
- Where to eat
- Where to stay
- What to do
- Health and Security
Playas del Coco is located on the North Pacific side of Costa Rica in Guanacaste which is the northwestern province of the country bordering Nicaragua.
Map of 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 Liberia International Airport.
How to get to Playas del Coco
The closest airport to Playas del Coco is the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport.
- 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 convenient private shuttle which costs $50 USD for 1-4 people.
- By taxis: Around $40-55 USD, make sure to take the official taxis from the taxi stand. I know people who have been charged $65 USD for this short drive which is way too much!
- 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 easy and straight forward and it’s only about 25 minutes. If you’re planning on renting a car, take advantage of our Costa Rica car rental discount.
- Uber: Uber is in Guanacaste and in the Liberia area but there aren’t that many. I have also heard that the police are keeping an eye out for Uber (as it’s *technically* not legal) so don’t count on Uber as your only method of transportation at Liberia Airport. At San Airport, there are tons of Ubers and Didis but not Liberia Airport. In Playas del Coco, we haven’t seen an Uber yet.
If you’re coming from San Jose, it’s about a 4-5 hour drive. The cheapest transportation method is to take the bus, which costs around $8 USD and takes around 6 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.
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.
Coco beach isn’t a surfing beach, but there are a lot of fish which makes it an excellent fishing spot. Swimming and bathing are perfectly suitable for Coco waters but the waters are not very clear being a fishing village. We don’t really like swimming at this beach but a lot of locals do as the waves are generally very calm.
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.
Coco town is very small with one main boulevard (Route 151) going all the way to the public park and beach. There are many bars, restaurants and shops in downtown. The small neighborhoods are right outside the center of town. When you drive from the entrance of Coco to the public park, you’ll pass by the turn to go to Ocotal Beach.
See what the town looks like!
Playas del Coco Weather
Playas del Coco experiences the typical tropical seasons: dry and rainy. However, it does have a longer dry season (December – April) than the rest of Costa Rica due to its location and surrounding mountains.
Temperatures consistently stay at 85 – 100 F (32-38 C) during dry season. If you visit during this time of year, 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 38 C (100.4 F) everyday for weeks in March!
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 cloudy 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.
Rain in Playas del Coco (end of May): It rained quite hard for about 30 minutes and then stopped completely.
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. Many of them are descendants from Nicaragua as the Guanacaste province used to be part of Nicaragua.
Playas del Coco Restaurants
You can find a small mix of local and international restaurants in Coco. Here are our favorite places.
- Soda Los Pelones – Costa Rican food. Great spot to get a local experience. Reasonable prices.
- Soda La Teresita – local food, beachfront, reasonable prices.
- Villa Italia – Italian, decent prices, excellent pasta.
- La Caveja – Italian, pizza is pretty good. On the way to Playa Ocotal.
- Cafe de Playa– International, beachfront, more expensive.
- Frozen Yogurt. The Ice Cream Corner: The name says it all!
- Pistou Gourmet: Upcale Italian. One of the best!
- Claudio y Gloria – International, seafood, fine dining, beachfront . More expensive.
- Che Sirloin – meat, barbecue but has vegetarian options too.
- 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 Sussy souvenirs.
- Citron – gourmet, fine dining, more expensive. In the plaza across from Auto Mercado.
- Toucanoos – a little of everything! In the same plaza as Chorotacos at the entrance of the Las Palmas neighborhood
- Heladeria Italiana 0039 – Amazing gelato. Cash only. In downtown near Coco Beach Hotel
- The Garden Bar – Fun place for live music and drinks, at Hotel La Puerta del Sol. Offers craft beer, happy hour and live music.
Zi Lounge, Bambu Bar and Coconutz are bars with excellent happy hour and typical bar food. Coconutz has great craft beer.
Playas del Coco Hotels
- Toro Blanco, a nice 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. We paid $90 USD a night for 3 adults. No breakfast included when we stayed though.
- Another nice, clean and mid range option is Hotel Colono. This hotel opened early 2017 and is right in downtown, has more modern furnishings. Hotel Puerta del Sol is another mid range option close to the beach, newly remodeled with a pool.
- Room with a view: Hotel Chantel. Small boutique hotel with 12 rooms located up in the hills. Has ocean views and a rooftop seafood restaurant. Rooms start at $90 USD. Apartments range from $100-200 USD
- 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 Beach House. They are right on the beach and has a hostel atmosphere but rooms don’t have AC. Prices aren’t cheap for a hostel, doubles are about $60 USD. They have a sister hotel, Hotel M&M Garden about a 15 minute walk away that has a pool and AC.
All Inclusive Resorts
If you’re looking for a resort or all inclusive, there is Villa Buena Onda which is adult boutique hotel only up in the hills. There is also the all-inclusive Hotel Riu Guanacaste which is about a 30 minute drive from Playas del Coco. Additionally, the all inclusive resorts Secrets and Planet Hollywood are about a 30 minute drive from Playas del Coco.
If you’re looking for other options besides hotels, Airbnb (get $20 credit here) has quite a few listings for a really great price. Due to Playas del Coco lack of hotels and large population of snowbirds, vacation rentals are much more popular in this town. Many snowbirds or retirees purchase a condo in Playas del Coco, fix it up and rent it out on VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway.
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 (luxury, 2-3 floors, gated, 20 minute walk to the beach).
Here is a review of one of the Airbnbs we stayed at 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. 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 40 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 and wants lessons, it is best to go to Tamarindo beach.
Since Coco is a fishing village, the fishing here is among the best. You can go in shore or off shore fishing to catch red snapper, mahi mahi, 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 booze cruises and sunset sailing tours like Kuna Vela and Marlin del Rey.
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, learning about Costa Rican culture and seeing wildlife at Hacienda El Viejo (get 7% off), ziplining at Diamante Eco adventure Park (Mytanfeet reader’s get 10% OFF) or take a day trip to Nicaragua (get $10 USD off).
Find out what the best day trips from Coco are here.
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. We always go with our Tico friend who owns a boating company and takes us on private tours. Read more about boating in Coco here.
As we lived in Coco for 3 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
- Day 3: Rest, sleep in, do some shopping, walk around town
- 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
- Day 1: Land at airport, rest, etc.
- Day 2: Full day beach hop, snorkel and fishing
- Day 3: Rio Celeste hike
- Day 4: Spend the day at Cabuyal beach (30 min drive)
- Day 5: Arenal 1 day tour
- Day 6: Rest, shop. If you want to zipline, go to Diamante.
- Day 7: Fly out
Coco Beach 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 (Angry Goatz).
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.
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.
Shopping in Playas del Coco consists mostly 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. There is also a nice store in the plaza across from Auto Mercado. It’s next to the Citron restaurant and they sell cute jewelry, home furnishings and things like that.
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. 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 3 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 like to visit every so often.
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