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To soak up some sun while visiting Costa Rica’s iconic beaches.
We chose to go to Playa Hermosa in the Province of Puntarenas, a few miles south of Jacó. (Keep in mind there are two Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica.)
When We Went
May 2016. May is part of the rainy season, but we stayed pretty dry while at the beach.
Our time on the coast was very hot. We spent all day outside, and there was no escaping the heat. The place we stayed at did not have air conditioning.You could tell that the locals were well adjusted to the heat, but as for myself, being so accustomed to having AC regularly, found it hard to fall asleep these nights.
Length of time
We spent five days in total in Costa Rica, half of which was spent on the Pacific Ocean.
The other half of the trip we visited a volcano in La Fortuna. This post focuses on our time at the beach only, you can read more about our time in the rainforest here.
Spanish is what the locals speak. We found that people would greet us in Spanish but then would switch over English. We encountered many English speakers where we were.
The colón. Most places we went also accepted USD and credit cards (but they would always give us change in colón). Be sure to keep some smaller bills of the local currency on hand at all times.
This may not be the exact route we took.
This map is provided to give you a visual representation of where we were, and to help you approximate travel time between cities.
Health & Safety
Check out what the CDC recommends for travelling to Costa Rica here.
Toilets work a bit differently in Costa Rica as the septic systems cannot handle toilet paper. Instead, little trash cans are located next to the toilet for disposal. Also, when you are in a public restroom remember to grab your toilet paper before you enter the stall, as it is generally kept on the outside.
Zika was a known risk in Costa Rica when we went.
We didn’t need to get any new vaccines before going.
We did not avoid drinking the water or ice on this trip. Neither of us got sick.
We felt safe where we went on this trip and comfortable enough to walk around by ourselves.
Always be aware of what’s going on around you. (Especially if you do not speak much Spanish.)
Do your own research and use your own judgement to decide what is right for you.
How We Got Around
We flew into and out of Costa Rica’s capital city, San José.
We used Spirit Airlines, a budget friendly option. You are only allowed one small personal item free of charge and no complimentary drinks or snacks.
We used Ride Costa Rica as airport pick up, and when traveling from city to city. We booked this transportation in advance. It was fairly reasonably priced and we were able to choose from a list of pick-up and drop-off spots on the day and time of our liking. Ride Costa Rica was a convenient and stress-free way to get around. The staff was very helpful and I would highly recommend this service. There are several tourist shuttle services like this available.
Public Transportation – The Bus
The bus was the cheapest transportation route we used. Our Airbnb host gave us directions when we needed to use it, but it seemed fairly easy to navigate on your own. Just keep in mind everything will be in Spanish so you’ll need to make sure you pay attention and know your stops.
While in Playa Hermosa we were able to get around well enough by walking.
Where We Stayed
We used Airbnb for our accommodations.
We messaged a few different hosts before we booked our reservation, asking them questions about the area to help make our decision.
A Surf Shack at Las Olas
The Las Olas property was a collection of small wooden surf shacks with slanted green roofs, staggered across the beach, facing out to the water.
There was a common area in the middle of the property with a restaurant, a small seating area, and hanging wooden swings and hammocks for louning. We ended up spending a good deal of time hanging out here.
What To Pack
Our time on the coast was very hot.
Clothing & Gear
- Cool clothing
- Insect repellent
The electricity used in Costa Rica is 110 volts, 60 cycle, which is the same as the US, therefore we did not need to use a converter. The plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type, which is also the same as the US, so we didn’t need to bring an adapter either.
Foods We Enjoyed
Everything we ate was SO FRESH.
We loved the fruit and smoothies.
Coffee was everywhere.
Rice and beans were part of every meal.
Seafood was plentiful on the coast. We ordered a really tasty seafood soup from the restaurant next door.
Sushi was conveniently prepared at Las Olas, and we happened to be around for sushi night. We ordered a few different rolls, including one topped with plantains, a new concept for me. The creaminess of the plantains against the stickiness of the rice was a delicious combination.
What We Did
- Playa Hermosa (A Black Sand Beach)
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Playa Manuel Antonio (A White Sand Beach)
Back on the Water
After getting our butts kicked by an outrageous volcano hike the day before, we were quite relieved to be back at the beach.
Playa Hermosa (A Black Sand Beach)
Playa Hermosa is a black sand beach, formed from the volcanoes.
The beach was a long stretch of very course, chocolate-colored sand, bordered by a thick wall of palms.
This was my first time visiting a black sand beach, and it gets hot in the sun.
I mean REALLY HOT.
I had to leave my flip flops on right up until my feet touched the water. The sand was so dark in color that it gave the illusion that you had just rolled around in the dirt instead of gone for a dip.
As is with much of Costa Rica’s coastline, Playa Hermosa is a popular surfing spot. There was a surf competition going on when we arrived. We were warned to be careful as the waves were large and the water was quite rough.
For these reasons, it was not the best swimming beach.
Manuel Antonio National Park
A Bus Ride to the Park
We were contemplating what to do on our last day in Costa Rica when our Airbnb host recommended that we go check out Manuel Antonio National Park. (Visit the park website here.) She gave us directions to the bus stop and how to orient ourselves to the park.
In our case, we needed to walk over to the bus stop closest to Las Olas, take that bus to Quepos to catch another bus, and finally arrive at Manuel Antonio National Park.
A Guided Tour
Outside the park, there was a plethora of vendors and everyone was trying to sell you something. We quickly walked past them and over to the park entrance. A man approached us offering to give us a guided tour of the park. I was skeptical at first, as I am leery of anyone who approaches me intent on selling me something (Alex is in sales, and is good at feeling out these sorts of things). We definitely could have navigated the area perfectly fine on our own, but the guide was a nice touch. He knew about all the little details that would have gone missed by our untrained eyes. From tiny insects in the brush to sloths way up high in the treetops, nothing went unseen by this guy.
He also warned us of the family of organized crime that had been taking advantage of tourists in the park lately…a family of raccoons!
White-Headed Capuchin Monkeys
We went on and explored the rest of the park on our own. We came across many different bird and lizard species, as well as several white-headed capuchin monkeys. The monkeys have become quite accustomed to visitors in the park as they have absolutely no fear, they barely batted an eye when we walked past them on the path.
Playa Manuel Antonio (A White Sand Beach)
And then, there it was.
Soft, white sand, leading up to brilliantly blue water.
We had found our swimming beach.
The palms helped immensely to block the sun, we found a nice shady spot and posted up for the afternoon.
When we got back to Playa Hermosa that evening, we went over to the restaurant next door for one last seafood meal before it was time to leave – we had a flight out in the morning.
Cutting it Close at the San José Airport
We had arranged a ride from our Airbnb host’s friend to the airport the next day. Looking back, this was a poor decision as we had trouble finding him in the morning, and the clock was ticking…planes don’t wait for you. We got to San José much later than we had intended. When we pulled up to the airport there was a very long line, it went all the way out the front door.
I’d definitely recommend getting to the airport at least two hours early for an international flight, to avoid stressing out like we did.
In the end, we made it home just fine (and on time, to boot).