Updated June 3, 2020
Arguably one of the main reasons that people like to visit tropical locations is for the beaches. And seriously who doesn’t like the idea of kicking back and relaxing with a nice cold drink in hand, in a gorgeous location, listening to the soothing sound of the ocean waves and letting one’s cares drift away on the gentle tropical breeze? The main beaches in the area are great for hosting your special day but if during your stay you really want to get away from the crowds and see some hidden gems you’ve got to find the beaches that only the locals know about. Costa Rica is replete with spectacular beaches that may require some 4X4ing or hiking to get to but are absolutely worth the effort. For some inspiring ideas let’s take tour of just seven of the most spectacular secret beaches to check out in the Manuel Antonio area.
About 35 minutes to the south of Quepos lies the sleepy surf town of Dominical and it’s very popular adjacent beach of the same name. Surfers flock to this beach for it’s extremely consistent waves but there is almost always a strong riptide so you should know what you’re doing there. That’s what makes the lesser known Playa Dominicalito such a great choice. It is located just to the south of Dominical and offers safe swimming and good waves for beginning surfers. Here’s a wedding I shot in Dominicalito.
Despite the name, (literally Hidden Beach in English) this beach is not too difficult to find. It is located inside Manuel Antonio National Park so you can just head into the park with a guide or simply follow the Puerto Escondido trail until you happen upon this gorgeous spot. It’s best to talk to officials about current conditions because this beach can be a little dangerous during high tide and for swimming but it is always a great photo opportunity and a breathtaking view of nature showing off her finest.
Playa La Macha
This one is a true locals spot and you’ll have to find a local to show you how to get there as the trail is not clearly marked. There is a yearly hiking challenge called the Reto Mae that begins at the world class Pez Vela Marina in Quepos and ends at the main beach just outside Manuel Antonio National Park. Playa La Macha (along with many other little hidden gems) is located along this challenging hiking trail. For outdoorsy types that like challenging exercise it’s a great route and you will see spectacular sights that the average visitor to Manuel Antonio never gets a chance to see. There are a couple of shortcuts to access the beach but you will have to find a local willing to go with you and show you the way otherwise it is quite impossible to find.
From Quepos you’ll need a car to reach Playa Hermosa as it is roughly an hour drive. Playa Hermosa literally means ‘Beautiful Beach’ and this beach could not be more aptly named. Clean white sand stretches off into the distance with few rocks and lots of large spreading shade trees along the treeline. It’s a great place for a lazy afternoon, playing in the surf, working on your suntan or taking a nap in the shade. The beach is big and because you need a car to access the beach there are generally just a few locals on the beach and even less tourists. It’s a great spot to beat the crowds of Manuel Antonio’s main beach and enjoy some chill beachy time with just your friends and family or even just your beloved.
Playa Esterillos (Este, Centro, Oeste)
Up in the same area as Playa Hermosa, you’d find Playa Esterillos. There are actually three different parts to this beach, Esterillos Este, Esterillos Centro, and Esterillos Oeste. These are all great, laid back beaches. Esterillos is more of a fishing village, while Esterillos Oeste is a very laid back surfing beach. At Oeste, there is a sculpture of a mermaid, as well as a harder to find sculpture of a couple called “los amantes” that you can find by the tide pools when the water is low.
For Playa Bejuco you would also need a car as it is a 45 minute drive to the north of Quepos. This is a beautiful, long stretch (approximately 9 kilometers) of beach that sees little traffic outside of local Ticos. People come to surf and fish and swim a little and maybe enjoy one of Costa Rica’s spectacular Pacific coast sunsets–just make sure you don’t wait until it’s too dark to make your way back out again.
This is my favorite beach on the Central Pacific. It’s a bit hard to find which makes it very low key. In the off season you can have the whole beach to yourself, with just a few kids with machetes walking around cutting down coconuts. Playa Linda a very long beach, which is great for walking and finding seashells. I like to go and spend the whole day, from cooking Pinto in the morning for breakfast, through tortillas and fish for lunch, and the coffee in the afternoon. Throughout the rest of the day, I am either surfing or sleeping in the hammock. For me it’s the perfect way to unwind.
Finding secret beaches is a fun adventure to go on with your beloved and even friends and family. This is just a taste of what you can find as Costa Rica does not disappoint with it’s array of options–it’s just a matter of being adventurous enough to get off the beaten path and explore what this gorgeous country has to offer!
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