There are two sides to Costa Rica with very different cultures. I want to tell you a little bit about a few stops along the Pacific Coast. Cold water haters listen up: I visited in July and August and the water was spectacular! I could literally walk right in without a wetsuit–much warmer than the Pacific that surrounds California. Secondly I discovered magical beaches with black sand.
At this point in my journey I was traveling with someone who had rented a car so we could stop places along the way. A friend in Monte Verde had recommended stopping at a small beach called Playa Hermosa to see the black sand. There were literally two signs for this place. We pulled over and met a nice couple from Los Angeles who had collected coconuts from the trees on the beach. They offered us a few. We bashed them open on a concrete wall and drank from them. It was soooo cool because it was so fresh—literally right off the tree!
I took the next half hour to play in the waves which were not very tall, but had a bit of power to them. The sand is black from the lava deposits. Costa Rica country has dozens of volcanos scattered throughout.
A little further south you’ll find tourist attraction Manuel Antonio. We followed the signs to Quepos, a nearby town with restaurants, businesses, and shops. The several-mile windy road that connects the two is filled with resorts and more restaurants, many of which have spectacular views of the beach. I hear there are several great stops to catch a cocktail at sunset overlooking the beach.
Once you finally descend towards the Manuel Antonio National Park look to your right and enjoy the public beach. I spent sunset there and it was almost indescribable. The pink, orange, and red bled across the sky with the bright green vegetation surrounding the blue water below. We grabbed a few cocktails from the market across the street and made our own happy hour.
We ended up staying near the park but went into Quepos for dinner and drinks. Keep in mind the buses stop running midnight-ish. We ended up getting a ride home from a gypsy cab (non-licensed driver) which worked out fine for us (minus being overcharged), but isn’t probably the safest option.
There are several hotels and a few hostels within walking distance from the park. If you drive, this may be a good option because there is not a ton of parking. All the guidebooks said admission was $10, but they apparently raised it to $16 the day before we arrived. There are plenty of certified guides you can hire with great cameras outside the park. We ended up guiding ourselves and still saw some really neat creatures. There was a sloth hanging above the tourists, close enough to capture with a zoom lens. Deeper in the park on one of the trails I saw a monkey!
I had been waiting all trip to find one and I finally did. It was just as cute as you imagine, but I hear they can be tricky and steal your food from you as well. The swimming cover inside the park was packed with people, but beautiful. It is surrounded by hiking trails with breathtaking overlooks. The trails aren’t difficult, but there are a handful of hills.
The last nearby beach I want to mention is Dominical. It is maybe an hour south of Manuel Antonio, if that. It is a surfer’s paradise. There is a pretty small town along an unpaved road with several hostels and lodges. We passed a few VB Bus looking vehicles and the rooms have shelves for surfboards. I got a very hippy and friendly vibe while I was down there. Unfortunately you can’t tell much of that from my video because we were also hit by the outskirts of a tropical storm. It rained almost the entire time, but the vibe was so relaxing we just kind of soaked it in and went with it.
I hope this gives you a few ideas of beaches to visit along the Pacific. The water is warm. The beaches are beautiful. The people are friendly.