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Playa Grande, Guanacaste

by go Visit Costa Rica

This beach is part of the baulas national marine park. Its name comes from its extensive beach, which extends south the Tamarindo estuary where there is a beautiful mangrove (Tamarindo wildlife national refuge) which can be traveled to by boat. This beach is especially popular among surfers and those who want to observe the leatherback sea turtle nesting area. This area is also good for sunbathing, hiking, and swimming. It carries the blue flag ecological certification.

Located along the north Pacific Coast in Guanacaste province, Playa Grande is a vital part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park. After being incorporated into the park in 1990, the beach has been open to the public, but remains a highly protected region because it is a nesting site of the leatherback turtles. The pristine shoreline and crystal blue waters of Playa Grande make this one of the most beautiful beaches in Guanacaste.

Leatherback Turtles.

This beach is only accessible during the day because it is patrolled by police after 6 p.m. to help protect the nesting sites of leatherback turtles. Between October and May, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs during the night. Playa Grande is considered to be the most important nesting site of these turtles, and locals take pride in protecting this land for these massive creatures. As the largest of the sea turtles, leatherbacks can grow to be seven feet long and weigh up to 700 kilograms! Travelers wanting to catch a glimpse of these shy creatures can attend a tour from Playa Grande to Tamarindo.

Surfing in Playa Grande

Playa Grande is often visited for its excellent surfing conditions along the main beach, which has long attracted surfers from across the globe. Playa Grande's waves are accessible to surfers of all skill levels - anyone from a first-time rider to a pro can hit the waves here. The surf breaks are consistent and moderate, and this beach is much less crowded than neighboring Tamarindo. It is best for beginners to surf during the lower tides when there are less surfers and the waves are much smaller. This beach gets a south swell year-round, with a better chance of catching bigger swells between March and November. With perfectly warm waters throughout the year, there's no better place than Playa Grande to catch the perfect wave.

Local Activities

Although the waters may be perfect for surfing, the tough currents and steep sea bottom make it challenging for swimming. However, on the northern end of the beach, a small trail leads to Playa Ventanas, which has a beautiful beach and a tiny bay perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

The Rio Matapalo estuary is another great place to visit for bird watching and wildlife exploring. The mangrove jungle features 1,500 acres of tiny islands and narrow waterways. Travelers can kayak through this area for a relaxing afternoon excursion.

Nearby Attractions

Playa Grande is just across the estuary from Tamarindo, one of the most popular beaches for surfers and travelers along the Pacific coast. Tamarindo is a lively surf town with many restaurants, bars and shopping amenities. If you're looking for a laid-back atmosphere but want access to a nearby town with plenty to do, Playa Grande may be the perfect place to stay. It's a beautiful 20 to 30 minute walk to this destination, but you have to cross the estuary to get there. It can be very dangerous to cross the estuary during high tide, so it may be best to take the 30 minute drive to Tamarindo unless it's low tide. There often are boat that will take you across the estuary for a small fee.

Getting to Playa Grande

There are several options to get here, but the easiest may be to fly into Liberia International Airport and drive about 68 kilometers to Playa Grande. The roads get a little rough around the town, so it is best to equip yourself with a four-wheel drive vehicle to get here. The Tamarindo Domestic Airport also receives domestic flights from around the country, making it easier for anyone landing at San Jose International Airport. Buses are also available from both airports to Tamarindo daily. Then you can catch a taxi to Playa Grande.

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