Day 7: Beach and Rivermouth Breaks at Playa Grande
Just a few miles north of Tamarindo lies Playa Grande, another Gold Coast favorite among surfers. Flanked by the saltwater estuary, the beach is a 25-minute roundabout drive from Tamarindo. I barreled down the road following signs to my next destination, my car a roving cloud of brown Guanacaste dust.
As I neared the beach, passing a tiny supermarket and few scattered hotels, I realized that Playa Grande was the complete antithesis of Tamarindo. Off the main road were a soda and restaurant, a couple of surf shops and a handful of houses under construction. The streets were virtually empty of cars and pedestrians. It was a balmy summer day, and everyone was on the beach.
I arrived at Hotel Las Tortugas where I was pleasantly surprised by my well-appointed room and poolside view. Designed and built by surfing pioneer Louis Wilson, the beachfront hotel was created with nesting sea turtles in mind. Playa Grande is one of the largest nesting sites for the leatherback sea turtle, which are extremely sensitive to ambient light as they come ashore under the cover of darkness.
The hotel's intelligent design yields minimal light in the evenings and is positioned to block lights from future developments to the north. I was drawn to the eco-friendly nature of Las Tortugas and their involvement with the community which includes coordinating environmental projects and promoting wildlife conservation.
After a quick meal in the hotel's open-air restaurant, I ventured out to the shore. The cream-colored sand stretched on for miles, ideal for long walks. A small patch of beach almond and coconut palms provided shade from the tropical sun.
I dug my toes into the warm sand and watched surfers tackle the waves. I could hear their faint hoots and hollers as they neared the shore. Playa Grande is famous for its consistent breaks. Boarders can surf the beach break at high tide or try the Tamarindo rivermouth when it's low.
Looking around at all of the tanned and attractive travelers, I felt like the beach was hosting a convention for the world's most beautiful people. I talked with folks from South Africa, Australia, Spain and the States. Most had come for the surf, but all were drawn to the peace and undeveloped splendor of Playa Grande.