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Playas Brasilito and Conchal

Destination: Playa Conchal

Having your own set of wheels is the way to go when exploring the beaches of Guanacaste. Although public buses run between the seaside locales, the freedom to go at your own pace and stop when the notion strikes is a key factor to a good road trip.

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Today I was continuing north to the beaches of Conchal and Brasilito. Surfing would no longer be the prevailing sport, as the stretch of coastline between Playas Grande and Flamingo is too rocky and shallow for decent swells.

On the way, I stopped at an antique store where I chatted with the amiable owner about recent development in the region. She grew up next to Playa Grande and remembered the days when thousands of leatherbacks came ashore to nest. It was clear that despite conservation efforts, the area was changing -- perhaps not at the breakneck speed of Tamarindo, but shifting nonetheless.

I passed Conchal en route to Brasilito, another small and quiet beach community. The town's few shops and funky houses are built around a grassy square where a few souvenir vendors had set up shop. I was happy to see when I arrived in Brasilito that it was also a one-horse town.

My home for the next two evenings was Hotel Brasilito, an inexpensive inn favored for its prime beachfront location. The basic rooms were simple but clean, and mine faced the hotel's new Australian-themed restaurant where free Wi-Fi internet was available.

Brasilito's warm waters were perfect for swimming, which is exactly what I did after settling into my room. Visitors could arrange a canopy tour, ATV ride, sunset cruise or horseback excursion. Instead, I opted to walk Brasilito's grey-sand beach and explore neighboring Playa Conchal, named after the thousands of tiny seashells that make up its sand.

A modest outcropping of rocks divides the two bays, but the contrast between the beaches is amazing. Playa Conchal is a shimmering beauty of pink sand and turquoise waters resembling a scene from the Caribbean or South Pacific. It was one of the most alluring beaches I'd glimpsed in Costa Rica, its clear waters ideal for snorkeling and diving.

As I walked along the gently curving shore, I noticed an inordinate number of beefy, Speedo-clad men bronzing under the noon sun. I assumed most of them were staying at the luxury hotel that fronted Conchal, where guests could play golf on an award-winning course or frolic in the ocean on jet skis.

That evening I dined in Hotel Brasilito's Aussie restaurant, under coconut palms twinkling with holiday lights. An amusing group of locals and travelers mixed at the bar, where I sampled the world's tastiest mojito -- not too sweet, with extra lime and fresh mint. I settled into a beachfront chair, and took in another spectacular Guanacaste sunset.

Playas Brasilito and Conchal in Pictures

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