- Summary: Popular surfing destination with consistent waves and uncrowded beaches; hosts nesting leatherback sea turtles.
- Landscape: Beaches, Tropical Dry Forest
- Attractions: Las Baulas National Marine Park, Nesting Sea Turtles
- Activities: Surfing, Swimming, Turtle Tours
- Caters to: Independent Travelers, Surfers, Wildlife Enthusiasts
- Quick Facts: 4 miles north of Tamarindo ; Sea level ; Hot and dry during the day, cooler in the evenings ; 75-92 F
Playa Grande Snapshot
A few miles north of Tamarindo lies Playa Grande, one of Guanacaste’s most secluded beaches. Flanked by the Tamarindo Estuary, Grande is renowned among surfers for its warm waters and consistent breaks. A small community of environmentally conscious expats bring a welcoming, harmonious vibe to the area, along with tantalizing culinary options ranging from organic salads to delicious sushi. Grande's nightlife is quiet in comparison to Tamarindo, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the town’s laid-back social scene. Travelers will find a handful of comfortable hotels, some of which offer Internet, in-room massage, yoga and horseback riding excursions. Inexpensive accommodations (most without air conditioning) are offered at most of the local surf camps.read more close
The area’s most popular activities include surfing, sunbathing, and – after dark – turtle watching. Grande’s three-mile stretch of shoreline is part of Las Baulas National Marine Park, an important nesting site for leatherback sea turtles. From October-March, visitors can join a guided turtle tour to observe the 1500-pound giants nesting on the beach. Wildlife enthusiasts can learn more about leatherbacks (the planet's largest sea turtle) at the World of the Turtle museum, which is open during nesting season. Las Baulas also protects other important animal and plant life – including egrets, caimans, otters and six species of mangroves.
Sea turtles aren't the only ones that ride Grande's spectacular waves. The beach is one of the most celebrated surfing spots in Costa Rica. Steady beach breaks churn out beautifully formed barrels for both long and short boarders – and with such a long shoreline, surfers can always find a private wave to ride. The beach's sandy base is perfect for trying new tricks since there's virtually no chance of colliding with rocks or reefs and wipe-outs are totally bearable. Boarders can surf the beach breaks at high tide or try the Tamarindo rivermouth when it’s low. The swell in Playa Grande is generally better than in Tamarindo, and always less crowded – making it one of the best surfing destinations in Guanacaste province.
Local taxi fares to nearby destinations:
Playa Grande to Tamarindo: $25
Playa Grande to Huacas: $10
Air: Local carriers Nature Air and SANSA operate daily 45-minute flights to and from Tamarindo, a 30 minute drive from Playa Grande. Flights depart from Nature Air's airport in Pavas (halfway between San Jose and Alajuela) or from SANSA's in Alajuela, next to the international airport. Alternatively, visitors can fly into the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, roughly a two-hour drive from Grande.
Bus:Take the bus from San Jose to Santa Cruz. Only one bus per day departs Santa Cruz for Playa Grande at 1:00 p.m. The return bus departs Playa Grande at 3:15 p.m.
San Jose to Santa Cruz:
6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz to San Jose
3:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m.
Alternatively, it is possible to take the bus to either Tamarindo or Flamingo and get off in Huacas. From there, a bus will pass by around 2:00 p.m. en route to Playa Grande. The price to Playa Grande from Huacas is less than a dollar.
Car: From Tamarindo, the trip takes roughly 25-30 minutes by car; simply follow signs north to Playa Grande. Depending on road conditions and traffic, travel time between San Jose and Playa Grande is roughly five hours. From San Jose, take Highway 1 north (the Autopista) following signs to Liberia. Continue north on Highway 1 toward the Nicoya Peninsula, and follow signs for the Tempisque River Bridge, Nicoya and Route 18.
There is a well-marked intersection at a Shell gas station with signs to the Tempisque River Bridge, turn left here onto Route 18. After crossing the Tempisque River Bridge, look for Route 21 and take this through Nicoya and Santa Cruz. Continue north past Santa Cruz to Belen. Take the road from Huacas to Matapalo and turn left at the soccer field, following signs to Playa Grande.