- Summary: Tranquil white-sand beach; important nesting site for Olive Ridley and leatherback sea turtles.
- Landscape: Beaches, Tropical Dry Forest
- Attractions: Nesting Sea Turtles, Secluded Beaches
- Activities: Snorkeling, Sport Fishing, Surfing
- Caters to: Luxury Travelers, Nature Lovers, Surfers
Playa Junquillal Snapshot
Located just south of the Gold Coast, Playa Junquillal is a mile-long stretch of isolated Pacific coastline. The closest town, Paraiso, sits two miles inland, so the beautiful beach is less crowded than many of its neighbors. The dazzling white sand shore is incredibly peaceful and perfect for strolling or relaxing with a good book. Sunbathers and the occasional surfer visit, but Playa Junquillal, backed by grasslands, is best known as an important nesting site for olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles.read more close
Olive ridley turtles nest from July to November; the endangered Pacific leatherback nests from October through March. Junquillal Beach is not considered a protected area; however, since 2005, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the local community have partnered to educate the public about sea turtles and protect their eggs from poachers. Local outfits offer evening turtle tours on the beach.
Junquillal’s large waves are appealing to surfers, but the riptides are often strong. Swimming is not recommended, and surfers should check ocean conditions before paddling out.
Several beachfront hotels have restaurants, bicycle rentals, and tour information. These hotels cater to mid-range and upscale travelers, and range in price from $50-$125. An ocean-view campground offers good value to backpackers: for just $6 campers have access to bathrooms, showers, electricity until 9 p.m., and nice sites to pitch a tent.
There are no banks or ATMs along the beach, though several of the nearby hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. Travelers looking for nightlife and additional amenities should head north to the popular surf town of Tamarindo.
Snorkeling is popular on the north Pacific coast, and Playa Junquillal’s tide pools offer ideal conditions for beginners. During high tide, small pools collect on Playa Junquillal’s southern end, creating perfect areas to spot fish and other ocean life. To the north, Playa Blanca has calmer waters, and snorkeling is safe and enjoyable throughout the day.
Several sport fishing charters operate out of Playa Junquillal. The coast teems with some of world’s best fighting fish, including blue, black and striped marlin, mahi mahi, sailfish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Marlin can be caught year-round, though December through February is peak season.
With consistent waves, Playa Junquillal is known as a good surfing spot. Its strong beach break lets the adventurous test their mettle – and the isolated shore means more privacy during wipeouts. However, riptides are strong and can be dangerous, so surfers should take precautions before hopping into the water.
Junquillal’s claim to fame is its nesting population of olive ridley (August through October) and leatherback sea turtles (October through March). Turtle tours are a popular option, and visitors are often lucky enough to spot a giant turtle lumbering up the beach to lay her eggs. Travelers looking to lend a helping hand may also volunteer with the World Wildlife Fund.
Due to weather and road conditions, public transportation schedules are not strictly followed, so Playa Junquillal is most easily accessed by car.
Air: Costa Rica’s regional airlines offer daily flights to Tamarindo, just 12 miles north of Junquillal. From Tamarindo, a taxi costs roughly $50 to Playa Junquillal.
Bus: San Jose to Santa Cruz: $8.20; 6:00, 8:00, 9:45, 11:00, 12:30, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00; 5 hours. Departs from Avenida 5 between Calles 14 and 16. 2222-2666. The bus from Santa Cruz to Junquillal is not always regular or on schedule, so travelers may need to taxi to Junquillal. San Jose to Paraiso (2 miles from Junquillal): $8.75; 2:00 p.m.; 6 hours. Departs from Calle 20 between Avenidas 3 and 5. 2221-7202.
Car: From San Jose, take Highway 1 north, following signs to Nicoya and Liberia. Cross the Friendship Bridge and follow signs for Santa Cruz and Nicoya. After the main intersection for Santa Cruz, there’s a marked turn off for Tamarindo and Junquillal. Continue 8.5 miles via the town of 27 de Abril, then another 11 miles on unpaved roads to Junquillal. Recommended for cars with high clearance; 4WD may be necessary during the rainy season months of May-October.