Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica, is a quaint and beautiful area in the Guanacaste Province. It’s a great place to stay on your visit to Costa Rica, because it’s the perfect base for many different day trips, and it’s a little quieter than other nearby places. Playa Hermosa also makes a great day trip itself, if you’re coming from elsewhere – we visited 4 beaches on this trip, and Playa Hermosa was my favourite! Whether you’re staying in Playa Hermosa or just passing through, this guide has everything you need to know – restaurants in Playa Hermosa, activities, wildlife, and day trips from Playa Hermosa!
On my first visit to Costa Rica, I stayed in Manuel Antonio. The National Park, beaches, and towns in the area were beautiful. I decided to revisit Costa Rica because it’s a beautiful, safe, and affordable destination coming from Canada. This time, I stayed in Playa Hermosa, a completely different part of the country giving access to all new parks, day trips, and experiences.
Playa Hermosa Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Directions to Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa is a 35 minute drive from Liberia, and 25 minutes from Liberia Airport. This is where most visitors who are staying in Playa Hermosa fly in. If you’re staying in Playa Hermosa, you will get very familiar with an intersection in Liberia that has a McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and KFC. Go west out of Liberia if you want to reach Playa Hermosa.
There are no street signs in Costa Rica, so these directions to Playa Hermosa from Liberia Airport are very descriptive! If you’re driving, request a GPS.
- Coming from the airport, turn right on to Route 21 (the main road once you leave the airport). Continue until you cross over a small car bridge. After the bridge, turn right on to Route 253. There’s a small plaza at this corner including a hardware store and grocery store. Follow this for road just 2 minutes, until you reach a 3-way intersection. Route 253 continues straight, and route 254 begins to the left. Go left! This stretch is about 10 minutes. You will reach Panama Beach / see a large sign for a resort at a 4-intersection. The beach is straight ahead from here (so if you reach the beach, you went too far). Turn left at this intersection of to Route 159. Stay on here, and the next stretch of civilization you encounter is Playa Hermosa!
When to Visit Playa Hermosa
The best time to visit Playa Hermosa is during the dry season, from January to March. Sunshine every day makes for great beach and day trip weather! It can be very windy this time of year, which helps it to not get to hot. Don’t be fooled though! The sun is bright and you always need sunscreen, even when there’s a nice breeze.
If you come during September- December you have a better chance of seeing sea turtles, and the waterfalls will be bigger because of all the rain – but it’s also possible for areas to get washed out, and makes for unpleasant driving.
Getting Around in Playa Hermosa
Getting around in Playa Hermosa is easy, because you can walk everywhere. This area is relatively small, and it takes less than 30 minutes to walk from one end of the beach to the other (which is also the length of the town area). If you want to go anywhere else, you will need to rent a car or organize guided tours from Playa Hermosa.
I highly recommend renting a car for Playa Hermosa, because you will definitely want to drive to nearby towns and go on day trips if you stay here. Driving in Costa Rica is tricky, though, so be careful or where you go and organize tours and shuttles for the rougher routes.
Where to Stay
Playa Hermosa is a very affordable area, because it’s a bit less popular and smaller than some other main tourists area. The average costs of accommodations is about $200/ night for 2 people.
If you have not already booked your stay, please consider doing so through one of these links or the reservation box below to support this blog! There is no extra fee to you, and Nina Near and Far will receive a small commission.
Villas Sol Hotel and Beach Resort: We loved the resort that we stayed at in Playa Hermosa, Villa Sol Hotel + Beach Resort! This is resort is an inclusive, and has 2 swimming pools and access to the beach right from the resort. There’s even a shuttle for within the resort, from the beach to the hotel and villas. Meals and drinks are included in your stay. Villas Sol books up in advance, so here are some other options if it’s not available. There’s a free shuttle from the airport, or free parking if you rent your own car.
Club y Hotel Condovac: featureing a spa, infinity pool, hot tub, and shuttle to the beach via Villa Sols. Breakfast is available as an add-on when you book, and there is a restaurant on site. Club y Hotel Condovac is very family friendly and includes tennis courts, basketball courts, pool tables, and beautiful patios.
La Gaviota Tropical: for a more boutique experience, check out La Gaviota. We ate at their restaurant and had a change to walk through the hotel, and it is beautiful. This property is water front and great for couples!
The Best Restaurants in Playa Hermosa
Costa Rica isn’t renowned for it’s food, but at least based off my experience at the restaurants in Playa Hermosa – it should be. This is definitely the place for you if you’re a seafood lover, or if you want to try traditional Costa Rican cuisine.
It was tricky finding the best restaurants in Playa Hermosa! Most of what came up in my searches were restaurants that were actually in the nearby town of Coco. These are restaurants in Playa Hermosa itself, not any nearby towns. You can walk to any of these places from the beach, or from any hotel or resort in Playa Hermosa.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
- La Casita del Marisco: this restaurant is beach front, and has exceptional seafood. It’s located at the Northern most end of the beach, near the beach entrance to Villas Sols Resort. The prices are good and the servings are huge. If you’re two people, I recommend splitting a couple of dishes like a salad and a pasta. The seafood pasta here is incredible! Dinners + drinks for 2 people is around $30 USD here.
- Coco Viquez: if you’re looking for a cheap restaurant in Playa Hermosa that is also incredibly delicious, Coco Viquez is the one. It’s located across from the Hotel Mangaby, a couple blocks back from the beach. They have a menu, but the real win is the buffet option. The dinner buffet is $8 USD and includes a drink and the food (which is shown in the photo above) is delicious. Coco Viquez is definitely among the most budget-friendly restaurants in Playa Hermosa. They also have breakfast and lunches buffets!
- Roberto’s in La Gaviota Tropical: for a more romantic night out, watch the sunset and enjoy dinner at Roberto’s. Of everywhere we ate, this was the prettiest at night because it looks out over the beach and is decked out with lights. The restaurant is almost entirely outside. Roberto’s has lots of options, including incredible whole pan-seared fish. It’s a little fancier than other options on the list, but even so it came to under $50 USD for 2 people, including mains + alcohol drinks. Roberto’s is one of the best restaurants in Playa Hermosa for a date night!
Our resort included breakfast, but all of these restaurants offer breakfast and if lunch and dinner are any indication – breakfast will be good to!
- Super Luperon Playa Hermosa: believe it or not, the one of the best restaurants in Playa Hermosa for a good dessert if the local super store. There’s a popsicle/ ice cream freezer near the cash register, and a couple rows are dedicated to Choco Leta popsicles. These things are amazing. I had… several. The cookies & cream one was my favourite!
- Copo on the beach: while you’re walking along the beach, cool off with a Costa Rican copo. This desserts is sort of shaved ice/ snow cone, decked out with vanilla powder, and sometimes cookie straws and marshmallows. There are always a couple vendors making their way along the beach, selling copo for ~ $3 USD. This treat is really sweet and really large (good for sharing, especially if you’re not usually a snow cone or slushie person) but they’re super refreshing and, as the vendor told us, “a typical Costa Rica food, everyone has to try.”
Things to do in Playa Hermosa
There are great things to do in Playa Hermosa and the surrounding areas. It’s a great base to explore lots of different landscapes in Costa Rica. Playa Hermosa itself is a small area, so these activities encapsulate a few nearby towns as well. Everything on this list 30 minutes away or less!
- Sailing/ Snorkelling tours: experience Costa Rica from the water, and have a chance to see turtles, dolphins, and more! Most sailing tours in Costa Rica include snorkelling and/or a stop over at a secluded beach. Tours are typically half a day, morning or afternoon. Many depart from Playa del Coco, a 15 minute drive from Playa Hermosa. Sailing and snorkelling tours start at $69 USD.
- Scuba Caribe Riu Guanacaste Water Taxi: if you want a view from the water but aren’t interested in the sailing/snorkelling cruises, there’s a water taxi from Riu Guanacaste resort. This is not to be confused with the Coco Water Taxi! They are not the same. The Scuba Caribe water taxi runs from the Riu Guanacaste Resort (30 minutes from Playa Hermosa, driving) to Coco for $20 USD round trip. You don’t have to be staying at the Riu Guanacaste Resort to do this – just e-mail info @ scubacaribe.com to arrange access. This is not a tour, it’s just a budget-friendly way to get a great view of the coastline!
- Kayak/ Stand Up Paddleboard: there are several places right along the beach where you can rent stand up paddle boards or kayaks by the hour, and even more options available one beach over at Coco or Panama.
- Zip-lining: get a thrilling and exceptional view of the ocean by zip-lining above it! The nearest zip-line is at Diamante Eco Park, a 28 minute drive from Playa Hermosa. There’s also an Animal Sanctuary at Diamante, which is family friendly and a great way to guarantee that you see Costa Rican animals like sloths and monkeys!
- Walk along the beach: the best time to be at the beach is before 8:00 AM in the winter. Get up early and go for a stroll. There’s a nice shady path along the back edge that goes all the way down the beach. It doesn’t take long to walk, about 45 minutes there and back!
- Take a Day Trip: Playa Hermosa is lovely, but you are definitely going to want to see more of Costa Rica. Day trip suggestions from Playa Hermosa are listed below!
Wildlife to Watch For
One of the best surprises of Playa Hermosa was the opportunities to see wildlife! When you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, you will mostly find out that you can see wildlife in the National Parks. It turns out there’s a lot of wildlife in Playa Hermosa, too! When you’re in the area, keep an eye out for the following animals:
- Monkeys: there are Howler Monkeys in the trees by the beach of Playa Hermosa regularly. We saw them regularly (and heard them even more often!) when we were out in the evenings or in the mornings. One night on our way back from dinner, we even saw a baby monkey on it’s mother’s back.
- Iguanas: if you want to see iguanas, simply go outside around 3PM. Iguanas love the hot sun, and mid-afternoon we often saw them on our walk down to the beach, and enjoying the sun on the beach itself. If you don’t want to see iguanas… you’re definitely going to, but these are very peaceful animals and you can just walk the other way.
- Birds: there are plenty of beautiful birds in Playa Hermosa. White-throated magpie-jays are a beautiful, bright blue bird that will go after your breakfast if you sit outside in the morning, so they’re easily spotted. We often saw orange-chinned Parakeets fly by, and several falcons (that were flying too high to be specifically identified).
Please remember to never feed the wildlife, and don’t chase/ follow them if you’re trying to get away. The animals at Playa Hermosa are very accustomed to people. It didn’t seem to bother any iguanas when I stopped and knelt down to take their photos from a safe distance, and the magpie-jays are more than happy to steal sugar right off your table so you will be plenty close enough!
Llanos des Cortez
Day Trips from Playa Hermosa
Llanos de Cortez
This was my favourite day trip from Playa Hermosa. Llanos de Cortez (pictured above) is a beautiful waterfall (considered a must-see by Lonely Planet) that is less than an hour drive from Playa Hermosa. Take a picnic and your swim suit, and enjoy an afternoon swimming below the waterfall. There’s a hike up the side of the waterfall if you want a view from above.
Entry costs $7 per person, and the last stretch of the drive is a dirt road that is a bit bumpy. We read that there was a parking fee of a few dollars, but were not charged for this. Take a little extra cash, just in case! Hours are 8AM -4PM. It gets really crowded on the weekends, so go on a weekday if possible. 1-2 hours before closing is a great time to go, as the waterfall be in shade at that time and most people are leaving, rather than arriving, by that point.
- Check out my guide to visiting Llanos de Cortez!
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Tenorio Volcano National Park is a great place for hiking – and, the drive up is paved! It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Playa Hermosa. This park is home to Rio Celeste, a beautiful waterfall that you will reach during your hike. The trail also features hanging bridges, natural hot springs, and hopefully monkeys! Swimming is prohibited in the park itself, but many people swim at the public entrance.
Go early, because the National Park limits the number of people on the trail to 400 at a time. Park hours are from 8AM to 4PM, and you must enter by 2PM. The hike is 6km (3.7 miles) round trip, and takes about 3 hours. This is not a difficult hike, so if you’re not a regular hiker, this is a good choice!
The Tenorio Volcano National Park entrance fee is $12 USD for adults, and parking is 1000 colones / 2-3$ USD.
Monteverde is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. It’s a cloud forest, high up in the mountains South-East of Playa Hermosa. It’s home to the infamous Monteverde handing bridge, a lovely waterfall, and an incredible lookout where you can see the continental divide.
The hiking trails in Monteverde loop around and back a lot, and vary in difficulty. You can hike all day, or for less than an hour, and choose from easy and flat trails or ones that are challenging and higher in elevation. Entry to Monteverde is $22/ adult, and there is no charge for parking. If you drive yourself, park at the info centre and take the shuttle to the park entrance. The shuttle is free and comes frequently.
It is a long, difficult drive to get here. It takes 3 hours to get there, and I don’t recommend this drive in a sedan or 2×4 car. Jeeps, SUV’s, anything with 4×4 and a good amount of clearance is advisable. There is a shuttle from Liberia for $49 USD, if you prefer not to drive yourself. There are unpaved roads covered in rocks for 20 minute stretches, on narrow roads winding around the edge of a mountain. I loved the park, but doing the drive myself detracted from the day. I recommend booking a tour or shuttle.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
There are 7 hiking trails in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The Las Pailas sector is the closest to Liberia, and there are currently 2 hiking trails open there. One of the trails leads to La Cangreja waterfall, and the other is a an easy 3km loop around volcanic sites and boiling mud.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a one hour drive from Liberia, and entry is $15 USD / adult. There are washroom and water stations after the park entrance, so you do not have to exit and re-enter to access them. Park hours are 8AM to 4PM, but it closed on Mondays.
The trail to La Cangreja waterfall takes about 3.5-4 hours, and you must start the hike before noon. This is a challenging hike in some places. Most of it is is straightforward walking, but there are sections with lots of roots. The last stretch to the waterfall is steep and difficult, and probably best not to do if you haven’t hiked in a long time or have any mobility issues.
The Las Palais trail is an easy 3km loop, with 6 vantage points to see boiling mud, hot springs, and a waterfall. This trail is made up of board walks, stairs, and smoothed gravel so as long as you can walk for an hour and handle some stairs, this trail is very accessible. We even saw monkeys on this loop!
Palo Verde National Park
Palo Verde National Park is one of the best places to see wildlife in Costa Rica. There are some hiking trails here, but they’re not particularly well maintained. The most popular thing to do in Palo Verde is to take a boat tour down the Tempisque River. Tours take about 2 hours. Most organized tours include lunch and transportation.
The Palo Verde National Park entrance fee is $12 per person, and the park is open from 7AM to 4PM. Also closed on Mondays! Most organized tours include the park entrance fee.
Except to see monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, and all kinds of birds!
Rincon de la Vieja National Park – La Cangreja waterfall