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Playa Cocles – Costa Rica’s Dreamy Caribbean Gem

Regarded as one of Costa Rica’s most stunning beaches, Playa Cocles is a picture-perfect Caribbean paradise. The beach and its namesake village are two miles south of Puerto Viejo, the most established beach town on Costa Rica’s eastern coast, in the wilderness-drenched Limon province.

The most spectacular beach in this entire southern Caribbean coast, Cocles is a mile-long sandy beach framed by swaying palm trees and boasts arguably the best surfing waves on Costa Rica’s eastern coast so attracts beach lovers and surfers from every corner of the globe. Given the remoteness and lack of excessive commercialization, however, Playa Cocles, Puerto Viejo and the whole nearby region remain blissfully uncrowded and authentic. Add an infusion of eclectic cultures, thanks to the coast’s Afro-Caribbean influence and indigenous Bribri roots, and what you’ll discover is a totally unique side to Costa Rica.

Playa Cocles


What makes Cocles such an idyllic beach?

Although ‘Caribbean’ and ‘idyllic’ usually go hand in hand, many first-time visitors to the eastern coast of Costa Rica will be surprised to learn that much of the coast is not all that fabulous for swimming. This is especially true of the very north, where dark-sand beaches are set among mangroves and, therefore, not suitable beach-vacation destination.

Of course, the southern half of the coast is another matter although even here, surfers have a difficult time finding suitably wicked waves. Cocles, in this regard, seems to really have it all: glistening sandy shores for sunbathing, crystal-clear shallows for swimming and outstanding waves for surfing. The mix of calm and wavy seas also facilitating an abundance of water-sports galore.

Laid-back and enjoyable with turquoise waters, tropical surroundings and a surprisingly vibrant vibe thanks to the offerings of water sports, bars, stalls and restaurants nearby, Cocles is as relaxing as it is sociable and invigorating, and makes the ideal spot in which spend a few glorious days either at the start or end of your adventure-packed Costa Rica vacation.

For couples, families and anyone looking for a superbly convenient Caribbean beach destination, then Playa Cocles is unsurpassed.

Playa Cocles


How to get there?

Playa Cocles is just north of the border with Panama, on the north-eastern side of the spectacular Talamanca Mountains. To reach it, take the National Road 32 from San Jose to Puerto Limon, the capital and largest city of the Limon province, and continue south along the coastal road 36 for another 35 miles or so. All up, it takes about 4 hours to cover the distance, on a drive that is exceptionally enjoyable and chock-full of sensational scenery.


What to do on Playa Cocles

Surfing is the #1 water sport on Cocles and you’ll find a bunch of surf shops offering board rentals and classes for novices

Swimming is a lot more enjoyable on Playa Cocles, mostly because it’s the only beach in the region to boast lifeguards. Still, currents can be strong if you venture out so keep away from the big waves (and the surfers) and enjoy your frolic closer to shore


Horseback riding is also immensely popular with local guides taking guests on the beach itself and into the neighboring luscious jungles where you can spot toucans, sloths, monkeys and a crazy array of exotic and colorful birds

Wellness spa treatments, because physical and mental relaxation go hand-in-hand with dreamy Caribbean beaches

Beach volleyball & football are almost a given on any Costa Rican beach but especially on Cocles

Los Guardianes Wildlife Refuge, a privately-run sanctuary home to an array of rescues of many endangered Costa Rican species, including ocelot and a variety of monkeys, amphibians, reptiles and a ton of obscure creatures you didn’t even know existed. Los Guardianes covers an expansive chunk of superbly biodiverse wilderness comprising very rare coastal rainforest. The great thing about this place is that, whilst you can take a professionally guided night or day walk (perfect for seeing a greater concentration of wildlife) can also simply visit and walk the trails independently

Farm visits in this luscious region of Costa Rica are very rewarding and here you’ll find one of the bestest chocolate tours in the country (Chocorart) and a very fascinating permaculture farm (Finca Tierra) that is spearheading sustainable farming in the region.

Visit the Manzanillo Nature Observatory, an amazing hiking, animal-spotting and accommodation option just a few miles from Playa Cocles. The crowning jewel here is an 82ft-high viewing platform overlooking the verdant wilderness of the Gandoca wildlife sanctuary

Tasty Waves is the social hub of Cocles beach, offering fantastic lunch specials and a variety of social events in the evening like community movie, trivia and live-music nights.

Best Time to visit Playa Cocles

Inherently tropical, Playa Cocles enjoys a hot and humid climate, all year long. Due to the proximity of high mountains, this side of the country sees opposing rainy months to the Pacific although, overall, sees a lot more rain all year long. The months with the least rain are between February and April and again between August and October, a time when the western Pacific coast is suffering its heaviest rainfalls. Playa Cocles, Puerto Viejo and the whole Caribbean side is the ideal Green Season destination as, during the rainiest months in Costa Rica, these hubs are enjoying their driest season.

Cocles can get quite busy on weekends so, if you can, choose to spend your days here during the week if you’re looking for a quieter and more contemplative stint of seaside R&R.


Where to stay

Given that Cocles is nothing more than a handful of huts and food stalls, the village itself doesn’t offer many accommodation options. However, there’s a handful of amazing eco-lodges and guesthouses nearby that are set in superb wilderness so you need to stay in the heart of bustling Puerto Viejo if you don’t wish to. From rustic seaside bungalows to indulgent luxury lodges, your accommodation options are varied. Our favorite in these parts is the Sloth Sanctuary Inn, which isn’t all that flash BUT boasts a resident sloth, named Buttercup, who makes the whole experience absolutely magical.

See our guide to Puerto Viejo for more accommodation, nightlife and dining options nearby



Adventure activities around Playa Cocles

Playa Cocles is one of our favorite spots for relaxation given its proximity to two of our most popular whitewater touring rivers, namely the Pacuare and the Reventazón. Exhilarating kayaking and rafting tours are run about half-way between San Jose and Cocles and take advantage of two of the world’s most formidable whitewater rivers; adrenaline-filled hubs that attract outdoor adventure lovers from every corner of the globe.

We run our popular organised and bespoke tours out of Turrialba, an immensely charming town that acts as the ideal base for multi-day adventures. From here, after your weeklong adrenaline rush, it is much easier to reach the Caribbean coast, and Playa Cocles, for a few days of delightful relaxation and, if you still have bundles of energy, more exhilarating surfing.

At Costa Rica Rios, we cater to adventurous couples, families and whitewater-river lovers of all ages, planning group and bespoke itineraries to suit your time and budget constraints and, more importantly, your favorite sports. Check out our Turrialba adventures or fill in our bespoke-tour form and contact us to know more.


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Costa Rica’s Most Glorious Beaches Off the Tourist Radar

Whilst there are certainly plenty of countries all over the world that boast wonderful beaches, few serve up the kind of spectacular choice that Costa Rica does. The country’s most glorious beaches offer something for every beach-bum visitor, whether they’re heading here with kids in tow, to soak up the rays in a plush resort, learn to surf, stand-up paddle or just have as many chances of a refreshing soak as possible. We hear you! The country’s extensive coastline – all 800 miles of it – makes a seaside getaway supremely easy. You can spend days lost in its pristine forests, hiking its awesome volcanoes or whitewater rafting its rivers, before settling in to one of the many beachside villages dotted along both the Pacific and Caribbean coast.

The most spectacular beaches in Costa Rica are well renowned but, in this guide, we wanted to take you a little off the beaten path. Just to prove the point that you can come here, go way off the tourist path and still find a myriad of jaw-dropping beaches not many have even heard of.

Here are a few of the most glorious beaches in Costa Rica we love to retreat to for a peaceful weekend of soaking up the rays and frolicking in the seas.

Pin them on your map!

Playa Rajada, Guanacaste

One of the country’s most startling and clean beaches, Rajada is a haven of absolute tranquility. Outside of busy holiday periods, you’ll find this beach desolate and inspiring, ideal for those craving a stint of complete tranquility. Even at its busiest, though, Rajada could never be overcrowded – it’s too remote and too unknown to attract that kind of crowd. Right on the north-western tip of Guanacaste, Rajada is just a few swim strokes away from the border with Nicaragua and although it’s really easy to reach (especially if you arrive at the Liberia Airport) most tourists simply don’t make the effort. Which is precisely why you should. Local campers head over on weekends to pitch a tent and spend a couple of relaxing days, anticipating the nightly sunset, which is just out of this world.









Playa Tambor, Puntarenas

Right in the heart of Ballena Bay in the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, Tambor is favoured by active honeymooning couples. The beach is a tranquil hidden secret although nearby, you’ll find a wealth of fun stuff to see and do so you can extend your stay for many days. As the name suggests, the bay is favored by migrating whales who used to head here during the dry season to mate and rest in between long journeys. Unfortunately, the whales don’t drop in as often or as in large pods as they once used to, although occasional sightings are still common. The town of Tambor boasts a few accommodation options and is a really chilled-out spot to while away a day or two. Quaint fishing villages, incredible rain forests and a wealth of wildlife await you in this southern end of Nicoya, making Tambor a wonderful reward for a whirlwind trip through the wilds of Costa Rica. A small airport at Tambor can help you cut travel time if you’re on a short Costa Rica adventure vacation.








Playa Manzanillo, Puntarenas

Just around the western corner of Nicoya, a short drive from Tambor, is Playa Manzanillo, on one of the most unspoiled corners of the country. Swaying palm trees kiss the crystal seas here, with a nearby lagoon also offering plenty of snorkeling chances. Being out of the way and somewhat hard to reach (not really but enough to hold back large resort developers) has guaranteed this beach is visited by a select number of dedicated beach lovers, those who love their nature pristine and undisturbed.









Playa Santa Teresa, Puntarenas

Manzanillo’s southern neighbor, Santa Teresa, is just as stunning yet the ease of access comes with an increase in crowds. Still, this is Costa Rica’s quiet side, the one many never get to see, so fellow beach-visitors here are limited nonetheless. With added infrastructure, though, comes the chance for morning yoga classes, surf lessons and all the mod-cons many enjoy on a day out at the beach. Santa Teresa is a wonderfully long stretch of beach ideal for really long walks and, being on the westernmost coast of the country, also a superlative sunset soaking spot. Seaside restaurants, a relaxed vibe and super friendly locals make this a very addictive beach to visit, so be warned!









Playa Mantas, Puntarenas

Not every unknown gem is in a remote spot that may be lovely but boasts no infrastructure at all. Take Mantas, for example, a sparkling gem of a beach with a charming little village boasting all-inclusive lodges and boutique hotels. We love this beach because you can reach it easily from San Jose, is perfect for swimming with kids (lots of fun rock pools in which to play) and has enough mod-cons so you can stay a few nights without having to move on due to lack of restaurants or whatnot. The rocky shores, however, make Mantas seem quite wild and untamed (which it is) and offers a wonderful balance between Crusoe-escape and 5* luxury.









Playa Minas, Guanacaste

The lack of anything man-made makes Minas (or Zapotillal) a fabulously rewarding beach to visit. What a difference from its built-up neighbors! Granted, the unpaved track that leads here certainly keeps the crowds at bay and, to be honest, is reason enough to rent a 4WD in Costa Rica. The turquoise water is crystal clear here and swimming is simply divine. Plenty of trees offer ample shade so you can pack a picnic basket and just spend the whole day here if you wish. This is Costa Rica paradise!







Playa Pelada, Guanacaste

As far as ‘postcard-pretty’ beaches go, Pelada is right up there with the best of them. Crescent shaped white-sand beach, framed by verdant forests on one side and sapphire seas on the other. A swoon worthy sight that’s definitely worth the drive, Pelada would have to be the most spectacular beach you can visit in Nosara. Spend a day tucked in the shade of the big palm trees, tackling the small waves and enjoying refreshing swims. There are no services here at all which spells great news for those who love their beaches au naturel.






Playa Isla Tortuga, Puntarenas

We admit it’s a bit cheeky to include a beach on a remote island but hey, given Isla Tortuga can be easily reached by boat in just a couple of hours, why miss out on this starting beauty?! Floating off the southern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, Isla Tortuga is unadulterated paradise, the kind you envisage when you’re dreaming of Cost Rica beach adventures. The water here is a thousand shades of turquoise, perfectly clear, warm and immensely inviting, the sand white and sparkling, the forest lush and emerald – Isla Tortuga is a beach dream personified.







Playa Samara, Guanacaste

Those travelling with bubs will want to check out Samara, one of our favorite hidden gems in Costa Rica. The town is large enough to offer a few accommodation choices and restaurants yet small enough to make it feel remote and undiscovered – a perfect end to any Costa Rica vacations. With calm seas, gentle waves, a few choice activities and plenty of trees to string a hammock, not to mention drop-dead-gorgeous scenery, Samara is, without a doubt, one of the most glorious beaches in all of Costa Rica.









At Costa Rica Rios, we’ve perfected the art of off-the-tourist-radar’ adventures, taking intrepid guests on the journey of a lifetime in some of the least-known – but most rewarding – corners of the country. We love incorporating a little of everything on our adventure tours, including beach days, forest days and thrill-seeking days. Ready to discover the REAL Costa Rica? Then contact us today.

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10 Reasons Costa Rica Does it Better

Closer, cheaper, safer, friendlier AND with so much more wildlife and fun to offer: there are countless reasons Costa Rica just DOES.IT.BETTER!

Offering more active pursuits than Hawaii and Tahiti, better beaches than Asia, easier to reach than Australia and more value for money than Europe and just about everywhere else, Costa Rica really is an unmatched travel destination. The undisputed queen of sensational active vacations, Costa Rica simply offers more, so much more, for your time, efforts and holiday funds.

And what’s not to love about that?

Here are just 10 reasons Costa Rica does it better!

  1. There’s more wildlife

Costa Rica wildlifeThe sheer concentration and diversity of wildlife makes it a superior animal-lover’s choice destination, anywhere on earth. Not only will you find unique species like sloths, jaguars, ocelots, turtles and an endless array of monkeys and birds, but you’ll find them all in close proximity to one another and immersed in the same pristine wilderness where your eco-lodge or resort is located.

Unlike Africa or elsewhere in Latin America, you need not head out on mammoth expeditions specifically in search of wildlife. Here, the wildlife finds you.

  1. The area is compact and traveling around is easy

Good infrastructure, well-connected airports and a wide array of accommodation options makes traveling around the country very easy. What’s more, Costa Rica simply isn’t all that big and the most popular and beloved attractions, from Arenal Volcano to the Manuel Antonio National Park and the startling Pacific coast beaches, are reached within just a couple of hours’ drive from the capital, San Jose, or merely minutes from the northern airport in Liberia.

  1. Costa Rica is close to home

Not everyone has a month’s vacation to spare OR days to waste dealing with jetlag and extensive trans-continental flights.

Travel here and you don’t have to deal with any of that, and that’s what makes this such a revered short-vacation destination. You can go from your front door to an idyllic tropical beach in just a matter of a few hours.

From home to paradise in a jiffy, from sitting at your work desk to rafting one of the world’s best rated rivers, in a matter of hours. Costa Rica offers you a superb value-for-time vacation even in just a single week away because you can fit a lot into each and every day.

Vacation perfection? We think so!

  1. Costa Rica is always a safe bet

Having dodged the kind of political, social and economic turmoil that has affected its neighbors on a regular basis over the last century, Costa Rica is a very safe and predictable holiday destination. Perfect for planning a trip months in advance and ideal if you wish to travel with your family and just don’t want to worry about safety or last-minute disruptions due to unforeseen domestic issues. Considered one of the safest countries in all of Central America and the Caribbean, Costa Rica is not only a very rewarding bet but a very safe one too.

  1. Boasts better beaches

Costa Rica beachA beach vacay in the heart of winter is what everyone dreams yet unless you want to share your ideal beach with a ton of rubbish or exceptional crowds, you’d do well to choose Costa Rica.

More dreamy than in Europe, cleaner than in Asia, more accessible than in Australia and infinitely cheaper than in Africa, the beaches in Costa Rica are better, any which way you look at it.

  1. In fact, water is EVERYWHERE

It’s not only in idyllic beaches that Costa Rica showcases best; the country also boasts more waterfalls than Hawaii and an incredible maze of crystal-clear rivers you can have a world of fun in. If you’re a water baby, or at least dream to be, Costa Rica is your endless wonderland. Snorkel, surf, dive, kayak, raft, swim and paddle your way through the country, whether you choose to stay on the coast or explore the wild interior. With hundreds of startling beaches to choose from and a head spinning number of riverside lodges, you’ll have the revitalizing and relaxing effects of flowing water no matter where you go. Plus, the water’s warmer here! Need we say more?

  1. There’s a natural landscape to suit you. Yes, all of you

There may be plenty of lovely tropical beach destinations in the world but, 99% of the time, the variety is what’s lacking; making family vacations more than a little restrictive. What if one loves the beach but another wants to climb mountains? Well, in Costa Rica, you can do both…and more! Costa Rica is the most biodiverse country in the world and offers a kaleidoscope of landscapes to suit every taste. Vertiginous volcanic peaks shrouded in clouds, several different types of forests alongside wildlife-brimming mangroves, luscious countryside and, of course, thousands of miles of pristine coastline. No matter what your eyes love feasting on, you’re bound to find it here. If variety really is the spice of life than Costa Rica offers the tastiest vacation for you and your loved ones. More than a dozen distinct ecosystems, all boasting a spectacular array of unique wildlife and landscapes: Costa Rica is like a dozen nature-filled countries all rolled into one.

  1. The people are friendlier in Costa Rica

Friendly, hospitable, fun and humble, Costa Ricans are a personification of their country. Recently rated by the Happy Planet Index as the happiest country in the world, Costa Rica is considered the most satisfying place to live and, as far as its inhabitants go, it certainly shows. Ticos love children and are sociable, laid-back, quick to smile and eager to help, making them some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Proud of their culture, culinary prowess and certainly proud of their nature, you’ll find locals to be among the most memorable treats of all. Families, in particular, are often overwhelmed by the friendliness of the locals, especially towards children, something that seems to be increasingly lacking back home. The smiles are genuine and warm here and make you feel welcomed and cherished from the first moment you set foot off the plane.

  1. The fun in Costa Rica is totally immersive

There’s nowhere else on earth that offers the kind of nature-filled adventures that Costa Rica offers, in every corner of the country. Yes, you can admire waterfalls elsewhere but you’re not allowed to swim at their base, you can hike through rain forests but you’re not allowed to zip line through them and although you may be able to enjoy a picnic on the shores of a crystalline river, you’re probably not allowed to white-water raft through it. But in Costa Rica, you can. You can do it all. There’s no other country that has invested so much effort and funds in creating a natural playground whilst still preserving the integrity of its unspoilt nature and that’s what makes Costa Rica revered among adventure travelers. The spellbinding nature here can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways so if you’re not happy merely admiring it but want to FEEL part of it, then you’ll never find a more worthy choice.

  1. Costa Rica offers the best value for money. Hands down

Could you possibly find a cheaper destination than Costa Rica, with this much stuff to do and so close to home? We think not. Authentic experiences and luxury accommodation in Costa Rica cost but a fraction of the price of what you’d get anywhere else, making ‘indulgences’ much more affordable. Overall, you get more – and can DO more – for the price of a mid-range vacation in comparative destinations and, for this reason alone, Costa Rica continues to top all the lists for the best honeymoon, family and adventure vacation destinations in the world. Costa Rica isn’t merely ‘cheap’ but is, hands-down, the best value-for-money destination you’ll ever find.

More adventure, more fun, more diversity, more beauty and more of everything, for much less.

Costa Rica doesn’t just do it better: Costa Rica does it best.

For a wide array of fantastic adventure vacations in Costa Rica, with the country’s foremost active vacation experts, click here and contact us today.

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