Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica: Not Too Big, Not Too Small
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica, is a little-known gem about 15 minutes north of Coco, and it’s great for what it is as much as for what it isn’t.
What it is: the biggest little beach town between Playas del Coco and Nicaragua. What it isn’t: a city overrun by tourists. It’s almost a secret, except to those in the know.
Playas del Coco is far more famous, with all its hotels, restaurants, bars and nightlife. And if you’re staying in Hermosa, Coco is a convenient place to gas up your car, go to a bank, visit a doctor, find stores that sell just about everything or enjoy a late-night party.
But Hermosa is sort of an anti-Coco, with its small-town charm, relaxed pace and transcendent peace and quiet. (Quiet, that is, except for all the howler monkeys hooting in the trees.) And the beach is beautiful, looking out on the headlands that enclose it, with the Papagayo Peninsula in the distance.
However, if you’re looking to shred some waves, don’t confuse this town with the Playa Hermosa surfing mecca south of Jacó. There are four beaches in Costa Rica called Hermosa, but this one has no surfing.
Getting around Playa Hermosa
There are basically three roads in Hermosa, so be careful not to get lost. The main highway through the center of town connects to Coco in one direction and to Liberia in the other. The international airport in Liberia, in fact, is just 25 minutes away. There is no population center on any beach in Costa Rica that you can get to faster from an international flight.
Along this main road you’ll find a few hotels, apartments, restaurants, a couple of smallish shopping centers, the excellent Luperón grocery store and even a movie theater. If you haven’t spent much time in beach towns in Costa Rica, you’d have no idea how unusual movie theaters are — and this one actually serves beer.
From the main drag, two perpendicular side roads lead to the beach, and whichever one you take, you can’t go wrong. Both are lined with hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants and shops — not too many, but not too few.
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica: Where to eat and where to sleep
The main restaurant worth visiting is Ginger, serving excellent Asian-inspired tapas — in a treehouse. There’s also great food at the Villa del Sueño Hotel, and Aqua Sport is a terrific beachfront bar. Hotel El Velero is another nice spot to have lunch or a drink, right in front of the ocean, and La Casita del Marisco is another beachfront venue known for its seafood.
The most beautiful hotel in town is the seaside Bosque del Mar, with its signature lattice work, red paint and trees sticking through balcony floors. There are two larger, resort-style hotels on the north end of town, the Villas Sol and the Condovac La Costa.
Better yet, get your own place at Mariners Point C3, a stunning ocean-view three-bedroom a couple of blocks from the beach, managed by Special Places of Costa Rica. We also offer the lower-priced but still sumptuous Casa Tranquila 2, an elegant two-bedroom that’s also very close to the beach.
You can rent a car (or even a golf cart) and explore the coastline to the north or south. To the south, you have the shopping and nightlife of Coco, the biggest town on the Guanacaste coast after Tamarindo. To the north, you have … resorts, resorts and more resorts. The Four Seasons Papagayo, the finest hotel in Central America, is not far away, but don’t drive north looking for a town, because there isn’t one.
Culebra Bay, inside the Gulf of Papagayo, is sort of like the resort capital of Costa Rica, and north of that is the vast Santa Rosa National Park, where nobody is allowed to live except animals.
You should be aware of how many fabulous beaches are closed to the public in Costa Rica: precisely none. All beaches in Costa Rica are public by law, and there are some splendid stretches of sand both north and south of Hermosa.
If all this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it almost is. Playa Hermosa offers everything you need, or possibly a little bit less … but in this case, less is more.