Less than 30 minutes from Tamarindo sits the remote beach of Playa Junquillal -a perfect escape for families.
Playa Junquillal is located in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica on the Pacific side of the country. Marked by its long stretch of beach (over 3 km) and remote feel, this beach is perfect for families because of its wide variety of activities and calm beach town feel.
Junquillal is sparsely populated and there is little nightlife, but it is a strong beach community. If you are looking for a more party beach vibe, this beach is definitely not for you. You can travel just 26 kilometers to Tamarindo to find that.
There are few grocery stores in Junquillal, and there is no gas station. (This led us to have a harrowing drive out of Junquillal Beach as we didn’t properly fill up our tank before we went!)
The nearest town is Santa Cruz or Tamarindo. Santa Cruz is a more typical town of Guanacaste and will give you better prices on food and snack if you choose to stock up.
Playa Junquillal was one of the best family trips we took as we were able to spend quality time as a family without the distractions of lots of tourists or nightlife.
We also loved the beach as there were tons of tide pools on the north end, making for lots of exploration.
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Location – Getting There And Away
There are two ways to get to Junquillal, depending on if you are coming from the north (Liberia) or the south (San Jose). Either way you go, you will need to get on Highway 21 to Santa Cruz and then cut across on the 160 until you arrive at the beach. It’s not well marked so I highly recommend downloading your map before you leave as cell signal is also spotty.
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The last few kilometers to Junquillal are dirt roads, and there are only dirt roads in town so it can get muddy in rainy season. However, we had a Rav 4 without 4×4 and it was totally fine. I think you could even rent a sedan and go slowly.
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There are very few buses heading into this area, and there aren’t any taxis as the whole area is fairly walkable. Really the best way to get here is by renting a car.
There are lots of high-end vacations rentals in Costa Rica. There are also lots of reasonably priced hotels here too.
We stayed at Casa Pelicano on the north end of the beach and it was pretty amazing. It’s set up on the hill but the walk down to the beach is only about 50 meters. From the rooms you have a great view of the entire beach to the south.
We had our own cabin with a kitchen so we could cook. The pool was small but big enough for our family. (Bring floatation devices if your kids can’t swim yet as the pool is deep.) There are only 2 or 3 rooms here, so the place is very quiet and you will most likely have the pool to yourself.
The owners are German, and one is a professional chef so if you do choose to eat there, the food is incredible.
The only downside to the property is there is no air conditioning. We were so. hot. while we were there and our kids didn’t sleep great with the heat.
We didn’t stay at these other properties in Playa Junquillal, but we did eat dinner at the Eco Lodge and the rooms and pool looked amazing. There were lots of kids there and the property is beachfront right in the middle of the beach. Other accommodations in Playa Junquillal include:
- Junquillal Eco Lodge
- Casas Pelicano
- Villas Las Ventanas
- The Ocean Hammock
- Hotel Hibiscus
- Casa Juliana
- Guacamaya Lodge
- Hotel Tatanka
- Mundo Milo Eco Lodge
- Plumita Pacifica
- Tarragona Mar
Again, I highly recommend Junquillal Eco Lodge and Casa Pelicano for families.
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We ate a lot at the Junquillal Eco Lodge as they had really great prices on food, a really nice kids menu, and live music each night. Plus since it’s beachfront it was lovely to watch the sunsets there.
Most of the hotels serve meals three times a day, and I have heard the Hotel Tatanks and the Mundo Milo Eco Lodge also have good food but we didn’t try it.
Finally, there is a very small grocery store in Junquillal for snacks, beer and liquor, and other food items.
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Tours and Activites
There aren’t a lot of formal tours coming out of Junquillal. If you are looking for day trips, Marina Las Baulas National Park, Playa Negra and Playa Blanca are to the north and a 30 minute drive or less.
The most notable tour in Junquillal is the sea turtle hatchery. It is run each day by volunteers and for a small sum you can go out to look for the turtles.
You can surf and boogie board here, but the big waves are better left to experienced surfers. I don’t know if you can find surf lessons there, but you can surf in Playa Junquillal.
If you are on the way to Junquillal on highway 1, just outside of Canas is a great rescue center and animal sanctuary called Las Pumas.
If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards families.