Relax At Playa Junquillal, Costa Rica

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Less than 30 minutes from Tamarindo sits the remote beach of Playa Junquillal- the perfect escape for families.

About Playa Junquillal

A few years ago, I was looking for a Guanacaste beach that felt like Costa Rica in the early 2000s. At that time, most of the beach towns were small, filled with tiny local restaurants, lots of locals, and super laid back. I stumbled upon Playa Junquillal and we have loved it ever since. While it’s a little bit of a trek to get there, once you are at Junquillal, you’ll never want to leave.

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. If you are looking for a more party beach vibe, Junquillal 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 snacks if you choose to stock up on your way into Junquillal.

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. Here’s a guide to planning your perfect visit.

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The ultimate list of Spanish phrases for Costa Rica with kids.  

Location – Getting There And Away

There are two ways to get to Junquillal, depending on if you are coming from the north (Liberia Airport) or the south (San Jose Airport). Either way, 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 phone signal is also spotty. We use Waze for this.

The last few kilometers to Junquillal Beach are dirt roads, and there are only dirt roads in town. Everything can get muddy in the 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. I would definitely rent a car for this trip, and not rely on shuttles or public transit for this destination.

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There are lots of high-end vacation 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 Tides Oceanfront Resort 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:

  • Villas Las Ventanas
  • The Ocean Hammock
  • Hotel Hibiscus
  • Casa Juliana
  • Guacamaya Lodge
  • Hotel Tatanka
  • Mundo Milo Eco Lodge
  • Plumita Pacifica
  • Tarragona Mar

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There are several dining options in Junquillal. Most of your accommodations will include a big Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, fruits and coffee or juice.

We ate a lot at Tides Oceanfront 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 Activities At Playa Junquillal

There aren’t a lot of formal tours coming out of Playa 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 beginner 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.

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Christa Jimenez

Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Hi, thank you for this info. Heading to this area next year and this is helpful info. Is the Eco Lodge you mentioned called Tides Oceanfront Eco Lodge? Thank you again

  2. Thanks for this info. My wife and I are staying at Casa Arenas which might be another name for the Ocean Hammock. The directions seem to lead to that location. We’ll be in Junguillal for 3weeks from Feb 3 to Feb 26, 2024. The first week at the Ocean Hammock/Casa Areanas. The rest of the time will be spent at a Plaza Tierra Condominiums. We will be joined by my daughter and son in law. We have been communicating with Enrique from Kikes tours. We made arrangements for him to transport us from Liberia Airport. I think the cost quoted is $120.00. Does that sound reasonable? Also, car rental seems very expensive requiring big deposits. Any advice?
    Your info is great

    1. Hi! Thanks for the tip on the hotel- it looks great. The quote sounds very reasonable. The rental cars do need a deposit on a credit card- it is really the only way to get one. So if that doesn’t work, looking into private transportation like you are doing is a great solution. ~Christa