Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica

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We spent the first part of our 2016 Costa Rica vacation in the town of Playas del Coco, and got to spend several mornings at Playa Ocotal. Playas del Coco is known as a scuba diving spot, plus it’s close to Liberia International Airport, and so it’s a great home base. The beach isn’t the best for young kids though.

All of the locals had recommended Ocotal to us as the perfect beach to go with young children because of the calm water and laid back atmosphere of the beach. So we decided to check it out.  It’s now firmly on our list of top family beaches in Costa Rica.

It was perfect- there were lots of locals from Costa Rica, beautiful tide pools for swimming, a amazing black sand beach, and a super yummy restaurant with the best nachos I’ve ever had.

The beach is surrounded by hills and cliffs, and there are pleny of vacation rentals right in the dry forests above the beach. You can easily make Playa Ocotal your home base, or make it a day trip from Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco or even the Gulf of Papagayo if you are feeling adventerous.


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

Ocotal Beach Location

Playa Ocotal is located 2.5 kilometers away from Playas del Coco- if you are driving a car just turn right at the Mexican restaurant and keep going. If you haven’t rented a car then you can definitely take a taxi to this beach, and it would be relatively cheap.

Lots of twists and turns on the road, and there are TONS of pedestrians, so don’t expect to drive any faster than 25 miles per hour, if that.

Upon arriving at the beach, there is a small parking lot at the end of the road. It is very common in Costa Rica for a “wachiman” to be present to take care of the cars, and there is a regular employee at Playa Ocotal who does the job well.

He charged us 1,000 colones per day, (this was in 2016) or just under $2 US. If you had US dollars instead of colones I am sure they would take them.

If you enjoy biking, a bike ride from Playas del Coco to Playa Ocotal would be super fun.

Related post: Playa Junquillal Costa Rica

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What to Do – Activities

On the far right side of the beach there are tide pools that form at low tide. The water is super warm, and there are lots of little fish to see.

Our girls spent hours playing in the tide pools with their buckets and shovels.

There is a lot of shade on the beach, and we put our chairs and coolers under the trees for shade (check out this collapsible travel cooler I took along- it was fabulous).

Around 11 am there are several women who arrive to provide beach-side massages, the rates were variable dependent upon how busy they were and how many people wanted massages.

I wasn’t able to try one on this trip, but the women were super nice when I spoke to them about their services.

There were several people who were walking and running along the beach for fitness, and we saw a TON of snorkelers (I saw a Dutch couple with this handy travel snorkel set and I will definitely take one next time).

Playa Ocotal is the perfect place to relax all day with friends and family- if you are going to meet lots of people or for a party atmosphere, this isn’t the beach for you.

A young Costa Rican girl playing in the tide pools- the water is super clear!

What To Bring

Snorkel equipment, food, drinks, towels, money, chairs, towels, sand toys for kids, etc- basically everything. Our packing list for Costa Rica has all the essentials that we pack for the beach.

I found this sand toy set on Amazon that was super easy to travel with because the case was easy to wash in the ocean at the end of the day.

There is a famous restaurant- Father Rooster and a few other small restaurants at the beach, (and a woman who prepares fresh fish at a tiny little stand right by the parking lot), but we didn’t find a grocery store or pulperia so it’s best to pack in the snacks and drinks you plan on consuming.

There were several trash cans along the beach, and please remember to pack out what you pack in.

We enjoyed watching the sailboats pass through the bay.

The Bottom Line

Playa Ocotal is the perfect morning trip from Playas del Coco- and low tide is the perfect time to enjoy the tide pools. For more family-friendly Costa Rica beach reviews, check out our article on Top Costa Rica Beaches for 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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