258km (160 miles) NW of San José; 40km (25 miles) SW of Liberia
While most of Costa Rica’s coast is highly coveted by surfers, the beaches here are mostly protected and calm, making them good destinations for families with kids. Playa Hermosa ★ means “beautiful beach,” which is an apt moniker for this pretty crescent of sand. Surrounded by steep forested hills, this curving gray sand beach is long and wide and the surf is usually quite gentle. Fringing the beach is a swath of trees that stays surprisingly green even during the dry season. The shade provided by these trees, along with the calm protected waters, is a big part of the beach’s appeal. Rocky headlands jut out into the surf at both ends of the beach, and at the base of these rocks are fun tide pools to explore.
Beyond Playa Hermosa, you’ll find Playa Panamá ★ and, farther on, the calm waters of Bahía Culebra ★, a large protected bay dotted with small, private patches of beach and ringed with mostly intact dry forest. Around the north end of Bahía Culebra is the Papagayo Peninsula ★, home to two large all-inclusive resorts and one championship golf course. This peninsula has a half-dozen or so small to midsize beaches, the nicest of which might just be Playa Nacascolo ★★★, which is inside the domain of the Four Seasons Resort here—but all beaches in Costa Rica are public, so you can still visit, albeit after passing through security and parking at the public parking lot.