Playas Hermosa, Esterillos & Bejuco
South of Jacó, Costa Rica’s coastline is a long, almost entirely straight stretch of largely undeveloped beach backed by thick forests and low-lying rice and African palm plantations.
Playa Hermosa ★, 10km (6 1/4 miles) southeast of Jacó, is the first beach you’ll hit as you head down the Southern Coastal Highway. This is primarily a surfers’ choice, but it is still a lovely spot. Aside from a small group of hotels and restaurants, most of Playa Hermosa is protected, because olive ridley sea turtles lay eggs here from July to December. During nesting season, all the hotel tour desks and local tour agencies can arrange a nighttime turtle nesting tour for around $45 to $60 per person.
Playa Hermosa is the only beach in this section located right along the Southern Coastal Highway; all of the rest are a kilometer or so in from the road and reached by a series of dirt access roads. If you exit the highway in Playa Hermosa, you can follow a dirt-and-sand access road that runs parallel to the shore along several miles of deserted, protected beach, as Playa Hermosa eventually becomes Playa Tulin, near the Tulin River mouth. This is another popular surf spot, but watch out for crocodiles.
As you continue down the coastal highway from Playa Hermosa, you will hit Esterillos. Playa Esterillos, 22km (14 miles) south of Jacó, is long and wide and has three separate sections, Esterillos Oeste, Centro, and Este—west, center, and east, in order as you head away from Jacó.
If you keep heading south (really southeast), you next come to Playa Bejuco, another long, wide, nearly deserted stretch of sand with mangroves and swampland behind it.
Safety notes: While beautiful, isolated, and expansive, the beaches of Hermosa, Esterillos, and Bejuco can be quite rough at times and dangerous for swimming. Caution is highly advised here. Also be careful on Playa Hermosa, as the fine dark sand can get extremely hot in the tropical sun; be sure to have adequate footwear and a large towel to lay out on the sand.