253km (157 miles) NW of San José; 35km (22 miles) W of Liberia

Playa del Coco is one of Costa Rica’s busiest and most developed beach destinations. A large modern mall and shopping center anchor the eastern edge of town. You’ll pass through a tight jumble of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops for several blocks before you hit the sand and sea; homes, condos, and hotels have sprouted up along the beach in either direction. This has long been, and remains, a popular destination with middle-class Ticos and weekend revelers from San José. It’s also a prime jumping-off point for some of Costa Rica’s best scuba diving. The beach, which has grayish-brown sand and gentle surf, is quite wide at low tide and almost nonexistent at high tide. The crowds that come here like their music loud and late, so if you’re in search of a quiet retreat, stay away from the center of town. Still, if you’re looking for a beach with a wide range of hotels, lively nightlife, and plenty of cheap food and beer close at hand, you’ll enjoy Playa del Coco. (And by the way, it’s often called Playas del Coco, presumably because there’s more than one beach in the area.)

Also worth checking out is Playa Ocotal ★, a few miles to the south. This tiny pocket cove features a small salt-and-pepper beach bordered by high bluffs, and it's quite beautiful. When it’s calm, there's good snorkeling around some rocky islands close to shore.