Because they’re so close, many folks staying in Playa Herradura take advantage of the tours and activities offered out of Jacó and even those offered out of Quepos and Manuel Antonio. See the respective sections below for more details.
Beaches: Playa Herradura is a calm and protected beach, although the dark sand is rocky in places and not very attractive. The calmest section is toward the north end, where you’ll find the Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort. When the swell is big, the center section of beach can be a good place to body-surf, boogie-board, or try some beginning surf moves
Punta Leona, just a few kilometers north of Playa Herradura, is a cross between a hotel, a resort, and a private country club, with some of the nicer beaches in the area. Although Punta Leona has effectively restricted access to its beaches for years, this is technically illegal in Costa Rica, and you have the right to enjoy both playas Manta ★ and Blanca ★, two very nice white-sand beaches inside the complex. The public access beach road is south of the main Punta Leona entrance and is not very well marked.
In contrast to the dryness of Guanacaste, these are the first beaches on the Pacific coast to have a tropical feel. The humidity is palpable, and the lushness of the tropical forest is visible on the hillsides surrounding town. In hotel gardens, flowers bloom profusely throughout the year.
Canopy Tours: Vista Los Sueños Rainforest Tours ★ ((tel) 321/220-9631 in the U.S. or 2637-6020 in Costa Rica; www.canopyvistalossuenos.com; $65) is set in the hills above Playa Herradura. This tour features 12 ziplines, excellent views, and the longest cable in the area, at nearly a kilometer (almost a half-mile) in length. Round-trip transportation can be added on. They also offer jungle and river ATV tours and horseback riding to a nearby waterfall on its 80-acre property.
Crocodile Tours: Several companies offer boat tours of the river and mangroves, and every hotel and tour agency in the area can make arrangements for you. Many operators bring along freshly killed chickens to attract the crocs, though it’s irresponsible to feed any wild animals in Costa Rica. That’s why I suggest going with Eco Jungle Cruises ★ ((tel) 2582-0181; www.ecojunglecruises.com/eng/index; 2-hr. tour $80 adults, $40 kids 4–10). Its staff doesn’t believe in feeding the crocs or altering their behaviors, a policy recognized with “2 Leaves” in Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism evaluation. There are plenty (hundreds, in fact) of crocodiles to be seen along this stretch of river and mangrove, and plenty of photo opportunities. Transportation is offered from Jacó, Playa Herradura, Manuel Antonio, or San José.
Golf: The excellent La Iguana, an 18-hole golf course at the Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort ((tel) 2630-9028; www.golflaiguana.com), is open to non-guests. Greens fees are $175. Club and shoe rentals are available. Marriott guests pay slightly less to play here.
Pura Vida Gardens & Waterfalls: Just south of Carara National Park on the Costanera Sur are the Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfalls ★ ((tel) 2645-1001; www.puravidagarden.com; $20 adults, $10 kids over 8; daily 8am–5pm). The fee covers the gardens and trails, which lead to the waterfalls, and a new trail is being built to what’s said to be the largest waterfall in Costa Rica, the 600-foot (180m) Catarata Bijagual. Pura Vida also offers Adventure Dining ((tel) 8352-9419; www.adventurediningcostarica.com; reservations required), with transportation, appetizers, open bar, dinner and entertainment; $110 for adults, $65 for kids under 16. Look for the signs to Pura Vida Gardens and Villa Lapas. From there, it’s 8km (5 miles) to the gardens.
Sportfishing, Scuba Diving & Seaborne Fun: Since the Los Sueños Marriott Resort and its adjacent 250-slip marina opened, most local maritime activity has shifted to here. If you’re interested in doing sportfishing, scuba diving, or any other waterborne activity, I recommend that you check with your hotel or at the marina. Dependable operators include Maverick Sportfishing Tours ((tel) 800/405-8206 in the U.S., or 8712-9683 in Costa Rica; www.mavericksportfish.com) and Costa Rica Dreams ((tel) 337/205-0665 in the U.S., or 2637-8942 in Costa Rica; www.costaricadreams.com). A full day of fishing runs from around $1,495 to $2,595, depending on the boat.