Northern beaches

As the beaches closest to Liberia, the northern beaches are, arguably, in Guanacaste and the most accessible part of the Nicoya Peninsula. Each resort offers something slightly different. Playa del Coco has a reputation as a party town. Heading north Hermosa has more of a family atmosphere while Playa Panama, to the far north, is home to the all-inclusive mega-resorts. South of Playa del Coco, Ocotal hosts a number of more secluded resorts.

Playa del Coco

A beach community with a rash of hotels and restaurants that are developing quickly, Playa del Coco is a quiet spot in the week with just enough life to keep things ticking over, without over- indulging in all-out partying. The beach is pleasant but nothing special. With good transport links to the rest of the country, the atmosphere changes at weekends and on national holidays when it becomes packed full. The town has also become one of the country's most popular dive spots, with several operators providing courses and dives at more than 30 dive sites within a 20-minute boat ride from town. Surfers use this as a departure point for Witches' Rock to the north, and it's a good base for big game fishing.

Playa Ocotal

Around 3 km southwest of Coco is the small beach of Playa Ocotal. Without the easy access, it's a more secluded bay than its northern neighbour and generally targeting a more upmarket clientele. The rocky headlands have developed as a dive site and fishing trips are easily arranged. Snorkelling is OK when visibility is good.

Playa Hermosa

On the main road from Highway 21 to Playa del Coco, a right spur heads north for a few kilometres leading to Playa Hermosa, a sandy golden beach spread along a broad bay that's good for swimming and other watersports. With a west-facing beach, the sunsets are impressive and cruises are a popular way to spend the twilight hours. Other activities include diving, surfing, snorkelling and, increasingly, land-based tours.
Without a main centre, the ambience is laid back and there's a mix of budget accommodation
and full-service hotels and resorts.

The area is the focus of real estate developments and changes rapidly. It's still small enough to wander around and ask what's going on and what's new, and still friendly enough to have quiet, secluded moments.

Playa Panama

The Papagayo Project is the driving force behind tourism development around Playa
Panama and the Bahía Culebra. The project aims to convert the scenic bay into a collection
of all-inclusive resorts that will dramatically change the area - and it's working. The Mexican company Grupo Situr, reported to be investing US$2.5 billion in the project, and European investment companies backing the project would like to see the area become the largest leisure city in Central America with current estimates putting up to 20,000 rooms in the bay. You don't have to be an environmentalist or biologist to speculate pessimistically on the effect that such numbers would have on the area - north of the peninsula is the Santa Rosa National Park. Not surprisingly, criticism of the project among environmentalists and ecotourists has been widespread.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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