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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Costa Rica’s Gentle Waters: 3 Family-Friendly Guanacaste Beaches

When my wife and I first moved to Guanacaste, we were gloriously child free. Through the fog of several years of parenting, I can’t really remember exactly what we did, but our time must have been our own, and I assume we did whatever we wanted. That included going to a variety of beaches.

We visited rocky beaches, surfing beaches, and party beaches. We sunned ourselves on black sand, white sand, and sand that seemed to be mostly made of seashells. If we heard of a secret beach hidden in a cove somewhere, we were down to explore it.

Several years and two boys later, instead of partying, napping, and absentmindedly bobbing in the surf, we’re preparing snacks, making sandcastles, and constantly yelling at the big one not to get too deep.

This compels us to be more interested in another style of beach: the family-friendly beach. For us, the most important component of a family-friendly beach is one that’s safely swimmable. So read on while I spill the beans about three perfectly wonderful beaches where you and the kids can wade into the gently lapping waves without fear.

1. Playa Carrillo

Playa Carrillo is just down the road from Samara. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s the exact spot where over 11 years ago my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘We should move to Costa Rica.’

First and foremost, it has the important feature of modest waves. I’m sure an angry storm or evil tide has the ability to make this beach dangerous for a little while, but every single time we’ve visited, the water has been calm and welcoming.

Other fantastic features include:

1) Its signature line of mature palm trees which is simply beautiful and provides you with plenty of shade

2) Its easy, paved access which makes going back and forth to the car to unload a million beach toys much easier

3) The last time we were there, a lady from a local restaurant took our order and brought us lunch on the beach. You can’t beat it.

2. Playa Panamá

This beach is fairly new to our family’s beach rotation, but it’s definitely a hit. It’s located near Playas del Coco, on the other side of Playa Hermosa. This is probably the calmest ocean water I’ve ever seen. Due to the geography of the area, the waves roll in as gentle as could be. It’s like a giant warm bathtub.

Like I said, we’re new to this one so I don’t have it all figured out yet, but there are at least two easy access points and several areas with picnic tables under the shade of large trees. While a nice lady didn’t show up to take our lunch order, there was a guy pushing a heavy snow cone cart through the sand if that’s your cup of tea.

3. Puerto Viejo (not that one)

This one’s a bit more of a secret, so don’t tell anybody that I told you about it. This Puerto Viejo is in Guanacaste. Geographically speaking, it’s the same beach as Playa Conchal, it’s just the other end. While most Ticos claim Conchal as their favorite beach in Guanacaste, (seriously, ask a Tico friend and there’s at least a 50% chance that they say their favorite beach is Conchal) I actually much prefer Puerto Viejo.

It has the prerequisite calm, waveless waters. There’s a little bar near the parking lot where you can get a drink and some food. And there are generally fewer people there than the Conchal end. Conchal has more of a touristy vibe because of its famous beauty, while Puerto Viejo has more of a local townsfolk vibe, which is proven by my wife chitter-chattering with every other family that we walk by as we hunt for a place to lay our blanket.

There you have it moms and dads, three calm, kid-friendly beaches where you can take the whole crew, lug around a thousand pre-sandy beach toys, never-endingly apply sunscreen to noses, and … relax?

About the Author

Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. Learn more about his projects on facebook or instagram. You can also email him at:

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