I’ve been to a lot of beaches in Costa Rica. Most of them I like, some of them I don’t. Then there are others that are so off the charts in fabulousness that I nearly don’t want to tell anyone about them.
All right, I’ll tell you. I’ve discovered a hidden gem. A place I had no idea it existed before last weekend. But let’s keep it between ourselves … or at least among fellow like-minded people who will keep this tropical paradise beach in the same pristine condition it is today.
To start, for me a beach has to have a few key ingredients to be fabulous:
- There must be shade – be it palm trees, coastal almond trees, jungle, etc. Since we are close to the equator, the Costa Rican sun is intense. After 30 minutes in the hot sun on a no-shade beach, you’re fried … literally.
- The beach should be walkable. This means a good, mostly flat, stretch of sand.
- The beach should be good for swimming. This means sandy-bottomed and I can go in the water at least up to my knees without risk of tumbling into a steep drop-off, being pounded by waves, or eaten by sharks or crocodiles. In Costa Rica, most open Pacific beaches have currents and riptides, but if I can at least go in up to my knees, that’s fine for me.
- The beach should be clean, quiet, uncrowded and beautiful.
All of this I found last weekend on a little-known beach on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast called Playa Linda. This lovely hidden beach is a little over 20 miles (32 km) south of Quepos and the highly-visited Manuel Antonio National Park, yet it is a complete escape from the typical tourist destination. Playa Linda follows another off-the-beaten-track beach called Playa Matapalo; there are signs for the turnoff to this beach on the Coastal Highway.
Both beaches, which actually run one into the other, are immense, long, flat, black volcanic sand beaches framed by groves of mango and coconut palm trees. You have plenty of wide open space for walking, jogging, horseback riding, relaxing and watching magnificent sunsets. There were handfuls of surfers when I was there enjoying long rides on beautiful waves, and families playing in the water close to shore. Playa Matapalo and Playa Linda are kept so clean that they earned the Blue Ecological Flag for environmental purity.
Playa Matapalo is a small beach community with residences, a few restaurants and food stores, and a couple of small hotels – all tucked back from the beach under the trees. Playa Linda is blissfully empty. On the day I was there, families came in cars on the narrow dirt road and parked under the palms to enjoy the day. Some brought picnic lunches, while others grilled on portable barbecues. What I did notice is that everyone carried away their trash.
Playa Matapalo has the distinction of being a nesting beach for three species of sea turtles in Costa Rica that visit the area from July to December. An annual sea turtle festival is held by the Matapalo Sea Turtle Conservation Project to celebrate hatching baby sea turtles in November.
Since there isn’t anywhere to stay on Playa Linda and only a couple of small places on Playa Matapalo, the best place to stay is Portasol Rainforest & Ocean View Living eco-community. Tucked back in the rainforest along the Portalón River Valley a few minutes from Matapalo Beach, Portasol has comfortable and luxurious Costa Rica vacation rentals and Costa Rica property for sale. The unique Costa Rica sustainable community adheres to green development principles with a 200-acre private reserve and 65% of its 1,300 acres in conservation areas.
How to get there:
Playa Matapalo is 20 miles (32 km) south of Quepos on the Southern Coastal Highway, a little past the Savegre River. There are two turnoffs, both with signs saying Playa Matapalo. Follow the signs to the beach.
Playa Linda is just south of Playa Matapalo. Continue driving the Coastal Highway south past both entrances to Playa Matapalo. When you pass a large cell phone tower next to the highway on your right, in just another couple of miles you will see two more cell phone towers on the right set farther back from the road. There is a small dirt road where you need to turn right, which leads past the towers. If you reach Plantanillo on the highway, you have gone too far. Drive the dirt road straight to Playa Linda; from there the road branches off to the left and parallels the beach. Park anywhere you find space under the trees.
Article by Shannon Farley