On the far north-west tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find a small fishing town called Coco, and it’s two black-sand beaches – Playas del Coco and Playa Ocotal. Coco is one of the oldest beach communities in the Guanacaste Province, and is a popular tourist destination for both local Ticos and foreigners.
To be honest, the town and beaches left us wanting more (which we did go and find), but it can be a good starting point for your Costa Rican travels. It is only ~40 minutes from Liberia’s international airport, and is close to many other beaches and small towns. You will definitely want to have a rental vehicle though.
Coco’s main beach is a roughly 2km stretch of black-ish sand, with a boardwalk along a portion of the beach, offering some shops and restaurants. The beach isn’t overly beautiful or stunning, but it is also not overcrowded and full of harassing sales people…. The water crashes in from the Pacific, making it a bit cool – especially in December. This area is popular for fishing and snorkeling, and is a nice quiet retreat for those looking to escape the busier vacation areas. However, if you want a pristine beach with ideal swimming conditions, this should not be your first choice.
Playa Ocotal is just south of Coco Beach, and is even more quiet and secluded. Only one restaurant (Father Rooster’s) serves the visitors to this beach, but it has an extensive menu, lots of drinks to choose from, and plenty of outdoor seating mere steps from the ocean.
This beach is on par with Coco in all other aspects, though it does seem a bit less groomed. Water is still chilly, lots of fishing boats around, and is still peaceful and far from touristy.
The town of Coco doesn’t have much to offer in the way of history, or culture, or adventure. It can be a good jump-off point for many other places that it is central to, but to stay in town – for us anyway – two or three days was plenty.
There are two main streets lined with a few hotels, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. it’s nice enough, and there are plenty of great places to eat. We had a blast meeting ex-pats at Coconutz Sports Bar & Eatery, which serves its own brew of Angry Goat beer (delicious), and has a concise menu of yummy appetizers and lunch options.
We also enjoyed fantastic pizza at Pizzeria Nonna Rina, which is a definite must-have.
Some of our day trips included visits to neighboring towns, sampling local food and watching the sheep wander the streets. Gift shops and markets are everywhere, and just the drive alone can be incredibly breathtaking. Costa Rica has some unbelievably gorgeous landscape and scenery, and driving through it is one of the best ways to experience all that it has to offer.
Also nearby is The Monkey Farm, which is a monkey and wildlife rescue center that aims to be the world’s first completely self-sufficient and sustainable operation. They do incredible things – read more about them here.
The highlight of our time in and around Coco was definitely the afternoon we spent at Tio Leo’s Coffee Tour (read more about Tio Leo here). We lucked out, landing ourselves a private tour with Leo himself and two of his fabulous staff members, which was interactive, fun, and definitely offered a laugh or two.
We were suited up, and had a chance to pick coffee beans, and view other local plant life, including bananas and other fruit, cocoa, and delicious sugar cane! Then we were walked through the process of drying, roasting, grinding, and eventually brewing literally the freshest coffee. Even in hot and muggy CR, this was one great cup of joe.
If you’re ever in the area, Tio Leo’s is a stop you have to make. Oh, and 20 points to anyone who knows how coffee is decaffeinated…! 😉
The Costa Rica Copo!
So, this is the most delicious, and most cavity-inducing version of a sno-cone I’ve ever found. Layer shaved ice, scoops of powdered milk, more shaved ice, kola syrup (your choice of flavor), and sweet sweet condensed milk. Top that with some sort of sugary jelly, a chocolate cookie-straw, and a big pink marshmallow. Oh, and of course a fancy little drink umbrella. And now you’ve got yourself a copo.
Holy moly this thing is SWEET. If I’m being honest, I couldn’t even eat all of it, but it was very yummy, fun to eat, and lots of fun to watch being made. An art form, I’d say 🙂
So, have you visited Playas del Coco, or anywhere along the Guanacaste coastline? Where did you stay? What did YOU think of the area? I’d love to hear your stories !!