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Discover the Hidden Beach at Nacascolo, Costa Rica

Our guide to our favorite hidden beach in Costa Rica

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Andy and I love finding places that are off-the-beaten-path even when we are visiting well-traveled areas. Our discovery of a hidden beach in Costa Rica came the way they often do – a chance encounter with a honeymooning couple on the beach near where we were staying. Their tales of the sand, the clear water, and the friendly monkeys at Nacascolo completely captured our imaginations, and we were determined to investigate.

They did not exaggerate the place’s beauty, the “largely locals” feel, the crystal clear waters or exactly how inquisitive the monkeys would be. Though the fact that the monkeys seem to prefer Doritos to nearly everything else was a surprise. Intrigued?

 

Getting to Nacascolo

From Playa Ocotal, we jumped in the rental car with Andy’s mom and made our way through Playa del Coco and onto 253 toward Papagayo. We had been warned the journey would take about 45 minutes, or so, and even with a couple of map checks, it was right on target.

This next part gets a little complicated.

You’ll see the signs for the Four Seasons in Papagayo, as well as for the beaches (follow those). You have almost finished your journey when you come to the roundabout. Follow the sign that reads “visitante playa.” It leads you into a very large parking lot filled with the cars of beach goers and many, many yellow school buses. You can also find bathrooms there and some assistance, if you speak Spanish.

From there, we climbed aboard the big yellow bus (it’s free to ride). It was filled to capacity with happy beachgoers, chatting in Spanish and wisely carrying coolers, beach chairs, towels and other beach gear. The mood was festive, even though our language skills didn’t really allow us to participate beyond the pleasantries.

Tip: If you are ever uncertain about how to get here, just check the maps for The Four Seasons and their Golf Course. That will get you into Papagayo area and headed in the right direction.

 

nacascolo_bus

 

The trip takes you down to the Nacascolo beach station. There is no parking near the beach, so this is the only practical way to get through the grounds and to the water. You’ll find yourself passing the manicured, rolling greens that are part of the Four Seasons’ golf course. You may even see yachts when the bus rises over the hill and provides a quick, stunning view of the marina.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself at the station and at the walkway that takes you directly down to the beach. It’s important to note that these are the last official services provided for the beach. There is a small shop that sells snacks and the beach bathrooms.

Costa Rica, Nacascolo, Beach

Following the wooden walkway down to the beach in Nacascolo.

 

Arriving

We were already feeling pretty adventurous when we found the place, but it turned out the fun was just beginning. We had heard the stories about the animals, but I’m not sure we realized exactly how close they would be, or how quickly we would see them. But from the moment we stepped down the wooden walkway on our short trek to the beach, we began to notice the capuchin monkeys relaxing in the trees. Okay, maybe they weren’t so much relaxing as assessing what food people were bringing in with them.

 

Nacascolo, Costa Rica

A monkey greeting in Nacascolo

 

As promised, the beach was not crowded. Filled largely with locals, we found people grilling, relaxing and enjoying time with their families. Occasionally, you’d hear a dog and a monkey debating who would get the snacks (monkeys always won).

 

The Beach

The sand was clean with clumps of gnarled trees that actually provided a nice backrest and place to hang the beach bags. Many people stuck to the tree line to avoid the harshest hours of sun, but some ventured out onto the wide swath of sand.

 

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Nacascolo beach view as we stepped down from the walkway.

 

The Water

The water was surprisingly calm – I say surprisingly because we had gotten knocked about quite a bit in the water near Playa Ocotal, but could easily walk into the water in Nacascolo. It was also mesmerizingly clear. Even when I waded into the waters up to my ribcage, I could still see my feet. Andy saw fish when he went in – he had heard they were puffer fish, but couldn’t swear to it.

 

waterplunge

Kenyon College love is with me even in Nacascolo, Costa Rica.

 

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Clear waters off of Nacascolo, Costa Rica.

 

Occasionally, a person would come by with a cart selling treats and ceviche. The smell of grilled fish was never far off, and the delighted shrieks of little kids testing the water for the first time made us smile. In short, if you want to experience the “Pura Vida” that they always talk about in reference to Costa Rican life, head to Nacascolo.

 

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The beach at Nacascolo, Costa Rica.

 

Traveling Without a Net, Nacascolo, beach, Costa Rica

Even when the rain clouds came in, Nacascolo was beautiful.

 

The Monkeys

The longer we were there, the closer they got to the beach. It was lunchtime, and they had some pretty tasty options, I’m sure. We had heard they could be aggressive, and might even try to distract you as they stole stuff out of bags (including iPhones). We didn’t experience that. They were friendly. They did take food directly from everyone who offered – and almost everyone did. But it seemed more like “mutual fascination” than anything else.

 

Nacascolo, Costa Rica, beach, capuchin

The monkeys visiting in Nacascolo, Costa Rica

 

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The monkeys were looking for food in Nacascolo, Costa Rica.

 

The Coatimundi

Our last surprise came as the rain showers swept in, and we departed for the return bus. While we had started to see the monkeys as we walked down to the beach, the return trip passed numerous coatimundi. At first, we thought they were sloth, but these little ones are members of the raccoon family. Inquisitive creatures, they were also making their way toward the grills and the beach – though they did stop to pose for us.

 

Nacascolo, Costa Rica, coati, coatimundi

Coati hunting for food in Nacascolo, Costa Rica

 

Coatimundi in Nacascolo, Costa Rica

Coatimundi in Nacascolo, Costa Rica

 

Finding this beach was probably our favorite discovery of the trip, and we can highly recommend it for anyone who wants to experience a non-tourist beach in Guanacaste Province (or anyone who really loves monkeys and coati).

Many thanks to Anthony and Sarah, the honeymooning couple from Rhode Island, who gave us the tip!
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30 Comments on Discover the Hidden Beach at Nacascolo, Costa Rica

  1. Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful, untouched beaches I’ve ever seen. And any beach with monkeys gets a thumbs up from me!

  2. What an adventure! I love finding places that aren’t typical tourist spots. A true hidden gem. I love how the monkeys seemed just as fascinated 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 17, 2017 at 2:56 am // Reply

      Honestly, we would have never found it if we hadn’t had that random conversation on the beach. Which just goes to show me that I need to talk to strangers during trips more often! We loved how intrigued the animals were — not aggressive at all, just curious. So much fun!

  3. Quite a quiet beach. Not very crowded. I have monkeys many, many times but these ones are 2 colored. Brown & dark brown. They are always hungry. LOL 🙂

    Would love to see coatimundi. never even heard of them.

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 17, 2017 at 3:44 pm // Reply

      We had never heard of the coatimundi either! Apparently, they are related to raccoons, though when we first saw them we thought they were sloths. Very cute!

  4. Looks like a unique beach to visit. Was the beach open to the ocean or was what just a lake beach as you Americans sometimes say lol. Being Australian a beach is on the ocean all the time

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 17, 2017 at 6:57 pm // Reply

      It’s open to the Gulf of Papagayo, but there are no barriers between the Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. I think the reason you get the calmer waters here has more to do with positioning and the way the currents typically run. Loved actually being able to wade out without getting salt water waves in my face! 🙂

  5. Ooh this looks awesome – I’m in Mexico at the moment & will be heading down through CA so I’ve bookmarked this! I tried to pin it but it didn’t work for some reason 🙁 I want to remember where the monkeys & coatis are!

  6. Definitely makes me want to go to Costa Rica! Cute pics with all the monkeys!

  7. Wow the water looks so clear! I love to read about hidden attractions and actually am building a list of them all for my future trips! This one is now on my list!

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 18, 2017 at 5:08 pm // Reply

      We were so proud of ourselves for actually finding it! We loved it, and we were so glad to have this off-the-beaten-path experience.

  8. This looks amazing! Costa Rica is still on my travel list!

  9. Beautiful pictures they are. Especially the monkeys and raccoons. There is better feeling than finding a clean and pristine beach off the circuit in a tourist destination. I m glad you found it. Btw, your post somehow reminds me of the movie “The Beach” 🙂

  10. This looks like such a fun trip! It’s great to find a place off the beaten path while traveling. And the monkeys are adorable.

  11. Have yet to visit Costa Rica but you’re right. Chance encounters are great sources for tips on where to go, especially if you want to really be immersed in culture.

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm // Reply

      I’m so shy normally, but I have to say I’ve gotten the best tips from people I’ve had chance conversations with while traveling.

  12. Costa Rica is awesome! I have never heard of this place though! I will have to go again some day. I’ll still stay away from those sneaky monkeys!

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 18, 2017 at 11:58 pm // Reply

      We did hear stories of some of the monkeys playing a distraction game while others snatched food or other shiny objects. Luckily, the ones we encountered were more curious than aggressive.

  13. I have heard so many amazing things about Costa Rica and this post just made me really want to visit! Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thannks for sharing the tip to, Im heading to CR in 2 weeks and have added this on my list!

  15. This looks like a place for me – monkeys and coatimundi (tejones in Mexico) – they’re so cute 😀 And always on the hunt for food, haha!
    The beach sounds like a hidden gem, so I’ll put it on my list for my next CR pura vida adventure!

    • PatriciaSteffy // January 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm // Reply

      We were so surprised how friendly they were — and how many of them came out to see what food had just arrived. 🙂

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