Playa Carrillo is a long, secluded strip of white-sand beach surrounded by a lush tropical forest on the western shore of Costa Rica. A rocky reef nearby prevents strong waves from entering the bay, making Playa Carrillo’s calm waters—awarded the Ecological Blue Flag for cleanliness—a nice spot for diving, kayaking, and swimming. It’s a cinch to get to Playa Carrillo from Hotel Guanamar, which overlooks the water from a hilltop at the southern end of the bay.
Beachfront rooms at Hotel Guanamar have private balconies with views of the Pacific Ocean and tiny breakfast tables inside. You’ll find equally spectacular views at the outdoor pool, which is ringed by a wooden deck equipped with plenty of lounge chairs and thatched cabanas.
You can grab a cocktail and watch the sunset at the open-air restaurant and bar. It serves fresh, local lobster and shrimp in an intimate dining room decorated with tropical plants.
Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Forested Mountains and Legendary Surfing Beaches
The province of Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica takes its name from the Guanacaste tree, an umbrella-shaped species also known, less picturesquely, as the earpod tree. These trees blanket the slopes of the Guanacaste and Tilaran Mountains, helping to shelter the coastline from rainstorms and keep the beaches warm and dry.
Stick to the shore of bustling Playas del Coco and you'll find plenty of waterfront activities as well as lively nightlife. But it's worth heading farther afield to take in some of the province's national parks. Starting in October, Marino las Baulas National Park serves as a major nesting ground for leatherback turtles. And in the north, Santa Rosa National Park is known for its legendary surf breaks, including one featured in the documentary The Endless Summer II.