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Costa Rica/Guanacaste: Playa Hermosa

Pura Vida

Outdoors

One comes to Playa Hermosa for the ocean-facing beach sheltered just enough by headlands on either side of the beautiful bay of Papagayo. A one-mile, mostly sand or packed-dirt footpath links the entire Playa Hermosa strand, making for a nice walk. Beyond the beach on either side lie low, rugged hills so far spared from development. The water is consistently in the 80s (around 28-30 C), with a dark volcanic sand. The beach is mostly lined with communities of villas with a few small hotels, and the entire beach is accessible to all. While the water is inviting for swimming, body surfing and wading, the offshore snorkeling is a pleasant excursion but usually disappointing if one expects to find large quantities and variation of fish. Jet skis are available for rent to explore the scenic Gulf of Papagayo and Culebra bay, which is ringed by rugged hills and is largely undeveloped but for a beautiful Four Season resort on the north side of the bay, an impressive yacht anchorage and a few other small resort communities located north and south of Playa Hermosa. 

Santa Rosa National Park
This is the first, and among the largest, of Costa Rica’s national parks, comprising an entire peninsula on the northwest coast along the Pacific. Famous for its remote beaches, excellent surfing and a beach where sea turtles come by the thousands to lay their eggs, Santa Rosa is a primitive park with only a few hiking trails, most notably the one that leads to Playa Nanciti, the beach where turtles nest from July to November.   

Not far from the southern entrance to the park, La Casona Hacienda is a replica of a home that stood on the location of probably Costa Rica’s most famous battle, recounted in the Overview. If you enter at the Santa Rosa park station, you have to drive to the end of the dirt road to find the hiking trail to Nanciti station. 

The park is a little over an hour’s drive from Play Hermosa by paved road. The distance is about 47 miles (75 km). 

Rincon de la Vieja National Park
This large park comprises a volcano, bubbling hot springs and mud pools, and dry tropical rain forests. Hiking trails depart from the two main park entrances most convenient to Playa Hermosa, notably Las Pailas, and, a little further, Santa Maria. Itineraries can include waterfalls, bubbling mud pools, savannah, dry and tropical rain forest that is brown in winter, lush green in the summer. 

The Las Pailas entrance is about 90 minutes (42 miles/67 km) from Playa Hermosa. 

Palo Verde National Park
This large park is known for its extensive wetlands attracting birds both migratory and local, with dry tropical forests that are brown in winter and explode with color during and immediately after the summer rainy season. There are a number of hiking trails—maps are available at the park entrance—but the main attraction is the boat tours of the waterways to see the plentiful wildlife. 

The park is just under two hours from Playa Hermosa – about 50 miles (80 km). 

Another option is to drive down the coast of the Nicoya peninsula, stopping at various beaches and coastal resort towns, which can range from raucous or hip to sleepy and untraveled. 

 

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