A day at Coco Beach in Costa Rica
December 1, 2019
“Come. Come.” he insists in Spanish. Eat. Eat.
On my first day at Coco Beach in Costa Rica, I stare at the muscly chunk of white flesh offered on a blood-slicked knife.
My first refusal was ignored and I don’t know enough Spanish words to decline again.
A silent prayer to the travel stomach gods and I pop the shellfish in my mouth.
My urge to swallow it whole is overcome by the surprising salty sweet taste. Ignoring the embedded sand grit, I savor the fresh-from-the-ocean oyster.
A local fisherman sharing his beach meal and communicating his generosity via charades – this must be the epitome of ¡Pura Vida! (everything is great!).
About Coco Beach
Playa del Coco or Coco Beach is located in Guanacaste Province on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
Liberia airport is the closest airport. A taxi ride from the Liberia airport takes about thirty minutes and costs about $50USD.
The town itself is a local town that is well on its way to a becoming a tourist town. According to a tico (local), there has been a whirlwind of infrastructure development to accommodate tourism.
It’s a walk-able town that has recently paved the roads as part of a nod to tourism dollars.
There are a range of lodging and dining options ranging from budget to higher-end. You can choose mom-and-pop services or choose from several tourist-oriented settings.
There are at least three car rental agencies in town but expect to wait to get a car. Frequently the cars are being driven in from an out of town location. Be sure to check out Blue Marlin Services (near the waterfront) – they rent cars in addition to offering tour activities.
Every couple of storefronts, you will be approached by men selling tours and experiences. Everyone wants to know your name, where you are staying and then just ‘talk’ to you.
Vendors walk the beach offering tourists pipas (coconut water in a green coconut) and braided goods or pottery.
While the area is definitely a tourist area, the locals scene is still evident.
A paved pathway runs along the waterfront. Unsecured kayaks – used to retrieve the fishing and diving boats anchored offshore – are tucked up out of the tide’s reach.
Teens use a skateboard ramp to practice their jumps.
Local families gather for an evening meal in the meager shade of the few trees lining the sand.
Older toddlers, with the confidence born from being raised by an ocean, dart in and out of the bay collecting water for their sand castles. Young children run up and down the beach, supervised from a distance.
Dogs of an unknown breed – collarless, dusty, and drooling – roam from person to person hoping for a handout.
And each evening, fisherman wade chest-deep into the water and cast their handline hooks.
The beach itself is good but not extraordinary. The sand is almost muddy colored.
Pelicans flock to the water. It’s not clear how they see the fish – the waves aren’t big but they are enough to churn up the water into a state other than crystal clear.
But the water is warm and a welcome relief from the mid-day heat. The sun-bathing and the swimming are worth an afternoon of your time.
If the tide is out, you can walk along the rocks towards Ocotal Bay and find more isolated coves to swim in.
During my visit, the sunset and sunrise were mild – colorful without the deep hues I found in other areas of Costa Rica
If you have a rental car, Coco Beach can be used as a home base to explore other beaches (Hermosa, Octol) in the area.
If day tours (snorkeling, diving, fishing, national parks) are on your agenda, check with your hotel’s front desk for recommendations.
There are a lot of lodging options in town.
I stayed at the Hotel Claudio y Gloria Beach Front.
If this is your first stay in Costa Rica, you may think it looks a little rundown or shabby. The door has a gap in it. There is no deadbolt on the door. The beds have sheets but not blankets. You will find this is the norm for Costa Rica.
Upon second glance, it becomes apparent the hotel has plenty – a/c in the room, wifi, ensuite bathroom, and an onsite restaurant.
The staff at Hotel Claudio & Gloria, while not fluent in English, are kind and patient.
The food at the onsite restaurant is quality food. My dinner was some type of flakey white fish with grilled vegetables and rice. Side note – don’t expect to know what type of fish you are eating. Sometimes, the servers don’t actually know or you can tell by their expressions they just rattled off a popular fish name to give an answer.
Checking out the nightlife is not my scene, but it was fun to go into the center of town and have a beer in the open-air bar while watching the nightlife heat up.
The bartender endured my attempt to order a beer in Spanish before he smiled gently and pointed to a beer so I could nod in agreement.
Vendors occasionally walked by offering braided ropes or handmade jewelry.
Sunburnt tourists were drawn towards the restaurant with the bright lights blaring American music.
Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica and a few ladies saunter up and down the street with their mark.
Traffic is steady – cars, scooters, motorcycles – and cruising the few streets seems to be a nighttime activity for the locals.
Beep-beep-beep – is a constant companion to the American pop music blaring from down the street. I’ll learn during my stay in Costa Rica that driving a car requires beeping – to say hello, to indicate passing, to say you won’t be stopping at the intersection, or to nudge the dogs and cows out of the way.
Back at the hotel, dogs have apparently learned to tell time. As the restaurant closes, a pack of dogs line up waiting for a worker to appear with scraps. Patiently, each dog waits to be handed his share. The worker glances at the pack surrounding him and then whistles. A new dog appears from down the beach and is given his meal for the night. The man sits with the dogs until they have finished their chunks and then both sides move off into the night.
For more suggestions on Costa Rica, check out our 2-week itinerary.