Sun and surf attract travelers from across the globe to Costa Rica’s breathtaking Guanacaste coast, but families with small children are especially fond of Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo. Located just south of Santa Rosa National Park on a quiet stretch of Pacific coastline, Play Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo provide the calm waters, plentiful shade, and clean, safe beaches that families crave.
Playa Hermosa literally means “beautiful beach”. Appropriately named, this lovely crescent of sand is surrounded on all sides by steep forested hills, offering a rare mix of protective shade and warming sun all in one convenient location. Rocky outcroppings jut into the ocean on either side of Playa Hermosa, keeping the waters perpetually still. Tidal pools hidden in the rocks make for exciting exploration for kids who love sea creatures.
Not far from Playa Hermosa lies Playa Panama and Bahia Culebra: a large, protected bay ringed with scattered, small private beaches. At one time in the not-too-distant past, Playa Panama had fallen into a slightly shabby state of disrepair, but the area has recently undergone a major renovation and today is quite lovely once again. Any exploration of Play Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo should include a visit to the quiet beaches of tranquil Playa Panama.
On the north end of Bahia Culebra awaits the Papagayo Peninsula. Of all the family attractions in the Play Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo region, Papagayo is the most luxurious and the most developed. Home to a championship golf course and two all-inclusive resorts (the Four Seasons Resort and the Allegro Papagayo Resort), Papagayo is dotted with five or six charming small to midsize beaches and is undergoing rapid expansion.
Perhaps the nicest beach in Papagayo is Playa Nascascolo. Playa Nascascolo is located on the grounds of the Four Seasons Resort, but since all beaches in Costa Rica are public beaches, no one can be denied entrance to any of them. The Allegro Papagayo Resort, especially popular with families since it includes its own “Fun Club”, offers a wide range of water sports and free activities for kids.
Things to do in and around Play Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo include diving safaris; a variety of day cruises; water sports like water boarding, kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling; bicycling; and parasailing.
Nightlife in Play Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Papagayo features live music at the Villa del Sueno restaurant (which also serves excellent fish and pasta dishes, and offers a pool table in the lounge), and great specialty restaurants such as Ginger, an internationally famous tapas bar that serves up creative small bites like ginger spiced chicken wings, spring rolls, marinated mahi mahi, and other more traditional Spanish tapas tidbits and desserts.
Ballena Marine National Park and Nearby Costa Rica Beaches
Playas Flamingo, Potrero, Brasilito, and Conchal
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