Playa Blanca in Costa Rica is one of those hidden gems that most tourists don’t visit because they don’t know that it exists.
We’ve got the inside scoop for you! If you are in San Jose and want a nice day trip beach option or are staying in Jaco and want to get away from the crowds for a day, Playa Blanca is the best option.
Alright, now on to the complete guide to Playa Blanca in Costa Rica.
Getting to Playa Blanca in Costa Rica
Playa Blanca is located within a private resort called Punta Leona. Technically this would mean that it is not accessible to the public. However, all beaches in Costa Rica need to have public access by law. That means there is a secret way for you to get to the beach.
You will need a rental car to get here. If you haven’t already booked one, please read our Rental Car Guide and grab your 10% discount.
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To get to Playa Blanca you need to type in “Parqueo Para Particulares” into your GPS (we like using the free app Waze for directions) or into Google Maps. This will direct you straight to the Playa Blanca parking lot.
From San Jose international airport it will take you about 1.5 hours to drive here. From Jaco, it will take less than 30 minutes.
From San Jose
From San Jose, take route 27 west until the exit for Route 34 towards Jaco. Keep in mind that Route 27 is a toll road.
It will cost you about 3,000 colones ($5) for the tolls to Blaya Blanca. These tolls can be paid in US dollars if you don’t have colones.
What I like to do is pay with a $10 bill. The toll attendant will give you colones as change. This will be enough to pay for the rest of the tolls in colones.
Once on Route 34, you will cross over a bridge that is typically lined with people. We suggest pulling off here and walking onto the bridge. The river is called Rio Tarcoles and big crocodiles like to sun themselves below the bridge.
Both Route 27 and 34 are well-maintained roads that you shouldn’t have much trouble driving on.
From Jaco, hop on Route 34 heading north for about eight miles. You will then turn onto the access road.
The Access Road
From Route 39 (the highway) you will turn onto a dirt road. You will make a left turn on the dirt road if coming from Jaco and a right turn if coming from San Jose. There is a restaurant next to the turn called Restaurante Nimar.
You will continue on this road for about 15 minutes. It may seem like you are in the wrong place, but you aren’t. Just keep going!
Also, just note, there may be paved pieces of road as well. Last time we were there it seemed that they were starting to do some construction on the road. Don’t worry, you are in the right spot!
Eventually, you will enter the resort area with many nice private homes and hotels. You are allowed to drive here. Just keep going straight (to the right towards the ocean) all the way to the end.
At the end of the road, you will see a dirt parking lot with an attendant. The attendant working will ask you for a few dollars to watch your car for the day.
Just be aware that the parking lot fills up fast especially on the weekend. It is best to get there as early as possible to ensure you get a parking spot.
Don’t forget to put “Parqueo Para Particulares” into your GPS for an easy driving experience straight to the parking lot.
Accessing Playa Blanca
After parking, you can access the beach in front of you called Playa Mantas. This beach is nice and your best family-friendly option or for anyone with difficulty walking.
If you want an even more beautiful beach, head to the left while on Playa Mantas. At the end of the beach, there is a path you have to go up and over a small rocky hill to get to Playa Blanca. It requires a little climb up a few rocks and then down the other side. It is not difficult, but if you have a bunch of beach gear with you, it can be hard.
During high tide, the left end of the beach is under water and it is really difficult to get to because the rocks are covered in water and really slippery. I have fallen multiple times and once ended up with a massive painful bruise.
However, during low tide it is definitely worth crossing for. You will be blessed with a beautiful white sand beach lined with palm trees.
Our Tips for Visiting Playa Blanca
- Bring a picnic or stuff for grilling: There is no place to buy food on the beach. If you plan on spending a full day here you will need to carry all your food and drinks on to the beach with you. There are grills on Playa Blanca which you can use for free. You just need to bring your charcoal.
- Arrive and leave at low tide: As I already mentioned, you will be unable to access the beach during high tide. If you need to figure out the tides, check out the site Magic Seaweed. Just keep in mind that you will also need to cross over on your way back to your car. That means you need to stay for several hours on Playa Blanca.
- The parking lot fills up fast: There are a very limited amount of spaces in the parking lot. We suggest arriving early (by 9am) to ensure you get a spot. If it is not low tide, you can enjoy the Playa Mantas side of the beach and walk over to Playa Blanca when the water goes out.
- Stay for sunset if possible: The sunset here is almost always great. However, keep in mind that crossing back over to the parking lot is almost always tricky.
- Don’t leave anything valuable in your car: Although there is a parking attendant, I wouldn’t leave anything important in your car. You just never know. Also, don’t leave anything unattended while on the beach.
- Wear a dry shirt into the water: The water is such a pleasant temperature here and usually, it is calm enough that you can easily swim. If you are in the water or even just walking, we suggest wearing a fast drying shirt and plenty of sunscreen. You would be surprised how fast you can get sunburned here. We are so close to the equator.
- Look up!: There are often scarlet macaws and monkeys in the trees here. Look up and you might spot them.
- Watch out for raccoons: There are raccoons here and they love to steal food. We have learned the hard way. Just make sure you package all your food up while on the beach and keep an eye out.
- Pay attention to the flags: Usually, the water at both Playa Blanca and Playa Mantas is calm and perfect for swimming. However, pay attention to any red flags that may be up. We have visited before when there have been stronger waves and once we visited during red tide and it was no possible to swim.
What to Do After
On the main road (Route 34), not far from the dirt road you turned onto to get to Playa Blanca, there is a nice national park called Carara National Park. Here you can hike on flat trails in the middle of the jungle. This park is a popular spot for bird watchers, so don’t forget your binoculars!
We have a full guide about visiting.
If you are heading back to San Jose and haven’t already stopped, definitely check out the crocodiles on the Rio Tarcoles bridge.
Staying at Punta Leona
The hotel complex that the beach is located in is called Hotel Punta Leona. Hotel Punta Leona in Costa Rica is a great place to stay for families or couples. They offer small rooms for two people and have larger apartments with kitchen that can hold up to six people.
I just saw on their website that they now offer glamping as well! The glamping tents look spacious and have oceanfront views.
Hotel Punta Leona offers an outdoor swimming pool, three restaurants, two snack bars, a butterfly garden, mini-golfing, and more.
My personal favorite part of staying at the hotel is that you are allowed to access the private road which goes directly to Playa Blanca. Instead of only being able to cross to the beach during low tide you can visit anytime you want with that private access road.
We stayed at Hotel Punta Leona once with some friends in one of the six-person apartments. The apartment had clean bedding, towels, and was stocked with all utensils, pots and pans, and a stovetop for cooking.
The apartments we were in was not especially fancy or anything, but completely fine and comfortable. Plus, the amenities definitely make this place and you will probably spend very little time in your room besides eating and sleeping.
I think this is a great vacation rental option if you want something not too far from the airport with a beautiful beach and not directly in the craziness of Jaco.
You can book your hotel stay and vacation package here.
Let us know if you have any questions about visiting Costa Rica’s Playa Blanca in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out with planning your trip! Also, if you have visited Playa Blanca or Punta Leona and have suggestions for other visitors we’d love it if you would pass them on!
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