Guide to Visiting Playa Barrigona, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Go off the beaten path, and you might just find this gorgeous, secluded beach in Guanacaste.

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Playa Barrigona is a stunning beach with a secluded location on the Nicoya Peninsula, and a great side trip for those headed towards Samara or Nosara. If you know where to look, you’ll find Playa Barrigona between the two beach towns.

It’s not the easiest to get to, but if you want a view of crashing waves minus the surfers or an endless horizon without other tourists in the frame, it’s worth crossing a river and driving through dirt roads for.

Playa Barrigona
Sunset in Playa Barrigona
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About Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica

Playa Barrigona is a beautiful beach with fine, white sand and crystal clear waters. The pristine ambiance and general lack of visitors make you think of a hidden beach untouched by tourism.

The 700m crescent-shaped shoreline is surrounded on both ends by mountains that are a lush green during the rainy season, and turn yellow during the dry season. On the cliffs, you’ll spot trees growing at odd angles (practically right-angled trees), positioned towards the coast.

Most people might skip this beach since it’s harder to get to than others, but that only means a handful make it to this perfect spot. Strong, tubular waves are ideal for advanced surfers, while palm trees provide ample shade for those who want to stay on the shore.

Some might call it “Mel Gibson’s beach,” because the actor once visited the beach and loved it so much, that he built a huge resort next to it. That gives you a good idea of how beautiful Barrigona Beach is. But don’t worry, it’s open to the public and entrance here is free.

Crab on a white sandy beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Crab on a white sandy beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

How to Get to Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

By Plane

From San Jose International Airport, you can take a domestic flight to Nosara Airport in Guanacaste. The flight time is just 45 minutes. From Nosara Airport, Playa Barrigona is 25km or a 40-minute drive away. 

By Car/4×4

The Playa Barrigona Access Road is an unmarked dirt road off Road 160. The road is unpaved and a bit of a challenge to pass if you’re driving a smaller vehicle. There are no direct buses to the area, and depending on weather conditions, taxis may not take you all the way.

We recommend renting a 4×4 as the route includes a shallow river crossing through Rio Buena Vista. It’s a small river and a relatively easy cross during the dry season (December to April). When it rains, these roads become a muddy mess, so passing here under bad weather conditions is discouraged.

Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit challenging at times
Max at a river crossing in Costa Rica

By Horseback

If you’re staying in Samara, you can reach Playa Barrigona via horseback. There’s a guided tour that heads down to Barrigona from the beach side, passing river, jungle, and beach sceneries. There’s a 3-hour guided tour that starts at USD $60 per person.

Parking at Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

There’s a free parking area close to Playa Barrigona, and usually, there are parking attendants stationed. Make sure to keep doors and windows locked, as the cars are only partially visible from the beach. Petty theft is not uncommon, so don’t leave any valuables in the vehicle.

Facilities at Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

We’ll give it to you straight: this secluded beach has no facilities. No hotels, restaurants, peddlers, or toilets, and very limited cell service. So, pack your beach necessities and enjoy a few hours of decompressing, disconnecting, and recharging. Did somebody say pura vida?

Things to Do at Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

Surfing–But Only If You’re a Pro

Advanced surfers will love this beach for its strong waves, clear water, and lack of other surfers. Just don’t underestimate the waves; they tend to be much bigger than they appear, and the current much stronger. Remember that there are no rentals on this beach, so bring your own board and equipment.

Surfing in Guanacaste
Surfing in Guanacaste

Do Some Swimming and Snorkelling

The water at Playa Barrigona is a clear blue, which is great for swimming and snorkelling. Choose the calmer areas of the beach, as the current is known to be particularly strong in some parts. 

If you’re not a confident swimmer, a.k.a someone who is unfamiliar with escaping a riptide, use common sense and don’t swim too far away. There have been incidents of drowning in the past and there is no lifeguard in the premises, so be extra cautious when in the water.

Check Out the Waterfall

There’s an awesome waterfall that flows down from the mountains and onto the stunning beach. It’s a great sight to see during the rainy season between August to January. The waterfall provides a fresh water source for those at the beach.

READ NEXT: Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica

Have a Picnic by the Beach

Pack a basket with your beach towels, snacks, drinks, and beach umbrellas. The north end of the beach is perfect for a picnic since the ground is mostly flat. The surrounding palm trees also provide nice shade.

Stay for the Sunset

Cap a relaxing beach day by waiting for the sun to set at Playa Barrigona. There’s something spectacular about Costa Rica sunsets, and anywhere on this beach is a great spot to see it.

Costa Rican Sunset
Costa Rican Sunset


Can you Swim at Playa Barrigona?

Yes, Playa Barrigona is a swimmable beach. But we have to warn you that the waves can be bigger than they seem. Be careful in the water, and don’t go any deeper than knee level if you’re not a strong swimmer. There are no lifeguards on this beach, and unfortunately, there have been incidents of drowning in the past caused by rip currents.

Can you Fish at Playa Barrigona? 

Yes–and you might even see locals fish at Playa Barrigona, bringing their fishing nets. Since there are no rentals available, remember to bring your own fishing equipment.

Fishing Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Fishing Charter in Costa Rica

Can you Surf at Playa Barrigona? 

Yes, the big, tubular waves are a great match for advanced surfers–especially because you won’t have to share! There are fewer crowds here than in Nosara or Samara, and the waves are world-class. Fun fact: the Triple Crown Surf Competition was held at Barrigona years ago, so you know the surf is good.

Is Playa Barrigona Safe for Families? 

Yes, but with caution. Anyone can enjoy the scenery at Playa Barrigona as long as they’re careful. However, we have to emphasize that the waves are strong and rip currents are common, which is especially dangerous for young children. A better alternative for families would be Playa Samara, which has a wider cove and much calmer waters for swimming and watersports.

Where to Stay near Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

Nanku Nimbu Casa-Bus

This unique and sustainable stay is a bus-turned-casa just 1.4km from Playa Barrigona. It’s newly renovated and features a private entrance, a garden, and a sun terrace for yoga and workouts. 

The apartment is cozy, and comfortable, and sleeps up to 4 people. There are 2 double beds, a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave and fridge, and a private bathroom. Guests can also avail of the bike rental service and explore the nearby attractions.

Hacienda Barrigona

One of the most luxurious accommodations in the area, Hacienda Barrigona is surrounded by 500 acres of lush jungle and is a short walk down to Barrigona Beach. The hacienda is part of Casa Chameleon Hotels, a luxury eco-resort with award-winning properties around Costa Rica.

There are 3 traditionally designed Costa Rican villas on the property, with 11 individual rooms altogether. These come with private bathrooms, impressive views, and varying room configurations. Rooms can be rented individually or as an entire villa estate for larger groups. 

The sprawling hacienda features central courtyards, open-air spaces, and outdoor pools for yoga, meditation, and relaxation. A quick walk can take you to Barrigona Beach, or down several of the hiking trails around the property. Hacienda Barrigona has a team of knowledgeable guides who can show guests around, and even create tailor-made experiences.

Where to Eat: Best Restaurants near Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica 

Sweeties by Celia

Something like a household name, this restaurant offers more than just sweets. They have a little bit of everything, from delicious curries, to flavourful chicken dishes, to burritos, and vegan options. For dessert, save some room for the chocolate truffle cake, lemon cake, or cheesecake.

Bohemia Café

A colourful café on Center St. is a must when you’re starting your day in Samara. They open early for breakfast–coffee, freshly baked treats, and smoothies–but their delicious and filling brunch and lunch menus also can’t be missed.


You might not expect to find an elegant Italian restaurant in a Costa Rican beach town, but Mamagui in Samara is a pleasant surprise. Almost everything is made in-house, like the bread and pizza crust. They have unique salads and authentic pasta, plus an impressive wine selection and homemade gelato to finish off the sumptuous meal.

The Bottom Line

In Costa Rica, Playa Barrigona is a spectacular local beach that puts nature front and centre. Here, it’s just sun, sand, and sea, and sometimes that’s really all you need. If you’re looking for a quiet beach to call your own for a few hours, this is a hidden gem worth going out of the way for.

Looking for a Gorgeous, Secluded Beach in Costa Rica? Playa Barrigona is a Must-Visit! Which Costa Rica Beaches Have You Gone To?

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