When it comes to beaches near San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, the selection is somewhat limited. But if you head just 2 hours Southwest of the capital, you’ll find a white-sand beach of Playa Blanca.
Playa Blanca is located just outside of Jaco, the tourist hub of Puntarenas province, but this small beach town is nothing like its loud and wild neighbour. Compared to other beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Blanca is less popular among tourists making it a great place to visit to escape the thick crowds.
In addition to being called Playa Blanca, the beach also goes by a second name: Punta Leona. It is not to be confused with the Playa Blanca which is located on the coast in the Guanacaste Province.
Playa Blanca, Punta Leona, Costa Rica has a unique location in the Gulf of Nicoya, which makes it a calm and tucked-away place to visit. The beach is perfect for snorkeling and has supreme water quality and cleanliness levels that earned it an Ecological Blue Flag from Costa Rican authorities.
If you’re looking for a quiet beach to visit not too far from San Jose, Playa Blanca is definitely it!
How to Get to Playa Blanca, Costa Rica
Playa Blanca isn’t the most accessible beach in the country, but this adds to the charm. To reach it, you’ll need to rent a car and drive for about 2 hours. Visiting using public transportation is not recommended, as there are no quick and easy public transport connections between San Jose and Playa Blanca.
Once in the town of Playa Blanca, navigate to a parking lot close to Mantas Beach, just to the north of Playa Blanca. You’ll have to pay for parking, but at only $4 USD it’s quite affordable. The lot is very small, so if you are traveling in the high season or on the weekend, plan to arrive early to secure a spot.
Once parked, you’ll need to walk onto Mantas Beach and cross the rocky area heading south in order to reach Playa Blanca.
Things to Do at Playa Blanca, Costa Rica
Snorkeling on the coral reef is one of the best things to do at Playa Blanca, Costa Rica. Grab a mask and snorkel and dunk your head underwater to view all kinds of colourful fish, coral, and rock formations.
Although not the most popular surfing beach in Costa Rica, Playa Blanca is a great place for beginners to try riding the small, calm waves. When you feel a bit more confident, you can try surfing at other nearby spots, like Jaco Beach.
Relax on the Beach and Have a Picnic
There aren’t many places to buy lunch or snacks near Playa Blanca, Puntarenas, so it’s smart to bring your own food and drinks for your day at the beach. This makes for a great picnic under the palm trees.
Visit Mantas Beach
The beach directly next to Playa Blanca is Playa Mantas. It’s just as beautiful but even less popular. During low tide, it’s easy to walk between the two beaches on a flat, rocky area. Take a walk along Manta Beach and discover the other side of the cove.
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Explore the Pura Vida Gardens and Waterfall
Half an hour to the northeast, the Pura Vida Gardens are full of natural wonders for visitors to enjoy. Here, you’ll see some rare and stunning plant species that make a rainbow of colour when they’re in bloom. You can take some lovely nature walks and easy hikes to enjoy the flowers, or discover the gorgeous waterfall.
Check out Jaco Beach
About a 15-minute drive to the south, you’ll find the busy town of Jaco, known for its great surfing waves and energetic nightlife. Drive down for the day to explore what makes Jaco one of the hottest destinations in Costa Rica. Enjoy the beach, but prepare for lots of shop, lots of bars, some strip joints and lots of shops carrying the same type of souvenirs and clothing sold all across the country.
Jaco is not our cup of tea, but many visitors love its energy and vibrant nightlife.
Playa Blanca Amenities
There isn’t a lot of tourist infrastructure near Playa Blanca, Costa Rica, which is why it is more popular with locals than with tourists.
If you plan to stay for more than one day at the beach, you can book a room in the Hotel Punta Leona, which is the only main hotel in the area. If this bigger, resort-style accommodation isn’t what you’re looking for, there are also apartments as well as bed and breakfasts nearby.
If you’re looking for a sit-down dinner, you won’t have very many choices, but the ones that do exist are quite good. Try eating at one of the six restaurants inside the Hotel Punta Leona or at the Playa Blanca Restaurante right on the beach.
When hitting the beach in Costa Rica, it really is impossible to choose a bad spot. Still, Playa Blanca, Punta Leona is something special. It feels very local and undiscovered, which is its main appeal. If you’re visiting this beach, you won’t be disappointed.