The Guanacaste region of Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and some of the most popular travel destinations in Costa Rica.
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Tamarindo is the largest beach town in the region – and undoubtedly the most popular among tourists. This can make for crowded shores, overpriced restaurants and bustling hotels and resorts.
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If you’re looking to experience the marvel of Guanacaste without the crowds, Playa Negra (and the town of Los Pargos) is the perfect destination for you! Playa Negra is a neighbourhood located just a few kilometres away from where we usually stay when we visit Costa Rica and it’s a community that we have gotten to know well over the last few years in Costa Rica.
Playa Negra is located just 23km (14 miles) south of Tamarindo and is what we like to call the up-and-coming Nosara.
About the Neighbourhood
Much like the neighbouring beach town of Playa Avellanas, Playa Negra is a quiet, quaint beach town where you can get a real taste for the Costa Rican lifestyle.
This small town can only be accessed via dirt roads. A regular car will work just fine in the dry season, but during the rainy season, we do recommend renting an SUV to get around the area, as the road here can get pretty bumpy.
Prepare for a nice Costa Rican massage along the way, as these bumpy roads are what keeps the crowds away from Playa Negra, leaving this area only the most adventurous travelers looking to get off the beaten path in Costa Rica.
What to do in Playa Negra
Catch a Wave
Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or your holiday dream is to take your first lesson, Playa Negra is a surfing paradise. (So much so that it was the setting of the movie Endless Summer II!)
The swells are pretty consistent year-round, and the main wave break is world-famous for its right-hand barrel. You can rent a board from Pargos Adventures – the best supplier in the area.
Hang on the Beach
If surfing isn’t your thing, don’t fret! The black sands of Playa Negra are the perfect place for you to grab a towel, lather yourself in sunscreen and just relax.
If you need a break from sunbathing or are getting a bit too hot, head just a few kilometres down the coast to Playa Lagarillo – this beach perfect for swimming!
Find your Zen
The town of Playa Negra is known for its appreciation for health and wellness activities. In fact, many people who visit Playa Negra are doing so as part of a yoga retreat!
One of the best yoga retreats in Costa Rica is hosted by the Peace Retreat center in Playa Negra. Even if you’re not part of one of their retreats, you can pop into their drop-in daily yoga classes for all levels of experience.
Playa Negra Yoga is another awesome option for drop-in classes. They offer barre yoga in their studio in town and vinyasa yoga on Playa Negra beach. They also host their own retreats.
Do Something Adventurous
Once you’ve had a sufficient amount of R&R, why not try some awesome outdoor adventure activities?
Guti Tours – a family-owned local eco-adventure company – has an incredible beach horseback riding tour. The tour takes you along Playa Lagartillo, which is about halfway between Playa Negra and Playa Avellanas.
If you’re interested in water sports, Pargos Adventures offers SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) and kayaking in the Junquillal Estuary, which is just 20 minutes out of town or right on the ocean!
Visit Marino Las Baulas National Park
This national park is about an hour’s drive from this sleepy beach town and would be the perfect day trip for any visiting nature (and turtle) lovers.
Within the park, there are three pristine beaches, a coral reef, mangroves and a leatherback turtle nesting site. You can get a guided tour of the park from a knowledgeable local who will teach you about the local flora and protected sea turtles projects!
What to Eat in Playa Negra
Villa Deevena is our favourite restaurant in Playa Negra. It’s got an extensive menu for any diet and has some of the freshest, most delicious seafood options in town. The chef here is world-famous – he’s even prepared some of his 5-star dishes for US presidents!
Hotel Playa Negra
Hotel Playa Negra is located right on the beach, so you can watch any surfers catching a wave as you eat! They focus on serving local dishes made with local, fresh ingredients.
La Ventana is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant, and has something everyone can enjoy! All of their dishes are organic, and their smoothies are a must-try.
La Vida Buena
La Vida Buena is a locally run restaurant. It has an expansive menu, but their pizza is their most popular. The service here is attentive and friendly, too.
If you’re interested in locally sourced, sustainable coffee, Corazon Cafe, is a must-visit for you. Their house blend – Corazon Coffee – is so good, you’ll probably end up buying beans for the road!
Jalapenos market and eatery is a local gem. They make their tortillas and hot sauce in house, and serve the best burrito in town! We also recommend their smoothies!
Kontiki Pizza’s brick oven pizzas are organic, delicious, and filling. Try their Pizza n’ Love or Margarita Special!
Cafe Playa Negra
Cafe Playa Negra specializes in Peruvian/Costa Rican fusion food, and it’s as delicious as it is intriguing! Don’t miss their fresh baked pastries.
Where to Stay in Playa Negra
Corazon de Los Pargos
Corazon is both a coffee roasting company and a B&B – what more could you want?! They describe themselves as a “rustic surf atmosphere” and are keenly focused on sustainability and minimizing their environmental impact. They only have 3 rooms available, so make sure you book this with plenty of time to spare.
Los Nancites vacation rentals are perfect for those who want their accommodation to have more of a homey feel. Each rental – from the studio apartment to the luxurious villas – includes a kitchen. All rentals are immersed in nature and are optimized for a relaxing and exciting stay. Nancites doubles as a travel agency, so they can help you book any experiences, tours and adventures you’re interested in.
Located within walking distance of Playa Negra itself, Villa Deevena hotel is perfect for a relaxed, serene holiday. Each room is unique and beautiful, they’ve got a pool and restaurant on site, and they can help you book any outdoor activity you’re interested in trying.
Hotel Playa Negra
Hotel Playa Negra is exclusively composed of bungalows – suite options available. These bungalows are located right next to the ocean, have lots of windows and lofted ceilings that combine to create a dreamy, serene accommodation experience. They’ve got a “rancho style” restaurant on site – meaning it’s under a roof but open to the breeze.