Last updated on January 16th, 2021 at 09:36 pm EST
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Playa Manzanillo photos
Note: The Playa Manzanillo referred to in this article is actually named Playa Grande. We opted to use the beach’s nickname, Playa Manzanillo (named after the southern Caribbean beach community of Manzanillo that backs the beach) in the article below to avoid confusion with another (more popular) Playa Grande in Costa Rica, the Playa Grande that fronts the Las Baulas National Marine Park in Guanacaste, along the northern Pacific coast.
Playa Manzanillo fast facts
- English name: Manzanillo Beach
- Distance from San Jose: 230km (approximately 4 hours and 5 minutes)
- Closest Town: Manzanillo (small town), Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (large town)
- Beach Status: Public beach
Playa Manzanillo beach details
Sand, shade, scenery, and unique features
Playa Manzanillo is a long beach that has compact, golden sand often covered with debris (the east section of the beach has the softest and prettiest sand). Offshore, bright-blue water gleams in the sunlight and is turquoise in places. Tall palm trees tower overhead.
Crowds and noise
Playa Manzanillo receives a steady number of visitors, mainly because it’s the main beach that fronts the village of Manzanillo. In the middle of the village, the central section of the beach is often the gathering place of local beach-goers, some of whom engage in games of fútbol (soccer) on the sand. The east section of the beach is the busiest section and can be noisy thanks to passing cars and people coming and going from the nearby Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo (Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge). Separated from the main road by dense vegetation, the west section of the beach is the quietest and most remote-feeling (see the “Playa Manzanillo location” section below for details).
Cleanliness and Ecological Blue Flag rating
Costa Rica’s Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag Program) promotes sustainability and public health (to learn more about the program, see our related blog post: Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag Program: Safe and Sustainable Beaches). Every year, several beaches in Costa Rica compete for top honors, which are bestowed annually according to strict criteria that span the topics of water quality, beach sanitation and garbage disposal, the treatment of industrial waste, beach security, and environmental education. Beaches that participate in the program and meet 90-100% of the eligibility criteria achieve a 1-star rating. Additional efforts invite beaches to achieve 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star ratings (5 stars is the highest rating).
In 2019, Playa Manzanillo participated in the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica and received a 3-star rating. You may see the achievement displayed at Playa Manzanillo on a sign that reads Playa Galardonada (Award-Winning Beach).
Development at Playa Manzanillo
Hotels, restaurants, tours, bathrooms, etc.
The village of Manzanillo provides an assortment of establishments, mainly laidback restaurants. Most line the south side of the main road (Road 256), opposite the beach.
Playa Manzanillo safety
Swimming and water safety
Swimming is allowed at Playa Manzanillo. However, rough ocean conditions can make swimming dangerous at times, especially around the east end of the beach which nears the entrance to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. As always, exercise caution in and around the water, especially if you plan to visit with children or inexperienced swimmers.
Never bring items of value with you to the beach and always keep an eye on your belongings. Remember to lock your rental car if you have one. Do not visit the beach before sunrise or after sunset.
Playa Manzanillo location and road conditions
Access to Playa Manzanillo and 4×4 requirement
Playa Manzanillo is located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It sits just east of Playa Punta Uva and Playa Arrecife, fronting the beach town of Manzanillo. Playa Manzanillo is an approximate 13-kilometer, 20-minute drive southeast from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on Road 256. A 4×4 vehicle is not required to reach Playa Manzanillo.
Playa Manzanillo is a very long beach and there are several areas where you can enjoy it. The eastern stretch of Playa Manzanillo is located near the entrance to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, at the east end of the community of Manzanillo. It is accessible by car or on foot. The central stretch of Playa Manzanillo is located around the entrance to the community of Manzanillo and Manzanillo center. It too is accessible by car or on foot. The western stretch of Playa Manzanillo is accessible only on foot. You can reach the west end of the beach by departing from the central section of the beach and walking west up the coast.
Map of Playa Manzanillo Costa Rica
Parking at Playa Manzanillo
There is no official parking at Playa Manzanillo, though you can park in the spaces you’ll find at the east end of the beach near the entrance to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Alternatively, if you wish to visit the central section of Playa Manzanillo, you can park along the street (Road 256) near the big, colorful MANZANILLO sign. Situated at a curve in the road, the sign marks the entrance to (and exit from) Manzanillo center.
Best reason(s) to visit Playa Manzanillo
Playa Manzanillo isn’t worth traveling to purely to experience the beach. However, if you plan to tour the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge and you wish to take a quick dip in the Caribbean Sea while in the area, Playa Manzanillo’s close proximity to the refuge is most convenient.
Beach hopping from Playa Manzanillo (or alternative beach options in the region)
Recommended day trips from Playa Manzanillo include visits to Playa Arrecife, Playa Punta Uva, Playa Chiquita, Playa Cocles, or Playa Puerto Viejo.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been to Playa Manzanillo? What did you think?
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