Last updated on January 16th, 2021 at 09:36 pm EST
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Playa Nacascolo photos
Playa Nacascolo fast facts
- English name: Nacascolo Beach
- Distance from San Jose: 250km (approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes)
- Closest Town: Playas del Coco (small town), Liberia (large town)
- Beach Status: Public beach; land access to the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula is permitted via a free shuttle service operated by the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (see the “How to access the exclusive Playa Nacascolo” section below for details)
Playa Nacascolo beach details
Sand, shade, scenery, and unique features
Playa Nacascolo is full of grainy, golden sand that glows when the sun hits it. The beach is framed by vegetation-covered headlands that appear bright green and lush for much of the year (typically between May and December). Coatis and monkeys make regular appearances.
Crowds and noise
Playa Nacascolo is the most visited beach on the Papagayo Peninsula, so crowds and noise can be an issue, especially on weekends and holidays.
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 Nacascolo participated in the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica and received a 1-star rating. You may see the achievement displayed at Playa Nacascolo on a sign that reads Playa Galardonada (Award-Winning Beach).
Development at Playa Nacascolo
Hotels, restaurants, tours, bathrooms, etc.
The north section of Playa Nacascolo has a beach house owned by the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo. The rest of Playa Nacascolo is void of commercial development, apart from the construction of a boardwalk that provides public access to the beach from the shuttle stop. Bathrooms are located at the shuttle stop.
Playa Nacascolo safety
Swimming and water safety
Swimming is allowed at Playa Nacascolo and is calm in the tranquil Bahia Culebra (Culebra Bay). 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’ll be leaving one in the Papagayo Peninsula’s public parking lot. If you’re staying at a resort or residence on the Papagayo Peninsula, do not visit the beach before sunrise or after sunset (beach access before sunrise and after sunset is not available to day visitors).
Beware of hungry wildlife
Bands (groups) of coatis are mainstays at Playa Nacascolo. Though coatis are typically harmless and will walk away from you if you approach them, like white-faced capuchin monkeys (which can also be spotted around Playa Nacascolo), they forage for food and aren’t shy about taking what they find. Be forewarned: coatis will root through your personal belongings, tear open food containers, and make off with your snacks if you leave them unattended. If you plan to swim or lay in the bay, hang or tether your belongings to a tree branch at the back of the beach to keep them from disappearing while you’re out of arm’s reach.
Playa Nacascolo location and road conditions
Access to Playa Nacascolo and 4×4 requirement
Playa Nacascolo is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, on the east side of the Papagayo Peninsula. It sits north of the communities of Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama and faces Bahia Culebra, the bay that divides the Papagayo Peninsula from the mainland.
Playa Nacascolo is the easiest beach to access on Costa Rica’s exclusive Peninsula de Papagayo (Papagayo Peninsula). The paved Road 253 leads directly to the peninsula; a 4×4 vehicle is not required. Access to Playa Nacascolo from the peninsula is provided by a public shuttle service.
Playa Nacascolo beach shuttle
The Papagayo Peninsula is one of the most exclusive places you can visit in Costa Rica. Home to multi-million-dollar residences and world-renowned resorts (including the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo and the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo among others), most of the peninsula’s land is private property. Only one road, Road 253, permits access to the peninsula.
If you plan to stay overnight at one of the peninsula’s residences or resorts, you can visit Playa Nacascolo without regulation. If you’re like most Playa Nacascolo day visitors, however, and you merely want to visit the beach for a few hours as part of a day trip made from another destination in Guanacaste (Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast), you’ll need to use the free shuttle service (operated by the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo) that transports day visitors to and from the beach. The beach shuttle service is available to the public (use is not restricted to Four Seasons Resort guests) and does not require prior reservation.
Day visitors are permitted entry into the Papagayo Peninsula as far as the roundabout that sits roughly 6.5 kilometers back from the peninsula’s tip. At the roundabout you’ll find a large parking lot with free parking. Shuttles to Playa Nacascolo run on the regular (typically every 15-20 minutes between 8am and 5pm daily) and depart from a stop on the north side of the parking lot. Though the shuttle service is free, it’s kind to tip the driver for the ride.
Following a 10-minute ride along the beautiful Papagayo Peninsula, you’ll arrive at a shuttle stop near Playa Nacascolo that offers bathrooms and a small snack bar. The snack bar isn’t always open, so it’s best to bring your own snacks and beverages to the beach if you’ll want them during the day. From the bathrooms and the snack bar, a flat boardwalk leads a 5-minute, easy, downhill walk to Playa Nacascolo.
Map of Playa Nacascolo Costa Rica
Parking at Playa Nacascolo
It is not possible to drive directly to Playa Nacascolo (see the “How to access the exclusive Playa Nacascolo” section above for details). There is official parking in the lot at the roundabout which marks the end of Road 253. The lot is large enough to accommodate many vehicles.
Best reason(s) to visit Playa Nacascolo
Playa Nacascolo is best enjoyed by guests of accommodations located on the Papagayo Peninsula. If you do not intend to stay at a property on the peninsula but wish to explore one of the beaches that edge the landmass regardless, you can accomplish this on a day trip from whichever destination you plan to station yourself at along the northern Pacific coast.
Beach hopping from Playa Nacascolo
Recommended day trips from Playa Nacascolo include visits to Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal, or Playa Matapalo. If you’d prefer to stick to the Papagayo Peninsula, check out Playa Virador and/or Playa Prieta.
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