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Playa Manzanillo, North Puntarenas

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Surfers driving across a river near Playa Manzanillo

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Visitors to Costa Rica can get away from the hustle and bustle of city life with a trip to Playa Manzanillo, a secluded beach on the Nicoya Peninsula in the Pacific province of northern Puntarenas.

Getting to Playa Manzanillo

Playa Manzanillo is just a 15 minute drive north from Santa Teresa, one of the most active destinations on the Nicoya Peninsula, but its tranquil atmosphere and lack of development make it feel as if it were on a different planet. To get to Playa Mazanillo, tourists can either drive along Highway 160 or take a ferry from Puntarenas to either Paquera or Playa Naranjo, two destinations just a short distance away from Manzanillo. Additionally, travelers can also reach the beach by taking a flight from San Jose or Liberia to the nearby town of Tambor.

The Beach

The main draw at Manzanillo is the beach itself. The serene stretch of sand has been largely ignored by major developers, so visitors to the destination can enjoy the sound of the waves and the swaying of the palm trees in peace. Manzanillo is an ideal destination for families to go swimming, as a large rock jetty just off the coast prevents any large waves from making it to the shore. Swimming is best at high tide, as the rocky underwater landscape has the potential to make waders uncomfortable when the tide is low. Although these stones may make swimming difficult at times, they provide an excellent home for coral and other marine fauna. Travelers interested in seeing these reef-dwelling creatures will love going snorkeling in the lagoon between the beach and the jetty.

Hike Along the Beach

Mazanillo is also an ideal starting point for tourists interested in walking along the coast. Playa Coyote is a popular destination for these walkers, and those who take the four-hour hike to this isolated attraction enjoy experiencing Costa Rica's gorgeous Pacific coast in its untouched, natural state. One event that draws many people to Manzanillo is the annual sand castle contest, which takes place every March. Teams spend the afternoon making sand art, and when the tide washes their creations away, everyone celebrates with beer and music long after the sun goes down.

Small Tico Town

When visitors to Playa Manzanillo are tired of swimming, snorkeling and exploring the beach, they can head to the nearby town of the same name. The small hamlet of Manzanillo offers travelers a glimpse into authentic small-town life in Costa Rica, allowing them to grab a drink alongside native Ticos in one of its few restaurants and cantinas.