For the past 30 years, the Costa Rican tourism industry has been booming. Visitors from around the globe come to see the country’s pristine rainforests, active volcanoes, and stunning beaches. As more people have visited Costa Rica, some of the untouched beauty that once attracted tourists has become crowded and polluted. Fortunately, Costa Rica is also known for its dedication to preserving natural resources, and the Costa Rican government and local businesses have taken steps to limit the effect of tourism on the environment. Still, some parts of Costa Rica have done better than others.
Along the popular North Pacific Coast, the beach community of Tamarindo has been overdeveloped and crime rates (which are not as high as those in many US cities) have increased, but just six miles to the South of Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas has escaped the same fate offering white sand beaches, brilliant blue water, and a horizon that seems endless.
Known in the surfing community as “Little Hawaii,” the waves at Playa Avellanas can reach up to 18 feet making it an experienced surfers’ paradise. Beginning surfers often find the waves more than they can comfortably handle. Visitors will find the beach filled with more locals than tourists as well as plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the sun.
A short stroll down the beach is Lola’s, a restaurant named for its former mascot, a large pig. Although the original Lola has passed on (restaurant owners are in the process of finding another one), the mouthwatering food and unobstructed view of the ocean remain the same. Restaurant goers sit on the beach at wooden tables in chairs shaped to resemble surfboards and dine on a heavily vegetarian menu that features soy burgers and Ahi tuna. The restaurant’s only drawback is that it closes at dark. Lola’s is a great place to enjoy a beer while watching the sunset, but you’ll need to make other plans for dinner.
Where to Stay
Hotel Mauna Loa features private cabins and an amazing outdoor Italian restaurant. The beach is only a short walk from the hotel. Rates start at $60.
Cabinas Los Olas is located on a Mangrove Reserve and also features private cabins. Rates start at $70.
Hacienda Pinilla is a more traditional hotel located a bit further from the beach. Rates start at $140.
The closest airport to Playa Avellanas is located in Liberia. This airport is a good option if you’re planning to stay primarily on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
There is no public transportation to Playa Avellanas. Rental cars are widely available in Costa Rica, but be forewarned that the roads surrounding Playa Avellanas are unpaved, and there are few street signs in Costa Rica. Taxis are also a good option.
Costa Rica Travel Tips
Costa Rica’s currency is the colon (pronounced like “cologne”). Many Costa Rican businesses catering to tourists prefer the American dollar, so it’s a good idea to carry a combination of both.
Many Costa Ricans speak English, but it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit of Spanish. I recommend carrying a pocket Spanish-English dictionary.
Costa Rica charges a $26 (USD) exit tax per person. It’s best to have the fee available in cash.