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Playa Conchal is probably one of the most unique and beautiful beaches in the world. About a mile in length and contained between two rocky points dividing Brasilito Beach to the north and Playa Zapotillal to the south, this beach has beautiful white sand and crystal clear, turquoise Caribbean like water.
What makes Playa Conchal unique is that the sand is made up of crushed and smoothly ground conch shells, thus the name Conchal. The northernmost portion of the beach, adjacent to the rocky point between Brasilito and Conchal, has the most and largest shells, smallest surf and clearest water. It is my absolute favorite location. It is also very wind protected by the point, especially when the strong Papagayo winds that blow from January to March.
The north end has the calmest water but the most rocks. However, this creates small protected pools of sand that are perfect for small children, especially at low tide. While often times the water is calm, there are times that the surf can get rough making the proximity to the rocks dangerous, especially for children.
Depending on the tides, the entrance to the water can be a little steep but it levels out quickly.
The further you go south, the surf can get larger but there are also less rocks. When there are larger waves, they are shore breakers so never turn your back on the waves, even if only standing in a few feet of water.
There are no public restrooms at Playa Conchal. Sometimes if you tip the security at the Westin's beach entrance, they will let you access the restroom right next to the security station.
On the northern end of the beach under the shade of the trees, street vendors set up stands where you can purchase bottled water, beer and other drinks for a decent price. There are a few vendors selling things plus you can get a massage right on the beach for between $20 and $40 USD. This is also a popular beach to rent jet skis.
There are also large canopies with chairs that can be rented for the entire day for between $15-20 USD.
Some people will say that the vendors are annoying and constantly bugging you to buy something. Others are glad they are there for that ice cold beer that you forgot to bring. My experience has been that new arrivals to the beach will get approached. After a few polite "no gracias", they will usually leave you alone.
Avoid weekends, especially Sundays, the two weeks around Christmas, the first week of January, Semana Santa (the week before Easter) and the first two weeks of July as crowds from San Jose Costa Rica come up to this area. It is also a popular time for tourists to visit, and given the proximity of the beautiful Westin Playa Conchal Resort, this beach can get very crowded.
Prime or "high season" is December through the end of April. Days are generally sunny, hot and few, if any, clouds. In May the rains arrive but mornings are usually sunny with rain in the afternoon and evening, This continues in June and July. The rains increase in August and often times start in the morning. September and October are generally very rainy all day and night long but there still are a few beautiful days during this period. With regards to Playa Conchal, it is best to visit in the morning during the months of May through August and anytime of the day between December and April. September and October are hit and miss with the water becoming discolored, cloudy or totally muddy depending on how hard it is raining and how much water is flowing from the nearby rivers.
Playa Conchal is about a 30 minute drive from Tamarindo, 45 minutes from Playa Coco, 60 minutes from Liberia and the International Airport, 3-4 hours from the Central Valley and 4-5 hours from San Jose.
The beach is located in the town of Brasilito and generally is accessed is from the north or south via highway 180. The roads near Playa Conchal are two lanes and are all paved.
Alternately you can drive to a beach called Puerto Viejo that technically joins Playa Conchal from the south and forms one very large beach. To get to Playa Conchal, you will have to walk to the north for about a mile.
There are not any signs along the road directing you to Playa Conchal due to the fact that the Westin Playa Conchal blocks direct access to the beach from the road.
In Brasiito, there is a small parking lot next to the beach and adjacent to an intersection that has a hard right turn. The parking lot is across from the restaurant, Patagonia del Mar. The parking lot has an attendant that charges between 2000 and 3000 colones ($3-5 USD). He is usually there all day and watches over the parking lot but I wouldn't classify him as Security. Even with an attendant present, lock your car and don't leave anything inside that is visible. This really isn't any different than any other place in the world. Warning ! - don't park under the few tall trees that have coconuts. They are bad for the windshield.
From the parking lot in Brasilito, walk on the beach for about a half mile to the south towards the rocky point that separates Brasilito Beach and Playa Conchal.
The walk along the beach is smooth, level and there are few rocks. The walk is easier at low tide. During the highest tides of the year (check out tides here), the trip maybe a little more difficult as the water line can be up against some of the vegetation. You don't need sandals or shoes for most of the walk, however as you get close to the end of the trail, some type of shoe is recommended due to the small rocks and gravel that go up a small hill. Water shoes would be perfect.
Once you get close, the trail goes up slightly to the left of the point, through some trees and then down into the northern portion of Playa Conchal. The trail is not steep, long or a difficult climb but does have some loose, small rocks and gravel that you need to be aware of so that you don't slip.
Just before the top of the small hill, you will see several yellow road block posts. These were installed to prevent people from driving onto the beach. A few more feet and you have arrived.
If you are staying at the Westin, the access is very close, just outside of the main pool area. Exit and turn left get to the northern portion of the beach.
From the beach at Puerto Viejo, just start walking north until you reach the next rocky point. That will be the northern end of Playa Conchal.