The first trip we took to the beach after our arrival in Costa Rica was a day trip to Punta Leona, a resort located on the western coast of the mainland of Costa Rica and we have been several times since, as it is a fast and easy drive to get there. But Punta Leona is no all- inclusive resort free of bugs and full of gringos looking for the Disney version of the tropical paradise pictured in Costa Rica tour books. It offers instead a comfortable, lush environment. Comfortable because it has amenities such as showers, toilets, bars and restaurants as well as pools and a playground. Lush because to get to any of those amenities you drive for about 15 minutes through (lowland?) rainforest in which scarlet macaws, sloths, white-faced cappuccin monkeys and coatis make their home. You get a sense that this is a place in which you are visiting the animals in their natural surroundings and you are a welcome guest.
There are two beaches at Punta Leona: Playa Blanca and Playa Mantas. We typically start our day at Playa Blanca. If you are there on the weekend, the beachside bar will most likely be open, and possibly even the juice bar. The showers are rudimentary, though welcome. They also have a toilet and changing rooms at Playa Blanca.
Our first time we brought grapes with us, and were surprised to see monkeys coming closer and closer to us, for great pictures, we thought! Ha! The monkeys there are as smart as the raccoons at Manuel Antonio and they know that if it’s in a ziplock bag, it’s tasty. Perhaps they also know to hone in on anyone who is pointing a camera in their direction.
Our most recent trip we decided to bring the hammock with us, which, along with a big sarong are the perfect accompaniments to a trip to nearly every beach in Costa Rica.
There are plenty of picnic tables and grills at Playa Blanca, and most people arrive with coolers of foodstuffs. We generally bring enough for lunch and snacks.
Playa Blanca is sometimes good for snorkeling, sometimes good with boogie boarding and most times great for splashing in the waves. Every time we had been prior to our last trip we could really get out into the cove and swim together. This last time there were rip currents and big waves, so we instead spent our time building sand castles, watching pelicans and exploring the rocks and tide pools.
At the far end of the beach is a path that connects Playa Blanca and Playa Mantas and is accessible at low tide. I think you can even rent paddleboat or kayaks from the lifeguard station. Which is another luxury— they have lifeguards!
After lunch, and when we’ve all had our fill of beach time we drive to the pool area. Adjacent to the pools are the supermercado, a shady playground, a restaurant and bar, volleyball fields, foosball and ping-pong tables and Playa Mantas.
We generally rinse off while at Playa Blanca, but when we get over to the pool area we might change into a swimsuit that isn’t infused with sand or do a more thorough rinsing before going into the pools. The pool area has 4 depths of pools, perfect for every age kid or adult. Helen practically learned to swim at one of the pools here– a perfect depth for the preschool set.
There is usually music and tico families playing. The result is a delightful way to spend the afternoon. The macaws are visible just overhead of the pool and you can watch them fly between the almond trees.
And, if you want to do more beach playing, seashell searching, rock climbing or sea swimming, Playa Mantas is visible from the pool area.
Then, if you get hungry you can grab some nachos or a pizza from the bar.
We do another shower before changing into comfy clothes for the drive home. Which can be a long one if it’s Sunday, especially during January, when the schools are out and families are vacationing.
The drive to Punta Leona offers two other popular sites: the Tarcoles river, which is full of crocodiles you can gaze on from above. I’m not sure what’s more frightening– the fact that if you drop your little one they are likely to be eaten, or the fact that you are on a tiny strip of concrete along a busy highway. The adrenaline rush makes it worth doing at least once, or once with every guest.
Carara park is very near Punta Leona, and has a good trail and lots of visible wildlife. While hiking there we saw over 42 iguanas (kids were making a game of counting them), plenty of butterflies, the macaws that you will also see at Punta Leona and most notably… a fer-de-lance snake, which Thomas very nearly stepped on. When we were almost back out of the park, the ranger stopped and asked us if we had seen the snake. Apparently, someone ahead of us on the trail had alerted the ranger, and he got it off the trail. He also video-taped it crawling back into the forest, and it was over 20 feet long. We counted our blessings that night!
Finally, I leave you with a video clip of the peacefulness of the ocean waves. Enjoy!