Playa Flamingo and Vicinity
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South of Playas del Coco are Playa Flamingo and a series of contiguous beaches accessed by paved road via the communities of Portegolpe and Huacas (reached from Hwy. 21 via Belén, 8 km south of Filadelfia).
At Huacas, you turn right for Playas Brasilito, Flamingo, Potrero, Penca, and Azúcar, where the road ends. If you don’t turn right, the road keeps straight for Matapalo, where you turn right for Playa Conchal, and left for Playa Grande.
The Monkey Trail
A more direct route from Playas del Coco to Playa Flamingo is via a dirt road—the Monkey Trail—that begins three kilometers east of Playas del Coco and one kilometer west of Sardinal and leads to Potrero. It can be rough going in wet season.
About nine kilometers southwest from Sardinal is the Congo Trail Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2666-4422, congotrail [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), where for $35 you can whiz between treetop platforms on a zip line, granting a monkey’s-eye view with the howler (congo) monkeys. It also has a butterfly farm, serpentarium, monkeys, and an aviary.
When passing through Portegolpe, consider a quick stop at the Monkey Park (tel. 506/2653-8060, www.monkey-park.org, 8 A.M.–4 P.M. Tues.–Sun., $5), an animal rescue center that takes in injured and confiscated monkeys that cannot survive in the wild. You’ll also see peccaries, coati, deer, caimans, and lots of birds. It has a breeding program and accepts visitors for a one-hour guided tour ($15).
Nearby, Cartagena Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2675-0801, www.canopytourcartagena.com, $35 pp) lets you whiz through the treetops. It has tours at 8 A.M., 11 A.M., 1 P.M., and 3 P.M. daily by reservation. Free hotel transfers are offered.
Horse-riding anyone? Head to Haras del Mar Equestrian Center (tel. 506/2697-1722, www.lomasdelmar.com), midway along the Monkey Trail.
The Spanish RUI hotel group plans to build three luxury hotels (totaling 2,000 rooms) at Playa Matapalo; the first of the three opened in 2010. The 700-room Hotel Riu Guanacaste (tel. 506/2681-2350, www.riu.com, from $99 d) is a six-story behemoth that is Costa Rica’s largest hotel to date. This all-inclusive resort is fronted by a large free-form pool set in vast lawns that lead to the golden-sand beach. It has all the amenities one could wish for, including a casino, spa, and conference center.
The following beaches are listed in north to south order, assuming access via the Monkey Trail.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition