Playa los Cocos  gives way at its north end to Aticama village (a few stores and beachside palapas) where, northbound, the shoreline road climbs a jungle headland and swoops down to the bay once again. Past a marine sciences school, the beach, a long, palm-studded sand-ribbon washed by gentle rollers and dotted with beachfront palapa restaurants and downscale vacation homes, curves gently northwest to the super-wide and shallow giant kiddie-pool of Playa Matanchén. A left crossroad (which marks the center of Matanchén village, pop. about 300) leads past a lineup of beachfront palapa restaurants to Playa las Islitas, at the bay’s sheltered north cove.
The beaches of Matanchén and Las Islitas are an inseparable pair. Las Islitas is dotted by little outcroppings topped by miniature jungles of swaying palms and spreading trees. One of these is home for a colony of surfers waiting for the Big Wave, the Holy Grail of surfing. The Big Wave is one of the occasional gigantic 20-foot breakers that rise off Playa las Islitas and carry surfers as much as a mile and a quarter (an official Guinness world record) to the soft sand of Playa Matanchén.
For camping, the intimate, protected curves of sand around Playa las Islitas are inviting. Check with local folks to see if it’s okay to camp. Although few facilities exist (save a few surfing-season food palapas), the beachcombing, swimming, fishing from the rocks, shell-collecting, and surfing are often good even without the Big Wave. The water, however, isn’t clear enough for good snorkeling. Campers should be prepared with plenty of strong insect repellent.
During surfing season (Aug.–Feb.) the Team Banana and other palapa-shops open up at Matanchén village and Las Islitas to rent surfboards and sell what each of them claims to be the “world’s original banana bread.”