A Laidback Community in the Heart of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific

Esterillos is a tranquil alternative to tourist favorite Jacó—some days you can have the whole beach to yourself. ©iStock/titoslack

On a quiet stretch of Costa Rica‘s Central Pacific you’ll find a low-key beach community. It’s been a fishing village for decades—the fishermen still go out every morning.

It’s called Esterillos and if you’re looking for laidback life with a rural feel, it could be your perfect spot. A small number of expats have discovered the area but it’s still unknown to most.

It’s a great alternative to busier and more developed tourist favorite Jacó, 20 minutes to the north. Jaco is the right choice for some people—you can buy anything you need in a multitude of stores, and there’s a movie theater, hopping nightlife, and plenty of restaurants, as well as top-notch medical care. But for those who’d rather string up a hammock between two palms and hear only the crashing waves, Esterillos is worth a look. Plus, you can always be “in town” very quickly if you need something.

I visited a few weekends ago on a spur of the moment trip. It’s a smooth ride thanks to the modern highways all the way down to the coast. Still, blink and you might miss the turn-off for this sunny destination. (It’s actually made up of three sections: Esterillos Este, Esterillos Centro, and Esterillos Oeste.)

It’s a small place, with homes and businesses set in the jungle, with a palm tree-lined beachfront and not much development to speak of—certainly not condo blocks or large resort hotels.

 

Buy a Two-Bedroom Home for $135,000

 

The expats who live here have beachfront homes set back from the sand in the shade of trees or within a quick walk from the shore. It’s reasonable to buy here. A two-bedroom home in a gated community is available for $135,000, and you can walk to the beach. A large 3,000-square-foot estate home in the jungle—with the beach still a quick walk away—is listed for $249,000, fully furnished. There are plenty of deals like this in this area.

Some tourists make it here—a very small number—and patronize the small hotels in town. My family and I paid just $60 for a suite (with a breakfast of fresh fruit and top-notch Costa Rican coffee included) at one place right on the water.

You definitely won’t have to fight for a spot on the sand or a seat in the few open-air restaurants lining the shore. Many days you’ll have the beach almost all to yourself.

Our favorite time was first thing in the morning. We’re early risers, so it was a thrill to watch a new day dawn as just about the only people on the beach. An expat walking his dog nodded and gave a hearty good morning as my kids splashed in the water. A few well-tanned surfers scanned the swells. And fisherman readied their boats to head out for mahi mahi, snapper, and yellowfin tuna.

The sunlight glimmered on the sea. Frigate birds glided far overhead. Scarlet macaws—with vivid red, blue, yellow, and green feathers—announced themselves with loud squawks as they glided from tree to tree, often in pairs. They’re an endangered species resident on this coast; it’s a lucky treat to see them.

It was a great place to visit for a weekend…but if you like laidback living by the beach, it could be the perfect place to make your home.

We’ll no doubt be back soon.

 

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