Laidback Life in the Quiet Beach Communities of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific

Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and prime territory for expats as well. It has some of the most frequented resort towns.

But that doesn’t mean the whole region is packed with people. Even the resort areas like Jaco and Manuel Antonio are tiny compared to a place like Cancún. Yes, they do draw a crowd. But you’ll never search for a place to set down your towel on the sand or struggle to find a seat at a restaurant.

Even better, if you really want peace and quiet, there are several beach communities in mostly residential areas on this stretch of coast that go unnoticed by most visitors and attract in-the-know expats. Picture homes set in the jungle, where you can walk to the beach and to a few restaurants and beach bars patronized by locals. It’s tranquil small-town life by the sea. Long walks on miles of virtually empty beaches, a small circle of friends who gather for sunset cocktails, and plenty of time to relax on your terrace enjoying the tropical weather.

There are three communities in particular you should take a closer look at if this lifestyle appeals to you: Playa Hermosa, Esterillos, and Playa Bejuco.

Playa Hermosa is just a 10-minute drive south of Jaco. A smattering of cafes, no-frills restaurants, and beach bars line the coast road. There are some small boutique hotels, so tourist traffic is limited. It is a popular spot with surfers because of the world-class break, and other folks who like to live in a laidback beach town.

Here you can live within a stones-throw of the water very affordably. A walk-to-the-beach two-bedroom villa, in a small gated community with a pool, is available for $92,000.

Want something with an ocean view? A two-bedroom beach house with front porch, sold fully furnished, is listed at $189,000. Hermosa is one of the few areas in Costa Rica where titled land is available on the beach.

Esterillos is split into three sections: Este (east), Centro (center), and Oeste (west). But’s it’s really just the same miles-long beach. There are a few small gated communities, as well as individual homes within walking distance of or on the water. There are also homes on the hills set back from the water, that offer panoramic views of the forest and ocean beyond.

A few restaurants are spread out among the community, and small grocery stores. Though it can get carloads of Costa Rican visitors on the weekends, on my most recent visit there I strolled miles along the beach on a weekday morning and saw one guy walking his dog, some fisherman fixing nets, and a few kids playing soccer.

In Esterillos Oeste, just a few blocks from the beach and near charming local restaurants, is a two-bedroom home in a gated community with pool. It has a vaulted ceilings and large terrace for entertaining outdoors. The price is $135,000. A recently renovated beachfront home nearby, two bedrooms, is listed at $198,000.

The farthest south of the three, Playa Bejuco, has two main gated communities popular with expats—with a good portion of the property rented out as vacation rentals. That, aside from a new small condo development, and a small hotel are all that’s there. Palm trees line the shore—it feels very natural and low-key. Bejuco is a Blue Flag beach, which means it’s been designated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) as pristine and pollution free.

Like Esterillos you’ll usually have the whole beach mostly to yourself. Despite the low numbers of people, you won’t lack for a social life. The community here is close-knit, with regular parties, barbecues, and other gatherings. And my contacts there tell me that everybody is very helpful. If your car breaks down, for example, help is a quick phone call away.

In one of those gated communities is a modern three-bedroom home, with the beach, as well as community pool, a quick walk away. Asking price is $219,000. In the same neighborhood is another three-bedroom for $249,000.

Some of these communities were once traditional fishing villages…and some of the locals still go out each morning for the daily catch, albeit in smaller numbers. And now they are home to locals, as well as a small but tight-knit group of U.S., Canadian, and European expats…Latin Americans too.

It’s an almost rural existence. Yet, bigger towns are close by. La Costanera, Costa Rica’s two-lane Pacific coast highway, provides access up and down the coast. (Don’t worry—you are far enough off the road to not be bothered by noise.)

The town of Jaco, which has gyms, yoga studios, beach bars, electronics stores, hardware and home furnishing stores, English-language churches, medical clinics, and other amenities, is just minutes down the road.

And Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, with its international airport and other big city services, is just a 90-minute drive on the modern highway. You really can have the best of both worlds here on the central Pacific coast.

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