Cocalito: Costa Rica’s Pristine Waterfall Beach Gem

Imagine a destination where pristine white sands meet clear emerald waters, where picturesque coves lie waiting to be explored, and where exotic wildlife frolics under the shelter of verdant palm trees. This is not the setting of a fantasy novel but a place that exists in reality – Playa Cocalito, a hidden paradise nestled on the east coast of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Let’s embark on a journey to unfold the wonders of this untouched haven and help you plan an unforgettable adventure to Playa Cocalito.

Cocalito – What to Know

  • Discover Playa Cocalito, Costa Rica’s pristine waterfall beach gem.
  • Experience the unique opportunity of seeing a variety of wildlife species in their natural habitat and enjoy activities such as swimming, sunbathing, surfing and exploring nearby attractions.
  • Prioritize safety by considering tidal conditions when planning your trip. Pack essentials including sunscreen and closed toe shoes for hiking to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Exploring Playa Cocalito: A Hidden Paradise

Aerial view of Playa Cocalito with white sand beach and palm trees

Playa Cocalito, also known as Cocolito Beach, is renowned for its unspoiled beauty, where the vibrant blue of the ocean perfectly contrasts with the sparkling white sand beach. This beautiful beach offers a tranquil escape from the world, devoid of any developments or large crowds, thereby emphasizing its untouched natural beauty at Playa Cocolito. Just a short distance away, you can also find the equally stunning Playa Grande.

Strategically situated on the eastern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Cocalito is 7 kilometers to the south of Tambor and 10 kilometers to the north of Montezuma when traveling by car. This prime location allows for easy access to other beautiful beaches in the area, such as Playa Montezuma, enhancing your Costa Rica adventure.

As you approach Playa Cocalito, anticipate observing pristine coves and beaches surrounded by lush palm trees. Keep an eye out for jungle animals frolicking along the shoreline, adding a dash of excitement to your journey.

Wildlife Encounters

Capuchin monkey in the jungle near Playa Cocalito

Playa Cocalito isn’t only renowned for its stunning beach but also as a sanctuary for wildlife. Visitors can commonly observe a variety of wildlife species such as capuchin monkeys, anteaters, and turtles. The opportunity to see these creatures in their natural habitat adds an extra layer of excitement to the adventure.

While enjoying the wildlife, one must remember:

  • not to intrude their space or feed them
  • to increase the likelihood of sightings, visit habitats where specific animals are known to frequent, ideally in the early morning or late afternoon when many species are most active
  • comfortable hiking boots will also go a long way in helping you navigate the terrain.

Beach Activities

Surfers enjoying the waves at Playa Cocalito

Playa Cocalito offers a variety of beach activities to engage in. Whether you’re a fan of swimming, sunbathing, or surfing, this beach has something for everyone. For the more adventurous, a two-hour hike can be undertaken to explore the nearby El Chorro Waterfall and other attractions.

Surfers can expect significant waves at Playa Cocalito, making it an attractive surfing spot. However, it is crucial to exercise caution as the waves can get turbulent, particularly in January and February, due to the prevailing winds. To find calmer waters, you can walk north along the beach.

The water at Playa Cocalito is perfect for a refreshing dip. The temperature usually fluctuates between 25°C (77°F) and 30°C (86°F), with the highest temperatures occurring around January. Also, equipment rentals for water activities are provided at the beach, offering convenience for visitors to partake in a variety of water sports. Additional options for equipment rentals and tour services are also available in the nearby Montezuma town.

Reaching Playa Cocalito: Transportation Options

Scenic coastal trail leading to Playa Cocalito

Once you’ve decided to visit this hidden gem, the next step is figuring out how to get there. Playa Cocalito can be accessed by various means of transportation. Depending on your sense of adventure and preference, you can choose between hiking, horseback riding tours, or driving.

Whichever method you choose, rest assured, the effort is well worth it.

Hiking Adventure

If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, hiking to Playa Cocalito from Montezuma offers a unique opportunity to experience the stunning coastal scenery and protected natural areas, including the magnificent Cocolito Falls.

The terrain consists of a combination of woodland and beach, featuring a trail that guides hikers from the beach into wooded areas for a portion of the trek, ultimately leading to the magnificent sight of El Chorro Waterfall. The duration of the hike typically exceeds 4 hours, so it’s advisable to plan your return journey well in advance.

Horseback Riding Tours

For those looking for a unique and exciting way to explore the area, horseback riding tours to Playa Cocalito are a fantastic option. Companies like Zuma Tours and Indiana Horse Project offer such tours, providing a chance to experience breathtaking landscapes as you ride along the beaches and trails en route to Playa Cocalito and El Chorro Waterfall.

The duration of a horseback riding tour to Playa Cocalito and El Chorro Waterfall is approximately 1 hour each way. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the area without the exertion of a long hike. However, ensuring the horses are treated humanely and ethically is of utmost importance.

Driving Directions

For those inclined towards driving, the route to Playa Cocalito is quite simple. A 4×4 vehicle is advisable for touring Playa Cocalito and other locations in the Nicoya Peninsula, given the varying road conditions and potential river crossings. The estimated duration for driving from Montezuma to Playa Cocalito is approximately 1 hour.

Landmarks such as El Chorro Waterfall and Cocalito Falls add to the excitement of the journey, making the drive more than just a means to an end. Just follow the signs leading to the waterfall once you reach Hotel Tango Mar and let the adventure unfold.

You can rent a 4 x 4 and pick up at any airport in Costa Rica by using DiscoverCars.

Unveiling Cocalito Falls: A Natural Wonder

Cocalito Falls cascading into a crystal clear pool

One of the highlights of any trip to Playa Cocalito is undoubtedly a visit to Cocalito Falls, also known as El Chorro Waterfall. This picturesque waterfall cascades into the ocean at the northern tip of Playa Cocalito, making it a sight to behold.

Cocalito Falls is distinguished as one of the seven waterfalls in the world that cascade directly into the ocean. The most favorable vantage point for observing the falls is by ascending rocks to a higher cliff ledge, and, if the tide allows, from the foot of the falls. To get to the falls, simply follow a clearly marked, easily traversed trail that spans approximately 10 minutes from Playa Cocalito.

Reaching the Waterfall

Getting to the waterfall adds to the thrill of the adventure. The distance covered on foot from Playa Cocalito to Cocalito Falls is approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles), and the typical duration for completing the hike is around 4-5 hours.

Despite the length of the journey, it promises to be a rewarding experience. To ensure a safe and enjoyable hike, it’s crucial to take certain precautions. Here are some tips:

  • Always check the tide times
  • Ensure proper hydration in humid conditions
  • Refrain from leaning over ledges at the top of the waterfall
  • Exercise caution near water, being mindful of rapid waters and slippery slopes

Best Time to Visit

An optimal experience at Cocalito Falls and the beach relies heavily on proper timing. It’s advisable to visit in the morning to avoid the intense sun and to have the beach to yourself. Furthermore, planning the visit during low tide enhances the overall experience, allowing for safer swimming conditions and a fuller enjoyment of the beach.

The water temperature at Playa Cocalito usually fluctuates between 25°C (77°F) and 30°C (86°F), with the highest temperatures occurring around January. However, do note that the waves can become rough during the rainy season, particularly in January and February, due to the prevailing winds.

Essential Tips for Your Playa Cocalito Adventure

In preparing for your trip to Playa Cocalito, considering the tide’s impact is essential. It is essential to avoid attempting the hike to the beach more than 3 hours before or after low tide in order to guarantee a safe and pleasant experience. Moreover, always remember that sunset in Montezuma occurs between 5-6 pm, so it is crucial to plan the return hike accordingly.

Prioritizing safety, ensure you allocate ample time for your return journey before dusk.

Tidal Considerations

Planning your trip to Playa Cocalito during low tide is key to a safer and enjoyable experience. The beach may experience turbulent waves at high tide, posing a potential danger for swimming. The primary concern is the presence of rip currents, making it advisable to visit the area during low tide for safety.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit, it’s essential to stay informed. There have been swimming hazards and other incidents associated with high tides at Playa Cocalito, such as beach erosion and advisories concerning perilous swimming conditions. The tide times for Playa Cocalito can be accessed on websites such as and, which offer tide charts and forecasts.

Packing List

Packing appropriately is crucial when setting off for a day trip to Playa Cocalito. Essentials include:

  • A day pack or small backpack
  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Keys
  • Money
  • Flip flops
  • Snacks
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Light jacket or sweater
  • Raincoat
  • Closed-toe shoes for hiking
  • Camera or phone for capturing the scenery

In terms of attire and footwear, it’s recommended to wear comfortable and casual clothing. For footwear, closed-toed hiking sandals or water shoes are suitable for traversing the beach and falls, and flip flops are perfect for the beach. If you plan to hike or go horseback riding, lightweight hiking clothes are suggested due to river crossings and beach walking. Sun protection essentials such as sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses, and clothes with UV-protection should also be included in your packing list.

Accommodations Near Playa Cocalito

After planning your Playa Cocalito adventure, the subsequent step is to secure accommodation. The area offers a diverse range of accommodations tailored to various preferences and financial considerations, such as:

  • high-end hotels
  • eco-lodges
  • economical lodgings
  • vacation rentals or Airbnb choices

If luxury is what you’re after, Latitude 10 Exclusive Beach Resort, Florblanca Resort, Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat, Nantipa – A Tico Beach Experience, and Casa Chameleon Hotel at Las Catalinas all provide exclusive services and premium accommodations. Alternatively, for environmentally conscious travelers, Vista Alta Ecolodge in Drake, Botanika Osa Peninsula, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Cristal Ballena Boutique Hotel & Spa offer sustainable accommodations. Budget travelers can consider Hotel Coco Palms, Hotel M&M Beach House, and Hotel Chantel, and for those seeking vacation rentals or Airbnb accommodations, the Montezuma Rentals and Airbnb platforms offer a range of options.

Exploring the Surrounding Area

Your Playa Cocalito trip isn’t complete without venturing into the surrounding regions. Near Montezuma Waterfalls, which is situated in close proximity to Playa Cocalito, visitors can engage in activities such as hiking to El Chorro Waterfall, exploring the renowned three-tier waterfall, and participating in tours to nearby islands and nature reserves.

Alternatively, a visit to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve provides an opportunity to observe a wide array of wildlife, including:

  • white-tailed deer
  • pacas
  • armadillos
  • anteaters
  • monkeys
  • coyotes
  • porcupines
  • raccoons
  • coatis
  • birds
  • ocelots
  • jaguarundis
  • margay cats
  • various marine life

So, whether you’re a fan of flora, fauna, or stunning landscapes, the area surrounding Playa Cocalito has something to offer everyone.


In conclusion, Playa Cocalito, with its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and stunning waterfalls, presents a unique blend of relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re hiking through the lush forests, horseback riding along the beach, or simply basking in the sun, Playa Cocalito offers an unforgettable experience. So, pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure that promises to be as fulfilling as it is exciting!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get to Playa Cocalito?

To get to Playa Cocalito, horseback is recommended as it is 4 km away from Montezuma. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the white sand beach and clear blue waters, as well as the spectacular waterfall that drops 10 meters into the ocean.

Can you swim in Montezuma Falls?

Swimming is possible in the pool created by Montezuma Falls’ Top Waterfall, which is about 15 feet (5 meters) tall.

How do I get to Cocalito Falls?

To get to Cocalito Falls, take a horseback ride from Montezuma, located 4 km away. The fall is situated 10 meters below the ocean and provides beautiful views of the clear blue waters.

What is the biggest waterfall in Costa Rica?

At 1148 feet (350 meters) in height, El Salto del Calvo is the highest waterfall in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, it’s not open to visitors as of April 2022.

What is Playa Cocalito known for?

Playa Cocalito is renowned for its stunning white sand beach, crystal clear waters, scenic coves and diverse wildlife.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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