The Ultimate Guide to Playa Flamingo, Potrero, Brasilito

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The Ultimate Guide to Playa Flamingo, Potrero, Brasilito

Welcome

Welcome to our Ultimate Guide to Playa Flamingo, Potrero, and Brasilito. Planning a trip is already hectic enough, so we’ve done our best to highlight the most helpful details of some of Costa Rica’s best northern beach towns. Below are most of the notable restaurants in the area, breweries, activities, and links to our favorite tour companies. This guide started as information for our rental guests, so all of the noted drive times are from our condo at Villas Flamingo. Let’s go!

Getting There

From Liberia Airport (LIR)

Playa Flamingo is between 50-80 minutes driving from the Liberia International Airport (LIR) depending on the route. Taxis are normally available but we encourage renting a car. While the main highways are paved, dirt roads are a norm in Costa Rica. A 4×4 (or all-wheel drive) rental is recommended in the green season and extremely helpful in navigating the occasional washed out areas. Waze / Google Maps are the preferred navigation apps but don’t follow them blindly and check your routes first. I always bring a small wireless battery pack like this to make sure my phone stays charged when using navigation apps.

Primary Route – Highway 21 to 155 to 180
80-90 Minutes in average traffic
This is the primary route into Playa Flamingo and surrounding areas. It’s three turns on three highways, and you roll right into the Flamingo Marina.
View route here

Secondary Route – Highway 21 to 151 to 911
50-60 Minutes in average traffic
This alternate route is only available in the dry season, normally December-May. It crosses over a river, which makes it impassable in the Green Season. There’s a nearby private bridge to cross the river that may be open to use for around $10, but it’s only open from around 8am-5pm and not guaranteed.
View route here

From Everywhere Else

Flying into San Jose International Airport (SJO) only makes sense if you’re going to visit other areas on the way to Playa Flamingo, like La Fortuna or Monteverde. Use the right navigation app and you should be good. We’ve been told by many rental car employees that Waze is the best navigation app for driving in Costa Rica. We’ve had good experience with Waze, but Google Maps has always worked well too. Apple Maps doesn’t navigate in Costa Rica, so be prepared with a different app if that’s your usual go-to.

Renting a Car in Liberia, Costa Rica
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Stanley always takes care of us!

Transportation

Rental Cars

We’ve always used Expedia to research and compare prices for our rental cars. After experiences with a few different companies, Economy Rentals Cars is now our favorite. Their cars are always comfortable and typically in good condition. National and Enterprise are good too, but the cars we’ve received aren’t as new as Economy.

Rental car insurance in Costa Rica is complicated. There are various levels of undisclosed insurance that will often leave you feeling cheated and furious at the rental counter. Check out our full guide to renting a car in Costa Rica here to avoid frustration later.

We have a contact at Economy Rent-A-Car who sets up all of our rentals. Shoot me a message if you want his WhatsApp info!

Drivers

Private Driver – Bryan is our guy in Playa Flamingo. He’s picked up and dropped off our family and friends from the airport with 5-star service. Again, shoot me a message if you want his WhatsApp info!

Taxi – Taxis are a little hard to get in Playa Flamingo. They are available but not always quickly when you need them. Unless you’re in Tamarindo, it’s best to arrange return transportation before if you’re going out somewhere if you don’t have a rental car.

Shuttle – Best for larger groups with a lot of luggage. We’ve used ILT Costa Rica for all of our shuttle needs when traveling with large groups.

Vacation rentals in Playa Flamingo
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Condos at The Palms and Villas Flamingo

Lodging

In Playa Flamingo, Potrero, and Brasilito, opting for a vacation rental is pretty much the way to go. There are a couple of hotels of varying qualities sprinkled around, but if you’re after something more unique, vacation rentals are where it’s at.

Now, you might get seduced by the idea of snagging a hilltop spot with killer views. They are great if your biggest adventure is moving from the couch to the balcony. But if you’re planning to be at the beach or out at dinner for sunset (go to Gracia at Mar Vista), do yourself a favor and pick somewhere that doesn’t require a mountaineering expedition to get to the sand.

Trust me, navigating those hills every time you want a dip or to catch a sunset swim can turn into a real drag. Stick close to the beach or the buzz of town. Plus, we’ve thrown in a few links to nearby hotels and vacation rentals to give you a head start on your search.

Hotels

  • The W Costa Rica at Playa Conchal – A 5-Star experience at the beach of Playa Conchal, which is famous for the crushed seashell sand and clear waters.
  • Bahia Del Sol – A beachfront resort in Playa Potrero. It’s a great option for visitors who want to be close to the restaurants and nightlife like Hemmingway’s Beach Bar.
  • Margaritaville – This is the main beach hotel in Playa Flamingo. It’s a bit run down but the location is excellent. They offer all-inclusive rates for visitors who plan on spending the majority ion their time at the property.
  • Dunama Hotel and Casino – A mid-range hotel in the hills above Playa Flamingo. Not highly rated but it had to be added.
  • Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas – This upscale seaside resort in at Las Catalinas and was designed with a touch of old-world charm and caters to a more upscale style of travel. It’s located about 20 minutes North of Playa Flamingo.

Check out a full list of Playa Flamingo hotels.

Vacation Rentals

Snorkeling with Life is Better At Sea
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Great for family a snorkeling trip

Activities

We have experienced many of these first-hand, but some have been recommended by our rental guests or friends and family.

Snorkeling – Snorkeling around this area shouldn’t be missed. We’ve seen sea turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, and tons of tropical fish. There are many great tours out there, but Life Is Better At Sea is an amazing company to go with. Jaume and his boat captain provide a 5-star experience, and this is a must-do activity if you’re visiting Playa Flamingo.
Life Is Better At Sea

ATV Tours – There are a ton of great ATV Tour operators in the area. Here are a few highly rated options with nearly 100% smiles.
ATV Beach and Mountain Tour
Pininos Adventures ATV Tours

Zip Lining – Did you know that recreational zip lining started in Costa Rica? Congo Canopy offers zip-lining on its list of activities.
Congo Trail Canopy Tour
ATV & Zip Line Combo Tour

Scuba Diving – If you love to explore the underwater world like us, don’t miss a dive trip to the Las Catalinas Islands. Our last dive trip was with Pacific Coast Dive Center, and we had an amazing time.
Diving Tour of Catalinas Islands

Sunset Sailing Tour – Playa Flamingo is known for its world-class sunsets. Spend an evening on the ocean and watch the sun fade over the horizon on one of these tours.
Lazy Lizard Sunset Tour – shared
Ocean Life Costa Rica – private

Mountain Biking – Mountain Biking is available through Pura Vida Ride. Their two locations are in the Flamingo Marina and Las Catalinas.
Pura Vida Ride

Visit Tamarindo
Tamarindo is worth checking out if you enjoy shopping, surfing lessons, or just exploring a popular beach town. It feels more hustly than Flamingo and the surrounding areas, but still a fun day trip.

Visit Las Catalinas
Las Catalinas is being constructed as a European-style town about 20 minutes north of Playa Flamingo. There are a few upscale restaurants, boutiques, and a tasting room for Papagayo Brewing. While beautiful, it feels out of place in Costa Rica. It’s worth visiting if you have nothing else to do.

Visit Playa Conchal
Playa Conchal is known as one of the most picturesque beaches in all of Costa Rica. The sand is made up of crushed seashells, and the water is often crystal clear. You’ll park in Brasalito town and walk about 10 minutes down the beach before driving to Conchal. Beach vendors rent sunshades and chairs and serve drinks at the main entry point.

La Leona Waterfall
The La Leona Waterfall is a great full-day trip from the beach areas. You’ll drive back past the airport to Liberia, which takes around 1.5 hours each way. The waterfall is on private land so reservations are needed to secure a tour guide. You’ll also have the option to go tubing, zip lining, and soaking in pools of natural hot spring water.
Reserve tickets here

MerKdo Market in Potrero
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MerKdo Market in Potrero

Markets

Super Massai Market (Flamingo)
This is the main market in Playa Flamingo. It’s not cheap like the Pali Markets in bigger towns, but it’s very convenient and has all of the essentials.
Drive time: 5 minutes

MerKdo (Potrero)
Same as the Super Massai in Flamingo. It’s not cheap like the Pali Markets in bigger towns, but it’s very convenient and has all of the essentials.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Super Wendy (Potrero)
Same as the Super Massai in Flamingo. It’s not cheap like the Pali Markets in bigger towns, but it’s very convenient and has all of the essentials.
Drive time: 12 minutes

Pali (Huacas)
Cheaper than the smaller local markets in Flamingo and Potrero. They have the essentials at reasonable prices.
Drive time: 20 minutes

Monday Night Market
A fun seasonal pop-up market near the Flamingo Marina. Check the open times before heading over.
Drive time: 2 minutes

Coco Loco Restaurant Sunset
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The last light at Coco Loco

Restaurants

🍻 = Our favorites

🍻 Sodas – Local Costa Rican restaurants are called “Sodas.” There are tons around here, and they offer cheap local meals that shouldn’t be missed if you want to try the local flavors of Costa Rica.

Playa Flamingo

🍻 Coco Loco – A fantastic beach cafe near the waters of beautiful Playa Flamingo. It’s our go-to spot for a quick snack and only 2 minutes walking from our condo at Villas Flamingo.
Drive time: 2 minute walk

🍻 Surf Box – Recently relocated to the new Flamingo Marina, Surf Box offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We miss the old location, but congratulations to owners Dan and Natasha for expanding to this amazing spot. Don’t miss their French Toast for breakfast and poke bowl for lunch!
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 NALU Bagel & Café Flamingo – Nalu is another must-try spot for breakfast in Playa Flamingo.
Drive time: 5 minutes

Marie’s – Located behind the Flamingo Marina, Marie’s offers a mix of local Costa Rican dishes at reasonable prices.
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 Beach House Restaurant
A casual beachfront restaurant / bar in Surfside, between Flamingo and Potrero. We love their daily 2×1 happy hour.
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 El Tiki
A great little street food inspired restaurant with Tiki Vibes!
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 Doki Sushi
A simple spot with amazing sushi. Try a poke bowl and a fresh cocktail.
Drive time: 5 minutes

Amigos Tacos y Beer
A Chipotle-style limited service Mexican restaurant near the Flamingo Marina. Convenient and tasty!
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 Gracia at Mar Vista
Our favorite place for a sunset dining experience. It’s located in Mar Vista but open to the public. Their infinity pool is open to use during dinner so swimsuits are encouraged.
Drive time: 10 minutes

5 O’Clock Somewhere
The top-floor restaurant at the Margaritaville Resort. Good for ceviche and a beer. Overpriced for the quality.
Drive time: 2 minutes

Banana Wind Cafe
The bottom-floor restaurant at the Margaritaville Resort. Not recommended.
Drive time: 2 minutes

Restaraunte Pleamar
A beachfront cafe near the new Flamingo Marina. Average food, mediocre drinks, and a nice view. We prefer the Beach House Restaurant.
Drive time: 5 minutes

Camparino
An Italian restaurant near the Flamingo Marina.
Drive time: 5 minutes

Angelina’s
An open-air restaurant with peekaboo views of the Flamingo Beach sunsets.
Drive time: 5 minutes

ONCA Restaraunte
On the main highway in Playa Flamingo, ONCA is a new fun restaurant concept. We haven’t been yet, but it looks good. Try it and share your thoughts!
Drive time: 5 minutes

🍻 a’lo Nico
Rated one of the best restaurants in the Playa Flamingo area, a’lo Nico is the place to go for a Costa Rican breakfast.
Drive time: 5 minutes

guide to Playa Flamingo, Potrero, and Brasility
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Sunset at Mengue Tapas Bar in Potrero

Potrero

🍻 Hemmingways
A high energy beachfront restaurant / bar in Potrero. Great for sunsets with live music. It can get busy at sunset so get there early.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Mengue Tapas
A relaxing beachfront tapas restaurant. Grab some snacks and watch the sunset colors over the ocean. They are on a grassy field, so bring the bug spray.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Nasu Restaurant
A beachfront hotel restaurant that is part of Bahia Del Sol. Average food.
Drive time: 10 minutes

La Forketta
A popular Italian restaurant in Playa Potrero with an excellent wine selection and a fun atmosphere. We’ve had hit or miss experiences with the food but still a good spot for italian.
Drive time: 10 minutes

El Diablito Mexican Food
A newer addition to the area. This Mexican restaurant is tucked behind La Forketta. We haven’t eaten here yet, but it’s on our radar.
Drive time: 10 minutes

🍻 Gracia at Potrero Brewing Food Court
The little sibling of the Gracia at Mar Vista Restaurant. Located in a small food court at Potrero Brewing, they offer various sliders and small bites. Pairs well with the local craft beer!
Drive time: 10 minutes

🍻 Gritanga at Potrero Brewing Food Court
Another small eatery in the food court at Potrero Brewing. They dish up delicious tacos and small plates.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Whiskey Howler
An average restaurant in Potrero with elevated bar food.
Drive time: 10 minutes

The Shack
Another average restaurant in Potrero with elevated bar food.
Drive time: 10 minutes

🍻 La Pizzetteria Da Oreste
A gem for Italian-style pizza in the area. Owner-operated, and their wine list is limited but very good.
Drive time: 15 minutes

Perlas
A decent all-around restaurant with Costa Rican inspired dishes with bar food. It often turns into a nightclub with music later in the evening.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Cafe Del Sol
A beautiful but strangely chaotic restaurant in the heart of Potrero. Great food and service, but the intense electronic music throws off the mood.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Lunch at Gritanga
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Some snacks at Gritanga

Brasilito

🍻 Patagonia Del Mar
A fusion restaurant with all types of food. We love the Tico California Roll, but it’s all good. High end wine selection.
Drive time: 10 minutes

New Shogun
One of the few restaurants in Brasilito, New Shogun offers an impressive assortment of Asian cuisine.
Drive time: 10 minutes

🍻 Brothers of Ale Brewing
Really, this is located at the edge of Huacas town, but it is one of our favorite breweries in the region. Not only do they have great beer… the food is fantastic.
Drive time: 12 minutes

Potrero Brewing
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Cold brews all day long

Breweries

We love craft beer. There are only a few in the region, so they all make our cut as our favorites.

Potrero Brewing
One of the two main breweries in the area. The owner / brewer TJ is a master of the craft and his beers pair perfectly with the on-site food stands. They play many of the sports games and are family friendly. Don’t miss if you’re searching for craft beer.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Brothers Of Ale
One of our favorite breweries in all of Costa Rica. Owner / brewer Alaks is a blast and has crafted some delicious food and beer. They also have misters to cool you down after a day at the beach.
Drive time: 12 minutes

Las Olas Brewing
This brewery is just outside the scope of this post, but worth mentioning. The sleepy surf town Playa Grande is a great spot for a day at the beach, and Las Olas is the perfect spot for a beer afterwards.
Drive time: 23ish minutes

Papagayo Brewing
Located in Las Catalinas, this Papagayo tasting room is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Otherwise I’d check out any of the breweries above first.
Drive time: 25 minutes + expensive parking

Monkey Head Brewing
So technically not in the area, Monkey Head Brewing is our go-to brewery by the Liberia Airport. We stop here on the way to and from LIR so it makes the cut here.
Drive time: 50-80 minutes

Shoot me a message if you have any questions about craft beer in other parts of Costa Rica!

Medical

Hospital

Hospital Metropolitano – A a small regional hospital nearby. It’s okay for minor injuries, breaks, etc. Anything major may require transportation to a larger hospital in San Jose. We recommend travel insurance if you’re doing anything overly adventurous. Safety Wing Travel Insurance is what we use when we travel.
Drive time: 12 minutes

Dental

Surfboard to the teeth? Hopefully not! But there are a few dental offices in the area.

Dentico Flamingo – Near the Flamingo Marina.
Drive time: 2 minutes

Cabo Vellas Dental Group – Past the Reserve Conchal entrance In Brasilito town.
Drive time: 10 minutes

Pharmacy

Farmacia Guanacasteca Express Flamingo
Drive time: 2 minutes

Farmacia Bohemia
Drive time: 5 minutes

Don’t Forget

You can buy almost anything you need in the area, but the prices of some items may surprise you. Sunscreen can cost upwards of $20 USD for a normal size tube at the local market. Some of our don’t forget items are listed below.

Sunscreen – Reapply all day when you’re outside. The sun is no joke here!
Bug Spray – Bugs are minimal in the day but mosquitoes often come out in the evening.
Quick-dry towel – These quick-dry towels are also sand free.
Waterproof hat – I like this floating hat, but anythig works.
Polarized sunglasses – They don’t have to break the bank. Check out these polarized sunglasses by Blenders.
Waterproof phone case – Great if you’re going to be on the ocean.

Let’s Go

You’re going on vacation and it’s a lot to take in. Hopefully, this list is a helpful resource in planning your epic trip to Playa Flamingo and the surrounding beach areas. Drop us a comment below if you have any questions!

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Cody & Anna

Cody and Anna Traxler

We’re Cody and Anna, and we’ve fallen in love with Costa Rica over the past decade. We’re not experts in every part of the country, but our countless adventures have inspired us to create this travel guide. Our goal is to share our experiences and help you jet off on your own unforgettable journey. Enjoy Ultimate Pura Vida and start planning here 🤙

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