As the road approaches Manuel Antonio National Park, it skirts the lovely, forest-lined beach of Playa Espadilla, which stretches for more than 2 km (1 mile) north from the rocky crag that marks the park's border to the base of the ridge that holds most of the hotels. One of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica, it fills up with sunbathers, surfers, volleyball players, strand strollers, and sand-castle architects on dry-season weekends and holidays. For most of the year, it is surprisingly quiet, especially at the northern end below Arenas del Mar. Even on the busiest days it is long enough to provide an escape from the crowd, which tends to gather around the restaurants and lounge chairs near its southern end. Though many people often swim and surf here, beware of rough seas and deadly rip currents. There are usually lifeguards on duty closest to the park. If you plan on surfing on the north end, beware of the rocks lurking just below the break closest to the cliffs. You can access this isolated section of Playa Espadilla by way of a 1-km (½-mile) dirt road near Arenas del Mar. There's free parking on the sand, accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles only. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: surfing.
Manuel Antonio, 60601, Costa Rica