In addition to being a paradise for surfers and sunbathers, the narrow woodsy patch that lines this wide, pristine Blue Flag beach holds howler monkeys and an array of birds, and the mangrove estuary on the north end of the beach has crocodiles. Be aware that the surf is a little heavy for safe swimming and there's an abundance of mosquitoes during the rainy months, especially near the estuary, so bring plenty of repellent. The beach's shores and waters are protected within Parque Nacional MarinoLas Baulas. Admission is free during daylight hours but off-limits at night during the turtle-nesting season (October 20 to February 15), when tourists come on guided turtle tours, hoping to catch the increasingly rare sight of a leatherback turtle building a nest and depositing eggs. The beach's protected status is in part because a surfer who arrived here more than 30 years ago was so upset by the widespread turtle-egg poaching that he adopted a conservationist's agenda. Louis Wilson, owner of Las Tortugas Hotel, spearheaded a campaign to protect the nesting baulas (leatherback turtles) that eventually resulted in the creation of the national park. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: surfing; walking.
Playa Grande, Costa Rica