In January of 2015, I spent 10 days on a solo retreat in the beautiful, funky little beach village of Playa Negra. I went on this trip for some personal healing in a beautiful setting, but I was provided with so much more than that. Below is a recap of my time in the town, along with recommendations on Where to Stay, What to Do, and Where to Eat! The town itself only holds a population of about 200 people, so the selection is limited, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the food, lodging and services offered.
Where to Stay
My opinion here is obviously biased, because I had the most incredible stay at Peace Retreat during my 10 days in Costa Rica. (Read more about that experience here.) I would absolutely, whole-heartedly recommend Peace Retreat first for just about anyone traveling to Playa Negra. The relaxed vibe, jungle setting, and comforts of home make this an ideal retreat destination. And the twice daily yoga classes don’t hurt either!
For those of you looking for a more central, beach-front location right in town, I would recommend checking out Hotel Playa Negra. I never actually went into the hotel, but I met a few people who were staying there and they had wonderful things to say. The location couldn’t be more central, is just steps from the beach, and there is a big pool and restaurant on-site that is open seven days a week.
What to Do
1. Playa Negra
Made famous by the 1994 film Endless Summer II, Playa Negra boasts some of the best surf in the country. Named for its black sand that can be found on the shoreline, Playa Negra is a rugged, earthy, laid-back beach. There are a few trees if you want to lay in the shade, but otherwise the beach is vast and wide-open. In January, it wasn’t busy at all, although I did catch word that this isn’t always the case in the busier months. Bring a beach blanket and waste the day away dozing in the sun, or rent a surf board or paddle board from one of the surf shops just steps from the beach. Make sure you stay for the sunsets – they are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen!
2. Morning Yoga at Peace Retreat
Peace Retreat offers daily yoga classes that are open to the public Monday-Saturday at 7am, and Sunday at 8am. Entrance is by cash donation, and if you don’t have your own mat, there are plenty available to borrow. The studio is stunning – walled by screens so that you can enjoy the gorgeous jungle surroundings, sounds, and a gentle breeze. Be sure to bring your own water bottle and an open mind! Classes are typically an hour long and are suitable for all levels, even if you’re brand new to yoga.
3. Ziplining with Pura Aventura
I spent a half-day on a Canopy Zipline Tour with Pura Aventura, and it was one of the highlights of my entire time in Costa Rica. We were picked up from our accommodation, transported to the centre where we met up with the rest of our group, briefed in safety and use of the ziplines, and then guided through 11 incredible ziplines high above the jungle canopy. The guides were friendly and hilarious, but most importantly they were safety-oriented and extremely competent at what they were doing. It was the best $50 I spent in Costa Rica.
4. Mangrove Paddleboarding
This isn’t actually something that I did during my time in Costa Rica, mostly because I just ran out of time, but it looked absolutely amazing. I met two fellow travel bloggers at Peace Retreat, Christian and Kevin from WNY Expeditioners, who made a really impressive Video Blog about their experience. Check it out here.
5. Day Trip to Tamarindo
Tamarindo is about 45 (give or take depending on the roads) minutes away from Playa Negra, and is definitely worth the trip if you’re looking to break up your quiet, contemplative beach time. Tamarindo is much more populated and a lot busier than Playa Negra. The population of the actual town is only around 500, but can swell to closer to 5,000 during busy tourist times. You’ll find lots of shopping, several restaurants and bars, busy beaches, tons of tour companies and an abundance of friendly locals, expats and tourists. We arrived around noon and left around 9pm which gave us plenty of time to explore, shop, stop for lots of drinks, eats and treats and take in yet another beautiful sunset.
Where to Eat
1. La Ventana
The closest restaurant to Peace Retreat, La Ventana is the “Starbucks” of Playa Negra. Incredible coffee, tea, and a breakfast and lunch menu that features fresh, healthy items such as vegetarian curries, nourishing stir-frys, hearty breakfast burritos and organic baked goods. There is also a small cooler in the shop that retails items such as raw honey, goat’s milk yogurt, and bunches of organic kale.
2. Jalapeño Taco Grill
Located on the main street in Playa Negra, Jalapeño Taco Grill was a place that I visited many times during my stay in Costa Rica. ‘Home of the $2 Taco’ (beef or chicken, fish is an extra $1), Jalapeño has an extensive menu that features fresh Mexican items such as tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, fresh guacamole and homemade salsa, and delectable fresh fruit smoothies. My personal favourites were the $3 Fish Tacos (made with fish that the owner had just caught that morning and was cleaning out back when we arrived), the Beef Burrito, and the Coco Loco smoothie.
3. Cafe Playa Negra
Cafe Playa Negra is also right on the main street in town, and is open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner daily. They serve Peruvian food, which I knew nothing about before I ate here, but I can now say is probably one of my favourite types of Cuisine. Think tons of fresh fish and seafood, beef and chicken, lots of vegetables, legumes, corn, potatoes and rice. Oh – and killer ceviche. If you’re apprehensive to try the unique Peruvian dishes, there are also many international menu items such as burgers and fries that will satisfy you. Be sure to order dessert – the cheesecake and lemon meringue pie were amazing.
4. Villa Deevena
I never ate at Villa Deevena, and I am pretty sure I will regret it for the rest of my life. Located a little off the main road in Playa Negra (closer to Peace Retreat), Villa Deevena is a world-class dining experience that people come from all over Guanacaste to enjoy. A few of the people I met during my travels had the pleasure of eating here, and they had nothing but incredible things to say. Prices are higher than the average price of dinner in Costa Rica, but well worth it for the exquisite entrees. Reservations are recommended.