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Costa Rica’s Secret Papagayo Peninsula (and a Golf Buggy Ride by Moonlight)

We’re on Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula, tootling around in our golf buggy by the light of a full moon.

We have a date with some mango margaritas at The Dive Bar by the Marina Papagayo.

Our two-person buggy putters along slowly on the wide brick-paved road.

But we’re not worried. Few cars drive around the hilly tree-covered Papagayo Peninsula.

Escape to the beautiful Papagayo Peninsula for an amazing off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica vacation!
Escape to the beautiful Papagayo Peninsula for an amazing off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica vacation!

Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula

Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
The Papagayo Peninsula is still a bit of a secret

There are 15 miles of coastline, with more than 31 pristine beaches on both sides of the Papagayo Peninsula catching the salty breeze.

But this exclusive guarded community is still a bit of a Costa Rica secret.

So far, just three hotels – the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, Hyatt’s Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort and Planet Hollywood Beach Resort – have been built here, along with a handful of condo and villa properties.

The Papagayo Peninsula is largely untouched by development - this is one of the views on our morning walks.
The Papagayo Peninsula is largely untouched by development – this is one of the views on our morning walks

Much of the Papagayo Peninsula is undeveloped, and by law, 70% will remain untouched as a protected sanctuary.

There’s little chance our buggy will hold anyone up on the road!

Scenic beauty of the Papagayo Peninsula

As we meander along – our buggy gamely puffing its way up and down hills – we’re struck once again by the wild and natural beauty of the Papagayo Peninsula.

First take: From the covered deck of our vacation condo (really a one-level villa that happens to be attached to other villas), the blue of the ocean yawns beyond an expanse of green.

papagayo peninsula - papagayo luxury villas
This is the view from the swimming pool beside our luxury condo (really a huge one-level villa)

No other signs of man’s footprint blot the view – except for a hint of a well-tended golfcourse below and, way in the distance, the marina’s sailboats.

(This is the marina we’re puttering to this evening – Bari, our vacation home’s expat concierge, said earlier that with a full charge, our buggy should get us there and back. We’re crossing fingers!)


Walking in the Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
You don’t have to walk far before a beautiful beach comes into view

And then on our early morning walks – before the fierce sun has sucked the last traces of cool air from the land – we’re greeted by troupes of agile Capuchin monkeys navigating the trees beside the road.

One morning, we veer off from our “normal” route to the Four Seasons and walk along a coastal trail connecting two windswept beaches instead.

We meet not another person.

Looking down at the beautiful sea

The utter peace and quiet – being surrounded only by nature – is salve for souls normally bruised by the daily onslaught of Twitter and technology.

Prieta Beach:

So nice! Trees on the beach provide lots of natural shade

Prieta Beach, where we hang out at the private beach club during the day, is another surprise.

Volcanic grey sand, soft as powder between the toes. Warm ocean water and a gentle sloping beach. The occasional white-nosed coati (like a raccoon with a long white nose) checking in to say “hello.”

And hardly any people!

On our walks along Prieta Beach, ours are often the only footprints
On our walks along Prieta Beach, ours are often the only footprints

How many beaches are there in the world which are almost perfect?

Beaches where you can read or snooze on a thickly cushioned teak lounger, under the shade of leafy trees, with just the sound of lapping waves soothing the ears (no disruptive “cool” pool music) – but with discreet drink and food service at your fingertips, yet few other people to spoil the “get away from it all” feel?

We loved our days chilling out at the Prieta Beach Club...
We loved our days chilling out at the Prieta Beach Club…

Recommended reading: Check out these 21 prettiest beaches in the world!

The Dive Bar:

We make it to the marina and The Dive Bar before the light fades – and in time for happy hour cocktails

So, do we make it to The Dive Bar?

Yes, indeed!

Mango margaritas at the Papagayo Dive Bar
Go to the Dive Bar at happy hour (before 6:00 pm) for half-priced mango margaritas

We enjoy our mango margaritas and try “patacones” (warm fried plantains) for the first time.

We tried "patacones" (warm fried plantains) for the first time - delicious with salsa, beans and guacamole!
The “patacones” are delicious with salsa, beans and guacamole!

Guided by the moon’s bright rays (and flashlights we shine in the hopes of spotting occasional wildlife, like small local deer), our buggy lives up to its promise.

And with an overnight charge, it lives to see another day ferrying us around this Papagayo paradise…

Moonlight at Papagayo

Where to stay on the Papagayo Peninsula

Luxury condo or villa:

papagayo peninsula - papagayo luxury villas
Don’t you love the Bali bed in the living room of our art-filled condo?

Don’t get us wrong – we’re Four Seasons fans who’ve been happily pampered at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora, Bali and elsewhere around the world.

But for less than the price of a one-bedroom suite at Papagayo’s Four Seasons, you can enjoy a spacious, art-filled, 3-bed/3-bath luxury condo villa from Papagayo Luxury Villas (like we enjoyed).

The master bedroom in our 3-bed/3-bath luxury vacation condo

Jane Moore, president of Papagayo Luxury Villas, has several villas in her portfolio you can choose from.

Some are 7,000- to 10,000 sq. ft. celeb-worthy mansions – among the world’s swankiest villas with private pools! (And, yes, celebrities have stayed in some of these, but Jane isn’t spilling the beans on who.)

Papagayo Luxury Villas is a member of Ultra Villas (a collection of luxurious villas around the world).

One of the deluxe escapes in the Papagayo Luxury Villas portfolio
One of the deluxe escapes in the Papagayo Luxury Villas portfolio

Private beach club:

Guests of Papagayo Luxury Villas have free access to the private 38,000 sq. ft., west-facing Prieta Beach Club (which sits on a virtually private beach).

Find sand icky? The Prieta Beach Club has not one, but two, outdoor pools you can lounge by instead (one is a long lap pool).

The private Prieta Beach Club on the Papagayo Peninsula has two pools.
The private Prieta Beach Club has two pools as well as a shady lounge area on the beach

Where is the Papagayo Peninsula?

The Papagayo Peninsula is located in the dry and sunny Guanacaste province. See Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast on this Google map.

The international Liberia airport is about a 40-minute drive away (there are direct flights from the U.S. and Canada).

Experience more of Central America and the Caribbean!

Read our posts on:

Bocas del Toro (Panama) | Check out these 7 reasons to love the overwater bungalows at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge.

Caribbean vacation | Hey, you can holiday like a multi-millionaire at these fabulous villa rentals in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico | From visiting the Castillo de San Cristobal to eyeing the 16th century governor’s mansion, there are lots of lovely things to do in Old San Juan.

Love Pinterest?

Then pin this!

Discover the Papagayo Peninsula

Photo credits: 3, 5, 8 to 13 and 15 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining photos Papagayo Luxury (except lead image)

Thanks go to Papagayo Luxury Villas for hosting us as media guests in this lovely part of Costa Rica! We always retain the right to write what we want, however. (If we see any warts, we let you know.)

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!


Saturday 5th of June 2021

Loved your blog post! Do you know if there are any stores (for snacks or drinks) on the Papagayo Peninsula?

Janice and George

Saturday 5th of June 2021

Hi Bree!

Glad you liked our post :-).

If you're staying in one of the villas on the Papagayo Peninsula, they will provision it with your chosen groceries before you arrive, so you don't have to worry about shopping for food.

That said, there are proper grocery stores in Playas del Coco, about a 40- to 50-minute drive away. The Auto Mercado is said to be the best. You could make a detour into Playas del Coco on your way from the airport if you're flying into Liberia and have rented a car.

As for liquor, you can buy that at the airport when you arrive.

At the Papagayo Marina, there's also a tiny market (expensive), where you can pick up a few limited supplies.

If you're staying at the Hyatt Andaz, we understand they stock your minibar in your room with complimentary water, soda and snacks (peanuts, dried bananas, crackers and the like). But double-check this with the resort, as things may have changed with Covid.

If you're staying at the Four Seasons, perhaps throw some granola bars and bags of peanuts or other snacks in your suitcase, so you have a few munchies on hand when hunger strikes :-).

Hope this helps!

Olivia Johnson

Wednesday 8th of March 2017

Wonderful blog! Thank you for your sharing!

Annika Gabriel

Monday 6th of March 2017

It looks like the perfect destination to set up vacation together with your family, looking forward to visiting this place someday. Thanks.

Janice and George

Monday 6th of March 2017

Papagayo Luxury Villas are indeed a great vacation option for families :-)

Anda Galffy

Thursday 23rd of February 2017

Papagayo Luxury Villas look heavenly beautiful. Since I've never been in Costa Rica I should probably start by going to the Papagayo Peninsula first. I would love to relax on those white beaches with a mango Margarita.... dreaming, dreaming...

Janice and George

Friday 24th of February 2017

The Papagayo Peninsula is definitely at the top luxury end of the scale in Costa Rica. You can't go wrong here! But Costa Rica is so diverse in scenery and activities, you'd probably want to also stay inland (like we did), maybe the Arenal Volcano area for hotsprings and rainforest or the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Becky Padmore

Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

Wow you always find the best places to stay, it looks truly stunning! :-) Will pin!

Janice and George

Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

Papagayo Luxury Villas are a great find! One of the large villas with private swimming pool (one even has two pools!) would be perfect for a multi-generational family holiday. Of course, you'd ask for a private chef for at least a couple of nights too :-).