Playas Potrero and Azúcar
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The Monkey Trail emerges at Playa Potrero, about 16 kilometers southwest of Sardinal and immediately northeast of Playa Flamingo, from which it is separated by Bahía Potrero. The gray-sand beach curls southward for about three kilometers from the rustic and charming fishing hamlet of Potrero and is popular with campers during holidays.
North of Potrero, a dirt road leads to Playa Penca, a beautiful beach backed by a protected mangrove estuary—that of the Río Salinas—and rare saltwater forest replete with birdlife, including parrots, roseate spoonbills, and egrets.
From Penca, the road snakes north three kilometers to Playa Azúcar (Sugar Beach), a narrow 400-meter-wide spit of sun-drenched coral-colored sand that just might have you dreaming of retiring here. There’s good snorkeling offshore. Beyond Playa Azúcar, the rugged dirt road leads to Playa Danta.
Seeking nighttime fun? It all happens at La Perla (tel. 506/2854-4500), a bar in Potrero that has happy hour daily at 5 P.M., plus karaoke on Wednesday, salsa dance classes on Thursday, and a DJ and live music on Saturday.
Hotels and Resorts
At Cabinas Cristina (tel. 506/2654-4006, www.cabinascristina.com, $50 s/d room, $60 s/d mini-apartment), you have the benefit of a small pool. The six simple all-wood air-conditioned cabinas are set in shady albeit unkempt gardens; each sleeps four people, with private bathrooms and hot water, plus free WiFi.
The Italian-run Hotel Isolina (tel. 506/2654-4333, www.isolinabeach.com, $45–75 s/d low season, $60–85 s/d high season), one kilometer south of Potrero, has 11 attractive if simple and somewhat dark air-conditioned cabins with cable TVs, WiFi, and private bathrooms with hot water; some have kitchens. It also has three villas and rooms in a twin-story hotel complex, plus a pool and restaurant in lush gardens.
Bahía Esmeralda Hotel and Restaurant (tel. 506/2654-4480, www.hotelbahiaesmeralda.com, from $50 s or $60 d low season, from $60 s or $70 d high season) is a modern Italian-run hotel 200 meters on the southern edge of Potrero hamlet. The four simply furnished rooms, two suites, four villas, and eight apartments feature red-tile roofs and all have cable TV, lofty hardwood ceilings, double beds and bunks, and modern conveniences. Italian fare is served in an open-sided restaurant, and there’s a swimming pool in lush gardens. Horseback tours and bike rental are available, as is a boat for turtle tours and fishing.
Also Italian-run, Villagio Flor de Pacífico (tel. 506/2654-4664, www.flordepacifico.com), on the Monkey Trail 400 meters inland of Potrero village and a 15-minute walk from the beach, is set amid lush expansive gardens. Its 50 modestly furnished one- and two-bedroom villas get hot but have air-conditioning, fans, lofty wooden ceilings, and cool tile floors, plus kitchens. Facilities include two pools, tennis, and an Italian restaurant. Call for rates.
Its immediate neighbor, the contemporary Hotel Mediterraneus (tel. 506/2297-1029, www.hotelmediterraneus.com, from $160 s/d low season, $176 high season, rates vary) has a gleaming white Mediterranean motif. Its 52 deluxe rooms lack any sense of the tropics and don’t live up to the lovely exterior architecture. It has a spa and extensive recreational facilities.
The classiest of the resorts is the gorgeous Hotel Bahía del Sol (tel. 506/2654-5183, www.bahiadelsolhotel.com, from $140 s/d low season, from $165 s/d high season), at Playa Potrero. Colorful decor highlights the 13 rooms and 15 one- and two-bedroom suites, all air-conditioned. Romantically lit at night, the resort’s walk-in pool with swim-up bar is inviting, as is a handsome thatched open-air restaurant.
The gracious Hotel Sugar Beach (tel. 506/2654-4242, www.sugar-beach.com, from $106 s/d low season, from $125 s/d high season) enjoys a secluded setting on a beachfront rise amid 10 hectares of lawns and forests full of wildlife. Choose from 16 rooms in eight handsome Spanish colonial-style duplexes, or 10 units connected by stone pathways. Also available are a three-bedroom beach house and an apartment suite. A large open-air restaurant overlooks the beach, and there’s a small pool, horseback rides, and tours. Costa Rica Outriggers is based here.
For private rentals, contact Vacation Rentals (tel. 506/2654-5875, www.vacationrentalscr.net).
A favorite of locals, Maxwell’s Café (tel. 506/2645-4319, flowergirl60 [at] gmail [dot] com, 8 A.M.–11 P.M. daily), 300 meters inland of Playa Potrero, is an open-air bar and grill serving American fare. It has WiFi and happy hour (6–7 P.M. daily).
For something more chic and romantic, head to the open-air beachfront restaurant at Bahía del Sol (tel. 506/2654-4671, 6 A.M.–10 P.M. daily, $5–20), specializing in seafood and continental cuisine; it has a fiesta tropical on Friday night, and karaoke on Saturday.
Despite its faux castle design, El Castillo (tel. 506/2654-4271, 6 A.M.–10 P.M. daily), catercorner to Bahía del Sol, satisfies all comers with its bakery, live music, and daily specials. Go on Friday for reggae and Saturday for karaoke and sushi.
Super Wendy (tel. 506/2654-4291), on the main road between Potrero and Flamingo, specializes in gourmet foodstuffs.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition