Playa El Ocotal
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This secluded gray-sand beach is three kilometers southwest of Playas del Coco within the cusp of steep cliffs. Playa El Ocotal is smaller and more secluded than Coco, but it gets the overflow on busy weekends. The rocky headlands at each end have tidepools.
Ocotal is a base for sportfishing and scuba diving. At Las Corridas, a dive spot only a kilometer from Ocotal, divers are sure of coming face-to-face with massive jewfish, which make this rock reef their home. Black marlin are occasionally seen.
Ocotal Diving Safaris (tel. 506/2670-0321, www.ocotaldiving.com), at El Ocotal Beach Resort and Marina, rents equipment and offers various dive trips, including a free introductory dive daily, plus snorkeling. It also offers deep-sea fishing.
Pelicano Rentals (tel. 506/2670-0552) has a beach kiosk and offers water-skiing ($30 for 15 minutes), banana-boat rides, snorkeling, and kayak rentals ($10 per hour).
Hotels and Resorts
The bay is dominated by El Ocotal Beach Resort & Marina (tel. 506/2670-0321, www.ocotalresort.com, $120 s/d standard, $170 s/d junior suites year-round), a gleaming whitewashed structure that stair-steps up the cliffs at the southern end of the beach. It has 71 attractive air-conditioned rooms with fans, freezers, two queen-size beds each, satellite TVs, direct-dial telephones, and ocean views. The original 12 rooms are in six duplex bungalows; newer rooms have their own whirlpool tub, sunning area, and pool. Three small pools each have ranchitos for shade, and there are tennis courts and horseback riding, plus a fully equipped dive shop, sportfishing boats, and car rental.
Hotel Villa Casa Blanca (tel. 506/2670-0448, www.hotelvillacasablanca.com, $85 s/d standard, $105 s/d suite low season; $105 s/d standard, $125 s/d suite high season) sets a standard for beachside bed-and-breakfasts, although at last visit the public structures were deteriorating. The upscale Spanish-style villa is set in a lush landscaped garden full of yuccas and bougainvillea. The small swimming pool has a swim-up bar and a sundeck with lounge chairs. Inside, the hotel epitomizes subdued elegance with its intimate allure: sponge-washed walls, four-poster beds (six rooms), stenciled murals, and massive bathrooms with deep tubs and wall-to-wall mirrors. The 14 rooms include four suites (two are honeymoon suites). You can relax in a whirlpool tub, and there’s a patio restaurant and grill.
The rustic and offbeat beachfront Father Rooster Restaurant (tel. 506/2670-1246, www.fatherrooster.com, 11 A.M.–10 P.M. daily, $2–10) run by Steve, a friendly Floridian, is the hip, happening place to be. It serves seafood dishes, quesadillas, burgers, and Caesar salads, plus huge margaritas ($4.50). It has a sand volleyball court, pool table, darts, and occasional live music.
If you’re feeling flush, try the cuisine at El Ocotal Beach Resort (tel. 506/2670-0321).
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition