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Playa Junquillal, four kilometers southwest of Paraíso and 31 kilometers west of Santa Cruz, is a four-kilometer-long light-gray-sand beach with rock platforms and tidepools. Beware the high surf and strong riptides.
Local youth called the baula (leatherback) boys collect turtle eggs from nests to protect them in an incubation site on the beautiful beach. The beachfront road dead-ends at the wide and deep Río Andumolo, whose mangrove estuary is home to birds and crocodiles.
Paradise Riding (tel. 506/2658-8162, www.paradiseriding.com) offers horse-riding trips.
Accommodations in Junquillal struggle to draw a clientele, and the scene remains fluid. There are more options than listed here.
A bargain-priced option, the modern Guacamaya Lodge (tel. 506/2658-8431, www.guacamayalodge.com, from $45 s or $55 d low season, from $55 s or $60 d high season) is run by a Swiss couple. The huge thatched open-air bar-restaurant is a highlight. There’s a clinical orderliness to the spacious, if simply appointed, studio apartments and villa rooms, all of which are washed with plenty of sunlight. It has a sand volleyball court plus tennis court.
Villa Roberta B&B (tel. 506/2658-8127, www.junquillal.com, $35–50 low season, $50–75 high season) is a modern hilltop home about 400 meters inland of the beach with two spacious rooms for rent. One is a very attractive double room with a black stone floor and king-size bed, and a beautiful bathroom with stone floor, sink, and shower. The second is an air-conditioned apartment with lofty ceiling, small kitchen, and a tasteful bathroom with a bidet. Each has a pleasing motif with dark hardwood accents and sea-blue tiles. It has a deep kidney-shaped pool plus hammocks on verandas.
Stealing the show when it opened in 2010 is the nearby Mundo Milo Ecolodge (tel. 506/2658-7010, www.mundomilo.com, $50 s/d low season, $60 s/d high season), a rustic yet gorgeous lodge run by Dutch expats Lieke and Michael, who designed their airy cabins and open-air lounge with “an African motif.” Simply appointed, these charming cabins have high thatched ceilings and huge porches with rockers.
About 100 meters south, a German-Tico couple run El Castillo Divertido (tel./fax 506/2658-8428, castillodivertido [at] hotmail [dot] com, $30 s, $42 d), a crenellated three-story structure with a breezy hillside setting 300 meters inland of the beach. It has six simply furnished rooms with large louvered-glass windows and private bath (three have hot water and ocean view). There’s a rooftop sundeck.
Prefer a bed-and-breakfast? Hotelito Si Si Si (tel. 506/2658-9021, www.hotelitosisisi.com, $59 s/d room, $79 casita low season; $79 s/d room, $99 casita high season) offers three rooms and a one-bedroom casita with king-size beds. It’s 500 meters south of the Paraíso turnoff.
For self catering, try Plumita Pacífica (tel. 506/2658-7125, www.plumitapacifica.com, $65 low season, $75 high season), with two spacious, simply furnished apartment units with full marble-topped kitchens. (They smelled of wet concrete when I visited, but there are iPod docks.) It has a tremendous beachfront setting, enjoyed from your personal patio.
Despite its fabulous cliff-top perch, the venerable Iguanazul Beach Resort (tel. 506/2658-8123, www.iguanazul.com, from $50 s or $60 d low season, from $91 s or $102 d high season) appeals mainly to Tico travelers; at last visit the public areas remained in need of a total remake. The simply appointed rooms are cozy enough but are overpriced for high season.
n the center of the beach, the German-run Villa Serena (tel./fax 506/2658-8430, www.landho.com/costa-rica, $65 s/d low season, $100 s/d high season) has 10 modern bungalows. The spacious, light, and airy rooms—all with fans and private baths with hot water—are spread out among palms and surrounded by emerald-green grass and flowery gardens. The villa has a cozy lounge overlooking the beach, a library, and a swimming pool, and a hibiscus-encircled tennis court. It offers spa treatments.
Rudy’s (no tel.), in Junquillal, still operates as the local grocery store, but no longer has a restaurant. A snazzy new plaza—Tierra Pacífica—opened in 2010 with the Italian-owned Mini Super Junquillal, good for stocking up on groceries and fresh-baked bread.
John and Olive Murphy’s Land-Ho restaurant, at Villa Serena, serves meals on an elevated veranda overlooking the ocean.
Getting to Playa Junquillal
Buses depart Santa Cruz at 5 A.M., 10 A.M., 2:30 P.M., and 5:30 P.M. daily. Return buses depart at 6 A.M., 9 A.M., 12:30 P.M., and 4:30 P.M.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition