The hamlet of Brasilito, about four kilometers south of Flamingo  and three kilometers north of Huacas, draws an incongruous mix of offbeat budget travelers and sybarites, the latter lured to the Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa, a five-star hotel within the huge Reserva Conchal (tel. 506/2654-4000, www.reservaconchal.com ) residential community.
The light-gray sand beach at Brasilito melds westward into Playa Conchal, one of Costa Rica’s finest beaches. The beach lies in the cusp of a scalloped bay with turquoise waters, a rarity in Costa Rica. The beach is composed, uniquely, of zillions of tiny seashells that move with soft rustling sounds as you walk; the waters are of crystalline quality perfect for snorkeling. It’s illegal to remove shells. Please leave them for future generations to enjoy.
Conchal can also be accessed by road from the west via the hamlet of Matapalo, three kilometers west of Huacas, where a rough dirt road leads from the northwest corner of the soccer field to the west end of Playa Conchal (4 km). A side road on the Matapalo-Conchal road leads west to Playa Real, a stunning little beauty of a beach nestled in a sculpted bay with a tiny tombolo leading to a rocky island. Venerable fishing boats make good resting spots for pelicans.
This region is booming! Roads have been cut to heretofore isolated beaches, such as the delightful Playa Nombre de Jesús.
Santana Tours (tel. 506/2654-4359), opposite Hotel Conchal, offers horseback rides and scooter rental. There are water-sports concessions on Playa Conchal. You can buy day (8 A.M.–5 P.M.) and/or night (6 P.M.–1 A.M.) passes ($65) that permit nonguests to use the Westin resort facilities. A highlight is the Garra de León Golf Club (golf [at] reservaconchal [dot] com), with an 18-hole golf course designed by the king of designers, Robert Trent Jones Jr.; it is not open to walk-ins, but guests at local hotels can play by reservation.
Note: Signs warn that ATV tours on the beach can destroy turtle nests; best to stay off the beach.
You can camp under shade trees ($2 pp low season, $3 high season) behind the beach at Brasilito Lodge (tel./fax 506/2654-4452, www.brasilito-conchal.com ), an otherwise unkempt place that also has seven motley cabins not worth recommending.
The Cabinas Ojos Azules (tel./fax 506/2654-4346, www.cabinasojosazules.com , from $12 pp), 100 meters south of the soccer field, has 14 clean and neatly furnished yet basic cabins for up to eight people. Some have hot water. There’s a laundry, a small plunge pool, and a rancho with hammocks.
Perfect for budget travelers, the German-run Hotel Brasilito (tel. 506/2654-4237, www.brasilito.com , $29–85 s/d), 50 meters from both the beach and soccer field, is a well-run hotel with 15 simple rooms (they vary greatly; some are air-conditioned) with fans and private baths with hot water, in a daffodil-yellow wooden home adorned with flower boxes. It has a terrific restaurant.
My favorite place here is Hotel Conchal (tel. 506/2654-9125, www.conchalcr.com , $85–125 s/d), 200 meters south of the soccer field. This charming Polynesian-style hotel is run by an English-Danish couple and has nine pretty whitewashed, tile-floored air-conditioned rooms with wrought-iron beds (some are king-size), ceiling fans, TVs, halogen lighting, free WiFi, and river-stone exteriors. They face a landscaped garden full of bougainvillea. The Robinson Crusoe–style upstairs lounge is a delightful space. A dive school is on-site.
Next door, and of similar standard, Cabinas Diversion Tropical (tel. 506/2654-5519, www.diversiontropical.com , $35 s or $40 d) has 12 clean, simply appointed rooms in a two-story unit facing a small swimming pool. It also rents kayaks and mountain bikes.
Apartotel & Restaurant Nany (tel. 506/2654-4320, www.hotelnany.com , from $35 pp) has 11 uniquely designed spacious, modern air-conditioned two-bedroom “apartments” with kitchenettes and tall half-moon windows, ceiling fans, cable TV, security box, and private baths with hot water. It has an open-air restaurant and a plunge pool.
An alternative for the self-catering set is Finca Buena Fuente Hotel (tel. 506/2653-5027, www.buenafuentehotel.com , $40–80 s/d low season, $50–100 s/d high season), combining traditional farm-style restaurant and bar with huge, modern apartment units furnished in Spartan, uninspired fashion. Units differ; some have loft bedrooms. It’s one kilometer from the beach.
For a more luxurious experience, check into the Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa (tel. 506/2654-3300, www.starwoodhotels.com , from $315 s/d). Formerly the Paradisus Playa Conchal, the resort was bought from Sol Meliá and reopened in 2011 after a complete remake. Spanning 285 hectares and surrounded by rippling fairways, the resort has 308 open-plan junior suites and two master suites in 37 two-story units amid landscaped grounds behind the beach. All boast exquisite marble bathrooms, mezzanine bedrooms supported by columns, and lounges with soft-cushioned sofas. The massive free-form swimming pool is a setting for noisy aerobics and games. It has three restaurants, two bars, a disco, a theater with nightly shows, and tennis courts, plus the golf course.
The only option in Playa Real is the Cabinas Las Catalinas (tel. 506/2653-6636, $70 s/d low season, $85 s/d high season), with four spacious but simple apartment units that get very hot.
Don’t leave without dining at the Hotel Brasilito’s breezy Outback Jack’s Australian Road Kill Grill (tel. 506/2654-4596, 7 A.M.–11 P.M. daily), festooned with intriguing miscellany and serving killer breakfasts such as grilled croissants and huevos rancheros ($3). The varied lunch and dinner menu ranges from ceviche and shrimp on the barbie to lasagna and grilled pork loin. There’s a large-screen TV for sports events.
Don Brasilito’s (tel. 506/2654-5310, www.donbrasilitos.com , 10 A.M.–2 A.M. daily) is a worthy alternative for pizza. It shows sporting events on a 22-foot mega-screen, and has pool tables and a horseshoe court, plus WiFi. It gets lively at night with live bands (including mariachis) and karaoke.
The oceanfront bougainvillea-festooned Cameron Dorado (tel. 506/2654-4028) is the place for seafood. Despite its tacky plastic furniture, it serves delicious dishes.
For a taxi call 506/8836-1739. Adobe Rent-a-Car (tel. 506/8811-4242, www.adobecar.com ) is in Paseo del Mar commercial center.