La Penca is a small beach on Punta Cacique (the peninsula separating Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa). Completely natural, this white sand beach where you may observe monkeys sleeping around make the atmosphere very romantic and peaceful. The water is usually calm and crystal clear, and allows snorkeling sessions among the most enjoyable of Guanacaste. You can combine an exploration of the area with Calzon de Pobre, which lies just a few hundred meters away.

Playa Penca snorkeling beach, Costa Rica

How to get there?

La Penca is a small beach on the peninsula separating Playa del Coco and Playa Hermosa, which are among the most sought-after resorts on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. From Liberia, you can get to Playa Hermosa in about 40 minutes (well signposted). Once you are at Playa Hermosa, continue on towards Playa del Coco for a few minutes. At the top of the hill, turn right along the dirt road serving the peninsula (a GPS application may come in handy since there are no signposts along the path, see on google maps). From Playa del Coco, head for Playa Hermosa and turn left on the track. Entry is controlled (a note is taken of your license plate), but free. Follow the track for five minutes until a cul-de-sac. Park and continue for around five minutes on foot. You can drive along the track in a normal vehicle, but ask for more information at the entrance (a 45-minute walk approximately).

Water entrance

The area to explore is at the left-hand part of the beach, along the rocky point enclosing the bay. You can enter the water anywhere along the sandy beach.

Playa Penca snorkeling map, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Exploration

As you move away from the beach, you cross 20 meters or so of rocky seabed (↕3-6ft/1-2m) which gradually give way to a sandy seabed (↕6-12ft/2-4m). Large groups of wrasse and damselfish rest near the rocks, where small moray eels sometimes find a home. Cornetfish and triggerfish are easy to see.

White spotted puffer at Playa Penca

The rocky area enclosing the left side of the beach is the most interesting. Hundreds of sergents majors and chromis take shelter around the rocks, and blacknose butterflyfish are common. Here and there, you will also see Cortez angelfish, and the elegant king angelfish.

Watch out for boats that sometimes come and go on this site when you are out to sea. The waters are particularly translucent here during the dry season, but sea conditions can be poor depending on the wind or the waves. Be careful and postpone your swim if the sea is too rough.

Cortez rainbow wrasse at Playa Penca

Restaurants and accommodation

The site is completely natural. To make the most of this very nice site, take along a picnic.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Playa Penca
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
King angelfish Holacanthus passer  
Cortez angelfish Pomacanthus zonipectus  
Speckled moray Gymnothorax dovii  
Poisson-flûte Fistularia commersonii  
Orangeside triggerfish Sufflamen verres  
Bluebarred parrotfish Scarus ghobban  
Indo-Pacific sergeant Abudefduf vaigiensis  
Long-spine porcupinefish Diodon holocanthus  
White-spotted puffer Arothron hispidus  
Acapulco gregory Stegastes acapulcoensis  
Acapulco gregory Stegastes acapulcoensis  
Cortez rainbow wrasse Thalassoma lucasanum  
Starry grouper Epinephelus labriformis  
  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersBoats
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.