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Playa 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, Guanacaste
Playa Penca, Guanacaste

How to get to Playa Penca snorkeling spot?

Playa Penca is a small beach on the peninsula separating Playas 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).

You can also hire a water taxi from Playas Del Coco or Playa Hermosa to drop off/pick up.

Playa Penca snorkeling map

Entering the water to snorkel Playa Penca

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.

Spotted eagle ray at Playa Penca
Spotted eagle rays are occasionally sighted at Playa Penca.

Playa Penca snorkeling tips and recommendations

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). Some healthy coral, that has been “tagged” & observed for growth, is found on the left side.

Large groups of wrasse and damselfish rest near the rocks, where small moray eels sometimes find a home. Cornetfish, orangeside triggerfish, and several species of puffers and porcupinefish are easy to see.

School of blacknosed butterflyfish
A school of blacknosed butterflyfish.

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 blacknosed butterflyfish are common.

Here and there, you will also see Cortez angelfish, and the elegant king angelfish. If lucky, when the visibility is good, you may also spot spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and hawksbill sea turtles, especially in the deeper areas.

Bullseye puffer at Playa Penca
The bullseye puffer is one of the several pufferfish species found at this location.

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. Avoid Be careful and postpone your swim if the sea is too rough.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

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

 

  • 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.