Off the Gringo Trail: Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica

Esterillos Oeste is a sleepy fisherman’s village and a surfer’s paradise in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica, a real hidden gem. It has stunning stretches of tidal beaches and brilliant nature all just a few miles away from the tourist hotspot of Jaco. It is a fantastic place to: take a break from tourist saturated Jaco, learn to surf, relax, unwind, and see a more authentic Costa Rica. On the weekends there are often more locals on weekend trips than tourists in the area and you can easily find a spot all to yourself on the beach. There is accommodation for all budgets, a supermarket, surf schools, board rentals and a few restaurants, everything to keep you occupied whilst there.

Tidal pools on the long stretches of beach

Getting to Esterillos Oeste

The easiest and quickest way to get to Esterillos Oeste from anywhere is obviously by car. However, if you are not comfortable renting a car or cannot afford to there are multiple ways of getting there using public transport.

From San Jose

The easiest way to get to Esterillos Oeste from San Jose is to get a bus to Quepos or Manual Antonio. Once on the bus ask the driver to drop you off in Esterillos Oeste. It takes about two and a half hours on the direct buses and about three (potentially longer) on the collectivo buses. It costs about $5.00 and leaves multiple times a day (about every hour). You are dropped off at the second entrance of the town and can then walk down into the town, towards the beach where most of the accommodation is. It is very small so it is pretty hard to get lost.

From Jaco

From Jaco, the easiest way to get to Esterillos Oeste is by getting the local bus to Parrita/Quepos/Manuel Antonio for about $2. The bus goes right through Jaco and stops at multiple bus stops on the main street running through the town. It is then a relatively short ride (depending on the number of passengers and stops) to Esterillos Oeste where you can just pull a chord (or in some cases press a button) or ask the driver to stop and get off (you may not always be able to put your luggage in the hold on this one).

From Manuel Antonio/Quepos

From Manual Antonio or Quepos, you can get a local bus to Puntarenas or San Jose and again just ask the driver to stop en route.

Don’t be afraid of asking the drivers even if your Spanish is not that great it is quite common for people to get off at seemingly random locations along the way. On the nicer buses from San Jose when the bus stops there will even be an announcement in English of the bus stop.

The cutest local pup that joined me on my explorations

Accommodation in Esterillos Oeste

There are multiple places to stay in Esterillos Oeste that can be found both through booking.com and Airbnb. The Spot is the best option for those budget travelling as it offers dorms starting at $12 a night. The owner runs the show primarily by himself or sometimes with the help of volunteer (another way to stay if you are a budget traveller) and is super helpful and friendly. His place offers both a/c and fan dorms, as well as one with hot or cold showers; there is also a fully equipped kitchen for those with a budget in mind. It is super clean and has a laidback vibe.

Long stretches of gorgeous beach

You can also stay at El Barco or Rancho Coral if you have more to spend. Rancho Coral has neat aparthotel rooms with a kitchen, a/c and hot showers. These rooms would be ideal for a family as they offer two beds (a double and single) and is right on the beach with super friendly staff.

Activities in Esterillos Oeste

The iconic mermaid statue

EsterillosOeste has a gorgeous beach that stretches all the way down to Bejuco Beach in Esterillos Central. The beach is tidal offering beautiful warm tidal pools during low tide and wicked waves during high tide. You can walk all the way along the beach bordering a nature reserve where you can often spot scarlet macaws and capuchin monkeys, make sure you also walk out to the iconic mermaid statue during low tide.

You can walk right up to the mouth of a river and wade through some smaller rivers. It is a gorgeous place to watch both the sunset and sunrise. Esterillos Oeste is also the perfect place for collecting shells and beach treasures.

I loved taking walks at low tide

If just sitting on the beach is not your thing there are other activities. If you are travelling by car you can easily get to Jaco for nightlife, or the weekly Backyard Surf Sessions on a Saturday at Playa Hermosa. You can also go to a waterfall in nearby Parrita. If you would like to stay in locality there are horseriding tours along the beach offered nearby as well as, fishing tours offered by local fishermen. It is also the perfect location to surf or learn to surf.

Surfing

Esterillos Oeste is particularly popular amongst long-boarders and is the perfect place for learning to surf, there are slow breaking consistent waves. If you don’t know how to surf when you arrive you’ll be up on a board in no time. There are various places in the area to rent boards and get lessons. Wherever you are staying, lessons can be arranged for you, as can board rentals but there are also multiple locations within the town if you would like to shop around. A few places offer 24-hour board rentals allowing you greater flexibility and the ability to maximize your time out in the water.

Food in Esterillos Oeste

In Esterillos Oeste there are quite a few food options. The cheapest option is to buy your own food and cook, as most places have kitchens, which is what I did most of the times. You can also eat at the few restaurants in town that offer traditional Tica foods, western foods (I love Rancho Coral’s banana pancakes) and seafood. You can eat at Rancho Coral or any of the other restaurants for the same price as anywhere else in Costa Rica, if not cheaper than the tourist hot spots.

gorgeous skies all day, every day

Definitely consider working Esterillos into your Costa Rica itinerary, even if just for a few days to escape the tourism in Jaco and Manuel Antonio, you may end up loving it and staying a full two weeks relaxing by the seaside. Just be sure to bring plenty of cash for just-in-case-ofs as there are no ATMs in the area.

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