Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

Playa Matapalo
¬†Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica isn’t your typical beach for the reason that it’s only accessible by boat, through the thick jungle or through the entire length of two heavily secured Riu resorts. Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica is the ‘private’ beach that belongs to the Riu Guanacaste and Riu Palace, Costa Rica all inclusive resorts. The beach itself is of Playa Matapalo set in an encroaching jungle backdrop with brown volcanic sand, it’s easy to see why this location is a perfect habitat for most of Costa Rica’s wildlife. Despite the tourist presence here from the two Riu resorts monkeys still swing and turtles still nest every year.




I arrived on the secret and secluded beach of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica in the Guanacaste region on my first ever all inclusive resort holiday. I’d have 8 days in the stunning resort of Riu Guanacaste where I’d explore the Arenal Volcano National Park. The perks of having travel agent friends never get old. Arriving in Guanacaste Province and on Playa Matapalo (aka. Matapalo Beach) I was instantly transported back to the Central American dream I lived for 3 months in this vibrant and exciting segment of the world. The humid air, volcanic sand and constant hiss of the jungle meant my nostalgia from our Central American backpacking trip was ever present.
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
The jungle backdrop and volcanic sand of Playa Matapalo

Pura Vida – Playa Matapalo/Matapalo Beach Costa Rica. The secret beaches of the Riu Guanacaste and Riu Palace, Costa Rica

Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
A room with the view – The 5th floor of the Riu Guanacaste hotel overlooking Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Sunsets from Matapalo Beach, Costa Rica

The tranquil setting of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica is not unlike the other Pacific coast beaches of Central America, although it’s access points make it very untypical in the perspective of my usual travel style. Situated in a deep bay with imposing rocky headlands to the left and more to the right. This Pacific coast beach is unusually wind free most of the time. Playa Matapalo isn’t spared of the usual Latin hustle, the same hustle that can be found on almost any beach anywhere in Latin America. The sellers are ever present on the private beach of Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica despite its seclusion. Handbags, pottery, jewelry and more you can find the same goods on any beach up this coastline in Costa Rica right down to Peru and up to Mexico.

If you plan on staying at either of the Riu resorts on Playa Matapalo (Riu Palace and Riu Guanacaste) you’ll have exclusive (along with the sellers) access to the beach. For the benefits of tourists you will find many amenities on the beach. Sun loungers, jet skis and massage therapy are all available. Sun loungers are free of charge on Matapalo Beach, the latter two will come with a price.


Pacific coast sunsets ignite the sky over Playa Matapalo and turn the holidaymakers into silhouettes against the headland back drop as the day turns from light to dark. Playa Matapalo becomes the ideal setting to spend an evening and a sunset stroll is recommended. Note: Sand flies are prolific on this beach and a mere 15 minutes on Playa Matapalo will have you itching for days. Always wear insect repellent with DEET or even better, cover your legs before arriving on the beach for sunset.

Is there anything more tranquil than a Pacific Coast sunset along the shores of a Central American beach? Matapalo Beach/Playa Matapalo is no exception.

Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Pura Vida – Costa Rica sunset from Playa Matapalo/Matapalo Beach


Thanks to the rocky headlands that enclose the bay of Playa Matapalo the beach is relatively quiet for a Pacific coast beach. The waves rarely reach the typical heights that can be expected of the Pacific. Unlike similar beaches in the area you’ll see no surfing on Playa Matapalo, instead you can try kayaking, paddle boarding or if you prefer you can board one of the ‘food and drink inclusive’ snorkel boat trips that can be booked from both Riu resort receptions. Also known as the sunset cruise.

What to do in Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica?

Paddle boarding
Jet Skiing


Both of the Riu resorts in Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste share a dive school. The ScubaCaribe is a well known and reputable dive school/brand offering local dives in Central America and The Caribbean. ScubaCaribe operate from a small dive shop in between both of the Riu resorts slightly set back from the beach itself. They offer PADI certifications and dives off the coast of Costa Rica from this school. Guests at the Riu resorts can book here during their stay. The dive boats leave from the centre of Playa Matapalo and all equipment can be rented from the dive shop.
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
The sunset cruise retuning
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Divers waiting to head out onto the water – Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

Find out how to eat in Costa Rica on a budget with Costa Rica Vibes


Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica


Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica


Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Photos of Playa Matapalo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica


If you’re planning on booking an all inclusive trip to Costa Rica I’d seriously recommend the Guanacaste area. Check out the Riu resorts, which are the popular Riu Guanacaste and Riu Palace Guanacaste before booking and have a browse of what each offers. I’d be happy staying at either the Riu Palace, Costa Rica or Riu Guanacaste, Costa Rica they are a million times the upgrade from my usual backpacker accommodation.

My time in Playa Matapalo was in an all inclusive resort at the Riu Guanacaste was a first for me, as I’ve never actually been on an all inclusive holiday. Initially I was worried that I’d be bored or experience cabin fever, but thanks to the mass of things to do within the resort I didn’t once find myself getting bored. When you’re planning an all inclusive trip make sure you review all the activities and facilities first and the local transport options available along with excursions to ensure there will be enough for you to do.


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