From Playa Naranjo to Paquera
On the Nicoya Peninsula the only reliable road connection between the provinces Guanacaste and Puntarenas is along the Gulf of Nicoya. Other tracks interconnecting the northern with the southern province are only seasonally driveable with a 4WD car. See » Driving from Manzanillo to Playa Coyote.
While most of the Ruta National 160 is now paved, there is still a 22 km stretch unpaved between the village of Paquera and Playa Naranjo. This part is currently under construction and enormous earth movements are being made to cut a broad stripe through the dense jungle of this hilly area. With rains the drive through the mud is challenging and you better avoid driving at night. It could take until end of 2019 until these road constructions are finished. Until now there is no public bus servicing this route. Instead, both Paquera and Playa Naranjo connect to Puntarenas by ferry boat. Travelers without own transportation have to backtrack to Puntarenas or use private minibus services if they want to go from Samara, Nosara or Tamarindo in the north to the southern Nicoya beaches like Montezuma, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa.
Beaches between Playa Naranjo and Paquera:
Few people live in this region and the lush jungle touching the sea and covering the islands gives a wild beauty to rocky cliffs, promontories and bays. Sadly, as in many parts of the world, the beaches are often littered with plastic trash washed into the Gulf from rivers of the mainland of Costa Rica.
Playa Naranjo isn't much more than the ferry slip, a small hotel and an abandoned gas station. The closest supermarket is in Cabo Blanco, two kilometers north of Naranjo. A short drive from Naranjo is the Karen Mogensen Eco Reserve with trails through the jungle, river swimming pools and waterfall.
3 km south from Naranjo a side road to the left leads to Playa Blanca which looks upon the Sugarhat Island and the former prison island Isla San Lucas.
The cove of Playa Blanca has white coral sand and turquoise waters where you can snorkel and swim.
Further down the main road to Paquera you come close to the shore at Bahia Gigante, a crescent sandy bay which is nice for a break and a snack in Erika's small beach bar. 400 m offshore lies Isla Gitana which in pre-columbian times had been a cemetery island.
Isla Gitana protects the Bahia Gigante and the adjacent Bahia Luminosa, making them a safe and picturesque anchor place for sail boats.
5 km further on you pass through the hamlet of Rio Grande. From here you can make a tour on horseback into the hills to get to the "El Salto" waterfall with its swimming holes. Also close to Rio Grande is the small, scenic cove of Playa Pájaro where you can swim and relax under huge old trees.
From Rio Grande it's another 7 km drive until Paquera, which is locally known for producing vegetables and fruits. In Paquera you find supermarkets, an ATM cashier, a gas station and some nice options for staying overnight. Cabinas in Paquera are inexpensive compared to the popular tourist spots. Although there isn't much to do in the small village Paquera is a good basis for visiting the Curu Wildlife Reserve which is only 5 km away. Local operators also offer boat and snorkeling tours to the Tortuga Islands or scuba diving.
Four km out of Paquera is the terminal for the ferries to Puntarenas. On the way to the ferry terminal a road to the right goes to Playa Organos, a placid wide bay with a picture-perfect sandy beach, surrounded by jungle. The bay is safe for swimming and you have views to the Tortuga Islands. Don't forget a repellent, as there are sometimes many bugs on Playa Organos.