Grey-sand Playa Hermosa, 5km south of Jacó, has long been a playground for hot-shot surfers. Pummelled by formidable waves, the 10km-long strip rivals Dominical for having the most consistent beach breaks on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Given its proximity to Jacó, it was inevitable the development craze would reach here, too, and condos are now going up along the beachfront at a rapid pace. The area is being sold as a more upmarket version of Jacó – a coastal getaway without the noise, pollution, drugs and prostitution plaguing its neighbour…at least for now.
Hermosa is definitely not a beach for a casual dip (the riptides here are formidable), nor for novice surfers. Steep sand bars cause waves to break hard, fast and close to the shore, most impressively during the rainy season between May and August – with the best breakers in front of Terraza del Pacifico and the Backyard Hotel. On Saturday afternoons, you can watch how it should be done, when local surfers and gung-ho visitors tackle the waves as part of the Backyard Surf Series (4pm; free to enter).
Further south of the hotel strip, the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Playa Hermosa y Punta Mala protects a nesting site for olive ridley turtles, which come ashore to lay their eggs between August and December; it’s off-limits to the public, but you can visit the turtle hatchery at the ranger station, a gridded block of beach being used to monitor the species’ reproduction rates in this part of the Pacific.