Playa Espadilla
Manual Antonio
Costa Rica

Gay Beach

Playa Dulce Vida S.A.     Espectro Gama S.A.   Ecovision S.A.
Playita (little beach) at Playa Espadilla, Manual Antonio (MA), Costa Rica is a beautiful nude beach.  It is also know as the "Gay Beach".  It is only 500 feet across and has an almost eerie resemblance to Little Beach in Maui, Hawaii.

Status -

Although nudity is illegal at Playita, it has a well-established tradition of nude use which has been generally hassle-free.

Unfortunately, development pressure threatens the continued nude and Gay status of Playita.  The owners of Si Como No, a MA high-end hotel and restaurant, are building "A Beachfront Resort", Arenas del Mar, behind Playita.  It is clear from their web site that have designs on Playita as a key part of their resort.  In January 2005, active construction was underway at Playita about 75 yards from the ocean.  An access road already built.  Foundations marked and being dug.   Some locals claim that the construction is illegal.  Illegal or not, it is underway and once built will certainly remain.  Arenas del Mar sees itself as a high-end resort and thus will demand enforcement of laws against nudity.  Eventually to insure its own private use, it will block public access to Playita.

If you have a chance to visit this nude beach while it is still accessible, it is worth the trip.

Geodetic Coordinates -

  09º 23' 51"  North Latitude   (09.3974º)
  84º 09' 51"  West Longitude   (84.1641º)

Directions -

You must plan your trip to Playita around the high tide.   For at least an hour, before and after the high tide, you cannot cross some of the rocks to get in to or to get out of Playita.  Mistiming can result in your being stranded at Playita for a few hours.

There are two ways to get to Playita:

1. Drive or take a bus or taxi toward Manual Antonio National Park to get to Playa Espadilla (Manual Antonio Beach).  As you approach MA National Park the first  beach access is near Hotel Karahé, about 1/3 mile before you get to the park entrance.  When you get to the ocean, turn right (west) and walk ~ 1 mile to Playita.


2. Walk or drive south down the road adjacent to Hotel Casa Blanca.  Turn left at the first intersection onto the dirt road.  Proceed down to Playa Espadilla (the beach) and turn right (west) and walk ~ ¼ mile to Playita.  The dirt road is very steep.  If you drive, you will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  If you walk, you will probably not want to return via this route and instead walk east on the beach toward the MA park entrance.

As you approach Playita, there are two groups of lava rock which will block access at high tide  The first can be walked around at lowest tide but the second must always be crossed.

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  The distance to "big rock" is about 1 mile using either the beach or the road.
From "big rock" to Playita (the nude Gay Beach) is another 1/4 mile.

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  Playa Espadilla (Manual Antonio Beach) at low tide.
Note the dark sand showing the water line at high tide.

What to Bring -

The climb over the lava rock will cause you to want to have at least one hand free.  A backpack is suggested. 

In season, ambitious Ticos carry provisions to Playita and sell water, sodas, beer and freshly grilled hamburgers at reasonable prices.  It is advisable, however, to take your own water in case the vendors don't show up that day.

Things you may need:

  • Time of high tides
  • Water
  • Sunblock
  • Towel and/or blanket
  • Sunglasses
  • Footwear for the climb over the rough lava rock (although many people go barefoot)

Possibly nice to have along:

  • Reading material
  • Lunch (or buy it from a Tico)
  • Walkman
  • Watch
  • Beach chair

Stats -

  • Beach Length:  500 feet (150 meters) (GPS measurement)
  • Beach Width:  ~100 feet (30 meters) depending on tide.
  • Sand:  medium texture with a trace of dark vegetable matter.   It packs well and is generally easy to walk on.  Overall, better than average.
  • Shade:  Yes, many trees offer good shade.
  • Water Temperature:  80ºF (27ºC), +/- 2ºF year round.
  • Rocks:  Some large rocks in water which are generally grouped so that close-in swimming is possible.  Beware of rip tides.

Notes -

  • Although illegal, Playita has a well established tradition of nude use.  Observe the crowd and/or check with locals for current status.
  • I was at Playita in January 2005.  On Monday, the 17th there were almost 100 people of whom maybe 20 were nude.  On Thursday, the 20th there were more than 100 people of whom about 40 were nude.  Some people were only nude when going into the water.
  • Bring drinking water.
  • The climb over the lava rock my be difficult for some people.   A free hand to secure handholds is advised.
  • Foot protection my be required on the lava rock.
  • Do not take valuables to the beach and keep a close eye on what you do bring. 
  • Costa Rica is 9 degrees above the equator.  The sun can be very intense.  Use sun block protection appropriate for your skin color.   Fortunately, shade is available.
  • There are no restrooms near Playita.
  • There are no trashcans at Playita.  Carry in - carry out.
  • Tico (m) and Tica (f) are what Costa Ricans call themselves.

Click Images to EnlargePictures -

Approaching big rock from east


Big rock on left - Playita in distance

Approaching Playita


Approaching Playita border rocks


Over the rocks

Playita from border rocks


Panoramic View of Playita looking south toward the Pacific Ocean




A dozen swimmers







Created:  26 Jan 2005

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