Head To This Gorgeous, Family-Friendly Costa Rican Beach For A Break From Crowds

When you think about taking the entire family on a beach vacation, you probably dream of splashing in the water with your little ones, discovering sea creatures while snorkeling, and lying in the sun as they play on the sand. What a disappointment when the inevitable crowds show up, and instead of some family bonding time, you're driving in circles for parking, refereeing fights over beach space, dodging garbage tossed by those jerks on the towel next to yours, and battling it out like underwater gladiators for the best animal-spotting areas. Wouldn't it be lovely to spend some alone time with your partner and kids on a secluded beach? Even better, a secluded beach with an actual bat cave? 

We have the perfect suggestion for you for a hidden Costa Rican beach that most tourists don't know about. In fact, it's often referred to as the "secret beach." This gorgeous place is quiet, great for families, and has a great snorkeling spot. Welcome to Playa Los Suecos, also known as Playa Cuevas. The first name means "Swedish beach," possibly because of Nils Olof Wessberg and Karen Morgenson, who founded the national park system in Costa Rica. The second name is "Cave Beach," for a good reason: the bat cave. Let's visit Playa Los Suecos, see how to find this hidden gem, and everything you can do there. 

What to know about Playa Los Suecos

Actually getting to Costa Rica's lesser-visited beach of Los Suecos is one of the reasons it's not well-known among tourists. It's south of Mal Pais beach, and it's listed as Playa Cuevas on Google Maps. If you head south from Mal Pais, you'll see a fisher's beach and some boats, but keep going down the road to the left. You'll come to a gate, which is for the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve. (You are not permitted to go through it.) Park right there in the lot, and on the right, you'll see a short walking path to the beach. Do note that the roads to Los Suecos can be a little rough, so a 4x4 would be very helpful. 

The sand is almost white, and the water is crystal blue and clear, making it the setting for a perfect family beach day. The water is calm as it's protected by a reef. If you're lucky enough to visit during an extremely low tide, you'll have rocks to walk out on and tide pools to explore, full of creatures for the kids to look at. This beach doesn't have amenities like bathrooms or cafes for food (or anything else), so make sure you pack a lunch or whatever you'll need for the day and pack everything out as well. 

Snorkeling and the bat cave at Playa Los Suecos

Playa Los Suecos is a delight for snorkelers, and the calm waters make it great for beginners. You may see rays, lobsters, eels, turtles, octopuses, pufferfish, and starfish. Even if you don't end up bringing your snorkel gear (because there is no place on the beach to rent anything), you and the kids have another animal-spotting option. Bats. 

The beach is part of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cueva Murcielago, or the Bat Caves Wildlife Refuge. During low tide, you can climb over the rocks on the left of the picture above and enter an actual bat cave! Forget Batman, because what you can see here is thousands of bats resting for the morning and afternoon. Do keep in mind that these are wild creatures, so try not to disturb them with loud noises or flashlights. It's also not a bad idea to stay at the entrance and bring a face mask to avoid breathing in their droppings, which can sometimes cause histoplasmosis. Zoom in with your camera for pics instead. After all, someone coming into your bedroom at night yelling and shining light into your eyes wouldn't make you happy either.