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Playa Junquillal/Costa Rica

Introducing Playa Junquillal

Hard to pronounce and almost as difficult to find, Junquillal (say ‘hoon-kee-yal’) is a 2km-wide gray-sand wilderness beach that’s absolutely stunning and mostly deserted. There's a dome boulder to the south that crumbles into a jutting rock reef and beyond that is a vast, 200-hectare estuary carved by the Rio Nanda Mojo. To the north is a narrow rise of bluffs sprouting clumps of palm trees. Sunsets are downright surreal with blinding golds, molten oranges and shocking pinks. The sea does swirl with fierce rip currents, however, and when it gets big, surfers descend from Negra. But even when surf isn't high, it's dangerous out there and drownings do happen. Don't let kids or even intermediate swimmers venture out alone.

Olive ridley turtles nest in Junquillal from July to November, with a peak from August to October, though in smaller numbers than at the refuges; Junquillal is also an important nesting site for leatherbacks. Though it is not officially protected, conservation groups have teamed up with local communities to protect the nesting sites and eliminate poaching. For more information seek out Vida Verde Azul. They have an office in the southern end of town. Local environmentalist, and owner of El Castillo Divertido, Silvia Hector, offers kayaking tours through the mangroves along the Rio Nanda Mojo.

With far more Tico locals than tourists, Junquillal has an inviting authenticity unique on the northern peninsula. The nearest town is 4km inland at Paraíso, which has a few local sodas and bars. Accommodations are spread out along the beach.