Past the rocky headland south of Coco, the upmarket enclave of PLAYA OCOTAL is reached by taking the signed turn-off to the left 200m before reaching the beach at Coco. Ocotal and its surroundings have lovely views over the ocean and across to the Papagayo Gulf from the top of the headland, and the small beach is better for swimming than Coco, but the real attraction are the marlin and other "big game" fish that glide through these waters. Ocotal hotels are usually tied in with sports-fishing packages: one of the most highly rated is Ocotal Beach Resort (Tel:670-0321, Web: www.ocotalresort.com ; Price: $101-150), whose elegantly furnished rooms have TV, hammocks, air conditioning and fridges. Set on top of a hill, it has stunning views over the Pacific, and offers tennis and swimming as well as sports-fishing and scuba-diving packages.
Its only competition is Bahia Pez Vela (Sailfish Bay), Web: www.costaricarentalvilla.com ; which encourages weeklong visits to their full-amenity house, which can sleep up to eight. There are 19 rooms in total, on beautiful grounds with two pools and a wading pool, gorgeous lawn area above a nice beach, where people actually swim. The bar and restaurant Picante is open air, casual, by the pool, but pricey by local standards.
Not far away is a beachside popular place AFather Rooster Bar and Grill, with great food and more reasonable prices and a fun staff. Open til 10pm.
The best mid-range place to stay is the ultra-hospitable AVilla Casa Blanca (Tel:670-0518, Web: www.hotelvillacasablanca.com ; Price: $76-100), a small, quiet B&B that offers boat tours, deep-sea fishing, scuba-diving to the Islas Murciélagos near Santa Rosa, and horse-riding trips. The Spanish-style villas feature colorful and bright canopy beds. There's a charming bridged pool, a tennis court on the grounds and rates include breakfast. No restaurant, however.