Costa Rica is defined by its location: tucked between the shorelines of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. With such an expansive shoreline, the beaches of Costa Rica are diverse, with unique and varying personalities. Every beach-goer will find something fascinating – a beautiful white sand paradise lined with palm trees, volcanic black sand, or naturally rugged beach coves surrounded by tropical rainforest. From mega beach resorts to untouched shorelines, there’s an ideal beach setting for everyone. But with so many choices, how will you possibly choose? Our Experts can help you decide.
Manuel Antonio Beach, Manuel Antonio National Park
Playa Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. This coastal gem borders Manuel Antonio National Park, a rainforest teaming with wildlife. It takes about 30 minutes to hike from the park’s entrance to Playa Manuel Antonio. If you’re up for some rainforest exploration, the park is interconnected by hiking trials leading to other beaches within the park. Regardless, you’re practically guaranteed to see wildlife – namely monkeys. Don’t forget to wear your swimsuit and grab some snorkeling gear. The coral seascape is worth exploring.
Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste
Interested in surfing? Visit Tamarindo Beach, off the wildly popular surf town of Tamarindo, where the perfect right breaks strike right off the coast. Playa Tamarindo is great for beginning surfers – so don’t be intimidated by its surf town reputation. There are a variety of accommodation options to choose from near Playa Tamarindo. Most hotels can either set you up or direct you to a nearby water sports rental. After a lively beach day, grab dinner in the happening town of Tamarindo. The neighboring white sand beach of Playa Langosta is also worth a visit if you’re looking to swim and escape the crowds of Tamarindo.
Conchal Beach, Guanacaste
White sand and tiny sea shells sprinkle the shoreline of Playa Conchal, a less frequented Guanacaste beach. A variety of coral and underwater discoveries can be made here – so bring your snorkeling gear! The beach backs up to the all-inclusive Westin Playa Conchal Resort and a variety of other rental properties.
Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste
To the north of Playa Conchal sits Playa Flamingo. Playa Flamingo gets its name from its pretty pinkish white sand. The hotels overlooking Playa Flamingo sit high up on the cliffside overlooking the bays and inlets of the Pacific.
Nacascolo Beach, Papagayo Peninsula
Playa Nacascolo is a hidden gem on the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula. This golden stretch of sand sits between the Four Seasons Resort and the Andaz Papagayo Resort. If you’re staying at either hotel, grab a kayak and have your hotel pack a picnic for you. It takes less than an hour to kayak over to Playa Nacascolo, and the odds are good that you’ll be the only one on the beach. The water here is calm and protected, great for swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Dominical Beach, South Pacific
Located off the beaten path, Playa Dominical is well known around the world as one of the best places for surfing. It also offers a wonderful beach surrounded by great restaurants. Playa Dominical is the only beach with a year-round lifeguard program.
Costa Ballena (Whale Coast), South Pacific
The coastal treasures of Playa Uvita and Playa Hermosa border the beloved “Whale’s Tail” on Punta Uvita in Marino Ballena National Park. An aerial flyover of the coastal park will reveal a whale’s tail shaped sand bar. This is also coincidentally the location where humpback whales return to breach every year from August through October and December through April. Sea turtles also come to the park to nest from May to November. Book a whale watching tour and rent some snorkel gear to explore the expansive coral reef for the full experience. Kayak and stand up paddle boarding rentals are also available.
Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach, Nicoya Peninsula
Just south of Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula is a popular beach destination for surfers and yoga enthusiasts. Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Malpais are standouts that still remain relatively off the beaten path. The soft sand of Playa Santa Teresa is great for those looking for a secluded beach escape with great surf. On the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Malpais is a well-known surf spot with stretches of white sand and rocky tidal pools.
Nosara Beach, Nicoya Peninsula
Another hot surf and wellness destination on the Nicoya Peninsula is is the costal town of Nosara. Three beaches merge together here to form the Nosara Beach region: Playa Garza, Playa Guiones, and Playa Pelada. Playa Garza Playa Guiones is a popular surf beach with consistent surf throughout the year, and much less populated than Tamarindo Beach. Further north, Playa Pelada is a small, rocky swimming beach with little surf.
Ostional Beach, Nicoya Peninsula
It can be said that the volcanic black sand beach of Playa Ostional belongs to the turtles. If you love wildlife, turtles in particular, don’t miss a night tour to Playa Ostional to watch the olive ridley sea turtles nesting between July and October. The arribada, or mass annual sea turtle nesting, happens anywhere between 4 and 10 times a year, and the timing can be relatively unpredictable. Ask your hotel concierge if your visit will line up with the arribada.
Related Article: Best Beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula
Manzanillo Beach, Southern Caribbean Coast
The turquoise waters and off the beaten path white sand beaches are the main draws of the Southern Caribbean beaches. Visit the small, laid-back beach town of Manzanillo on Playa Manzanillo for the coral reefs and seaside tropical rainforest, especially during the less touristy months of September and October. Dive, snorkel, or explore by kayak.
In general, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is known for its riptides. Never swim alone or leave children unattended. If you have been caught by the current, do not attempt to swim back to the beach you were on. Do not panic and go towards the beach at a 45 degree angle. The most dangerous time for treacherous riptides occur 2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide.