16 BEST Beaches in Costa Rica (& Where to Stay)

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 rainforests. 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.

Most Popular Beaches in Costa Rica:

Manuel Antonio Beach, Manuel Antonio National Park

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. This coastal gem borders Manuel Antonio National Park, a coastal rainforest teeming with wildlife. It takes about 30 minutes to hike from the park’s entrance to Manuel Antonio Beach. If you’re up for some rainforest exploration, the park is interconnected by hiking trails 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.

Where to Stay: Manuel Antonio Hotels

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. Tamarindo Beach 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 Tamarindo Beach. 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 Langosta is also worth a visit if you’re looking to swim and escape the crowds of Tamarindo.

Where to Stay: Tamarindo Hotels

Best White-Sand Beaches:

Conchal Beach, Guanacaste

15 BEST Beaches in Costa Rica

White sand and tiny seashells sprinkle the shoreline of Conchal Beach, 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.

Where to Stay: Westin Playa Conchal Resort; The W at Reserva Conchal

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Flamingo Beach, Guanacaste

Playa Flamingo from Margaritaville

Playa Flamingo from Margaritaville

To the north of Conchal Beach sits Flamingo Beach in the Guanacaste region. Flamingo Beach gets its name from its pretty white sand and pink undertones. The hotels overlooking Flamingo Beach sit high up on a cliffside overlooking the bays and inlets of the Pacific. The sunsets overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Flamingo Beach are exceptionally beautiful.

Where to Stay: Guanacaste Hotels

Great Swimming Beach:

Samara Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

15 Best Costa Rica Beaches

Protected by an island off the Pacific Coast, Samara Beach is great for families. The long beach on the Nicoya Peninsula wraps around a horseshoe bay dispersing the crowds that gather on the weekends. Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sport fishing are nice activities in the calm waters off Samara Beach.

Where to Stay: Nammbu Bungalows

Best Remote Beaches:

Dominical Beach, South Pacific

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Located off the beaten path on the South Pacific coast, Dominical Beach is well known around the world as one of the best places for surfing. It also offers a wonderful beach surrounded by great restaurants. Dominical is the only beach with a year-round lifeguard program.

Where to Stay: South Pacific Hotel

Costa Ballena (Whale Coast), South Pacific

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

The coastal treasures of Uvita Beach and Hermosa Beach border the beloved “Whale’s Tail” on Punta Uvita in Marino Ballena National Park on the South Pacific coast. An aerial flyover of the coastal park will reveal a whale tail-shaped sandbar. 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 paddleboarding rentals are also available.

Where to Stay: South Pacific Hotel

Nacascolo Beach, Papagayo Peninsula

Nacascolo Beach 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. There is no place to grab food or drinks at the beach so you’ll want to plan ahead! It takes less than an hour to kayak over to Nacascolo from the Andaz, 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 paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling.

Where to Stay: Papagayo Hotels

Montezuma Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

Montezuma is situated close to the southernmost tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The town of Montezuma is nestled behind the lush jungle-backed waterfront. Discover this expansive coastline with its local laid-back vibe. The rocky coastline can be a challenge for swimmers, but the setting is stunning and when the tide is low, tide pools emerge!

Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

Santa Teresa spyrosvt

Santa Teresa via @spyrosvt

Just south of Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula is a popular beach destination for surfers and yoga enthusiasts. Malpais, Carmen Beach, Santa Teresa, Hermosa Beach, and Manzanillo Beach are the string of beaches that back up the little beach towns of Malpais and Santa Teresa. These wild beaches are standouts that still remain relatively off the beaten path. The soft sand of Santa Teresa Beach is great for those looking for a secluded beach escape with great surf. On the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Malpais Beach is a well-known surf spot with stretches of white sand and rocky tidal pools.

Where to Stay at Santa Teresa: FlorBlanca Resort; Nantipa

Where to Stay at Mal Pais: Casa Chameleon Hotel at Mal Pais

Nosara Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

Another hot surf and wellness destination on the Nicoya Peninsula is the coastal town of Nosara. Three beaches merge together here to form the Nosara Beach region: Garza Beach, Guiones Beach, and Pelada Beach. Guiones Beach is a popular surf beach with consistent surf throughout the year, and much less populated than Tamarindo Beach. Further north, Pelada Beach is a small, rocky swimming beach with little surf.

Where to Stay at Nosara: The Gilded Iguana; Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel; Lagarta Lodge

Where to Stay at Guiones: Harmony Hotel or the Villas at Harmony Hotel; Olas Verdes Hotel; Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

San Juanillo Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

Just north of Nosara on the Pacific Coast sits San Juanillo Beach. This under-the-radar beach doesn’t have nearly as many tourists as some of the more popular beaches to the North in the Guanacaste region. This small beach is made up of two beaches that converge out to a sandy point. The water is generally clear and calm – great for swimming!

Where to Stay: Lagarta Lodge

Best Beach to See Sea Turtles:

Ostional Beach, Nicoya Peninsula

Best Costa Rica Beaches to Visit

Ostional Beach turtle tour from Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

It can be said that the volcanic black sand beach of Ostional Beach within the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula belongs to the turtles. If you love wildlife, turtles in particular, don’t miss a night tour to Ostional to watch the olive ridley sea turtles’ annual 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 a Costa Rica Expert if your visit will line up with the arribada.

Where To Stay: Lagarta Lodge; Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort

Related Articles: Costa Rica Sea Turtle Nesting Sites: Where To Go When

Best Caribbean Beaches:

Punta Uva Beach, Southern Caribbean Coast

Punta Uva is a quiet and calm white sand beach on the Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. The beach is located within Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and is backed by a dense jungle where animals like monkeys, sloths, and many bird species can be seen. The coral reef located just offshore makes Punta Uva a fantastic snorkel beach. The calm waters are also great for families with kids.

Where to Stay: Caribbean Hotels

Manzanillo Beach, Southern Caribbean Coast

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Manzanillo Beach

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 Manzanillo Beach for the coral reefs and seaside tropical rainforest, especially during the less touristy months of September and October. Dive, snorkel, or explore by kayak.

Don’t miss the Manzanillo Gandoca Mirador.  It is located at the very end of Manzanillo Beach and is completely free of charge. It can get pretty crowded. So, go early!

Where to Stay: Caribbean Hotels

Best Black-Sand Beach:

Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca 

The rich volcanic soil of Costa Rica lends itself to some beautiful black sand beaches. Situated between the town of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita National Park, Playa Negra stretches about 10 kilometers down the Caribbean Coast and is known for its unique dark sand and fantastic surf break for more beginning surfers. With a gorgeous jungle backdrop and the less-populated Caribbean beaches, your visit is bound to feel a bit off-grid, in a good way.

Where to Stay: Caribbean Hotels

Related Article: Where to Find Black Sand Beaches in Costa Rica

Beach Safety

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 occurs 2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide.

Related Article:

The Nicoya Peninsula is home to several of the most relaxing beaches in Costa Rica:
  • Santa Teresa Beach
  • Samara Beach
  • San Juanillo Beach
Another pristine beach to spend the day on is Manzanillo Beach in the small laid-back beach town of Manzanillo on the Southern Caribbean Coast, known for its white sand and turquoise waters.
Costa Rica is home to many great beaches for surfing, whether you're just beginning or you're a seasoned veteran looking for your next challenge:
  • Tamarindo Beach in Guanacaste – great for beginners, plus the town of Tamarindo is a fun place to be!
  • Dominical Beach in the South Pacific – well known around the world for its surfing.
  • Santa Teresa Beach on the Nicoya Peninsula – a secluded beach with great surf.
Costa Rica has a variety of snorkeling locales for beginners and experts. Many diving and snorkeling tours are available along Coast Rica’s coasts, but you can also enjoy a DIY snorkeling adventure on any of these beaches:
  • Conchal Beach in Guanacaste – the coral off of this beach makes it a fun snorkeling location.
  • Nacascolo Beach on the Papagayo Peninsula – the waters here are calm and protected, great for swimming and/or snorkeling.
  • Punta Uva Beach off the Southern Caribbean Coast – located within Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, there is plenty of wildlife to see in and out of the water! This is one of the few beaches in Costa Rica where you can swim to a coral reef!

15 Best Costa Rica Beaches