Soak up the pura vida lifestyle of Costa Rica by availing yourself of all of its incredible beaches. Visit as many as you can in between rainforest hikes, volcano sightseeing, zip-lining through the jungle canopy and ATVing. There are more than 800 miles of coastline and 300 beaches between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, so you won’t want for choices. Whether you’re swimming, surfing or sunbathing, these are the best beaches in Costa Rica
For a quieter beach experience than nearby Tamarindo, head to Guanacaste’s Playa Conchal. Snorkel, swim or stroll north along the white, almost pinkish, sand as you approach Flamingo Beach.
One of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beach stretches, Playa Manzanillo is on the Caribbean coast above the Panamanian border. Expect dramatic white sand, turquoise waters and a lush rainforest backdrop – the beach abuts the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Kayak or swim in the gentle waters – keep an eye out for manatees and dolphins.
If your idea of a dreamy beach vacation includes yoga on the sand, a laid-back surf town vibe and health-conscious cafes, come to Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula. Popular with blissed-out beach lovers, the beach community offers awesome taco shacks, convivial beachfront bars and, great stretches of sand. Three beaches merge together here: Garza Beach, Guiones Beach and Pelada Beach.
If you want to swim, head to Playa Pelada; if you want to surf, head to Guiones. Each morning, you can watch the fishermen haul in their catch at Playa Garza. While you’re in Nosara, visit the under-the-radar beach villages of Malpais and Santa Teresa, just to the south. Santa Teresa is particularly beloved for it seclusion, soft sand and great surf, whereas Malpais is known for surfing, white sand and rocky tide pools.
At the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, find bohemian Playa Montezuma. Divers come for the three shipwrecks here, surfers come for the waves and backpackers come for the relaxed ambience. Take a shady break from the beach and hike through the jungle to two gorgeous waterfalls or to the Cabo Blanco and Curu wildlife preserves.
Commune with the sea turtles who come to nest on Costa Ballena in Punta Uvita’s Marino Ballena National Park from May to November. Or, visit from August to October or December to April to glimpse migrating humpback whales. The south Pacific coastal beach is perfect for snorkeling, sunbathing at Playa Hermosa or relaxing in a beachfront villa.
Known as a laid-back surf village, Tamarindo boasts the country’s best waves. Non-boarders love the golden sands, swaying palms, fish shacks and bohemian boutiques of this northwest coastal town. The Playa Langosta is a local favorite for fun in the waves, as well as the best fish tacos around.
Perhaps Costa Rica’s most popular beach, Manuel Antonio is set in a national park of the same name. There are plenty of luxury hotels to choose from, or secure a private condo where you can awake each morning to a sea view through floor-to-ceiling windows. The area has ample outdoor activities, from swimming and snorkeling to zip-lining and white-water rafting. Keep in mind that you will have to hike 30 minutes from the park’s entrance to Manuel Antonio Beach, but it’s certainly worth it – plus, you’ll likely see monkeys along the way!
Slip away to the off-the-beaten-path Dominical Beach on the South Pacific coast. It’s one of the best places in the world for surfing, boasts fantastic restaurants and is the country’s only beach with a year-round lifeguard program.
Another hidden gem, this golden-sand beach is on the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula between the Four Seasons Resort and Andaz Papagayo Resort. It’s usually fairly empty on the beach and the waters are calm and protecting, making for excellent conditions for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling.
A family favorite, Samara Beach is protected by an island off the Pacific Coast. The long beach is set on the Nicoya Peninsula, wrapping around a horseshoe bay that offers plenty of space for beachgoers to spread out. Kayak, snorkel, dive and sportfish in the calm waters.
San Juanillo Beach
North of Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula, San Juanillo Beach is made for swimmers. Two beaches converge at a sandy point and the waters are generally calm. Plus, it’s much quieter here than the beaches of the Guanacaste region to the north.
For an Insta-worthy beach day, head to the volcanic black-sand Ostional Beach within the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. Come for sea turtle nesting season (arribada) between July and October if you can.
On the southern Caribbean coast, within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, this jungle-backed, white-sand beach is also home to monkeys, sloths and many bird species. The calm waters are popular with families and snorkelers.
If you’re a turtle lover, come to this delightful beach within the Tortuguero National Park. Spot green sea and hawksbill turtles nesting from July to October. To see the rare leatherback sea turtles, time your visit between February and April. Book with a guide – the park is accessible only by boat or plan and turtles typically nest a night, when you can only be in the park with a guide.
A Note About Costa Rica Beaches
Keep in mind that the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is known for its riptides. Do not swim alone nor leave children unattended. If you are caught in the riptide, do not swim back to the beach. Swim toward the beach at a 45-degree angle. Riptides generally occur two hours before and two hours after low tide.
Sum It Up for Me
If you’re looking for sunbathing, surfing or snorkeling, here are your best beaches in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica’s Most Relaxing Beaches:
- Santa Teresa Beach
- Samara Beach
- San Juanillo Beach
- Manzanillo Beach
Costa Rica’s Best Surfing Beaches:
- Tamarindo Beach
- Dominical Beach
- Santa Teresa Beach
Costa Rica’s Best Snorkeling Beaches:
- Conchal Beach
- Nacascolo Beach
- Punta Uva Beach