Home » 14 BEST BEACHES IN COSTA RICA – The Ultimate Guide
14 BEST BEACHES IN COSTA RICA – The Ultimate Guide
The beautiful beaches in Costa Rica have something to offer for everyone. From luxury beach resorts with all the facilities you can wish for, to untouched shorelines with palm trees and rugged beach coves surrounded by lush rainforest. Either if you’re looking for a perfect Costa Rica Beach for swimming, or the best waves to surf, Costa Rica has fantastic options. From the Pacific coast all the way until the other side of the country at the Southern Caribbean coast. Read in our complete guide about the 15 best beaches in Costa Rica with all the practical information you need.
Best tours in Costa Rica
If you want to explore the best of Costa Rica, then it is highly recommended to book a tour. During most of these tours you will combine a few locations on one day so you can see the diversity that Costa Rica has to offer. Because of Costa Rica’s popularity it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance as it is likely that tours sell out. So don’t wait with booking until you get to Costa Rica. Choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero Canal boat tour. Explore Costa Rica’s Caribbean side with this wildlife-rich shore excursion to Cahuita National Park. Admire the biodiversity of the Tortuguero Canals, hike across Cahuita and enjoy Puerto Limon’s city highlights.
Manuel Antonio National Park combo tour from San Jose. Explore the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park and its beautiful white-sand beaches. Discover the abundant wildlife on the park’s rainforest trails. Enjoy included breakfast and lunch, and make stops to see crocodiles.
Irazú and Turrialba Volcanoes Guayabo Tour. Visit Irazu volcano and the “Central Town” at the foothills of the active Turrialba Volcano. Experience a unique history and culture, shaped by the tallest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
Night jungle tour Manuel Antonio tour. The best of the wildlife comes alive at night. Allow yourself to live amazing encounters that happen only at night in the rainforest. See wild night animals, and discover a whole new world.
Tortuguero Park Day Tour with Breakfast & Lunch from San Jose. Spend the day discovering the luscious landscapes of Tortuguero National Park. Explore this vibrant rainforest, see native wildlife in its natural habitat, learn about the local ecosystem and enjoy a delicious Costa Rican breakfast and lunch.
Playa Conchal is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for a relaxing beach day. It not only has some of the most beautiful white sand mixed with shells, but the sea water is also very calm and has crystal clear water. Therefore it is some of the best beaches in Costa Rica for swimming.
Dotted with palm trees and mangrove forest, you can find plenty of natural shade under the trees. There are actually two entrances to the beach, and to get to the most quiet part of the beach you should come from the Puerto Viejo village which is on the west side of the beach. You can also park on the Brasilito side, which is the north side of the beach where you will enter the shell beach.
Things to do on Conchal beach
While relaxing on the beach and swimming in the beautiful waters is one of the best things to do at Conchal beach, you can also do some other activities.
Rent snorkel gear from one of the beach vendors or bring them yourself. Close to the volcanic rocks you can see plenty of marine life.
Go scuba diving at the Catalina Islands which are one of the best sites for diving in Costa Rica.
Rent a paddle board to enjoy the calm waters and explore the bay.
Go horse riding along the beach.
Play golf at the golf course of the Westin Reserva Conchal.
Rent a jetski to feel the adrenaline and explore the bay of Conchal beach.
Go sailing and enjoy snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing, and kayaking during the tour. With a little luck and depending the season, you can even spot dolphins, sea turtles or maybe even whales!
In for sport fishing? Book at some of the tour operators along the beach.
Book an ATV tour if you’re in for more adventure.
You can also go sea kayaking from the shore of Conchal beach without booking the sailing tour.
Near the super chill beach town of Puerto Viejo you can find Playa Negra which is a rugged and untouched black sand beach. Playa Negra is the longest beach downtown Puerto Viejo, but this is also the more local beach without much facilities around. Therefore it is a great place for peace seekers, you won’t see much other people around here. With Playa Negra being located on the east coast, it is also a fantastic spot to watch the sunrise.
Santa Teresa is the chill upcoming, hip surf town in the Southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula. This laidback beach town has grown rapidly thanks to the perfect waves, wild beaches and lively yoga scene.
Despite Santa Teresa becoming some of the more popular beach towns in Costa Rica amongst the younger generation, Digital Nomads, yoga & surf lovers, it still is a bit underdeveloped with dirt roads and not too much facilities. But if you love to hang by the beautiful white sand beaches, surf some of the best waves in Costa Rica, watch a colourful sunset almost every evening and eat your heart out with smoothiebowls, guacamole and much more, then Santa Teresa is a great place to spend a few days, or maybe even weeks.
Playa Santa Teresa is a beautiful beach lined with palm trees where surfers hit the waves from early morning until sunset. In the afternoon it almost seems as if the whole town comes to the beach to watch the sunset and gather together with a beer or coconut. The sunsets in Santa Teresa have been some of the best, if not THE best, we have seen in Costa Rica during our 3 months traveling through the country.
Playa Cocles is one of the nicest beaches near the chill beach town of Puerto Viejo with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. This 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) long white sandy beach is some of the most developed beaches near Puerto Viejo with cafes and restaurants around. There are also street food stalls, surf shacks and even a volleyball and slack line set up on the beach.
Playa Cocles is one of the best beaches to surf along Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean coast. Therefore the waves are sometimes too big to safely swim here. But you can still have a very good time here with plenty of other activities around. During sunset you can experience the real Costa Rican Pura Vida vibes with lots of locals and expats gathering at the beach with music, drinks and good vibes.
Being ‘only a beach’ there are actually quite some activities to do around besides relaxing and sunbathing. Below some of the best things to do on Playa Cocles.
Surfing at Playa Cocles
Some of the best beaches for surfing on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is Playa Cocles. Generally the best months for surfing at Cocles beach are January through March as it has bigger swell. Shortboarders will love the waves at Cocles as it has a consistent left and right break close to the beach. Because of the pretty big swell year round, surfing at Playa Cocles is more for intermediate and expert surfers.
There is also a really nice left break near the island in front of Playa Cocles that goes almost all the way down to the beach when the swell is big enough. If you’re not a surfer yourself it’s pretty epic to see the skilled surfers doing their thing in the water.
Watch sunrise at Playa Cocles
If you’re a sunrise lover then watching the sunrise at Playa Cocles is a great thing to do. Facing East, this beach catches the first sun rays of the day. We love watching and shooting the sunrise which is why we went to Playa Cocles to enjoy this magical moment.
Explore the jungle and viewpoint on Isla Cocles
On the western end of Cocles beach is a beautiful jungle with sandy paths. Here you can walk in the shade, and if you follow the path into the jungle, you will get to a viewpoint on the rocks. This is a great place to relax away from the crowds, watch the sunrise or see the waves from above. From here you’ll have a great view on the little island as well.
During our time in Puerto Viejo we went to this part to shoot the sunrise and it was absolutely magical. We had magical golden light and found some great photo spots. Below two of the pictures we took that morning.
Punta Uva Costa Rica
Punta Uva beach was our most favourite beach in the Puerto Viejo area. This stunning golden sandy beach is located along the road to Manzanillo and has lots of natural shade thanks to the palm trees that grow on the beach. It is a very laid back beach without facilities or surfers so you can have a super chill beach day here. Bring your own drinks and snacks and you’ll have a fantastic chill day at this beautiful tropical beach.
Montezuma is the laidback bohemian town located on the eastern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Here you can find a mix of alternative thinkers, from dreadlocked Rastafarians and surfers to artists and tattooed bohemian dreamers. The whole town screams creative individuality. Montezuma beach itself is one of the most beautiful Costa Rica beaches with unobstructed views and surrounded by lush green. There are plenty of activities to do such as exploring the Montezuma waterfall, surfing, horse riding, pay a visit to Cabo Blanco Wildlife Refuge and do a day trip to Tortuga island.
Manzanillo beach Costa Rica
The small laid back fishing village of Manzanillo is the last town along the Southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This charming and characterful town with its vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture has two main attractions to explore. The fabulous golden white sand beach and the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge which has helped to maintain the pristine nature of the local environment.
Manzanillo Beach in Limon is considered being some of the most scenic beaches in Costa Rica. And we understand why! The beautiful stretch of white golden sand accompanied by waving palm trees and turquoise ocean water invites you for a laid back day. This tropical paradise has an amazing coral reef offshore that is perfect for snorkelling and swimming. There is also a huge stranded ship along the shore of Playa Manzanillo which is worth checking out. Especially if you have a drone it is very cool to take pictures from.
The interesting thing is that Manzanillo Beach is not the most popular beach along the Southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This actually makes it the perfect place for nature lovers, peace seekers and cultural travellers that want to connect with the local life. In Manzanillo you can have a more authentic Costa Rican experience than in the more touristic locations. Also because Manzanillo beach is 4 kilometres long, you can easily find your own secluded spot to enjoy the sunshine and water. However, there are no great facilities around, which is mostly the other side of the more remote beaches.
Tamarindo Beach is located in Guanacaste along the Pacific coast and is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. It has a lot of facilities around and is a real touristy beach town. There are many options in terms of restaurants, night life, plenty of beach resorts and of course the easy access to Playa Tamarindo. It’s a great place to stay for a few days, to relax on the beach and maybe do some watersport activities. But for the real Costa Rica nature vibes you have to go more inland and explore Irazu volcano, La Paz waterfalls gardens and many more nature attractions. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of things to do in Tamarindo which are listed below.
Surfing is one of the best activities to do in Tamarindo. From beginners to more experienced surfers, the waves at Tamarindo will range depending on the wind conditions. You can get surf lessons at Tamarindo behave and for the seasoned surfers Witch’s Rock is a very good wave.
You can either do a short horseback riding tour along the beach of Tamarindo for sunset for example or choose for a longer tour. With the longer horseback riding tours you will explore the mountains and beautiful Guanacaste forests. This will provide more variation but also takes a longer time and will cost some more dollars (around $60 depending the length of the tour).
Snorkeling in Tamarindo
The area around Tamarindo beach is one of Costa Rica’s best snorkel spots with beautiful volcanic rock formations which are very rich in marine life. Catalina’s island is the best spot spot for snorkeling near Tamarindo where you’ll have a chance to experience see the beautiful manta rays, butterfly fish, angelfish and turtles.
Sportfishing in Tamarindo
The waters of Tamarindo on the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica are famous for a variety of fish 12 months of the year. Blue, Black and Striped Marlin are caught year-round. Therefore a fishing excursion is a great activity for those who love to be out on the ocean and catching some big fish! Half day and full day excursions are available where guides take you out to local reefs located about 4 miles away from the shore of Tamarindo.
For a half day out on the water, a snorkel tour or sunset cruise are great options which depart from Tamarindo bay. Gaze off the bow of a Tamarindo catamaran with a cold tropical drink while you enjoy the endless view of the Pacific ocean. You might even have the chance of spotting dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish or even whales in the right season!
Just 30 minutes north of Tamarindo Beach, Playa Grande is a much quieter beach and a bit more off the beaten path. If you’re looking for a less developed beach with beautiful sunset views without the beach restaurants, boats laying in the bay and vendors around, then Playa Grande is a great place to escape to. It is also part of Las Baulas National Park which is known for the Leatherback turtles (baulas) that return to lay their eggs each year at Playa Grande. Between November and April these large sea turtles dig meter-deep pits and bury their eggs before returning to the sea. These giant turtles which can get 8 feet long and weigh over 1000 pounds, can be observed at night when they visit the beach. You can book tours to see the natural phenomenon, as its not possible to go to this protected part of the beach by yourself.
Playa Guiones, Nosara
Nosara Costa Rica is a laid back little surfers beach town located along the Pacific coast in the Nicoya Peninsula. There is a fun saying about Nosara which goes like “No shoes, no shirt in Nosara”. And that pretty much sums it up how the Nosara vibes are. With little development, untouched beaches and lots of jungle around, Nosara Costa Rica is only a place for people that love to go off the beaten path. You won’t find big hotels, shops or many restaurants here.
At Playa Guiones there is a large stretch of a beach forest where you can perfectly have a walk in the shade. It also gives natural shade when you’re relaxing on the beach. The other beaches are Playa Pelada and Playa Nosara, and two smaller beaches called Playa Rosada and Playa Bote. But these are not as easy to get to as the earlier mentioned beaches. The beaches in Nosara are all fantastic spots to watch the sunset, facing west over the Pacific Ocean.
Located along the South Pacific coast, Playa Uvita is known as one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Situated in the Marino Ballena National Park, many tourists flock to this part of Costa Rica because humpback whales migrate here between the months of December and April. Also known as Whale Tail Beach, Playa Uvita has the feature of a half mile long tombolo, sand bar, which can be accessed at low tide. It is called whale tail because the sandbar looks like an actual whale tail from an aerial perspective! It is the third largest of its kind in the world and at the end of the sandbar is a rocky reef which is good for swimming and snorkeling.
Playa Uvita itself is a beautiful rugged black sand beach lined with palm trees. In combination with the unique whale tale sandbank, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. The waves are great to surf but there are not many facilities or beach cafes around. So bring your own drinks to stay hydrated!
Uvita beach is also a fantastic spot to watch the sunset. The colors can get super intense here, just like we had one evening in Uvita! Atiba flew the drone and captures the stunning sky.
Manuel Antonio beach
Manuel Antonio Beach is located inside of Manuel Antonio National Park. So you can only get there by paying the entrance fee of $16 per person for the park and to hike a few kilometres through the park. Therefore it is not really a beach to only go to for relaxing. You definitely have to combine a visit to Manuel Antonio beach with exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. There is a free beach in Manuel Antonio as well, which is the large Espadilla beach where all the restaurants and hotels are located. However, for a more idyllic feel, you have to go inside the park for Manuel Antonio Beach.
Fun fact is that from an aerial perspective you can see the interesting shape of Manuel Antonio park. The two beaches Espadilla and Manuel Antonio beach are the narrowest part of the park and form a tree trunk while the Cathedral point is the tree top. It’s amazing what natures creates isn’t it?!
Playa Dominicalito is the little brother of Playa Dominical and lies 3.5 km (2.2 mi) south of Dominical. While the small laid back village of Dominical is some of the best spots for surfers, Dominicalito has little development around and is therefore more a beach for the peace seekers. Nicely set in a small bay, Playa Dominicalito is perfect for swimming and relaxing.
There is a big volcanic rock which you can climb and explore. And if you want to see some local life going on then check out the south side of Playa Dominicalito where fisherman dock their little boats. Playa Dominicalito is directly accessible from the main coastal highway 34. Since there are no facilities around, you should bring your own drinks and food.
Playa Samara Costa Rica
Another great option for a more authentic Costa Rican beach experience is Playa Samara. Located 30 km south of Nosara, Samara is a small beach-town situated in a bay and surrounded by beautiful lush rainforest and turquoise waters. Because the town of Samara is so easily accessible from the beach and the water is so calm, Samara is a perfect destination for families and peace seekers. If you want to do everything by foot, Samara is your go to. Here you can even spot horses roaming free through the streets. There are no big hotel chains, resorts, shopping malls or all of that in Samara, so only go when you love to travel a bit more off the beaten path.
More Costa Rica travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the best beaches in Costa Rica.
For more Costa Rica travel inspiration, head over to our other travel guides.