If you’re planning a beach vacation in Costa Rica, you’re probably looking for the best beach towns in Costa Rica to visit. And in this guide, we will help you find that out so you can plan your perfect trip.
We will breakdown the best beach towns in Costa Rica to get to without a car, best beach towns in Costa Rica for surfing and best beach towns in Costa Rica for digital nomads. This post will be especially helpful for those who are looking for the best beach town in Costa Rica for long stays.
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- Manuel Antonio
- Playas del Coco
- Puerto Viejo
- Santa Teresa
Map of the Best Beach Towns in Costa Rica
We have created an interactive map of the best beach towns in Costa Rica listed in this post.
Click here to see our interactive map! You’ll see how far each beach town is from the San Jose and Liberia International Airports.
This little surfing town in the South Pacific is a favorite for free spirited tourists looking to get away from crowds and commercialization.
Although Dominical is a popular beach town in Costa Rica, it still retains a very fresh and natural vibe as it doesn’t have huge resorts or condos anywhere in sight. This beach has dark waters and rocky shores. Dominical is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for surfing.
Dominical is 205 kilometers (127 miles) from San Jose. Driving takes around 4 hours one way. It is recommended to rent a 4×4/4wd for Dominical.
By bus: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Dominical everyday at 6 AM and 3 PM with Empresa Tracopa. There are also direct buses from Quepos, San Isidro del General, Ciudad Cortes and Ciudad Nelly.
By shuttle: There are a couple shared shuttle companies like Ride CR that go to Dominical. Private transfers are also available and cost around $240 USD for 1-8 passengers.
Why Visit Dominical
Dominical is full of nature and adventure. The beach is great for surfing with waves for beginners to experts. And when waves are too big, there are several other beginner friendly beaches nearby.
Dominical is in a great location as it’s close to many natural attractions like Nauyaca Waterfalls, Marino Ballena National Park, Diamante Falls and others. Additionally, this area is not as greatly developed compared to other beach towns in Costa Rica so there are many unknown and under the radar places to visit.
What to Know About Dominical
- A car is the best to get around this area, especially if you want to explore. There is only a local bus that goes up and down the Costanera Sur highway (Route 34) and not directly to attractions. You can visit without a car, but you’d be stuck in the town.
- There are many very nice vacation rentals in Dominical, more than hotels. You can find fully furnished apartments, studios and houses, perfect for those looking for a long term stay in Dominical. Check the Costa Rica Southern Zone Long Term Rentals FB group for listings.
- Weather: Dominical is in the South Pacific in proper tropical rainforest. It’s humid and hot, with year round average temperatures of mid to high 80s F (28-31 C). And since it’s in the South Pacific, it tends to rain more in this area.
- Thanks to the more constant rains and humid weather, Dominical is surrounded by year round lush mountains and rainforest.
Learn more about Dominical, Costa Rica in our guide.
As a luxury, upscale beach community in North Guanacaste, Flamingo is a the ideal beach destination in Costa Rica for retirees and families. The beach is beautiful with very tan/white-ish sand and bright blue waters.
Flamingo is 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Liberia International Airport. It is about a 1.5 hour drive. From San Jose, Flamingo is 275 kilometers (171 miles) away and about a 4.5-5 hour drive.
By Bus: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Playa Flamingo at 8 AM, 1030 AM and 3 PM everyday with Empresa Tralapa. From Liberia, there is a direct bus to Playa Flamingo at 430 AM, 6 AM, 8 AM, 11 AM and 6 PM with Transportes La Pampa.
You can find shared shuttles to Playa Flamingo. A private shuttle from Liberia Airport to Flamingo is around $80 USD one way.
Why Visit Flamingo
Flamingo is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for nearly everything with the ocean: fishing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, wakeboarding, jet skiing and much more. This beach is actually famous for fishing and is currently building a brand new world class marina which will hopefully be done in the next couple years.
Additionally, Flamingo caters towards luxury travelers with ocean view mansions, high end beach front resorts and upscale vacation rentals. It’s close to many other beautiful beaches and beach towns so it has a great location.
What to Know About Visiting Flamingo
- Not many budget accommodations, better to check neighboring town Potrero. Lots of fancy vacation rentals like Flamingo Towers and 360 Splendor del Pacifico.
- A car is highly recommended. This area is quite spread out and there isn’t a constant bus going around.
- Weather: Flamingo has hot and sunny days nearly all year long. Year round average day temperatures are in the low 90s F(32 C). Because of the high temperatures and drier weather, the mountains turn very yellow like a dessert from the months of January through April.
Plan your visit to Flamingo beach here.
Jaco is the closest beach town to San Joseon the Central Pacific Coast and the surfing mecca of the country, making it a popular destination for both locals and foreigners. It’s more a city beach with high rise condos, bars and clubs and good infrastructure but the beach is not the prettiest.
Since it’s so close to San Jose, Jaco is the best beach town in Costa Rica to get to without a car. It’s also ideal for those looking for a good time as it is a big party destination. But you can also find some very nice quiet hotels and condos away from all the hustle and bustle.
Jaco is 98 kilometers (61 miles) and about a 1.5 hour drive from San Jose. From Liberia, Jaco is (186 kilometers) or 115 miles and a 3 hour drive.
How to Get to Jaco by bus
From San Jose: There are direct routes from San Jose downtown, leaving from the 7-10 bus station to Jaco. (You need to get a taxi or Uber there from San Jose Airport). It takes 2 hours and costs around $5 USD. You can read this guide on taking the bus from San Jose to Jaco here.
From Liberia: You need to go from Liberia –> Puntarenas –> Jaco. The bus from Liberia to Puntarenas departs daily at 5, 7:45, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 15:30 and takes 3 hours. Puntarenas to Jaco departs at 4:30, 5:30, 7:30, 9:30, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:30 and takes 1.5 hours.
Shuttle to Jaco
From San Jose: A shared shuttle costs $47 USD per person with Interbus. A private shuttle is around $145 USD one way for1-8 people.
Why Visit Jaco
Stay in Jaco for excellent food, amazing surfing waves, close proximity to the airport, tons of outdoor adventure and variety of lodging options. Jaco, being the biggest and most developed beach town in Costa Rica is great for those who like convenience as you will find everything in Jaco and it’s easy to get around.
It has a big party vibe and lively nightlife so Jaco has always been one of the most popular beach towns in Costa Rica for bachelor parties. At the same time, it is family friendly.
You can find beachfront luxury condos, modest apartments, beachfront hotels, all-inclusive resorts and budget backpacker hostels. Additionally, there are many surf schools in Jaco.
What to Know About Visiting Jaco
- Jaco is known for nightlife that caters to bachelor parties and yes, that does include drugs and prostitution. The town has cleaned up a lot lately so it is more family friendly but do note that that type of tourism is very present in Jaco.
- Jaco is one of the few beach towns with painted parking lines and police wll give parking tickets
- It’s a big beach town, you don’t necessarily need a car to get around though.
- If you’re looking for long term rentals, check out Condomonios Costa Linda, Las Palmas or Best in Jaco Condos.
Plan your trip to Jaco, Costa Rica in this guide.
Manuel Antonio is one of the top destinations in Costa Rica and one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica. This Central Pacific coastal village is home to white sand beaches and the most popular national park in the country: Manuel Antonio National Park.
Manuel Antonio also has many luxury rainforest and beach resorts and a ton of fun outdoor adventures. It’s one of the top places in Costa Rica for families and couples.
Manuel Antonio is 168 kilometers (104 miles) from San Jose and about a 3 hour drive. From Liberia, Manuel Antonio is 256 kilometers (159 miles) and about a 4.5 hour drive. Manuel Antonio is another one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for those who are not renting a car.
How to get to Manuel Antonio by bus
From San Jose: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Quepos every day at 6, 12 PM (Mon – Sat), 14:30 (Mon – Sat), 6 PM and 730 PM with Transportes Tracopa. This takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. There is also a colectivo (stops a ton of places) from San Jose to Quepos every day at 7, 10, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:00 (Mon – Fri) and takes about 4 and a half hours.
Then from Quepos, you can take a bus to Manuel Antonio once every half an hour. I also wrote a post on taking the bus from Jaco to Manuel Antonio.
From Liberia: From Liberia, take the bus to Puntarenas and then to Manuel Antonio, every day at 5, 7, 9, 11, 13:00, 14:30, 16:30 and 17:30 which takes 3 hours.
Flying to Manuel Antonio
There is a local airport right outside of Quepos that domestic airlines such as Sansa Air fly into. From the airport, you can get a taxi or meet your rental car. The airport is about 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio.
Shuttle to Manuel Antonio
From San Jose: A shared shuttle is $57 USD per person, a private is around $220 USD.
What to Know About Visiting Manuel Antonio
- It’s expensive. As one of the most touristic destinations in Costa Rica, it is expensive. Make sure to do some research if you are traveling on a strict budget
- You don’t necessarily need a car in Manuel Antonio. There is a local bus from Quepos to the national park about every half an hour. This area is super hilly though so it’s not the best for walking. Taxi and Uber are present.
- Great for all travelers!
- Quepos is a bit cheaper, you can find cheaper lodgings and vacation rentals and restaurants.
- It has a fun party atmosphere.
- Not the best snorkeling in the area but the beaches are beautiful.
Plan your trip to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica here.
This Bohemian coastal village in the Nicoya Peninsula is perfect for those looking to completely get away from it all and immerse themselves in the Costa Rican beach life. It’s home to beautiful beaches, waterfalls and rivers and close to several private reserves and wildlife refuges.
Montezuma is 302 kilometers (187 miles) from San Jose if you drive the entire way (takes about 5.5 hours). You can also go from San Jose – Puntarenas – take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya – drive to Montezuma which takes around 4 hours.
From Liberia, Montezuma is 203 kilometers (126 miles) and a 4 hour drive.
If you plan to explore or continue going up the Nicoya Peninsula, a 4×4/4wd is recommended.
By bus: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Montezuma every day at 6 AM and 2 PM. This bus takes nearly 6 hours and uses the Puntarenas ferry. The bus ticket costs around 7000 colones including the ferry ticket.
Why Visit Montezuma
Montezuma is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica to escape to. It sits in the corner of the Nicoya Peninsula and although the town itself is very small, there is plenty to do and see when it comes to beach, hiking, nature and adventure.
Montezuma also has a unique characteristic of being surrounded by rivers and waterfalls, which is rare for beaches in Costa Rica. So you can spend your day completely relaxing at the beach or exploring the area.
What to Know About Vistiing Montezuma
- This town is known for attracting those who dabble in leisurely marijuana use so keep that in mind if visiting with family.
- Beaches are not the best for swimming since the current can be strong. But the beaches have lots of tidepools you can sit and bathe in.
- Popular town for free camping.
Plan your trip to Montezuma, Costa Rica with our guide.
Beach bums, yogis and vegans/vegetarians will love Nosara in the Nicoya Peninsula. This little coastal village focusing on surfing, yoga and wellness is known as one of the first expat beach towns in Costa Rica. Nosara has gorgeous, wild beaches and is perfect for those looking for an idyllic, low key surfing town.
Nosara is 123 kilometers (77 miles) from Liberia. The best way to get there however is via Nicoya (Route 21 and 150) that goes through more paved roads.
From San Jose, Nosara is 257 kilometers (160 miles) and about a 5.5 hour drive. Best route is via Nicoya.
By bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Nosara everyday at 530 AM with Empresa Alfaro from Termianl 7/10. This bus goes through Tempisque. There is a bus from Nicoya to Nosara Mon – Sat at 445 AM, 10 AM, 1230 PM, 3 PM, 530 PM. On Sundays, there is a bus at 10 AM, 1230 PM, 3 PM and 530 PM.
For shuttles, you can get a private shuttle for around $180 USD one way from Liberia.
Why Visit Nosara
Nosara is perfect for those who a rural, more remote surfing beach town that’s not as far from Liberia Airport as Santa Teresa but not as crowded as Tamarindo.
You can get around without a car but we definitely recommend one to explore the area as there are many hidden gems in Nosara.
What to Know About Visiting Nosara
- 4×4/4wd required.
- It has beautiful surfing beaches with lots of surf schools.
- Has a few very nice hotels and many vacation rentals. Tons of luxury homes and upscale lodging options.
- Great for surfers, yogis, friend groups and families.
Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is the main beach town in the Gulf of Papagayo, up in the North Pacific of the Guanacaste coast. It’s popular with retired US and Canadians, families and is the best launching point to go fishing or to explore the beautiful beaches in the Gulf.
Playas del Coco is 37 kilometers (23 miles) from Liberia Airport, about a 25 minute drive. From San Jose, Playas del Coco is 244 kilometers (152 miles), about a 4.5 hour drive. Playas del Coco is the closest beach town to an international airport in Costa Rica.
By bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Playas del Coco everyday at 8 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM with Empresa Pulmitan. There is another option to take the bus from San Jose to Liberia, then Liberia to Playas del Coco.
From Liberia: The Pulmitan de Liberia (public bus) runs from Liberia to Coco from 5 AM to 7 PM every hour. It costs 550 colones (~$1).
For shuttles, there are no shared shuttles available. A private shuttle is around $55 USD one way for 1-4 people.
Why Visit Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for retirees, those not renting a car and for families. It’s a small fishing village but is the main launch point for tons of ocean activities such as surfing, scuba diving, fishing and snorkeling.
What to Know About Visiting Playas del Coco
- It’s super laid back and a very popular town for USA/Canadaian retirees. It doesn’t have a ton of nightlife compared to other beach towns like Samara, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo or Puerto Viejo.
- You can perfectly visit without a car. A lot of tourists like to rent a bike or a golf cart.
- You can find more vacation rentals in Coco than hotels due to the amount of snowbirds, immigrants and expats. Many are just a 2 minute walk to the beach.
Plan your trip to Playas del Coco, Costa Rica in this guide.
Puerto Viejo (De Talamanca in Limon)
The Caribbean coast has a laid back and very chill vibe, perfect for those looking for a relaxing beach escape. Puerto Viejo, the main town of the South Caribbean is surrounded by beautiful beaches, has a fun party vibe and offers a unique blend of cultures.
Lots of wildlife can be seen in the area due to the humid environment, lush rain forest, national park and protected reserves.
Puerto Viejo is 217 kilometers (135 miles) from San Jose and takes about 5 hours driving.
By bus: There is a direct bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo with the Terminal Atlantico Norte everyday at 6 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM and 4 PM. From Limon, there is a bus everyday from 5 AM to 6 PM with Transportes Mepe.
Shuttle: You can take a shared shuttle with Interbus for $57 USD from San Jose. A private shuttle from San Jose is $300 USD one way for 1-8 people.
Why Visit Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo has not just a great party atmosphere but the beaches in the area are some of the MOST beautiful beaches in Costa Rica! You’ll find stunning white sand beaches with clear water and tons of wildlife around like sloths, toucans and monkeys.
Furthermore, Puerto Viejo is super laid back and great for backpackers, budget travelers, couples, digital nomads and young tourists looking for a good time. If you stay in the neighborhoods outside town, you can find quieter communities that are ideal for older adults or families.
Puerto Viejo is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for those without a car or those looking for a fun time.
What to Know About Puerto Viejo
- It is a big party town so you will find tons of hostels in downtown. Downtown does get very noisy so pick a hotel outside town if you don’t want to be around that.
- Puerto Viejo can get a little dicey in some parts and late at night. We do not recommend walking after dark, always take a taxi. Furthermore, don’t go to the beach or walk around by yourself at night or in the early mornings before sunrise.
- Bicycle is the main mode of transportation. You can rent a sedan to get to Puerto Viejo and get around but lots of people rent bikes. The main road running from Cahuita to Manzanillo, passing through Puerto Viejo is completely paved.
- For long term stays, check the Puerto Viejo Rentals Facebook group.
- Check out Cahuita, the small town a bit north of Puerto Viejo for a more local experience.
Plan your trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica in our guide.
Families will love Samara, just 1 hour south of Nosara. This mellow beach town has excellent surfing waves, a great beach for kids, lots of restaurants and plenty of accommodation options. Many families who want a healthier beach atmosphere than Tamarindo should visit Samara.
Samara is 235 kilometers (146 miles) from San Jose and a 4.5 hour drive. From Liberia, Samara is 115 kilometers (72 miles) and a 2 hour drive. You can rent a sedan, a 4×4 is not necessary as long as you take the road through Nicoya.
By bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Samara everyday at 12 PM and 5 PM (high season). From Nicoya, there is a bus Monday – Saturday at 5, 545, 8, 10, 11, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, 430 PM, 630 PM, 8 PM and 945 PM.
For shuttles, it is about $130 USD from Liberia for a private.
Why Visit Samara
All the reasons mentioned above. I have to say again that Samara is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for families. Additionally, Samara has gorgeous sunsets!
What to Know About Visiting Samara
- Don’t necessarily need a car. You can walk around town easily and there are two other beaches you can get to without a car
- Beach is great for swimming and surfing
- Lots of ocean adventures such as kayaking, surfing, swimming. Also has good fishing
- Town has everything like pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.
- For long term rentals, check the Beach House Apartments.
- Many restaurants may be cash only so bring plenty of cash with you (USD or CRC)
Plan your trip to Samara, Costa Rica in this guide.
Wild, rugged and remote describes the big beach town of Santa Teresa in the Nicoya Peninsula. It may take a bit of planning to get to but it’s worth it if you make the trek. Santa Teresa is actually a large beach town but it’s not even a fraction as developed as Jaco.
Santa Teresa is 217 kilometers (135 miles) from Liberia and about a 4.5 hour drive. From San Jose, Santa Teresa is 183 kilometers (114 miles) by way of the Puntarenas ferry (5 hours). If you drive the whole way, it’s 315 kilometers (196 miles) and takes about 6 hours. It is highly recommended to rent a 4×4/4wd for Santa Teresa.
By bus: There is a bus from San Jose to Mal Pais everyday at 6 AM and 2 PM that goes to Santa Teresa. There is also a bus from Cobano everyday at 1030 AM to 230 PM.
For shuttles: Private shuttles are available and cost around $250 USD one way for 1-8 people from San Jose. From Liberia, it is around $250 USD one way too.
Why Visit Santa Teresa
Amazing surf, fun community, lots of digital nomads and young entrepeneuers, gorgeous beaches, good food! Great for backpackers, couples, solo travelers, budget travelers and families.
It’s also good for digital nomads as there are a couple of co-working spaces in Santa Teresa.
What to Know About Santa Teresa
- Cash is king in Santa Teresa. Bring plenty as there is only one ATM in town and it runs out of money often.
- ATV’s are the main mode of transportation in the area
- There are many beaches in Santa Teresa and there is one main road running parallel to them
- Roads are completely unpaved so 4×4 really recommended. Gets super dry and dusty in dry season
Plan your trip to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica in our guide.
Tamarindo is a popular surfing town in Guanacaste, a favorite among backpackers since it has a fun night life and a good amount of hostels. It’s also a family friendly area and close to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica such as Conchal.
It has decent infrastructure, lots of good restaurants, hostels and hotels and its own local airport, making it a very convenient beach town to visit. Tamarindo is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica close to Liberia Airport with a lot going on.
From Liberia, Tamarindo is 78 kilometers (48.5 miles) and takes about 1.5 hours driving. From San Jose, Tamarindo is 239 kilometres (161 miles) and a 4.5 hour to 5 hour drive.
How to get to Tamarindo by bus
San Jose to Tamarindo by bus: There are 2 buses from San Jose. One leaves from Calle 14 daily at 11:30 by way of Liberia and 15:30 by way of Tempisque. Another one leaves from Calle 20 daily at 7:15 and 16:00. Both routes take about 5.5 hours.
From Liberia, the bus leaves at 3:50, 4:30, 5:15, 6:10, 7:30, 9, 10. 11, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00 which takes 1.5 hours.
Flying: Tamarindo has its own local airport. Tamarindo is about a 30 minute flight from San Jose and 10 from Liberia.
For shuttles, there are shared shuttles from San Jose and Liberia for around $57 USD per adult with Interbus. For private shuttles, it is around $320 USD from San Jose to Tamarindo and $100 USD one way from Liberia Airport.
Why Visit Tamarindo
It’s fun! Lots of parties and bars, a very lively nightlife, great surfing waves, tons of restaurants and beautiful sunsets. It’s great for young travelers and families alike. It’s a little like Jaco but on a smaller scale.
What to Know About Tamarindo
- Tamarindo also offers the type of tourism catering to young partiers (drugs and prostitutes). It is family friendly but it does offer this as well.
- Tamarindo can get super crowded during holidays since it’s a popular destination for locals.
- Some businesses are cash only so bring plenty of cash. Luckily there are several ATMs in town
- For long term stays, check the Tamarindo Rentals and Real Estate Facebook group.
- There are some co-working spaces and cafes with high speed Internet in downtown Tamarindo.
Plan your trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica in this guide.
Uvita is one of our personal favorite beach towns in Costa Rica. It’s full of nature, beautiful luxury hotels and empty beaches. Uvita is also the best place to see humpback whales in Costa Rica and has tons of wildlife ocean adventures!
Uvita is 223 kilometers (139 miles) from San Jose and about a 3.5 hour drive. From Liberia, it is 311 kilometers (193 miles) and a 5 hour drive.
By bus: There is a bus fom San Jose to Uvita everyday at 6 AM and 3 PM. There is also a bus from Quepos everyday at 6 AM, 930 AM, 230 PM and 530 PM. From San Isidro del General, there is a bus everyday at 9 AM and 4 PM.
Why Visit Uvita
Uvita is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica for a truly natural and relaxing experience. There are a ton of ultra luxury hotels in Uvita all with stunning ocean and mountain views. Or you can stay at a modest family run B&B or inn in town.
This area also has a ton of natural attractions and it’s lush and green all year round. We always see so many sloths in Uvita! It’s a great destination for beach, snorkeling, whales, nature, hiking, rivers and waterfalls.
What to Know About Visiting Uvita
- You should rent a car to explore the area. There’s lots to discover!
- You can visit Corcovado National Park from Uvita as a day trip.
- It gets crazy crowded and busy in February due to the Envision Festival. If you visit in February, make sure to book your hotels and car rentals at least 3-6 months out!
Plan your visit to Uvita, Costa Rica in our guide.