Costa Rica has incredible beaches and an amazing coastline that provides the ultimate beach vacation. In this post, we will list the best beaches in Costa Rica to visit as well as recommendations for where to stay.
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Best Beaches in Costa Rica Map
Click here to go to a map of the best beaches in Costa Rica in this post.
Know before you go: Costa Rica’s beaches are public. However, majority of beaches in Costa Rica lack public services such as showers, bathrooms and changing rooms.
Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica have amazing beaches. Not sure which one to visit? Check out our guide comparing the Pacific VS Caribbean.
Manuel Antonio National Park – Manuel Antonio Beach
Any talk of the best beaches in Costa Rica inevitably involves Manuel Antonio on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. With 4 white sand beaches inside the famous national park and 1 outside, you will be left in awe of its beauty. It’s clear why Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica!
Manuel Antonio beach is the most popular beach inside Manuel Antonio National Park with clear turquoise waters and white sand. Additionally, you’re nearly guaranteed to see white face monkeys in the surrounding treetops at Manuel Antonio beach!
The other beaches in Manuel Antonio, Puerto Escondido, Gemelas and Espadilla are two other gorgeous beaches on the Central Pacific Coast. Make sure to read our Manuel Antonio National Park post to find out more about the beaches and hiking trails.
Manuel Antonio has some absolutely gorgeous, luxurious beach resorts. Perfect to splurge, if you’re on your honeymoon/anniversary trip or if you’re a luxury traveler. Check Parador, Tulemar, Arenas del Mar, Shana by the Beach Resort and Makanda By The Sea. Fly into SJO Airport for Manuel Antonio (3 hour drive).
Playa Cocles (Limon)
Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast cannot be overlooked when it comes to beautiful beaches. On the Caribbean coast, the Puerto Viejo area has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica! One of those is Playa Cocles in the Southern Caribbean Coast, 4 kilometers from Puerto Viejo.
Cocles is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica due to its soft sand, palm tree dotted shores and seasonal surfing waves. Sometimes Cocles can get very busy so if you walk to the south end where the river is, you can find a spot all to yourself away from the crowds.
Fly into SJO AIrport for Cocles (5 hour drive).
Continuing on beautiful beaches on the Southern Caribbean coast are the beaches inside Cahuita National Park, Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas. These beaches are known for their expansive coral reef and clear waters.
As these beaches are in a rarely crowded national park, you can have them all to themselves. Keep your eyes open because it’s common to see white face monkeys, iguanas and sloths in the trees!
We recommend taking a guided hike of the national park since there is so much wildlife. There’s a nice path that runs parallel to the beach that’s very easy to walk on. You can spend a whole day hiking, swimming and seeing wildlife in Cahuita.
Fly into SJO Airport for Cahuita (5 hour drive).
Punta Uva and Playa Arrecife (Limon)
Another amazing beach on the Pacific coast are the beaches of Punta Uva: Playa Punta Uva and Playa Arrecife
With a long line of palm trees, bright turquoise water and soft white sand, it’s perfect for hanging up a hammock. Walk the short trail through the jutting inlet to get breathtaking views of both beaches.
Another amazing thing about Punta Uva is that there is a section called sloth point. As you may have guessed, you can see sloths in the palm trees!
If you visit Punta Uva, then you have to go just a tad bit further to Playa Manzanillo in the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge for amazing birdwatching and coastal views.
Fly into SJO Airport for Punta Uva (5 hour drive).
Playa Conchal (Guanacaste)
Conchal beach is a spectacular beach in Guanacaste with one unique characteristic that makes it so attractive: it has shells instead of sand! The shore is made up of millions of little pieces of sparkling white shells, gently kissed by baby blue waters.
The public access to Playa Conchal takes a bit of walking but it’s 100% worth it. As soon as you see the beach, you will see why Playa Conchal is always on the list of best beaches in Costa Rica!
However, do know that waves are not extremely calm for swimming. If you go in, be very careful. Don’t let children swim without supervision.
The only two beach front hotels on Conchal beach with their own access is the Westin Conchal and W Costa Rica. Fly into LIR Airport for Conchal beach, 1 hour drive.
Flamingo Beach (Guanacaste)
Flamingo beach is another gorgeous beach in Guanacaste, famous for fishing but the mile long, crescent shaped beach is what truly attracts visitors. Some of the best water activities can be found in Flamingo such as sport fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Sunsets are amazing at Flamingo Beach and when 5 PM rolls around, everyone shows up with their camera to get epic photos of the sunset.
There is one big beachfront resort on Playa Flamingo: Margaritaville.
Fly into LIR Airport for Playa Flamingo, 1 hour drive.
Samara Beach (Guanacaste)
Samara is another one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for families. This laid back beach has plenty of land and water activities to enjoy. There is even a nearby island with great snorkeling you can kayak to!
But the thing that we love the most about Samara beach? The sunsets. Do I have to say more?
Another wonderful beach near Samara beach is Carrillo. We actually prefer Carrillo more than Samara because there are way less people and has more of a Costa Rican vibe. Samara is touristic and can get extremely busy so to experience a more Tico beach, head to Carrillo.
Hotel Villas Playa Samara and Azura Beach Resort (adult only) are two beachfront resorts on Playa Samara. Fly into LIR Airport for Samara, 2 hour drive.
Playa Hermosa Guanacaste (GTE)
The name, Playa Hermosa can technically be given to any of the beaches in Costa Rica since it means beautiful beach in Spanish! However, this particular beach in the Northwest Costa Rica Papagayo Peninsula definitely deserves its name of Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste.
This beach is tranquil, has gorgeous sunsets and a very family friendly vibe. There are a few beachfront hotels such as Hotel El Velero and Hotel Bosque del Mar and many luxury ocean view vacation rentals in Playa Hermosa.
This is a good alternative option to Playas del Coco but we highly recommend to rent a car for Playa Hermosa as there isn’t much of a town. All the main amenities and services are in Coco.
Playa Hermosa in the Guanacaste province is a 30 minute drive from LIR Airport.
Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen and Hermosa Beach
In the Nicoya Peninsula lies a stretch of stunning beaches: Carmen, Hermosa and Santa Teresa beach. Since the Nicoya Peninsula is still considered rural, the beaches are wild, rugged and untamed, making for a more pristine beach experience.
Although the beaches aren’t great for swimming, the rocky coastlines, whiteish sand and bright blue waters make for beautiful views and sunsets. Santa Teresa is a top surfing beach in Costa Rica.
Near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, you can find secluded beaches, incredible snorkeling spots and breathtaking coastslines.
Want to visit Santa Teresa? Read our 2 week Costa Rica itinerary to see how we visited this coastal town in the Nicoya Peninsula. Fly into either LIR or SJO Airport for Santa Teresa. LIR Airport is an easier drive (3.5 hours), SJO is a 5.5 hour drive or a 5 hour drive + ferry.
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When it comes to fascinating coastal landscapes, Montezuma beach definitely earns that reputation. Montezuma is a small beach town in the Nicoya Peninsula and has some of the wildest, most striking coastlines in the country.
The beaches in Montezuma are not the best for swimming because stretches of rocks weave in and out of the coast. However, in low tide you can lay in the tide pools! The beaches stretch for miles and the further south you go, the less humans you’ll see and more monkeys you’ll encounter.
You can also see the release of baby sea turtles on Playa Montezuma during certain months of the year. When we visited in February, they released baby turtles every day at 4 PM.
For a beautiful beachfront resort, check out Ylang Ylang Resort. Fly into SJO or LIR Airport for Montezuma. LIR Airport is a 3.5 hour drive, SJO Airport is a 4.5 hour drive + ferry or 5 hour drive.
Tamarindo Beach (Guanacaste Province)
Though Tamarindo is more touristic, it is a lovely beach with excellent surfing waves and sunsets, making it to our list of best beaches in Costa Rica.
Tamarindo is one of the most popular beach towns in Costa Rica with plenty of amenities. There are some beachfront resorts such as the Tamarindo Diria and Villa Amarilla but the ocean views hotels are our favorite such as Esplendor and Jardin del Eden. Tamarindo is a touristic beach town but has a lot of fun activities and is a great place for backpackers, surfers and families alike.
If you are super lucky, you may spot sea turtles laying eggs on Tamarindo beach as it is part of the Marino Las Baulas National Park.
Fly into LIR Airport for Tamarindo, 1 hour drive.
Playa Pelada (Nosara)
Nosara, a small town in the South Guanacaste area is home to incredible surfing beaches and dry tropical jungle. The beaches in this area are inside the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, such as Pelada Beach, Guiones Beach and Ostional Beach, their shores are kept pristine and as natural as possible.
There are tons of beaches to explore in Nosara so if you have day off from surfing, don’t miss out on visiting the other beaches like Playa Garza (Garza Beach) and Playa Rosada (pink beach).
Nosara is just a 20 minute drive to the Ostional Refuge, home to one of the seven mass Olive Ridley Sea Turtle nesting sites in the world!
Fly into LIR for Nosara, ~2.5 hour drive and you should rent a 4wd.
Uvita Beach (Costa Ballena, Puntarenas)
Located in Marino Ballena National Park, Playa Uvita is part of the famous Whale’s Tail on the South Pacific coast. At low tide, the rocky shore forms the shape of a whale’s tail! It is appropriately named since the Marino Ballena National Park is the best in Costa Rica to see humpback whales.
As such, Playa Uvita is also the launching point for whale watching tours as humpback whales are greatly abundant in this area. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see them from shore!
Uvita Beach in the Costa Ballena has soft dark sand, lined with swaying palm trees. Perfect for a nap, yoga, long walk on the beach and running. This is an amazing beach to see the sun set down over the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica.
Another beach to visit in the Costa Ballena is Playa Dominical. Dominical beach is not the prettiest beach but it is an awesome beach for surfing and sunsets.
Fly into SJO Airport for Uvita and Dominical beach, ~3.5 hour drive.
Tortuga Island is an island in the Nicoya Peninsula, only accessible by boat. The beach on the island is a stunning white sand beach with incredibly clear turquoise water and excellent snorkeling.
The most popular way to visit is to take the Tortuga Island one day cruise (get $10 off the tour in the link). Sail through the Gulf of Nicoya, spend 5 hours on the beach and cruise back under sunset. It’s one of the best day trips from San Jose and Jaco!
Playa San Juanillo (Guanacaste)
Playa San Juanilo is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Two white sand beaches come together and you can walk up to the point where they meet for absolutely jaw dropping views.
Waves are soft for swimming and the water is a clear blue. It’s not a very big beach but it’s perfect for a picnic, laying out or swimming. Make sure to go during high tide so that you can see the two white sand shores. Otherwise it is extremely rocky.
Playa San Juanillo used to be a secluded beach but its popularity has skyrocketed since the pandemic. For less people, go in the mornings on the weekdays and avoid holidays and weekends.
Guanacaste: Home to Some of Costa Rica’s Best Beaches
The Guanacaste province’s nickname of “Golden Coast” comes from its plethora of beautiful beaches of the Pacific Ocean. If you plan to visit the Guanacaste coast, here is our list of the best beaches in Guanacaste! Guanacaste is also home to the most beach front resorts, such as Westin Conchal, W Costa Rica, JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, Four Seasons, Andaz Papagayo, Planet Hollywood, Secrets Papagayo, El Mangroove, Riu Palace and RIU Guanacaste.
Costa Rica Vacation Checklist
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What would be good beaches for young children that are very calm in Feb.-March? We went to Playa Hermosa this year in Guanacaste and loved it. It was so calm compared to the nearby beaches with much larger waves. We are mostly looking for calm water for swimming, nice soft sand (if possible) and some amenities like washrooms or restaurants nearby. Not sure if we will venture to the Caribbean side if the crime is higher there, and we’d prefer not to go to the same area in Guanacaste. Thanks!
I know families love Samara, Costa Rica but it is a surfing beach so not quite as calm as Hermosa. Ocotal and Panama are two other good options but that’s the same area so not sure if you want to stay in the same area.
Cassandra Schade says
This is our honeymoon
I just love your site. Thank you for all the concise info. My husband has a really bad knee and can’t hike long distances. We love a really, really quiet beach without crowds but with excellent snorkeling. Do you have a recommendation that’s accessible?
Costa Rica doesn’t have the most amazing snorkeling, but here are some beaches with decent snorkeling: Playa Cuevas, Mal Pais, Cahuita National Park (most go on a tour and you have to get to the snorkel place by boat) and Ocotal, Costa Rica
Looking to retire in Costa Rica. Want a small quaint beach town with a walkable downtown area with shops and restaurants preferably in Guanacaste region due to proximity of health care. Any suggestions
I would check out Playas del Coco guide , it’s a popular North American retirement town in Guanacaste at the beach. Lots of retirees there who move there for exactly what you’re looking for.
I’ve read somewhere about crocodiles spotted around flamingo beach, is it right?
What other beaches have that problem? 🙂
Tamarindo, Jaco sometimes!
Some of my favorite beaches were in Puerto Viejo a short bus ride from Cahuita. My all-time favorite Beach was Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo. It had such unique fine black sand, calm waters for swimming, stunning sunsets, and a super cool shipwreck that you can jump off of. I definitely recommend renting a bike in Puerto Viejo. I rented a bike for under $5 a day and went Beach hopping. The furthest beach biked to was over an hour away but there were still lots in a shorter distance.
Stayed at the riu guancaste last year in costa rica…definitely wasn’t calm on the water …blew about 25 or 30 mph ….resort wasn’t bad but not a place for snorkeling
john cross says
I have not seen them all. I keep going back to Manual Antonio. Great sunset.
John Cross, Atlanta USA
Manuel Antonio has some beautiful beaches, it’s a gorgeous area!
You missed Playa Manzanillo and Montezuma. 🙂
I agree! Montezuma has so many great beaches las Manchas and Playa Grande, and Manzanillo on both coasts are great spots!
Karen Lundgard says
Playa Grande just north of Tamarindo is far less crowded and longer and nicer than the beach at a Tamarindo.
Playa Ventanas has great caves although they are dangerous unless the tide is low.
Grande is great for surfing! Definitely less crowded
Thanks for reading our blog, in regards to your questions a 4×4 its always better for Montezuma but if you come on the dry season you might not need it
We are planning our second trip to Costa Rica for Jan 2017. Our plan is to fly to SJO, rent a car and take the ferry to Montezuma. We are staying in Montezuma for 3 nights then travelling to Tambor for 6 nights. After reading many reviews about returning a rental car and airport departures, we have decided to book accomodations closer to SJO to cut down on travel on our last day – so we have booked in Orotina/Santa Rita. We are planning on leaving Tambor early to travel to Orotina. Do we need a 4×4 or 4×2 or will a standard vehicle suffice? So based on our travel plans, what are some must sees – beaches (maybe ones off the beaten path), wildlife, ziplining, waterfalls or other? Any other recommendations?
Dale Williams says
Long time no see since we were neighbors in Ocotal. A great article with some very nice beaches we have yet to see.
Dale & Diane
Hi guys! Thank you very much and great to hear from you! Hope you guys get to visit some of the beaches one day 🙂
What a great list of fabulous beaches in Tiquicia!
I LOVED Playa Espadilla North which is where we stopped after going on a guided tour of Manuel Antonio which is stunning and I know understand why Forbes magazine included it in their Top 10 Most beautiful National Parks in the world!
There’s another beach i absolutely loved and it’s called Playa Blanca in Punta Leona, Puntarenas…The sand is so white, you’d never believe it’s in Costa Rica.
You sure made me want to go back to the rich coast with all the other photos and there’s so much to discover and enjoy. The sunsets must be legendary!
Until next time.
Pura Vida 🙂
Wow, this makes me want a holiday badly!!
I have never visited Costa Rica, but Playa Uvita looks incredible!
Thanks for the great post guys!
Hi Carl, thanks for reading. Hope you get to visit one day 🙂
Thanks Adbel! You can read about the best time to visit Costa Rica here: Best time to visit Costa Rica We personally love the shoulder months and rainy season like November and May
I’ve been to Costa Rica a few times and agree they have the best beaches ever. I haven’t been to all of them yet but
we are working on that. We will be going back in 2017 and plan on visiting Playa Platanares and Playa Uvita if we get the chance. Great pictures!
Thanks John! The beaches here are just lovely. Hope you get to visit Platanares and Uvita, gorgeous beaches in the South!
Gusto Travels says
Playa Flamingo (Guanacaste) sounds great with white sandy beach. I love fishing.
It is a gorgeous beach! Excellent fishing too so that one would be a beach you should visit 🙂
Great Post. I love to spend time on beaches. Planning to visit this year, what is best time to visit Costa Rica?
Love a good beach post round-up! The only beach I visited on this list was in Cahuita. I Really liked beach is in the national park and the jungle. I went from walking along the jungle paths spotting monkeys and snakes to laying on the beach. It was quiet and empty, exactly what I like. It was also the perfect beach for someone like me who cannot sit still because there was good opportunities for snorkeling, walking and exploring! Lots more Costa Rica beaches to check out whenever I return!
I haven’t been to Cahuita (properly, I walked past it when I was there) but I always hear amazing things about it and your description sounds exactly as amazing as everyone elses. I need to go back! There are soo many beautiful beaches here, always fun to make a beach round up post but hard to narrow it down. If I could, I’d do a post of the 100 best beaches haha cause they’re so many!