One of the reasons why Costa Rica has attracted so many visitors from around the world is the plethora of beautiful beaches. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are home to some of the most dazzling beaches in Central America that visitors fall absolutely head over heels for.
So if you’re looking to make good use of your swimsuit and sunglasses, here is our list of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Kick off your shoes, sit back and relax. Let these gorgeous beaches take your breath away! Perfect list for Costa Rica honeymooners who want to go to the beach! And just in case you’re interested, here’s our list of best white sand beaches in Costa Rica.
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Best Beaches in Costa Rica Map
Here is a map of all the beaches in this post to help plan your trip.
Manuel Antonio National Park – Manuel Antonio Beach
Any talk of the best beaches in Costa Rica inevitably involves Manuel Antonio National Park. With 4 white sand beaches inside the 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 the 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, Puerto Escondido, Gemelas and Espadilla are equally as stunning. You can swim, snorkel, hike and see stunning coastal views from all corners. You can read our Manuel Antonio National Park post to find out more about the beaches and hiking trails.
Playa Cocles (Limon)
Visiting the Caribbean side? You’re in luck because Puerto Viejo has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica! And one of them is Playa Cocles. If you’ve ever wanted that idyllic Caribbean postcard picture of a tropical beach, Cocles is the one to go to.
Cocles is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica due to its soft sand, palm tree dotted shores and seasonal surfing waves. Plus it’s only 4 kilometers from Puerto Viejo downtown, making it an ideal beach to stay at outside of town.
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.
The beaches inside Cahuita National Park, Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas have one of the biggest coral reefs in the country and are two stunning white sand beaches.
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.
Conchal Beach (Guanacaste)
Conchal is normally the first beach people think of when they hear about the best beaches in Costa Rica. This spectacular beach in Guanacaste has one peculiar 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.
Now in 2019, you can no longer drive to that beach, you must walk across Brasilito to get there but it is totally worth the 15 minute walk! However, there are two resorts, the W Costa Rica and the Westin Conchal tucked behind the trees which has their own private beach access.
You can spend a whole day at Conchal swimming, snorkeling, relaxing and enjoying a nice beach day. And you can enjoy the best of Costa Rica’s weather as this area has nearly year round sunny and hot days!
Flamingo Beach (Guanacaste)
Flamingo is another gorgeous beach in Guanacaste. It is world famous for fishing but the mile long, crescent shaped beach is what lures visitors. Some of the best water activities can be found in Flamingo including sport fishing, diving, boating and snorkeling.
The residing North American expat community has made Flamingo a luxury beach town so all you’ll find are luxury condos and resorts. If you’re on a budget, keep that in mind. People who want to be near Flamingo but don’t want to stay in a luxury hotel stay in Potrero instead.
Uvita Beach (Puntarenas)
Located in Marino Ballena National Park, Playa Uvita is part of the famous Whale’s Tail in Costa Rica. At low tide, the rocky shore forms the shape of a whale’s tail! It is appropriately named since this area 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!
Although this isn’t a white sand beach, the lush mountains enveloping the shore are a unique type of beauty. It’s in the national park so you have to pay the entrance fee to visit but it’s well worth it.
Waves are not big so you can swim or go stand up paddle boarding. It’s one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for families who are looking for a quiet, easy going beach with gentle waves.
Another amazing beach in Uvita is Playa Hermosa. Since this one is outside the town center, you can very well have it all to yourself!
Playa Samara (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 Playa Samara? The sunsets. Do I have to say more?
Another wonderful beach near Samara 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 very touristic and can get extremely busy during the summer months so to experience a more Tico beach, head to Carrillo.
Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen and Mal Pais Beach
In the Nicoya Peninsula lies a stretch of surfing beaches: Mal Pais, Carmen, Santa Teresa beach. Since this area is in a fairly undeveloped part of Costa Rica, visitors can have a relatively off the beaten path beach experience.
This area is extremely popular with yogis and surfers with handful of wellness retreats throughout town. Although the beaches aren’t great for swimming, the rocky coastlines, whiteish sand and bright blue waters make for beautiful views.
Santa Teresa is not the most easily accessible beach but it’s well worth visiting for a few nights if you can fit it in your itinerary. You can read our 2 week Costa Rica itinerary to see how we visited Santa Teresa.
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 turtles on Playa Montezuma during certain months of the year. When we visited in February, they released baby turtles every day at 4 PM.
Tamarindo Beach (Guanacaste)
Though Tamarindo is incredibly touristic, it is still a lovely beach. It has excellent surfing waves and its vast shore, surrounding green forest and neighboring estuary make it to our list of best beaches in Costa Rica. It has tan sand and during dry season, very bright blue waters.
Sunsets in Tamarindo are one of the best as you get a full view of the sun going down. It’s fun to see surfers catching waves with the sunset as the back drop and during rainy season, it is so beautiful with the surrounding green forests.
There are a few hotels on the beach 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.
Another beautiful beach near Tamarindo is Langosta. It has whiter sand, great surfing waves and way less people!
Punta Uva and Playa Arrecife (Limon)
Once you see it with your own eyes, you will never want to leave 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 families of sloth in the palm trees!
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 as well!
Playa San Juanillo (Guanacaste)
Playa San Juanilo is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica in our opinion. 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.
San Juanillo is a tiny local fishing town in a non-touristy area of Guanacaste, perfect for a day trip visiting a hidden gem in Costa Rica. Make sure to go during high tide so that you can see the two white sand shores. Otherwise it is extremely rocky. And make sure to rent a 4×4!
Read about the best beaches in Guanacaste here!
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