Although white sand beaches normally take the spotlight when it comes to beautiful beaches, black sand beaches offer a nice change of scenery. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offer many beaches with various colors of sand: tan, white sand, pink, black, and brown.
Dark sand beaches are actually more common in Costa Rica than white (find out what our favorite white sand beaches in Costa Rica are here) since black sand beaches are volcanic in origin and Costa Rica has many volcanoes being in the Ring of Fire. White sand beaches are originally from shells.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a pure black sand beach like Punaluu Black Sand Beach in Hawaii or Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland but you can find many dark sand beaches. They are mostly a dark brown color with hard compact sand.
But it’s not to say that dark sand beaches aren’t beautiful so if you want to check out different types of beaches during your vacation, here are our recommended black sand beaches in Costa Rica.
Black sand beaches in Costa Rica map
You will see the Central/South Pacific and North Pacific has a good amount of black sand beaches.
Gulf of Papagayo beaches| Playa Hermosa Guanacaste
Playa Hermosa Guanacaste is a beautiful dark sand beach in the Gulf of Papagayo. It has dark brown/tan sand and bright blue waters. Though it doesn’t have good snorkeling, the beach has beautiful views of the sunset.
Playa Hermosa is an excellent beach to stay at if you are looking for a quiet place to stay since there isn’t much of a town and only a few restaurants/hotels on the beach. It’s just a 5 minute drive to Playas del Coco so you can be close to bars and good nightlife but not stay right in it.
Playas del Coco | Guanacaste
Playas del Coco is another dark sand beach in the Gulf of Papagayo, about a 10 minute drive from Hermosa. This beach has darker brown sand than Hermosa and sits inside a bay.
If you want to stay in a beach town, Coco is the place to go since it is the only true beach town in this area of Guanacaste. You can find everything: restaurants, pharmacies, banks, big supermarkets and hotels. Many of the tours depart from Coco so it’s much more convenient, especially if you don’t have a car.
Playa Ocotal | Guanacaste
Playa Ocotal is on the south side of Coco so it also has dark sand. The water is a bit clearer at Ocotal though with more reefs, so this beach is better for snorkeling.
Ocotal is a much smaller beach and a great place to stay if you want to be near town but not too close. There are a couple of restaurants at Ocotal, hotels and vacation rentals and that’s about it. You can walk or bike to Coco from Ocotal too, it’s all on a flat paved road so it’s easier to get to Coco than it is from Hermosa.
Playa Panama | Guanacaste
This is another dark sand beach in the Gulf of Papagayo, Playa Panama. This beach is north of Playa Hermosa and they both look very similar.
The difference between Panama and Hermosa is that the waves in Panama are tiny, practically nonexistent since it sits deep inside a bay. This makes it an excellent beach for families with babies or toddlers since they don’t need to worry about strong currents. There are a few high end hotels on this beach such as El Mangroove Hotel and the all-inclusive Casa Conde del Mar and not much else.
Playa Negra | Guanacaste
Playa Negra (black beach in Spanish) in Guanacaste is a very nice dark black sand beach in Costa Rica and it definitely has some of the darkest sand in Guanacaste. It’s about a 30 minute drive south from Tamarindo and many people visit Negra for the waves.
Playa Negra is an excellent surfing beach for intermediate to experienced surfers with a very long break and strong waves when there are swells. There’s a small village at Negra where you can find a couple hotels, cabinas and restaurants but mostly, it’s a pretty quiet beach that’s popular with surfers.
Playa Pavones | Golfito, Puntarenas
Pavones beach is a dark sand surfing beach in the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s one of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica since it has such long waves. It’s not like that year round but when the waves are good, you can expect a very nice long ride.
Pavones is a bit hard to get to but if you are a surfer and prefer to go to a more remote destination, it’s one of the best beaches that fit those requirements. It is a beach for experienced surfers however since the long left attracts hoards of people during swells, it’s that good!
Playa Bejuco | Puntarenas
Once you reach the Central/South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, you will find mostly dark sand beaches. There are only a couple of white sand beaches in this area (Playa Blanca, Manuel Antonio) and from Manuel Antonio southward, all the beaches have dark sand. Playa Bejuco is one of them.
Playa Bejuco is about a 20 minute drive south of Jaco and is getting more popular with those who are looking for a less developed beach to stay at. There aren’t any big hotels at this beach, all you’ll find are small, simple cabinas and lodges but it is that rustic charm that people love. The town is teeny tiny so we do recommend a car to get around (there aren’t really restaurants or anything).
Other dark sand beaches near Jaco are Playa Esterillos and Hermosa.
Drake Bay | Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas
Drake Bay is one of the most remote destinations in Costa Rica and this area is incredible because of the wildlife. Though the beach isn’t the nicest, the lush jungle, plethora of activities and abundance of wildlife complete the package to make it an amazing beach destination.
At the beach, you can see and hear dozens of macaws, toucans and monkeys. The activities near Drake Bay are some of the best in Costa Rica. Deep sea fishing is incredible from Drake Bay, Cano Island (2nd best snorkel/scuba diving spot in Costa Rica) is a short boat ride away and Corcovado National Park is right around the corner.
Playa Carate | Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas
Playa Carate is another black sand beach in Costa Rica in the Osa Peninsula that is incredible. It borders the Corcovado National Park so the wildlife and nature are simply fantastic!
There’s a tiny town in Carate with a couple of hotels and you will need to walk on this beach to get to the entrance of Corcovado National Park Leona station (there is no road access). On the beach alone, you can see monkeys, toucans, hawks and macaws. When we stayed at La Leona Eco-Lodge, we saw tapir footprints in the sand and our guide showed us photos of tapirs walking on the beach right in front of the lodge!
Playa Carate is personally my favorite black sand beach in Costa Rica because of the location and wildlife. It’s quite an adventure to get to but I loved walking on the beach and seeing all the wildlife around. It doesn’t even feel like you’re in Costa Rica anymore since it’s so remote and wild!
Playa Negra | Caribbean
Playa Negra by Puerto Viejo is nowhere near as beautiful as its neighbors but it’s the entire atmosphere that makes this beach nice. Since most visitors prefer to go to the nearby white sand beaches of Cocles, Chiquita or Punta Uva, Negra can be fairly empty. As you can see in the photo below, there’s only one person on the whole beach!
You’ll find just a few hotels on the beach such as Hotel Banana Azul and you can go surfing at Negra too though waves aren’t quite as good and you need to be an experienced surfer. But it’s a nice beach to visit if you want to get away from the crowds or party atmosphere of Puerto Viejo. We do recommend having a car though because town is around a 2.5 kilometer walk with not much around.
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