Visiting one of Costa Rica’s many beautiful beaches is often at the top of people’s travel plans while here. We love the beaches because they are all so different. There are rocky Costa Rica beaches, white sand beaches, black beaches, beaches for surfing, beaches that you can walk on for miles, and so much more!
After three years of living in Costa Rica, we have traveled to (almost) every beach in the country. We decided it was time to put together a list of our absolute favorite beach destinations throughout the country.
We have divided this list up by area of the country so you can easily find the perfect beach depending on where you plan to visit during your travels.
The Guanacaste region of the country is known for its expansive white sand beaches. The stretch of land between Tamarindo and Playas del Coco is often regarded as the nicest stretch of beaches in the entire country.
Playa Penca is located close to Playas del Coco in Guanacaste. There are two beaches named Playa Penca in the Guanacaste region so make sure you are searching for the one located here (between Coco and Playa Hermosa) ↓.
Driving to Playa Penca is interesting because it is located in the middle of a half-built neighborhood of beautiful houses. You may think you are in the wrong spot, but just keep going. When you arrive there may be a few other cars parked, but other than that there won’t be anyone else around.
Make sure to not leave anything valuable in the car. We have heard of people’s cars getting broken into here.
To get down to the beach you need to walk about 7 minutes down a steep trail. It’s a bit of a journey, but the reward is worth it. It is the perfect hidden gem.
This beach is pristine, beautiful, and almost always empty. There are also plenty of shady trees so you can get out of the hot sun and it is the perfect spot for a swim in the Pacific Ocean.
Head back to your car around sunset to get an amazing view from above!
Best Activity here:
Playa Penca is a great spot to do some snorkeling! There is nobody around to rent masks though. You will either need to bring your own or rent one in town.
If you would rather go scuba diving there are many companies in this area that offer tours to the beautiful coral reefs as well.
Playa Junquillal is located between the seaside village of Nosara and the popular surf town of Tamarindo. There are a bunch of really nice beaches along this part of the coast and most are usually completely empty.
The roads along here are unpaved, which tends to deter most tourists, but if you rent a car with four-wheel drive, it is definitely worth a visit. The waves are perfect for surfing. Also, you can walk forever on these stretches of beach!
Just be warned that this beach is known for its strong rip currents, we do not suggest attempting to swim here.
Best Activity here: Between July and February you may get lucky and see baby sea turtles hatching.
Playa Flamingo and nearby Playa Conchal are often considered to be the nicest beaches in all of Costa Rica. Both beaches are known for their powdery white sand and calm water. Also, many of the best beach hotels and resorts in Costa Rica are located along these beaches.
We love both beaches but tend to prefer Playa Flamingo just so we can grab a meal at Coco Loco restaurant on the beach.
Just be prepared that it can be difficult to find parking here during peak travel times. It is a super popular place to be!
Best Activity here: Go swimming! The water is perfect!
Nicoya Peninsula Beaches
The beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula have a more raw feel to them. During the rainy season, a lot of debris tend to wash up. Most of these beaches are not the best for swimming due to rip currents, but they are very popular with the surfing crowd.
Montezuma beach is my favorite place for a nice long walk.
From the town of Montezuma, you can walk south along the beach for several miles. Along the walk, you will explore a wildlife refuge, see a waterfall, and if you are lucky you may see baby sea turtles.
This beach is not the best for swimming. It is also very rocky in places.
If you like fishing, this is a great spot for some shore fishing.
Best Activity here: Walk the miles of beaches.
Curu Reserve Beach
How perfect is this beach?!? ↑ Also, note that there isn’t a single other person here.
If you take the ferry from Puntarenas over to Nicoya you will pass the Curu Reserve on your drive to Santa Teresa or Montezuma.
We definitely suggest stopping (or even spend a night nearby). The reserve is filled with nice hiking tours and this beautiful beach.
You can find out more in our Curu Reserve guide.
Best Activity here: At night you can go on a bioluminescent kayak tour here. It is so cool!
Central and South Pacific Beaches
The Central Pacific beaches tend to be long stretches of nice white sand beaches. The sand is not always super fine. As you get further south you will find more beaches that back right up to dense jungles.
Playa Blanca is the closest beach from San Jose, Costa Rica. Without too much traffic you can drive here within 1.5 hours from San Jose.
If you are visiting Jaco, Playa Blanca is a great option to escape the crowds for a day.
We love this beach because it is absolutely beautiful and there are grills that you can use. Just bring some charcoal and your favorite foods to grill and you can make a whole day of your visit here.
This beach is located in a private resort, but it is still possible to drive here. We have a complete post about visiting Playa Blanca with more info on how to access this gem.
Best Activity here: This beach is almost always perfect for a nice swim.
Manuel Antonio National Park Beaches
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most popular tourist destination in all of Costa Rica. This national park is the perfect place to see tons of wildlife in a condensed space and to, of course, enjoy beautiful beaches.
There are two popular beaches in Manuel Antonio (pictured above). Both are amazing, but we find that the beach on the left side of this picture tends to be less crowded.
We have a complete guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more info.
Best Activity here: After a long hike through the national park, these beaches are perfect for a nice swim.
Playa Biesanz is a secluded beach located in the town of Manuel Antonio. To get there, just type in “Playa Biesanz” into your GPS. There is not a parking lot, but you can just pull your rental car off on to the side of the road.
Usually, there is a guy there who will ask for a few dollars to watch your car. Pay him (it’s better than taking the risk of having your car broken into) and head down the path to the beach.
Make sure to look up as you walk because there are usually howler monkeys in the trees.
Playa Biesanz is not the most beautiful beach, but we like the unique vibe. Most tourists don’t end up here so it is less busy than other beaches in the area.
The real appeal of this spot is the locals selling food, renting beach chairs for you to lounge in, renting sea kayaks, snorkel gear and more for a very fair rate.
It’s the perfect place to spend a fun day!
Best Activity here: Rent some sea kayaks and go out for a paddle. The water is usually very calm.
Matapalo beach is located a bit south of Puerto Jiminez. This beach is so beautiful! I mean, look at the color of that water pictured above.
We suggest combining a visit here with a visit to the nearby King Louis Waterfall. We have a complete guide to visiting which included detailed directions.
Best Activity here: Bring a picnic and find a shady spot to relax.
Caribbean Coast Beaches
The Caribbean coast is known for dark sand beaches next to the jungle. These Costa Rica Caribbean beaches have a completely different feel from the Pacific coast beaches. Not only do the beaches look different, but the culture here is different as well. You can expect more of an Afro Caribbean vibe in these seaside towns.
Cahuita National Park Beach
Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean coast is our favorite national park in Costa Rica. The hike is amazing and the beach that runs parallel to the trail makes it even better.
There are plenty of shaded picnic tables along the way. Bring a picnic lunch and you can make a whole day of it.
Best Activity here: Snorkeling from here is amazing. However, because it is a national park you are technically required to hire a guide to take you on a snorkel tour. You can find many snorkel guides in the town of Cahuita.
Punta Uva is located just south of the town of Puerto Viejo. We love this beach because it feels so raw. The sand is very dark and the surroundings are lush with trees.
The water is typically very calm here and perfect for swimming.
If you visit this beach we also suggest driving a few minutes south to Manzanillo beach and national park. You can take a short hike here and find a piece of beach all to yourself.
Best Activity here: We like to just walk along the beach and relax here.
Our Tips for Visiting Beaches in Costa Rica
– Always ask someone or observe other people before swimming. There are several beaches with rip currents in Costa Rica.
– Often there will be small parking lots with a parking attendant at most beaches. You usually just need to pay this attendant a few dollars as a tip when you leave. Even though somebody is watching your car, never leave anything of value in your vehicle.
– There are many surf shops in most beach towns. You can usually rent a board for about $10 per day. We suggest always renting from the shop closest to the beach so you won’t have to walk as far.
– It is best to never leave your stuff unattended while swimming. Petty crime is known to happen here, and this is not limited to crimes by humans. Yes, we have seen monkeys steal entire backpacks at Manuel Antonio National Park.
– For info about the tides and surf reports, we tend to refer to the website Magic Seaweed.
– Just be warned that the sun is really strong here. Even on cloudy days, it is best to wear strong sunscreen and hydrate frequently.
– If you want to sit in the shade of a tree just look up first. There are plenty of tall palm trees that provide nice shady spots, however, you don’t want to sit under any coconuts that could fall.
Map of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Here is a handy dandy map of all the beaches we have mentioned. You can easily open this in Google Maps to get directions to any of these amazing places.
Have any questions about the top beaches in Costa Rica? Leave them in the comment section below and we will help you out! Also, let us know what your favorite beach is in Costa Rica. We love to hear what you’ve enjoyed!
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