One of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica is to visit the beaches, and for good reason.
With easily accessible beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, there are so many beautiful options!
Did you know that by law all beaches in Costa Rica need to have public access? This means no spot is off-limit to your exploration.
Now we just need to find the perfect one for you!
It can be difficult to decide between Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and the Caribbean coast for beaches.
Both sides of the country are blessed with beautiful landscapes.
Most people tend to visit the Pacific coast because of the white sand beaches, good snorkeling, easily accessibility from the main airports, and countless options.
However, the Caribbean coast is also great. The Caribbean beaches tend to have a more raw feel to them. The sand is typically darker here.
Some of your decision should be based on weather. It is important to remember that the dry season on the Pacific runs from mid December until late April.
The dry season on the Caribbean is between August and late November.
We created a guide to deciding between the Pacific and Caribbean beaches of Costa Rica to further help you plan.
– Playa Blanca: Playa Blanca is the closest beach from the San Jose airport. It is located in a private resort, but there is a secret entrance for non resort guests. This is one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica.
– Manuel Antonio: The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are amazing. Just imagine white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and monkeys running around.
– Playa Uvita: Uvita is home to the famous Costa Rican whale’s tail beach. You’ve got to check it out!
– Playa Carillo: This beach is located just south of Samara. We love this long beach for walking and admiring all of the palm trees.
– Playa Montezuma: You can walk for miles and miles on Montezuma beach located on the Nicoya Peninsula. It is not the best for swimming, but it is great for spotting wildlife and enjoy nature.
– Playa Matapalo: There are actually two places called Playa Matapalo in Costa Rica. We especially like the one located next to Puerto Jimenez. It is so freaking pretty!
– Playa Samara: Playa Samara has a relaxed hippie vibe. It is the perfect place for surfing, kayaking, or just relaxing!
– Playa Flamingo: Flamingo is located between Tamarindo and Playas del Coco. It is one of the most popular beaches in the country due to its bright white sand. This area of the country is also great for scuba diving.
– Cahuita National Park: Cahuita National Park is our favorite national park in Costa Rica. It is the perfect place to bring a picnic and enjoy a day of hiking and swimming. Also, there is a coral reef off of the park which is great for snorkelling tours.
– Playa Punta Uva: Playa Punta Uva is located just south of the town of Puerto Viejo. This is one of the most picturesque beaches on the Caribbean coast.
– Playa Grande: Playa Grande is located just south of Playa Punta Uva. We love it because from here you can access the Manzanillo WIldlife refuge. There is also this old rusted boat on the beach which makes a cool photo backdrop.
– Tortuguero National Park: The beach in Tortugueo stretches for miles and miles. It is great for walking and looking out for babe sea turtle hatchings.
One of the neatest things you can experience in Costa Rica is seeing big momma sea turtles coming out of the ocean to lay their eggs and little babies making their way into the water for the first time.
You can experience this on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica.
The best place on the Caribbean is in Tortuguero.
Ostional is the best place on the Pacific.
You can find out more about seeing sea turtles with our guide to sea turtles in Costa Rica.
Obviously Bocas del Toro, Panama is not in Costa Rica, but it is easily accessible from the southern Caribbean coast.
It is also one of our favorite places in the world, so we kind of really suggest you visit.
Bocas del Toro is a series of islands that feel like literal beach paradise.
Just be warned, the border crossing is a pain and can take hours.
One of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica is to have a relaxing afternoon at a beach bar.
Nothing screams “vacation” like drinking a pina colada with the waves crashing behind you.
Check out the guide to the best beach bars in Costa Rica (on both coasts) to help you find the perfect spot.
Costa Rica is an amazing place to go surfing! The Pacific and Caribbean coasts are filled with great surf beaches for all skill levels.
The most popular surf beaches are Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara, Santa Teresa, and Dominical.
You can often rent a board for about $10 per day.
If you would like to take surf lessons there are many companies in all the Costa Rican beach towns that offer lessons at a variety of price points for all skill levels.
The sun in Costa Rica is crazy strong! Don’t forget that the country is located not too far from the Equator.
The rating on the UV scale is always super high here.
It is best to always wear high SPF, a hat, and clothing that covers you when in the sun.
You can find out more sun safety tips with our guide to the sun in Costa Rica.
Keep in mind that there are rip currents at several beaches in Costa Rica.
A few beaches that we love for their calm waters are the beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park, Playa Hermosa (near Playas del Coco), and Playa Biesanz in Manuel Antonio.
These beaches are typically perfect for swimming.
Snorkeling and diving are popular activities in Costa Rica’s clear waters.
It is possible to enjoy exploration of reefs on both coasts.
I will warn you, diving tours can be rather pricey, but with snorkeling you can always bring your own mask and snorkel anywhere you want.
Learn everything you need to know with our snorkel guide.
One of the nicest beaches in Costa Rica is actually on an island.
If you find yourself in Jaco, Santa Teresa, or Montezuma we suggest taking a day tour to Isla Tortuga.
It’s seriously beautiful and will give you the chance to do some snorkeling and beach exploration.
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