Costa Rica Beaches
Warm waters year-round, an unparalleled tourism infrastructure, and limitless attractions spanning both coasts are the reasons Costa Rica’s beaches rank among some of the best in the world. And since nearly two thirds of Costa Rica’s borders are coastline, there are a whole lot of beaches to explore.
There are four specific beach regions:
* North Pacific
* Central Pacific
* South Pacific
Here’s my list of the best beaches for each region:
North Pacific Beaches are famous for having the best beaches, thus caring the name the Gold Coast. The beaches here will satisfy all types of people: lazy loungers to die-hard surfers. Plus, the small wave beaches are great to play around in while the weather remains almost perfect throughout the year.
Okay, obviously the Nicoya Peninsula isn’t a single beach. But Costa Rica’s largest peninsula is ringed by so many blissful strips of sand; it deserves a top ten list of its own. Besides livelier beach cities like Montezuma, Tamarindo, and Mal Pais, Nicoya boasts many Pacific beaches that are far more remote and relaxing: Playas Hermosa, Samara, Flamingo, Conchal and Playa Grande.
Located on the inner base of the Nicoya peninsula, Montezuma is a gathering place for Costa Rica’s most idiosyncratic locals and travelers. Dreadlocked Rastafarians, tattooed bohemians, sun-kissed surfers, and other examples of exceptional beauty are the norm at this picturesque little beach, which also boasts tide pools, forested waterfalls, and wildlife (Capuchin monkeys! Crocodiles!) viewing.
This is a pretty relaxed beach town on the Pacific coast that feels more like a beach town from the Caribbean coast. If you liked Puerto Viejo, you will love Montezuma. The town is small, but offers quite a bit of things to do for every budget. This is another popular beach spot for backpackers to visit as there are some popular places to camp on the beach here.
Surf culture is the principle philosophy in Mal Pais and its coastal neighbor, Santa Teresa. If you’re not a wave-worshiper, book a boat tour and watch dolphins, manta rays, and other creatures thriving in the area’s protected waters. Travelers can also hike to the Montezuma waterfalls and take a flying leap, or conquer the 4-hour trek through the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve to its pristine, white sand beach. However, Mal Pais’s own beaches are even better for stringing up a hammock and swaying in the sun.
If you are a surfer looking for a cool surf town that isn’t over crowed with bars and wannbe surfers, this is the place you are looking for. The town is small and only sports a few bars and restaurants, but there are a few really popular surf hostels and pretty decent surfing year round.
The crystal blue waters with white sanded beaches that are part of a cove and with a calm atmosphere makes it always peaceful and super safe for kids.
Northeast of Montezuma, Tambor’s crescent-shaped bay (called Bahia Ballena) was once frequented by whales. Now, it’s frequented by travelers — enough to keep the gentle giants out at sea, but not enough to drive them away completely. The bay’s mild waters make it one of Costa Rica’s best beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Tambor’s inland areas are fun to explore on horseback, while its pinkish-gray beaches are perfect for a barefoot stroll. Boats also launch from Tambor to the Tortuga Island, home to immaculate beaches and unparalleled Scuba diving.
While Playa Tamarindo offers world-class shopping, dining, and coastal amusements, budget travelers might find themselves priced out. But Tamarindo’s natural perks make the splurge worth it — on the beautiful beaches adjacent to Tamarindo, giant leatherback turtles (and others) annually clamber ashore to lay their eggs.
Playa Tamarindo keeps growing in popularity and for good reason. This beach town offers a little bit of everything. The beach first became popular for tourist wishing to watch turtles nest. Over the years it has become a popular surf spot and vacation destination. Here you will find plenty of beach, parks and surfing. There is something for every budget here.
This beach has influenced me so much! Its beauty, tranquility, and calmness are just the beginning. Besides being popular for its great surf, it’s part of a Marine National Park for the Leatherback Turtle where you can take a tour from December through March and see this tender, on-the-verge of extinction giant lay her eggs. It’s one of the most magical experiences of your life.
Central Pacific Beaches are best known for where honeymooners find romance, kids play in mother nature’s playground and surfers can find awesome breaks. It’s super popular because of its proximity to San Jose and everything your heart desires is at your fingertips!
Right in the center of Costa Rica’s Pacific coasts lays Jaco Beach, a surfer’s mica with no shortage of attractions for travelers. Jaco is in such close proximity to San Jose (2 hours by car), it flourishes with nightlife, international dining options, and even casinos. But because of the budget surf crowd, accommodations and amenities span the entire price spectrum — No one is left out at Jaco, .
Manuel Antonio is not only one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, but one of the most beautiful in the entire world. Imagine: perfect horseshoe bays bordered by soft white sands, dazzling blue-green waters, and hilltops piled with jungle and streaming waterfalls. Dive, snorkel, surf, kayak, hike, or zipline — Or just relax and enjoy the unforgettable views.
This beach town is pretty much responsible for starting the whole eco-tourism movement in Costa Rica. Here you can find miles and miles of postcard perfect beaches that are backed by equally beautiful jungles. The atmosphere here is very vacation and family friendly. The higher rates in the area tend to keep lower budget travelers at bay. this means you don’t have to worry about hordes of backpackers, surfers, and loud parties.
This beach is very popular among the surfers rather than the families because of the strong waves. The beach is a five minute drive from Jaco, but a completely different bay that doesn’t have the city feel to it.
South Pacific Beaches region starts in Playa Dominical and goes all the way down to the Osa Peninsula. And do you know why they are special? It is because of their untouched, pristine beauty! The beaches and the little villages are yet to be fully explored. So hurry up and check them out!
This is the authentic beach town full of cute hotels, tasty restaurants and bars. You will fall in love with the laid back, tropical and surf fueled environment. Be careful, though, the surf here is rough and not safe for the kids but they can enjoy the cool pools amongst the rocks.
Puerto Jimenez Beach
This beach is in my top three because it’s so kid friendly. My five year old spend all the day hanging out in the water without any waves, with the water waist high on him for over 200 feet out. What a great way for a mom to spend the day at the beach! Plus, adults can hang out in the shade while watching the pier with the fishing boats coming in and out.
Corcovado is the jewel of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Its beaches are windswept beauties, with dark sands shaded by towering palms, while the mountainous inland jungles of Corcovado National Park are home to some of the country’s most distinctive wildlife. No trip to Corcovado is complete without a boat excursion to the nearby Isla del Caño, which offers fantastic diving as well as the opportunity to examine the island’s ancient stone spheres.
Hugging the tip of Osa Peninsula, getting here is definitely worth the trek. Bring your own food and enjoy a BBQ on the beach or stay at any of the hidden eco lodges.
South of Limon
South of the port city of Limon (towards the Panama border), a number of stunning beaches are the personification of the low-key Caribbean lifestyle. The Cahuita National Park is an excellent place to camp — if you don’t mind waking to the sound of monkey chatter! Travel farther down the coast and enjoy dramatic sunrises at Puerto Viejo. Or head straight to Manzanillo, a protected area with tropical rainforest, palm swamps, coral reefs, and of course, idyllic Caribbean beaches.
Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva, Playa Negra and Manzanillo, are the most popular beaches on the Atlantic side (Caribbean). Take the scenic drive down to Manzanillo stopping along the way at all the lonely beaches with great swimming and snorkeling. However, the best way to get around is to rent a bike from Puerto and enjoy a day trip towards Manzallino.
Puerto Viejo is an extremely laid back beach town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Many backpackers come here to hang out for a few days because the town offers a wide variety of very affordable activities. There are a variety of beaches in the area as well. There are several extremely popular surfing beaches, tons of great snorkeling spots, and further away from town are some very private beaches.
This popular, black sanded beach is so black you’ll think it’s purple. It’s wonderful for swimming and snorkeling.
Cahuita National Park beaches
This one is a very long strip of beautiful, palm tree-lined beaches where you don’t have to pay to enter, a donation will suffice, and enjoy the calm waters and soft sanded beaches for as long as you like. It’s also known for great snorkeling.
Is at the tip of this region and is inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Also, the village of Manzanillo is the only town in all of Costa Rica inside a wildlife refuge. This beach is extremely popular for snorkeling, swimming and lazying around!
At the helm of Costa Rica’s Caribbean side, Tortuguero is a eco-tourist’s fantasy. Travelers can experience any number of exotic attractions: tours down jungle canals in dugout canoes, scenic hiking trails, and guided safaris. Sixteen of Costa Rica’s endangered animal species live in the Tortuguero National Park, like tapirs, ocelots, manatees, and green sea turtles, after which the region is named. To top it all off, Tortugero’s beaches are perfect for sunbathing.