Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Costa Rica is an exotic tropical paradise — that means excitement, adventure, and days lounging by the water. However, in a country with as much coastline as Costa Rica, it can be hard to decide which beach you should plan to visit.
No matter what you want out of your beach days or where you’re going to be staying, we’ve put together this list of the best beaches in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is home to multiple national parks, but Parque Nacional Cahuita is one of the most memorable. Visitors get a chance to explore some of the most pristine examples of the country’s wilderness via its thick, beautiful jungles, diverse flora and fauna, and, of course, its beaches.
The coastline is a relaxing haven that’s far away from the bustle of the city. As soon as you see the soft, white sand, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise. The park isn’t very far from Puerto Viejo or Cahuita, and it’s generally pretty easy to get to. The best part is, since it’s a national park, it usually doesn’t get too crowded.
You can relax on the beach or wade in the water for hours to fully unwind and connect with nature. If relaxing on the beach isn’t your speed, that’s perfectly fine. You can swim, hike, or even snorkel.
If you want to combine your beach vacation with remarkable experiences you can’t replicate anywhere else, you should plan to visit Parque Nacional Tortuguero. The national park is a protected territory that sees thousands of sea turtles every year.
Multiple sea turtle species have chosen the park’s sandy beaches as their nesting area, including the endangered green tea turtle. For the best chance of catching a glimpse of the turtles, make sure to plan your visit between July and October.
Turtles aren’t the only wild animals you’ll be able to find on and near the beaches, however. The surrounding jungle is home to monkeys, birds, and lizards you won’t find on most beach vacations.
The exotic environment is the biggest draw for this beach, but it’s not the only one. The beach itself would be worth visiting even without the jungle, thanks to its soft sand and clear water.
Hot Tip: Check out our step-by-step guide to the best ways to fly to Costa Rica with points and miles!
If you want to feel like you’ve found a secret spot when you hit the beach, plan to visit Playa Cocles while in Costa Rica. The beach is near Puerto Viejo, which is more well-known, so most tourists don’t make the journey to this stretch of the beach. Instead, you’ll feel virtually alone during the week.
The only exception for the crowds is weekends when more locals typically decide to hit the sand while you’re there. Since the beach sees fewer visitors, the water stays crystal-clear all day long because less sand is kicked up throughout the day.
The beach is lined with lush trees that help you feel separated from civilization in the best way possible. You’ll feel like you’ve left your worries behind and entered a Caribbean paradise.
Playa Punta Uva is a fantastic beach choice if you’d prefer a little seclusion while on your vacation. Unlike many of the beaches on this list, Playa Punta Uva is full of private beach locations.
Though private beaches might be a little less easy to access compared to public beach stretches, the trade-off is the lower crowds.
Private beaches can also offer anxious beach-goers a little more security. Since there are fewer people to look after, on-duty lifeguards are better able to keep track of guests all year long and not just during the busy seasons.
The beaches are worth their private status because of their beauty as well. They offer stretches of velvety-soft sand and clean water. You can also splash around in the water without worrying about hitting the drop-off point too soon. So you can even let young swimmers run around carefree.
Puerto Viejo is easily one of the most well-known beaches on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting.
The water in Puerto Viejo is clean and beautiful, but depending on when you go, it might not be pristine all day. The water in busier areas is prone to murkiness as the day goes on since more sand is being disturbed. However, since you’re on the east coast, finding clear, perfect water is a great excuse to get out early to watch the sunrise.
You can have as relaxing or as adventurous of a vacation as you’d like and do everything from tanning on the beach to hitting the waves or exploring the area’s colorful underwater world.
Nature and animal lovers will adore the Refugio Nacional Gandoca and have to add it to their vacation bucket list. The park is a mixed wildlife preserve that aims to protect animals in their natural habitats. That means jungles and beaches alike.
The only downside to visiting this beach is that it’s not fully accessible to swimmers. You can walk up and down the soft sand and get close to the water to watch the dolphins breach to your heart’s content.
To ensure the safety of the animals that call the territory home, you can’t completely immerse yourself in the water except in certain specified areas. However, the memories you’ll get out of your visit are worth making that small sacrifice.
If you decide to go for a dip, the designated swimming areas aren’t usually too busy, so there won’t be terrible crowds to contend with.
Isla Tortuga is easily one of the most popular coastal spots on the western side of Costa Rica. Located a short boat ride away from the mainland, this island is a paradise full of opportunities to relax and unwind or let your inner thrill-seeker run wild.
You can explore the jungle from the ground trails or from up high on the ziplines. Hit the waves from some surfing, or even rent a kayak to tour the island from the water.
However, if you just want to sit back and listen to the waves, you can do that, too. You can find a nice, quiet spot on the beach to unwind or take a long, luxurious walk along the waterfront.
Make sure to pack a camera when you go. The dramatic, picturesque scenery looks straight out of a movie. You’ll want to make sure you snap some photos to frame.
Playa Conchal isn’t the biggest beach, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. The coastline is just over 2 miles long, which gives you some room to walk and spread out. The area is also curved, giving the beach a unique look that helps maximize the space it has.
The beach has gained some notoriety over the years as being a prime spot for shell hunting. The sand is lined with crushed shells, but you can find a few whole specimens as well if you look hard enough.
The beach also benefits from perfect year-round weather. While the water does start to cool down after October, you can still go swimming even in the later fall and winter months. That fact alone has helped the beach earn the title of Costa Rica’s most swimmable beach.
On the Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find Playa Guiones, a nearly 4.5-mile stretch of pristine coastline. This beach has gained notoriety among surfing communities as one of the best places in the country to catch waves.
Of course, good surf isn’t guaranteed, but the currents and layout of the beach are the right combinations to have consistent waves all year. However, you don’t have to be a surfer to appreciate this beachy paradise. The sand is naturally maintained, so it’s perfect without being too commercial looking. The result is a rustic beach that looks like it’s straight out of a postcard.
The beach is also popular among people looking for a great sunset view. Just pick a cozy spot on the soft sand and watch the sun dip down over the horizon. Since the water is crystal-blue, it reflects the dusk colors spectacularly.
If you’re visiting Costa Rica with your whole family, consider spending your beach days at Playa Hermosa. The town is considered a “resort town,” so it’s full of amenities to make sure you have everything you need while on your vacation.
The beach is a great option if you don’t want to have to worry about anything once your trip is in full swing. You don’t have to worry about planning how to get anywhere or where to go to have a safe beach day.
The Playa Hermosa beach is well-maintained and completely secure. The water is shallow and gradually gets deeper, so kids can splash around while you relax on the sand.
The sand is also soft if you and your travel group prefer to lounge around on dry land or build sand castles. You can even do a snorkeling excursion since the area is full of colorful fish to see.
Playa Manuel Antonio has become one of the country’s premier vacation spots both for Costa Ricans and foreigners. If you look at it, it’s not hard to see why the beach is so popular. Lined with lush green trees, the beach feels like a true getaway spot.
During the week, you’ll often see people walking around or tanning on the sand. You’ll also see plenty of surfers catching waves in the water all year since, even in the winter, temperatures never drop too much.
However, if you visit on weekends or during the high season from June to August, you’ll have plenty of excitement to enjoy. The beach hosts frequent beach parties and festivals for locals and tourists. Music, entertainment, and lots of chances to get to know new people are in store if you join in on the festivities.
Playa Nacascolo is a great beach option for people who prefer to stay off the beaten path. The trees that line the beach tuck it away, so many visitors don’t even know it’s there.
Depending on where you’re staying in Costa Rica, you may need to take a bus to the Papagayo Peninsula. If you do, this beach can be accessed from one of the first stops on most routes. You’ll feel like you’re one with nature while you’re on this stretch of the coast. That’s partially because there won’t be many other visitors on the sand with you.
The beach isn’t deserted by any means and is perfectly safe, but you won’t have to deal with crowds, even during the busy season.
Hot Tip: If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to catch a glimpse of some of the exotic wildlife that calls the jungle around the beach home.
Santa Teresa deserves to be at the top of your Costa Rican destination list for multiple reasons. This small town is a true melting pot of cultures that you don’t see too often in many countries outside of large cities.
It also offers some great views that feel like they are almost too cinematic to be real. You might encounter a wild horse strolling around near the water, or a group of surfers hanging around on their boards in the water. However, the main draw for this town is its beach.
The Santa Teresa coastline is unparalleled in its natural beauty. From the white sand that feels soft and buttery to walk on, to the bright blue water, you’ll feel like you walked right into paradise. The water isn’t just blue and clear, it’s also gentle near the shore, so you can wade around in it and unwind without worries.
If you want a local experience, Tamarindo Beach should be your top pick. It offers the best of both worlds as far as Costa Rica’s beaches are concerned.
It’s lined with tropical palm trees that help maintain its natural feel. However, it’s also just off the town’s main street, so you’re never far from shops and restaurants, and it’s perfectly placed to just step on the sand for a short walk.
The beach is particularly popular in the evenings. During the summer, you can find some local festivities going on that you’re welcome to join.
On top of that, all year round, the beach offers fantastic sunset views. You can admire the beach as it turns rich shades of orange and red from the sand or from one of the waterfront establishments. The only downside is the presence of beach vendors who might disturb your nap on the sand.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with wonderful beaches that everyone should visit. Whether you’re planning a trip to the west or the east part of the country, you’ll have plenty of beach options available. We hope that this list has been able to inspire your beach day planning while you’re there.
Costa Rica has many nice beaches, no matter where you are in the country. However, what you consider nice is subjective to you and what you want. Generally, visitors of all types are pleased by the beaches, and they’ve become world-famous.
Costa Rica has coasts on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, so the water changes depending on which side you’re on. The Pacific coast is nicknamed the “gold coast” thanks to its warm water temperatures. However, the Caribbean coast also has warm water.
There are many swimmable beaches in Costa Rica. In fact, its beaches are some of the main reasons why the country sees so many tourists every year. However, verify an area’s safety before swimming. Pay attention to any warning signs as well.
Costa Rica is beautiful all year. However, if you intend to spend time on the beach, July and August are the best times to visit. The weather and water will be warm and inviting. You’ll also encounter less rain during these times.
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