You know Costa Rica is an adventurer's paradise, but did you know that it's also a great country for a beach getaway? The nation boasts nearly 300 beaches, each with a unique draw and distinct setting. Whether you find yourself on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast exploring Puerto Viejo or Costa Rica's Pacific coast exploring Esterillos Oeste, you'll find something to discover and enjoy. Even on nearby beaches, the sand can vary from white, to black, or brown coloration, but it can get even more unique than that. Playa Conchal's sand is actually made of millions of crushed seashells! Some beaches even have sand so soft and fine it can only be described as 'fluffy.'
The best part about Costa Rica's beaches is how diverse they are; from swimming and surf adventures to basic rest and relaxation, there's bound to be a beach for you. Even better? There are plenty of Costa Rica beach resorts which will allow you to relax and indulge due to the variety of services and activities they'll have on-site. Meanwhile, beachfront hotels in Costa Rica will ensure that you're never more than steps from your next snorkeling expedition. In the morning you can sip your coffee whilst listening to the waves roll in — instead of listening to talk radio or your a.m. commuter mix. So, choose your own adventure and discover which of Costa Rica's beaches is right for you.
#1: Manuel Antonio Beaches Where Rainforest Meets the Sea
You may have been to the beach recently, but when was the last time you really took the time to enjoy it? Listening to the gentle lapping of waves against the shore. Warm sand on your bare feet. Turning to gold in warm sunlight... This isn't a mere trip to the beach, it's your vacation in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica. Let's count all of the ways you will enjoy yourself...
First and foremost, you can go for a swim in the ocean. If you want to observe some of Costa Rica's extraordinary marine life up-close, then you'll definitely want to book yourself a snorkeling or diving adventure. You can also glide atop the water when you take a surfing lesson, kayak, or stand up paddleboarding. When you need a break from the waves, you can have a picnic on the beach, or engage in some photography and sketching. Many of the beaches are picturesque in part because they are so pristine — a byproduct of the Manuel Antonio National Park, a gracious 1,700 acres of land (683 ha) and 136,000 acres of ocean (55,000 ha).
When the Sun finally sinks down into the ocean (beach sunsets are the best), your oceanside evening is just beginning. On sultry nights, you can dine al fresco on fresh seafood. Fall asleep to the sound of the ocean when you stay near the beach, or choose a hotel in Manuel Antonio that offers a higher vantage point, and watch waves crash against the surf below.
Take time to appreciate how soothing and beautiful the coast really is when you book your Costa Rica beach vacation in Manuel Antonio.
#2: The Very Fun Tamarindo Beach
If it's your first time exploring Costa Rica's beaches, then be sure to head to Tamarindo on the Guanacaste coast. This unique destination is sure to offer something for you — even if you're seeking access to luxury accommodations in a town that still has a laid-back vibe with a nightlife scene that will tempt you to stay up way past your bedtime.
Golden sunsets fade into a sapphire ocean in the evening, making this the perfect way to end the day trip you took out on a catamaran...the snorkeling was fantastic! On tomorrow's agenda: a canopy tour, followed by a surf lesson.
On those days when you need to take a break from all of your adventures, you can read the paper over an amazingly fresh cup of coffee, and then head to the local market to pick up some fresh food for an afternoon picnic on the beach. It's going to be so great to walk on warm sand, peek into tide pools, and listen to the sound of the ocean. Now this is a vacation...
#3: Beaches & Tropical Forest Surround Mal Pais- Santa Teresa
Situated on the southwestern end of Costa Rica's beautiful Nicoya Peninsula, Mal Pais & the beaches around Santa Teresa remain something of a hidden gem. Not yet on the radar of mass tourism and large scale developers, you can enjoy sharing beaches with a hip and "in the know" crowd. Walk along the alternating stretches of sandy beach and rocky shores. If you're going with your family, the rocky areas are great for observing creatures caught in tide pools! If you want yet another change of pace only a short drive north is the nearly deserted Manzanillo Beach.
The Mal País area is the choice when you want a quieter vibe. On the other hand the Santa Teresa attracts a younger and more outgoing crowd and therefore has a higher density of small hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars. The primary driver for the growth of the area aside from its beauty is its year round and consistent surf for both experts and beginners. Other activities throughout the area include fishing, snorkel, canopy and nature hikes in the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.
In the mood for romance and have an appetite? The Santa Teresa and Mal pais region offers some of the best international cuisine in Costa Rica and we are happy to point you in the right direct for a world class meal. Your Anywhere Travel Expert can recommend a sunset dinner tour in El Carmen Beach as well. You'll enjoy one of Santa Teresa's nicest beaches, and watch the sunset as the two of you share a meal at a beachfront restaurant.
You can find hotels with elegant canopies and floor to ceiling folding windows, swimming pools and complimentary breakfasts, beach views, yoga studios, beachfront...in Santa Teresa and Mal Pais there is accommodation for every traveler. Whether you're a first time backpacker or a busy professional looking to unplug and unwind, Mal País and Santa Teresa offer you just the right amount of excitement and tranquility.
#4: Puerto Viejo de Limon — The Beach That's a Best Kept Secret Amongst Locals
Beachside fun is waiting for you in the burgeoning region of Puerto Viejo de Limon. Famous for surfing and popular with locals, the area isn't on the radar of most tourists...yet! That's okay — all the better for you to enjoy a Costa Rica beach vacation away from crowds. The only thing better than a surf lesson, beachside horseback ride, or Caribbean fishing expedition is doing it sans crowds.
You may hear Puerto Viejo de Limon referred to as simply 'Puerto Viejo' or Talamanca. Talamanca is the name Costa Rica's indigenous people ascribed to the region, and you can learn all about them on a cultural tour. Discover how the beaches and forests you enjoy for pleasure were (and remain) crucial to their livelihood.
The best way to appreciate Puerto Viejo de Limon, Costa Rica is to spend ample time enjoying it. Though you're sure to be lured by the canopy tours of the forest, don't forget to grab a pair of flippers for a snorkeling excursion — this is a beach vacation, after all! Better yet choose accommodations close enough to let you fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, and start your day with a relaxing bike ride or walk to the beach. Starting your day with briny sea air is surprisingly energizing and refreshing!
#5: The Huge Crescent Beach of Samara
Welcome to the beach the locals love! Samara beach is a favorite of Ticos (native Costa Ricans). Located on the western shore of the pristine Nicoya Peninsula, this hamlet is both one of the prettiest and safest beaches in all of Costa Rica. White-sand beaches give way to vibrant waters, and the entirety of the region is graced by accents of luscious green foliage.
Samara is the beach of choice when you simply want to enjoy yourself. The town boasts a little bit of a nightlife scene, and a generous amount of restaurants, shops, and more. As for Samara accommodations, you can enjoy clean and cozy, unpretentious rooms or indulge in something luxurious. Whatever you choose, you'll never be too far from the beach — after all, that's the reason you're here!
Bask in golden sunlight, listen to the waves nestled in a hammock, or enjoy a variety of beach activities. You'll have a great time kayaking over aquamarine waters, birdwatching on the nearby Chora Island, snorkeling and enjoying coral reefs and marine wildlife, or simply going for a swim in calm and warm waters. You're at Samara Beach — there's no rush to choose your ideal beach adventure...even if that's nothing more than getting out of bed to play outside.
#6: The Beaches of Nosara, Guiones, Garza, Pelada — Oh My!
Nosara’s white sand beaches are protected by the national park system, so they remain pristine in spite of their immense popularity. There are a total of four main beaches in the area: Playa Nosara, Playa Garza, Playa Guiones, and Playa Pelada. They each have their charms, although Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones have the best surfing.
Frequently asked questions
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- Is It Easy To Get a Sunburn In Costa Rica?
As you approach the equator, the strength of the sun increases. Costa Rica lies between 8° and 11° north of the equator; in comparison, "always sunny" southern California is 32° north of the equator. People that arrive from northern latitudes should realize that unprotected exposure to direct sunlight - even for as little as 20 minutes - can cause a painful sunburn.If you are at the beach, plan on applying 30 SPF sunscreen every hour. Even if it's cloudy it's still possible to get burned, so please, apply sunscreen to the exposed portions of your body regularly. This applies to Guanacaste beaches like Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, and Tamarindo. Not all areas are super sunny, however - one example is San Gerardo de Dota, which is set in the South Central region of Costa Rica.
It's also very important to stay hydrated while in Costa Rica, and when possible, to stake out a shady area on the beach - this will allow you to enjoy longer periods of time while enjoying the country's gorgeous coastline.
- Where Are the Nicest Beaches in Costa Rica?
With over 300 beaches in Costa Rica, it's difficult to say which are the best - everyone has their own own idea of what makes a great beach. Keep reading to learn more about some of the finest beaches in Costa Rica. The following list covers the coast of the North Pacific to the South Pacific, as well as some of the Caribbean.Conchal: This gorgeous beach is made of crushed sea shells that are tiny enough to feel like sand. The water here is safe for both swimming and snorkeling. There is direct access to the beach for guests staying at the Paradisus Playa Conchal, or to the public from the nearby Playa Brasilito.
Tamarindo (Playa Langosta, Playa Avellanas, and Playa Grande): Three beautiful white-sand beaches that offer a bit of everything, including relaxation, surfing, and stunning sunsets. Visitors will appreciate the variety of restaurants and nightlife in Tamarindo.
Samara & Carillo: Samara is a laid-back beach town that borders a massive crescent-shaped beach. The ocean here harbors a reef that helps keep the waves calm and the water ideal for swimming. Bachgoers can enjoy incredible sunsets from the southern end of the beach. Carillo, which is located one beach south of Samara, is an attractive white-sand beach.
Mal Pais & Santa Teresa: Hip surfers, international cuisine, stunning sunsets, and good-looking beaches have made a name for these hot spots on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The surf here gets pretty rough, so these can be dangerous beaches for inexperienced surfers.
Montezuma: A combination of long, white-sand beaches, rocky inlets, and a laid-back village with lots of restaurants has attracted savvy travelers for decades.
Manuel Antonio: The famous Manuel Antonio National Park ($12 entrance fee) has pristine beaches and amazing views of both verdant hillsides and the Pacific Ocean. Visitors will find beaches outside the national park that are larger and a bit more crowded, but still ideal for watching a sunset.
Dominical & Dominicalito: While Domincal is perfect for surfers, Dominicalito is great for simply reading a book under the shade of a tree. Dominical is where you will find restaurants and hotels, while Dominicalito is the quiet neighbor with calmer waters. Both have outstanding sunsets.
Carate: Carate is isolated and vast, located in the Southern tip of the Osa Peninsula. Carate marks the beginning of the southern stretch of the Corocovado National Park, where the beaches and rainforest blend seamlessly together.
Cahuita: A small Carribbean village surrounds this beautiful beach. This is a great spot to snorkel, swim, or hike around the nearby Cahuita National Park. Entrance is free to the beach, which is part of the national park, but donations are encouraged.
Punta Uva: Located about 6 miles (10 km) south of the bustling village of Puerto Viejo, the crystal clear Caribbean waters and peaceful beach of Punta Uva awaits.
To view photos and information on more than 45 beaches, visit our Costa Rican Beaches page.