It’s no secret – Costa Rica beaches are some of the best in the world.
Costa Rica is a tiny central American country that boasts an astonishing 802 miles (1,290 km) of coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Despite its small size, the country’s beaches are extremely diverse and as uniquely beautiful as the country’s famous tropical birds.
After five years of living in and exploring destinations in Costa Rica, these are the beaches that I continue to dream about.
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31 Best Beaches In Costa Rica
We’ll start this list by looking at the best beaches on the Pacific Coast:
Relax on an isolated beach beneath the shade of the tropical dry forest
For a little slice of paradise, make your way to the Northwest corner of Costa Rica’s Playa Rajada. The isolated, often empty, beach is located within a cove that protects it from swells, meaning that the waves mostly remain gentle and inviting to swimmers wanting to cool off in the water.
Remote and difficult to access, this beach is home to jaguars and tons of sea turtles.
Playa Nancite is a remote beach on the northern part of Costa Rica’s pacific coast, nestled in the heart of Santa Rosa National Park. The beach is so isolated and wild that rare and elusive wildlife roams freely and fearlessly.
Thousands of turtles nest on Nancite and are hunted by Jaguars that roam the sand and surrounding jungle.
Venture off the beaten path to enjoy an undeveloped pacific beachscape
The remote and enchanting Playa Cabuyal lies in northwest Costa Rica, surrounded by an incredibly diverse tropical dry forest. The beach is well out of the way of any of Costa Rica’s usual tourist destinations, so it’s a great spot to relax on an empty tropical beach and bathe in the blue waters.
At the end of the beach is an estuary where many aquatic birds gather at dawn and dusk.
Step into a postcard-perfect beach only accessible via a hike
If you dream of swimming in crystal waters and laying on a remote tropical beach without another person in sight, Playa Zapotillal might be the beach of your dreams.
The Papagayo Peninsula of the north pacific is renowned for its pristine beauty and stunningly clear water. Much of the peninsula is difficult to access if you’re not staying in a resort, but the small, protected cove can be accessed by hiking through the tropical dry forest from Cabuyal.
This gorgeous white sand beach welcomes snorkelers, scuba divers, sunbathers, and swimmers
Hermosa Beach lives up to its name as a beautiful beach that attracts both tourists and locals to its dark sand. The tropical water is warm and the beach is lined with vegetation, providing shade perfect for lying back and sipping a cold coconut.
Be sure to check out our beach packing list to know what to bring for a full day at Playa Hermosa.
Playas del Coco
Watch a beautiful Pacific sunset from the sands of this gorgeous beach
Playas del Coco is a gently curved beach that creates a calm bay ideal for anchoring fishing boats and taking a dip in the ocean. The quaint coastal town is full of coastal charm and culture that embodies Costa Rica’s motto of pura vida (pure life).
Many people claim the sunsets from Playas del Coco are some of the best in the country.
Bury your feet in the fine white sand and crystal blue waters of beautiful Playa Flamingo
Flamingo Beach is often lauded as Costa Rica’s best beach, and upon stepping onto its white sand shores, you’ll have no question as to why. The pristine clear waters are almost always calm due to the cliffs on either side of the beach that shield it from swells.
These same cliffs create small secluded beaches off of the main one that you can access by scrambling rocks.
This tiny secluded beach boasts sparkly black sand and snorkeling
Playa Carbon is a small beach located just North of Tamarindo and Playa Grande. The little cove is remarkable for its incredibly black, sparkling volcanic sand.
The beach is also a great place to snorkel and look for sea creatures in the natural rock pools. Some of my favorite finds were brightly colored nudibranchs and a tiny octopus.
🤿 Don’t Forget to Pack: To fully experience these beaches in all their glory, be sure to bring a snorkel set!
Surf, sunbathe, and see giant nesting turtles on this longs stretch of lovely beach
Playa Grande is a wide, sandy Pacific beach renowned for its fantastic surf. Compared to neighboring Tamarindo, it’s usually less crowded, less developed, and more laid back.
The beach is also part of Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas, a national park in Costa Rica dedicated to protecting the nesting habitat of the critically endangered East Pacific leatherback.
The beach used to incubate thousands of these turtles’ nests each year, a number that has dwindled to the teens in recent years. During nesting season (September-February) you can book a tour to see nesting turtles.
Enjoy the beautiful beach and all of the bars, restaurants, and clubs on the sand.
Playa Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist beaches due to its wide variety of activities. As one of the country’s biggest and most developed beach towns, Tamarindo has something to offer everyone.
Surfers come for the waves, partiers come for the beach bars, and ocean lovers come for the snorkeling and scuba diving off Santa Catalina Island.
Walk among the dinosaurs at the beach that receives more nesting sea turtles than almost anywhere else in the world
While Ostional may look like a rather unremarkable beach compared to the many gems along its coasts, Ostional is possibly the most unique and special. The long stretch of dark sand is one of the most important sea turtle nesting habitats in the world.
In a rare mass nesting event called an arribada, hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles will come to Ostional to nest over a few days. While this event is not always predictable, it tends to happen monthly from September through November.
Nosara (Playa Guiones)
Connect with nature at this relaxing, peaceful beach known for its great surf
Nosara beach, nestled amid the jungle on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, is known for being a place to come and connect to yourself and nature.
The beach and small surrounding town are famous destinations for yogis and yoga retreats as well as surfers drawn by the large pacific waves.
Enjoy sand, sun, blue water, and a refreshing beachside drink
Samara Beach is a fun, cheerful beach and one of my favorite of Costa Rica’s beach towns. The wonderful beach is long and wide and the further you walk from the town, the less populated it will be.
However, if you enjoy meeting fellow travelers, then hang out at one of Samara’s many beachside bars and restaurants enjoying a cold tropical beach.
Take a dip in the clear blue water and relax in the shade of this pristine beach
Playa Barrigona is off the beaten tourist path (literally down a dirt road), but it’s well worth the adventure. The small beach boasts soft sand, unique coastal vegetation, an estuary that hosts tons of birds, and some of the prettiest blue water you can imagine.
It is one of my favorite white sand beaches for its seclusion and privacy.
String up a hammock on this picturesque palm tree-lined beach
Located just south of Samara, Playa Carrillo is a favorite beach among the locals. The palm tree-lined, white sand beach is perfect for setting up a hammock and relaxing in the shade between dips in the warm blue water.
Sip a coconut and soak up the sand as a break from the bustle of Samara.
Santa Teresa Beach
Step into paradise on this expansive beach known for its beauty and awesome surf
Santa Teresa is a paradisical jungle beach located on the Nicoya Peninsula. The area is undeveloped enough that the lush tropical forest grows right up to the sand of the beach, which makes it perfect for relaxing. Santa Teresa is also known as one of Costa Rica’s best beaches for surfing.
Bathe in a secluded ocean pool with views of the Pacific
Playa Montezuma is located at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula and is a convening place, not only for human visitors, but for whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. The rocky shore of the beach is full of lovely tide pools big enough to bathe in and search for sea creatures.
A boat tour will take you offshore where you’re likely to see tons of animals.
Surf, swim, sun, party, and repeat at this high-energy beach
Playa Jaco is the Pacific beach closest to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose. As such, it draws large crowds of daytime and weekend visitors wanting to enjoy the ocean and lively surroundings. The town is one of the most developed beach communities in Costa Rica, with tons of hotels, restaurants, and bars, making it a perfect getaway for those wanting nightlife after their beach days.
Manuel Antonio Beach
Walk through the jungle to emerge on a stunning white sand beach with turquoise water
Manuel Antonio National Park is celebrated as one of the most beautiful and accessible in Costa Rica. The coastal national park contains miles of dense rainforest that provides habitat for tons of animals such as sloths and monkeys.
Beyond the jungle, you’ll find a stunning beach of white sand and bright blue water which hides coral reefs and a variety of marine life.
Take in the sound of waves crashing mixed with the boisterous sounds of the jungle
Playa Dominical is the nearest beach to the laid-back beach community of the same name in the central Pacific area of Costa Rica. The long sandy beach is blocked from the road and town by vegetation, making it feel more secluded than it is, but with restaurants and bars nearby.
Walk the pristine Pacific coast looking for whales that commonly pass by
Jutting out from the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica is a whale-tail-shaped peninsula called Marino Ballena National Park. Coincidentally, Uvita Beach, the serene stretch of sand located in the park, is also a fantastic place to spot whales making their migrations through Costa Rican waters. Even without whales, the rugged coast is a beautiful place for a walk.
Uvita is also the location of the annual Envision Fest, a music and art festival held on the beach.
Enjoy this hidden swimming hole, accessible via a jungle hike
Located along the ruggedly beautiful Osa Peninsula, Cocalito is a secret, breathtaking beach just south of Drake Bay. To find the beach, you will have to hike a ways down a strenuous trail through dense forest, but the effort is worth it.
Rocky outcroppings on either side and dense rainforest behind create a sense of privacy and serenity.
Playa San Josecito
Lounge in the sand, walk on the jungle path, or snorkel with coral at this protected beach
When I close my eyes and imagine my happy place, Playa San Josecito appears. The small cove is protected from waves by rocky outcroppings and the calm, clear water has allowed coral reefs and tropical fish to inhabit the floor. After snorkeling around the little cove, you can make your way to the white sand beach, lined with palm trees.
To get to Playa San Josecito you can either hike along a strenuous jungle path for a few miles or pay for a ride from a boat from Drake Bay.
Behold a waterfall cascading directly onto the sand of this rugged jungle coastline
Llorona beach is located within the incredible Corcovado National Park, which has been described as the most biologically diverse place on Earth.
Walking along this beach gives the sense that you have been transported back to prehistoric times, as there is no evidence of human development anywhere nearby. As such, it’s a wonderful place to see wildlife. At the end of the beach, the Corcovado River empties onto the beach via a stunning waterfall.
Take in the wild jungle and calm blue water at this remote Pacific beach
At the very tip of the Osa Peninsula, in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, is the stunning Matapalo Beach. The surrounding area is characterized by dense rainforest that spills over from the nearby Corcovado National Park.
While you’re floating in the warm water, you can look up at the trees and watch scarlet macaws flit from tree to tree and squirrel monkies leaping around the canopy.
👉 Jump back to top: Beaches on the Pacific Coast
Next up, let’s take take a look at the best Coast Rica beaches on the Caribbean coast:
Wander through a bright green jungle that leads to secluded pockets of Caribbean beaches
The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful protected area with both a cheerful tropical rainforest (full of monkeys, sloths, and colorful birds) and a Caribbean beach.
A meandering hike through the forest brings you to several small, secluded beaches to choose from. One of the iconic views in Manzanillo is of Isla Punta Mona, a tiny island just offshore.
Playa Punta Uva
Submerge in the clear blue water of the Caribbean
If you’re staying in the boisterous backpacker’s town of Puerto Viejo and would like to escape the crowds, then Playa Punta Uva is a nearby haven.
The light sand and cheerful green vegetation will fulfill all your Caribbean beach fantasies, complete with bright turquoise water, white sand, and swaying coconut trees.
Enjoy the best surf on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast
If you enjoy big waves and warm water, then grab your board and head just south of Puerto Viejo to Playa Cocles. This is the most popular sandy beach near the tourist town, so it’s often full of backpackers and tourists sunbathing, drinking beers, and hanging hammocks in the trees.
Playa Puerto Viejo
Embrace the laid-back Caribbean vibes while lounging on this lovely beach
The town of Puerto Viejo is a physical manifestation of laid-back Caribbean vibes, complete with Bob Marley murals, colorful buildings, and reggae music. The beach on which the town is located is no different and the gentle Caribbean waters lap at a rocky shore that is lined with swaying palm trees.
👉 Pro Tip: Be sure to try “rice and beans”, an incredible coconut dish with rice, beans, and usually chicken in coconut sauce.
Playa Blanca, Cahuita
Enjoy quintessential Caribbean blue water and underwater coral at this jungle-lined beach
Cahuita is one of my favorite beaches in Costa Rica because it has virtually everything you could want from a tropical beach – coral reef, golden sand, calm waves, and dense, undeveloped jungle that overflows onto the sand.
The forest is full of wildlife including curious monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds. Plus, the laid-back beach is rarely crowded despite its beauty.
Witness ancient green sea turtles nest on this rugged coast
For sea turtle watching, Tortuguero is the uncontested winning beach. The National Park was the birthplace of sea turtle conservation and is now the most important nesting habitat for green sea turtles in the world and receives thousands of nests each year.
It’s the first place I saw a turtle lay her nest and it was one of the most special wildlife experiences I’ve had. You can also often see baby sea turtles making their way to the water. Visit from June through November for the best chances of seeing turtles.
FAQs about Beaches in Costa Rica
What part of Costa Rica has the best beaches?
Guanacaste, the northwestern part of Costa Rica has some of the most stunning beaches in the country. Their distinctive white sands and clear blue water, often bordered by vibrant green vegetation sets them apart from other beaches in the country.
Are there swimmable beaches in Costa Rica?
Many of Costa Rica’s beaches are safe to swim in, though it’s always important to practice water safety. Very few beaches in Costa Rica have lifeguards, so it is up to you to determine if you feel comfortable swimming in the water. If there are large waves on the beach and there aren’t many people in the water, you’re safest staying out of the water as well. If you have any doubt, you can ask a local if the water is safe, since they will have the best idea of the dangers.
Are there any nice beaches in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is renowned for its stunningly beautiful beaches, both on the pacific coast as well as the Caribbean coast. Whether your ideal beach day is out snorkeling, surfing, swimming, or just relaxing on the sand, there is a beach in Costa Rica for you.
Costa Rica means “rich coast” in Spanish and with its numerous spectacular beaches, the country lives up to its name! Up next, be sure to check out my guide on when to visit Costa Rica when planning your trip.
Enjoy these beautiful Costa Rica beaches!
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