The Best Beaches in Costa Rica
With hundreds of miles of pristine beach, Costa Rica is home to some of the most incredible beaches in the world. Here is our list of the best beaches in Costa Rica, which are not only some of the most beautiful, but also those with adventurous activities, wildlife, and often complete solitude.
The jungle beach town of Playa Cocles in the South Caribbean is easily one of the best places to live or visit in all of Costa Rica. The stunning jungle-backed beaches stretch for miles with barreling waves for surfers, incredible wildlife for nature lovers, and deserted patches for those seeking relaxation.
The neighborhood hosts a world class yoga studio, several spas, a Costa Rican chocolate café, and an incredible variety of international restaurants. The Caribbean flavor from nearby Puerto Viejo, a short two miles away, trickles in and it’s not uncommon to hear Reggae or eat coconut curry stew on the road.
Cocles will definitely rank as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for those desiring true jungle immersion with a strong expat community focused on healthy living and those brave enough to surf the epic waves.
Manuel Antonio may be the most popular beach in all of Costa Rica. It certainly has a reputation for being an American tourist destination, and the many expensive Americanized restaurants reflect that.
However the beautiful beaches in the national park are some of the most stunning in the country and teeming with wildlife. Spotting iguanas, coati, sloths, and all four species of monkeys is likely inside the park and often on the beach. During migration season you can see whales and dolphins offshore. Other outdoor adventures like parasailing, ziplining, and horseback riding are also available.
If you can’t stand the crowds, come during the very beginning or end of the dry season to enjoy sunny days and beautiful sunsets on relatively empty beaches.
Playa Samara is one of the most beloved beaches in all of Costa Rica. Laid-back hotels and restaurants line the horseshoe bay, yet the shore remains empty, offering solitude and relaxation. The relatively flat sea is perfect for kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding, or learning to surf. Nearby wilderness beaches are perfect for exploration.
The town has an expat presence with sushi bars, Italian restaurants, and Canadian-owned hostels, but maintains its small town authenticity. Fishermen are everywhere selling their fresh catch on the shore. Delicious sodas (Costa Rican cafes) pile plates high with rice and beans and seared seasoned carne.
It is a great place for families, expats looking to invest in a business, vacationers, and backpackers.
If you enjoy surfing and yoga, expect to arrive in Playa Guiones and never leave. The town, which is in the Nosara region of the Nicoya Peninsula, sits on a white sand horseshoe bay with excellent waves for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers. The many surf schools and board rentals make learning and practicing very accessible.
The Nosara Yoga Institute in Playa Guiones put Costa Rica on the yogi map and now several studios and yoga retreat centers reside in Playa Guiones and nearby beaches.
Beyond yoga and surf, there is plenty to do in Playa Guiones. The town has lovely cafes and restaurants and the expansive beach makes for great walks. Every evening at sunset the town gathers on the shore to watch the epic sunsets.
Nearby Playa Rosada and Punta Pelada are also beautiful and can be walked to from Playa Guiones.
The intimate beach coves hidden in the wildlife refuge of Manzanillo are some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, if not the world. Turquoise water crashes on the golden sand, dramatic cliffs offer stunning views, and the lush jungle filled with animals spans for miles. Take a nature hike, snorkel the reef, or simply relax.
For added adventure, take a tour through the jungle spotting howler monkeys and sloths, hike to the viewpoint for amazing views of the crashing waves and nearby beach coves, then climb into the coral caves where bats seek refuge.
The town is a small distinctly Caribbean fishing village with a few local Caribbean restaurants and cabinas. Popular Puerto Viejo Limon and the many beach towns near it offer options for other restaurants and lodging and are a bike or short bus ride away.
The black sand beaches in Pavones are some of the most dramatic on the Pacific Coast. Glowing frothy green sea kisses the dark shimmering black shore for an incredible contrast. The surrounding wilderness will make you feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth and the sunsets are positively spectacular.
Beyond its beauty, Pavones is famous for its long left point break. Grab a surfboard and ride the wave that put this town on the map. If you’re more of a swimmer, a cool, clear water river runs for miles from the hills down to the beach. Climb to the top and take inner tubes down, jump off the bridge with locals, or simply cool off and explore.
Restaurants and accommodations are inexpensive and locally owned and even with the influx of surfers the town maintains its Costa Rican charm.
This beach is so beautiful, even Mel Gibson owns property here. Scenic country roads connect Playa Barrigona with nearby Samara making it an undiscovered but accessible place to visit. The sand is white with a pink hue and at low tide you can climb large stretches of sand dollar-covered rocks. Olive ridley turtles come from all over to lay their eggs on the shore during the rainy season, making it a very special place ecologically as well. The riptides are strong so take care with little ones and do not go out swimming.
A short drive from the popular surf beach Playa Guiones in Nosara, is the secret white sand beach of San Juanillo. Fishing boats rock on the turquoise sea and millions of shells wash up on the shore. Explore the massive rocks or float in the clear water. The town itself is quite small and authentically Costa Rican.
Playa Uvita’s “Whale Tale”
The area of Uvita is famous for its incredible marine life and frequent whale spottings, but few know about the secret “whale tale” beach. During high tide the shore is completely submerged, but as the tide recedes a beautiful sandy peninsula reveals itself for relaxation and exploration.
The peaceful palm tree-lined horseshoe bay of Playa Carillo on the Nicoya Peninsula might be as close to paradise as it gets. The white sand beaches and calm water makes it a perfect beach for relaxation and sunbathing. Boating and fishing are also quite popular due to the calm sea. It is also possible to spot crocodiles in the nearby river. The town has restaurants and accommodations, but travelers will find a larger community in the nearby town of Samara, which is a pleasant hike or a short bus ride away.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica?
The answer really depends on you. Do you have a favorite beach that we’ve missed?