The Best Beaches in Costa Rica

When you think of Costa Rica, sand and surf are probably the first things that come to mind, which isn’t surprising considering the country is under 300 miles long and yet boasts 800 miles of coast. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so to make things easy, we’ve picked out the best beaches in Costa Rica to visit.

1. Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach was an easy pick for number one. The white sands are guarded by a coral reef, meaning the warm waters are great for swimming, even with young children. And the reef itself offers amazing snorkeling, with its vibrant coralscapes teaming with colorful tropical fish.

The other reason Manuel Antonio Beach took the top spot is it’s part of the Manuel Antonio National Park. If you like long walks not-on-the-beach, a number of hiking trails wind their way through a lush jungle packed with wildlife including white-faced monkeys, green iguanas, sloths, and endangered squirrel monkeys. 

With so much to offer, it’s no wonder Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

1. Tamarindo Beach

No, that wasn’t a typo. We’re giving Tamarindo Beach the other top spot because it’s so different from Manuel Antonio Beach. Whearase people flock to Manuel Antonio Beach for its natural beauty, Tamarindo Beach is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for surfing, made famous for its appearance in Endless Summer II. 

Boasting 10 distinct breaks, there’s a wave for every ability level at Tamarindo Beach, not to mention a number of surf schools for beginners, and board rentals if you didn’t bring your stick with you. Ample accommodation and lively nightlife make it a great option for longer stays, and as it can get crowded, nearby beaches like Langosta offer an easy escape.

3. Hermosa Beach and Uvita Beach

Located in the Marino Ballena National Park, Hermosa Beach and  Uvita Beach are an amazing two-for one coastal treasure. The two stretches of white sand meet at the famous “Whale’s Tail” sandbar on Punta Uvita. For lovers of long walks on the beach, there might not be a better option in the country since you can amble from Hermosa Beach to Uvita Beach around the picturesque Uvita Point. 

Coincidentally, humpback whales congregate in the waters offshore from August through October and December through April, while the white sands host nesting sea turtles from May to November. Then there’s the vast coral reef, which offers excellent snorkeling year-round.

4. Tortuguero Beach

If you’re looking to enjoy Costa Rica’s natural splendor, Tortuguero Beach should be at the top of your list. Tucked away in a nature reserve, Tortuguero Beach can only be reached by a canal boat from Porto Limon or a flight from San Jose.

While not great for swimming, the beach is excellent for sun-bathing and long walks, especially when the green sea turtles come to shore to nest. Along with the beach, a number of hiking trails work cut through the lush rainforest of the Tortuguero National Park, offering the opportunity to see endangered species such as manatees, tapirs, and ocelots. You can set out on your own, on a guided safari, or even take a tour down the crocodile-filled canals.

If that sounds like too much to do in a single day, there’s also accommodation on Turtuguero, such as the popular Turtle Beach Lodge.

5. Samara Beach

Samara Beach was almost left off this list. Not because there’s anything wrong with the beach, but because it was one of the country’s best kept secrets. But word has already gotten out, so you may as well know too. 

Part of Samara Beach’s allure was its emptiness, but even when there are people around, there’s enough white sand, blue water, and tropical vegetation to go around. Since it’s in a sheltered bay, the water is calm enough for swimming, and the little island of Isla Chora is a bird sanctuary that you can get close to on a rented kayak.

6. Playa Conchal

One of the other contenders for best beach in Costa Rica, Playa Conchal stands apart because instead of white sand, it’s actually made up of countless little white shells. Then there’s the warm blue waters, which are calm enough for swimming (this is not as common as you’d think), and tropical trees. It’s easy to spend a whole day at Playa Conchal (or more! There’s two resorts hidden behind that tree line), sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. 

7. Cahuita National Park

Since they’re adjacent beaches within the Cahuita National Park, Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas can share a spot on the list. Both boast white sand, warm blue water, and relatively few visitors, so you can enjoy a quiet day sunning and swimming.

Adding to the allure is Cahuita National Park itself, which doesn’t see as many visitors as other parks in Costa Rica, meaning you’ll likely have the hiking trails to yourself, and have a better chance of seeing the white face monkeys, iguanas, and sloths in the trees! The park even offers guides so you don’t miss a thing.

8. Playa Santa Teresa

Located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Santa Teresa is relatively difficult to get to, but this helps keep the weekend warriors at bay. The vast stretch of white sand is well worth the extra effort – which is probably why supermodel Gisele Bündchen owns a villa in the hills above town. Sandwiched between lush forest and the Pacific, the seemingly endless stretch of white sand is undeniably beautiful, but it’s the great surf that captures the heart of many travelers. With three main breaks, Playa Santa Teresa has something for experts and beginners alike, and many travelers have caught their very first wave here with the help of the local surf schools. 

9. Playa Montezuma 

On the other side of the Nicoya Peninsula from Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Montezuma has long been one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica for backpackers, divers, and surfers. While the hippie revelry of the past has been toned down in recent years, Playa Montezuma is still one of the best beaches in Costa Rica if you’re looking for a more “laid-back” surf base. Plus, the nearby Cabo Blanco and Curú wildlife preserves mean that if the swell’s down, you can hit the trails to see two nearby waterfalls and a forest full of indigenous wildlife.

10. Pavones

This is a general list of the 10 best beaches in Costa Rica, and since Pavones isn’t for everyone, we decided to push it a bit further down the list. But if you’re surfing in Costa Rica, you’d be crazy to miss this isolated, black-sand beach near the Panamanian border. I mean, who wouldn’t want to ride the second longest left in the world? Because it’s so remote (16 hours by bus from San Jose), it’s much less crowded than certain other breaks, though with a big swell, riders in the know descend on Pavones like, well, surfers on the best left in the country. 

If any of these beaches are on your to-do list in Costa Rica, the easiest way to visit most is with a car service like Daytrip. Especially if you want to avoid time-consuming bus transfers.

What do you think? Did we leave one of Costa Rica’s best beaches off the list, or do these have you ready to become a beach bum?

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