Best 16 Costa Rica Beaches

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With so many pristine beaches along two magnificent coastlines, Costa Rica has caught the attention of tourists looking for exotic holiday experiences. It should come as no surprise too, because this friendly tropical nation in "Middle America" has two distinct shorelines caressed by two oceans, namely the Caribbean along the entire east coast, and the Pacific in the west.

Tourism down Costa Rica way has become the country’s main income earner and biggest employer. This tropical playground offers an impressive list of natural attractions with many national parks, superb beaches, central mountains and even active volcanoes from which to choose. This small nation of a little over 4-million souls covers an area slightly over 51,000 km² / 31,857 mi².

The Republic of Costa Rica is sandwiched between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, placing it between eight and twelve degrees north of the Equator. Its year-round tropical climate spawns a number of microclimates thanks to the varied geography of the terrain.

Coast to Coast Beaches

With 1,290 kilometres / 806 miles of coastline, Costa Rica has more than its fair share of beaches in three distinct regions:

  • The Pacific North (Guanacaste Region / Nicoya Peninsula) in the northwest of the country on the Pacific Ocean
  • The Pacific South along the remainder of Costa Rica’s west coast in the central and southern regions of the country
  • The Caribbean, stretching the full length of Costa Rica’s eastern seaboard from Nicaragua in the north to Panama in the south

With such a vast coast, it is hardly surprising that much of the interest grabbing the visitor’s attention is ocean-related. Swimming and water sports are the easy choices, with competitive surfing fast moving up as a national asset. Deep-sea fishing charters attract anglers from all over the world, with serious competitions and prize money offered. This part of the Pacific boasts the best game fishing anywhere on the planet.

Flying In

The flying time to Costa Rica varies between 3 and 7 hours depending on the start point from the North American mainland. Most international flights land at San José's Juan Santa María International Airport. Another option is Liberia's Daniel Oduber International Airport, which is the gateway to the beaches of the Guanacaste Region and the Nicoya Peninsula. Once you arrive, you will experience a "Lost World" charm about the place, with active volcanoes, occasional hurricanes (Caribbean) and even the odd earthquake certain to make your visit memorable!

The Best Costa Rican Beaches...

  • 1. Manuel Antonio Beach // Pacific North

    Manuel Antonio Beach
    © Luis Cesar Tejo

    While the central Pacific coastal region of Costa Rica may not rank uppermost for its beaches, the four found in the Manuel Antonio National Park are definite exceptions. Manuel Antonio Beach is the best of them from a safe swimming view and is certainly one for your beach bucket list. It is a short and scenic drive south of the regional city of Quepos.

    Picture a dazzling white sandy… read more »

  • 2. Playa Espadilla // Pacific North

    Playa Espadilla
    Fer Quintana
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    The popular tourist beach of Playa Espadilla has soft sands that stretch for a mile along the coast of the Manuel Antonio National Park. It is the closest beach to Manuel Antonio village, and you will find many people relaxing under umbrellas next to the emerald green waters.

    There are quite often waves at Playa Espadilla, but as it is a little more sheltered than neigboring beaches these are usually… read more »

  • 3. Playa Conchal // Pacific North

    Playa Conchal
    © mylitleye
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Swimming

    Situated in Guanacaste on the Costa Rican Gold Coast, Playa Conchal is one of the most beautiful and exotic feeling beaches in this Central American country. The near white sand is made up of tiny particles of crushed shells, and it is caressed by the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. Set between two rocky headlands this crescent of sand is a veritable slice of tropical paradise. Playa Conchal has… read more »

  • 4. Playa Cocles // Caribbean Coast

    Playa Cocles
    © Simon Dannhauer
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Surfing

    One of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica is located near Puerto Viejo. The popular Playa Cocles Beach has tan sands and beautiful clear turquoise waters. It is easily accessible, and consists of nearly two miles of white sand fringed with palm trees and lush greenery as a backdrop.

    Playa Cocles is one of the most popular spots for surfing on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. The surfing season runs from… read more »

  • 5. Playa Negra // Caribbean Coast

    Playa Negra
    Leonora (Ellie) Enking
    Great for:
    • Swimming
    • Surfing

    Costa Rica is home to not one, but two beaches named Playa Negra, meaning "Black (sand) beach". Both are fairly well known but are located on opposite coasts. This Play Negra is situated near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.

    Black sand may seem the absolute antithesis of a Caribbean beach and this phenomena is quite specific to Playa Negra. Neighboring Cahuita, which is also known as Playa Blanca (White… read more »

  • 6. Playa Carrillo // Pacific North

    Playa Carrillo
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Fishing
    • Swimming
    • Kitesurfing

    Situated on the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica's Pacific coast is the beautiful, horeshoe shaped beach of Playa Carrillo. With forests of palm trees surrounding the white sandy beach and clear turquoise waters, it is not difficult to see why this is the most popular spot in the Guanacaste province. This is the perfect beach for anyone looking for a laid back vacationon the beach.

    There's plenty to do at Playa… read more »

  • 7. Jaco Beach // Pacific North

    Jaco Beach

    The somewhat unlikely name of "Jaco" that belongs to this seaside resort is in honour of American Charles Elwood Jaco. He envisioned the resort way back in 1925 and went on to develop it. This was thanks to the fortune he accumulated during the pioneering days of Texas oil discovery in the USA.

    Located just a ninety-minute drive southwest of Costa Rica's main airport in San Jose, Jaco Beach is… read more »

  • 8. Cahuita // Caribbean Coast

    Great for:
    • Snorkeling

    Cahuita is a small town not far north of the Panama border on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. It is one of the eastern-most points of this small Central American nation, where Afro-Caribbean cultural influences remain firmly in place and create a special ambience. You might even think you were in Jamaica! Forget about "airs and graces" around here, this is a great spot for the eco tourists amongst you to… read more »

  • 9. Manzanillo Beach // Caribbean Coast

    Manzanillo Beach

    The fabulous waters of the Caribbean Sea lie to one side of this beach, and a green mantle of tropical palm trees to the other, confirming your arrival at Playa Manzanillo. We are referring to what is a magnificent corridor of white sand beach separating dense tropical vegetation and sea. This is the last vantage point for indulgent relaxation on one of Costa Rica's finest stretches of sand, before you… read more »

  • 10. Playa Punta Uva // Caribbean Coast

    Playa Punta Uva
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling

    Playa Punta Uva is one of the finest beaches on the Caribbean coast and a favorite spot for visitors to Costa Rica. It is a beautiful spot, with palm trees gently swaying behind a white sand beach with calm, clear turquoise waters. This is an idylic spot to leave your worries behind and chill out in a hammock. Locals will be selling cold coconut water (pipa frias) for you to… read more »

  • 11. Playa Sámara // Pacific North

    Playa Sámara
    Haakon S. Krohn
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Surfing

    Playa Samara is another of Costa Rica's fantastic beaches in the Guanacaste region. While many of the other beaches in the Northern Pacific area of Costa Rica's coast have been developed, Playa Samara remains a laid back small town which still retains its friendly local vibe.

    The beach itself is a stretch of curving, near-white sands set in a wide arcing bay. The ocean waters are clear turquoise and there… read more »

  • 12. Playa Flamingo // Pacific North

    Playa Flamingo
    © NoTalkMan
    read more »
  • 13. Playa Montezuma // Pacific North

    Playa Montezuma
    Great for:
    • Fishing
    • Surfing
    read more »
  • 14. Playa Espadilla Sur // Pacific North

    Playa Espadilla Sur
    read more »
  • 15. Playa Tamarindo // Pacific North

    Playa Tamarindo
    Jarle Naustvik
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Surfing
    read more »