Traveling to a tropical place like Costa Rica should be on everyone’s bucket list. With its sandy beaches, palm trees, and clear blue waters, it’s no wonder Costa Rica is one of the most cherished tourist destinations in Central America.
To help narrow down your options, we’ve compiled a list of the best beaches in Costa Rica that you won’t want to miss on your next trip.
12 of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known as one of the most welcoming countries in Central America. Visitors go there to relax, connect with nature, and explore the culture.
Exotic wildlife, awesome national parks, and ziplining are some of the main attractions that bring tourists to this beautiful country. Costa Rica is one of the most tropical places in the world, but it’s also home to some of the most beautiful beaches.
Get your fill of white or black sand beaches and everything in between. There’s something for everyone.
It is a place that words cannot describe. One must experience it to believe it. Costa Rica is a paradise that is hard to leave and even harder to forget. Let’s look at some of the best beaches that Costa Rica has to offer.
1. Jaco Beach
Jaco Beach sits in the province of Puntarenas on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is a popular beach destination for both locals and tourists alike. The beach is known for its excellent surf conditions, beautiful sunsets, and lively nightlife.
Jaco Beach is a great place to catch some waves, go for a swim, or just relax on the sand. There are lots of interesting bars and restaurants in the area, making it a fantastic place to spend a day or night.
One thing to consider at Jaco Beach is the strong rip currents, so be sure only to swim where lifeguards are present. One of the major highlights of the beach is the Tarcoles River.
This river is home to a large number of crocodiles. Visitors can take a boat tour to see these massive reptiles up close. Just remember to keep your hands, feet, and all other objects inside the boat at all times.
2. Tamarindo Beach
Tamarindo Beach lives in the province of Guanacaste on the northwest coast of Costa Rica. It is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica and is known for its surfing, fishing, and Turtle nesting.
The beach is a great place to surf with both beginner and advanced waves. There are also many restaurants and bars, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the views.
We recommend visiting Tamarindo Beach during the shoulder season (April-May or September-October) to avoid the crowds. Tamarindo is also a great place to go fishing.
Many charter companies offer half-day and full-day trips. Fishing provides a great experience to relax and enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica. If you’re interested in seeing some turtles, Tamarindo is the place to be.
The beach is a prominent nesting site for the endangered Leatherback turtle. Visitors can take a tour to see these turtles up close and help with the conservation efforts.
3. Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa is located in Northern Guanacaste and overlooks the Gulf of Papagayo. The beach is known for exciting zip lining, ATV, catamaran, and horseback riding tours. It also features the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is home to several volcanoes, waterfalls, and hot springs.
In fact, the last volcanic eruption was on June 28, 2021. One great thing to consider when visiting Playa Hermosa is that it is only a 30-minute drive from the Liberia International Airport.
With its stunning views, exciting activities, and proximity to the national park, Playa Hermosa is a must-see destination in Costa Rica.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure with a taste of nature, popping mud pots, steamy jungles, and exotic animal sightings, Playa Hermosa is the beach you want to experience.
4. Playa Grande
Playa Grande sits on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It sits just north of Tamarindo. Playa Grande is your destination for surfing, turtle nesting, and relaxing on the beach. If you love taking guided tours, there are plenty of options here.
The beach is a great place to surf with both beginner and advanced waves. The beach has consistent surf breaks that make it a popular spot for both locals and tourists. Not to mention, the water is always warm.
Playa Grande is also one of the most important nesting sites for the Leatherback turtle. Leatherback turtles can grow up to seven feet long and weigh about 700 kilograms. They are unique reptiles. The conservation efforts performed to keep them safe are life-changing.
5. Playa Iguanita
Playa Iguanita is located in the Gulf of Papagayo. It is rated one of the best beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. One, you won’t deal with large crowds. Instead, you’ll get to experience lesser-known beaches, getting the opportunity to explore and find your own space.
Iguanita Beach sits inside of the Iguanita Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to Iguanas, Howler monkeys, and many other exotic animals. When traveling in this area during the rainy season, you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get around.
The beach is perfect for swimming. However, it is an estuary, which means the water is fresh and salty. You can also have a great time surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or kayaking. The waves are much smaller here, making it a perfect place to learn.
6. Playa Nacascolo
Playa Nacascolo is one of the hidden gems in Costa Rica. It’s nestled in the province of Guanacaste, on the Papagayo Peninsula. The beach is known as a family-friendly destination, with plenty of shade.
There are also several birds in the area, including scarlet macaws. The monkeys are used to being fed by locals and approach families and steal their food.
Our advice is to avoid getting too close if possible. The beach is also a great place to go snorkeling and diving. You can find many tour operators in the area that offer both group and private tours. Another terrific aspect of the beach is its amenities.
You’ll find picnic tables, clean bathrooms, and even outdoor showers. The beach has gentle waves, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You can also find many restaurants in the area, as well as a few small hotels.
7. Manuel Antonio Beach
Manuel Antonio Beach sits in the Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. In addition to the beach, visitors get to enjoy hiking, bird watching, and exploring the jungle.
Once you enter the park, it will take about 30 minutes to reach Manuel Antonio Beach. You’ll love the rainforest atmosphere that connects to hiking trails and even other beaches. You also have a 98 percent chance of spotting monkeys.
Some of the best water sports in Costa Rica happen at Manuel Antonio Beach. Surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking are all popular here. The waves can be a bit rough, so we recommend using a tour operator with more experience to help keep you safe.
8. Dominical Beach
Dominical Beach is a great place to surf, with some of the best waves in Costa Rica. The beach is also great for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. If you have kiddos, you’ll appreciate that the beach features a year-round lifeguard program.
Visitors can also enjoy many activities in the area, including zip-lining, ATV tours, and horseback riding. You can also visit restaurants and bars in Dominical, as well as shops selling souvenirs and local goods. It’s an ideal place for foodies visiting the area.
Dominical Beach has lots of tantalizing views of waterfalls and cliffs. You can even take a stress-busting yoga session at Bamboo Yogaplay, which is located right on the beach.
9. Montezuma Beach
Montezuma Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. It’s located on the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its dramatic cliffs, lush jungle, and dramatic sunsets.
It has become a famous destination for young families, backpackers, and couples looking for a romantic getaway. The beach is quiet and beautifully loaded with butterflies, birds, and monkeys. There are also lots of international food options available in the area.
You can find Italian, Indian, and Thai restaurants, as well as several cafes. Even with all this, you can still add a little adventure to your trip with some swimming, surfing, or snorkeling. Just remember to be careful of the strong currents.
The roads to Montezuma can be a bit challenging, so we recommend using a 4×4 vehicle. You can ride the bus from San Jose or Liberia, which will take about 5-6 hours.
10. Costa Ballena
Costa Ballena is a beautiful stretch of coastline that’s known for its dramatic cliffs, lush jungle, and dramatic sunsets. The one thing that makes Costa Ballena stand out is the humpback whales that migrate to the area from December to April.
During this time, you can take a whale-watching tour and see these majestic creatures up close. You will probably even get lucky and spot a baby humpback whale. Other popular activities in the area include fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
If you’re looking for lodging with views of verdant mountains and the coastline below, Costa Ballena has many small hotels and bed & breakfasts. You can also find a few restaurants serving seafood and international cuisine.
11. Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach
Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach is a popular surf destination. The waves here are some of the best in Costa Rica. There are many restaurants and bars in the area. The fishing hamlet of Mal Pais provides a relaxing experience as well.
If you’re looking for a place to destress and heal, the beach offers a yogic community and yoga retreats. There are also lots of spas offering massages, facials, and other treatments.
The best way to get to Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach is by plane. The nearest airport is in Tambor, which is about a 30-minute drive from the beach. You can also take a bus from San Jose. Be aware that the ride will take about 5-6 hours.
12. Samara Beach
Samara Beach is a great place to relax and unwind on the weekends. It’s known for its gentle waves, making it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
One thing that makes this beach stand out is sports fishing. You can find a number of charter companies that offer half-day and full-day trips. If you’re looking to escape large crowds and be surrounded by nothing by nature, this is your place.
However, please understand there are no fast-food restaurants, chain hotels, big buildings, or clubs. This may be the reason many tourists don’t recommend it as the best place to stay in Costa Rica.
The beach is also a bit difficult to get to, as the roads are unpaved and can be challenging to navigate. Even with this, it’s still a beautiful place to visit and spend some time.
Things to Consider
Now that we’ve gone over the best beaches in Costa Rica, let’s go over some things to prepare for ahead of time when choosing a beach.
Time of Year and Weather
If you’re looking to avoid the rain, it’s best to visit between December and April. This is also the busiest time of year, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a more tranquil experience.
Another thing to consider is the activities you’re interested in. For example, if you’re looking to surf, it’s best to visit a beach with good waves.
If you just want to relax, any beach will do. Some beaches also offer unique activities, like whale watching or yoga retreats. Consider what your goals are before choosing a beach.
Proximity to Airports and Other Attractions
Finally, you’ll want to consider the beach’s proximity to airports and other attractions. Depending on where you stay, you may have to take a bus or plane to get to your beach of choice.
Beaches further away from airports and other attractions are usually quieter and more secluded. If you’re looking for an easy trip, this may be the best option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about beaches in Costa Rica.
Which part of Costa Rica has the best beaches?
This is a stretching question to answer as there are many beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Based on popular opinion, Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach and Samara Beach are two of the most popular beaches. Many hidden gems are getting discovered every day.
What is the nicest beach in Costa Rica?
This is another challenging question as each beach has its own unique charm. It depends on what you’re looking for in a beach. If you are looking for beaches tucked inside of a rainforest, Manuel Antonio beach would be a great option.
Tamarindo Beach is a renowned spot for surfing if you’re interested in surfing.
What are the 5 most popular beaches in Costa Rica?
Five of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica are:
- Manuel Antonio Beach
- Tamarindo Beach
- Dominical Beach
- Nacascolo Beach
- Montezuma Beach
These beaches offer something unique and are definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
When should you not go to Costa Rica?
The rainy season in Costa Rica is from May to November, which involves flooding, hurricanes, and landslides. If you’re looking to avoid the rain, it’s best to visit between December and April. The catch-22 with this is that it happens to be the busiest time of year.
What should I avoid in Costa Rica?
Never leave your valuables unattended. That includes leaving food or drinks unattended. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Also, don’t go to the beaches at night as it’s not safe.
Last, always wear sunscreen because Costa Rica is close to the equator, and the sun is very strong. Skipping sunscreen for a quick tan could quickly turn into severe sunburn or sun poisoning.
So, What are the Best Beaches in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is full of beautiful beaches, and it’s hard to choose just one. Whether you want to practice yoga, go zip lining, connect with nature, or hike through the rainforest to reach the beach of your dreams, Costa Rica has it all.
If you can’t decide which destination to visit, roll the dice and pick a beach randomly. You’re sure to have an amazing experience no matter where you end up.