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The 12 Best Beaches in Costa Rica (Our Favorites for 2024)

The 12 Best Beaches in Costa Rica (Our Favorites for 2024)

What are the best beaches in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s beaches range from surfers’ paradises like Playa Montezuma to wildlife havens such as Playa Manuel Antonio, and authentically vibrant spots like Playa Samara. They epitomize tropical beauty with their diverse activities, rich marine life, and stunning landscapes, offering something for every traveler. Read on to see the rest of our picks in our simple guide below.

12 of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s rich natural beauty extends from its rainforests and volcanoes all the way down to its coastline. The best beaches in Costa Rica are on the Pacific Ocean side, backing up to lush jungles or lively beach towns with sweeping views of the cresting waves.

Many are surfing hotspots. Some are a backpacker’s paradise. All are rich in marine life and tropical beauty, studded with palm trees and greenery. There’s nothing quite like lounging on a Costa Rican beach — especially if you know which ones are most worth visiting! 

Whether you’re looking for the chance to sunbathe and snorkel in seclusion or want a vibrant spot with ample beachfront bars and restaurants, choosing your destination from this list of the 12 best beaches in Costa Rica is the perfect way to find the beach that’s just right for you. 

We’ll talk about the best activities and water sports at each beach, which beaches are swimmable, great local spots to eat and drink nearby, and more below. Let’s take a look at Costa Rica’s best beaches! 

1. Playa Montezuma

Huge waves crashing to the rocks of Montezuma Beach, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica


  • Best for: Surfing, sea turtles, boho beach town
  • Nearby: Playa Grande, Piedras Colorada, Las Pangas
  • Activities: Surfing, Isla Tortuga cruises, horseback riding

If you’re always looking for authentic travel experiences that still boast plenty of amenities for tourists, you’ve got to check out Playa Montezuma. This little white sand beach and its funky town, Montezuma, feels intimate and secluded from the modern world. 

Sitting on the furthest point of the scenic Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Montezuma is the meeting point of the mighty Pacific and rainforests teeming with wildlife. There are no beachfront bars or high-rise hotels here — just the ocean, you, and a few surfers. 

Playa Montezuma is known for the huge swells that crash on the shore. It’s a great spot to sit and watch surfers execute impressive moves — and one of the best spots to catch the brilliant Costa Rican sunrise. 

White sand beaches are somewhat rare around Costa Rica, but the fine, crystalline sand at Playa Montezuma is a treat for the feet (and really nice to lay out on). But unlike many white sand beaches that are practically tourist traps, this one backs up to the Romelia Wildlife Reserve — a habitat and hatchery for Hawksbill sea turtles. 

If you’re here between August and January, you might be able to see baby sea turtles making their way to the shore to begin their journey through the vast ocean before returning someday to lay their own eggs. It’s an amazing sight! 

One of the best parts of Playa Montezuma is the lively little beach town. It’s precisely what you’d imagine a laid-back beach village to be. Small, local sodas (open-air restaurants) and cantinas, a smattering of shops, a few tour operators, and gorgeous ocean views will make it one of your favorite places to hang out in Costa Rica. 

Feel like you’ve squeezed every bit of the sunshine and fun out of Playa Montezuma? There’s plenty more to do. Take a catamaran cruise to Isla Tortuga for snorkeling and swimming, go hiking in the jungle, or ride a horse down the beach. 

You’ll find Montezuma’s neighboring beaches close by, many connected by scenic trails through the jungle. Visit surfer-studded Playa Grande, the Isla Tortuga launch point of Las Pangas, and the serene little cove of Piedra Colorada from Playa Montezuma.

The 130-foot tiered cascades of the Montezuma Waterfalls and a nice natural swimming hole are also close by, reachable via the Montezuma town entrance (the easiest), the Sun Trails entrance, or the Butterfly Brewery Garden along a 40-minute riverside hike.

2. Playa Manuel Antonio

Aerial view of people swimming on the clear waters of Manuel Antonio Beach, considered as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica because of its white sand and wide shore area

Daniel Karfik/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Snorkeling, swimming, wildlife
  • Nearby: Playa Espadilla Norte, Playa Espadilla Sur, Playa Las Gemelas
  • Activities: Hiking, guided tours, surfing lessons, parasailing

If you’re heading to Costa Rica, no doubt you’ve heard about Manuel Antonio National Park, the most-visited park in the country. Its lush rainforests are packed with rare and colorful wildlife and stretch all the way down to the coast, where you’ll find stunning beaches to enjoy and explore. 

It’s blissful and pristine within the park as greenery, mountains, and wildlife surrounds your ocean-facing view. Your beach visit will ring with the sound of Howler monkeys in the trees and birds chirping. 

The main beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, is our favorite to visit because there are almost no waves in this sheltered zone. Pass Playa Espadilla Norte, the first beach, to reach the main beach and remark at the calm waters that gently lap the shore with the rainforest directly behind you. 

This is where you’ll set up for the day, swimming and snorkeling around the coral reef in the calm water, paddle boarding, or exploring deep into the rainforest via trails that connect to the beach. Hike to waterfalls and natural swimming holes

If you want to see more of the park beyond the beach, we recommend taking a small group Manuel Antonio National Park guided tour with a naturalist guide. You’ll hike beautiful rainforest and waterfall trails to see wildlife like monkeys and sloths to colorful kingfishers and scarlet macaws. 

While there’s a strict rule against outside food, single-use plastic, cigarettes, and alcohol, there’s a “restaurant” (more like a snack shack) by the beach that serves a huge variety of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Feel free to bring a reusable water bottle for each person in your party, but don’t bring plastic bottles. These measures are taken in an effort to protect the wildlife (and prevent the increasingly-bold monkeys from snagging all your food and drink). 

If you’d like to see more of the beaches in the park, double back to Playa Espadilla Norte for small waves right next to the main beach. Further down, Playa Espadilla Sur is always teeming with marine iguanas. Secluded beaches like Playa Puerto Escondido and Playa Las Gemelas are nice for a quiet beach day far from crowds. 

3. Playa Hermosa

Aerial view on one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Hermosa with its dark fine sand, tall palm trees, and calm waves

Jorge A. Russell/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Sunsets, quiet dining, rainforest & mountain views
  • Nearby: Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Playas del Coco
  • Activities: Sport fishing, snorkeling & catamaran cruises, sunbathing

Seeking a quiet place to enjoy the natural beauty of a volcanic beach in the shadow of green mountains? Slip away to Playa Hermosa, nestled on the Pacific Coast near the livelier Playas del Coco.

Serene and tranquil, this is a beach for relaxing, sunbathing, and enjoying delicious Costa Rican meals at the waterfront restaurants. You won’t find loud live music, eager partygoers, or endless water sport rentals and tour operators on this pristine coast. 

Instead, you’ll be welcomed with the sound of crashing waves on the uniquely coffee-colored sands. A few restaurants and hotels stud the shoreline, giving you plenty of options to grab a bite, a drink, or a place to stay when you realize you’ve entered a Costa Rican paradise. 

Volcanic activity nearby has transformed the sands of Playa Hermosa, lending it an otherworldly appearance if you’re used to seeing white or honey-colored sand.

While it’s not a spot for swimming (huge swells and riptides), it’s a great place to surf or just watch the skilled surfers shred the waves. Come early to catch the sunrise or later in the day to stay for the magical sunset. Both are gorgeous and excellent photo opportunities. 

One of our favorite things to do on Playa Hermosa once the shine of serene sunbathing has worn off is book an adventure cruise or fishing charter. Within the town, you’ll find a few operators that can take you deep sea fishing, on catamaran cruises to snorkel nearby, or out to nearby parks. 

From Playa Hermosa, you can take a Rincon de la Vieja One-Day Nature Tour along trails that lead to volcanoes, hot springs, and healing mud baths. Thrill-seekers may appreciate the Rincon Vieja Zipline and Hot Springs Day Tour or a jungle safari cruise in Palo Verde National Park

At the far northern end of the beach, near Playa Ipis, the waterfront restaurant La Casita Del Marisco is a favorite spot to watch monkeys in the surrounding trees and view the sunset. They serve fresh seafood (try the Pargo a la Veracruzana, or red snapper) and drinks. 

4. Playa Grande

One of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Grande's unique beach curved shoreline and fine sand captured on a partly cloudy day

Stefan Neumann/Shutterstock

  • Best for: White sand, secluded vibes, sea turtles
  • Nearby: Playa Ventanas, Tamarindo, La Leona Waterfall
  • Activities: Shelling, surfing, guided nature tours

In the Guanacaste Province’s Las Baulas National Marine Park, you’ll find a delightful escape from the crowds and noise of Tamarindo at Playa Grande. This white sand beach is quiet and unspoiled, nestled on protected land that gives native sea turtles a safe nesting and hatching spot. 

Warm, sunny, and boasting vast shores of powdery-soft sand, this is a beach to enjoy all day long without a care in the world. Your views are ringed with green hills and volcanoes, dense rainforest, and pale sand as far as the eye can see. 

You won’t find endless activities and eateries lining the shore. In a place like this, you’re here to experience the deep peace of nature. There are, however, a few surfing school operators nearby if you’re interested in taking to the waves and swells that create the gorgeous scenery here.

Take a long stroll down the beach to the northern end, where Playa Ventanas waits with calmer waters for snorkeling and swimming. Keep an eye out for sea turtle tracks, skittering crabs, and shells along the way! 

Nearby, a 1,500-acre estuary is filled with tangles of mangroves and you can board a canoe or kayak with a guide to explore them. Crocodiles, birds, crabs, monkeys in the trees — it’s a magical experience that shows you another side of Costa Rica’s wild beauty. 

From October to March, the beach is off-limits for daytime use as turtles are hatching. But the beach is open for night guided tours (arrange through the marine park) to see the turtles hatch and make their way to the open ocean. 

When you get hungry after sunbathing, canoe trips, and surfing lessons, you’ll find Malinches Street Tacos within walking distance. Try the Tacos Carnitas and wash them down with a fresh mango margarita! A few spots located just off the beach have live music, bars, and seafood. 

Travel to the northern end of Playa Grande to Playa Ventanas and jump into beautiful snorkeling waters. Take care swimming in Playa Grande open sea, as the sea floor does drop steeply and rip currents can be strong.

If you’re up for a little more exploration, you’ll find the La Leona Waterfall in an enchanted cave under 2 hours away. For an even more thrilling experience, book a La Leona Waterfall and White Water Tubing Tour to zip down the river after touring the falls!

5. Playa Iguanita

A surfboard lying on fine beach and in background, a man carrying his surfboard on a clear day at Playa Iguanita, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica

The Road Provides/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Calm waters, unspoiled natural scenery, wildlife
  • Nearby: Iguana Wildlife Refuge, Playa Manzanilla, Playa Monte del Barco
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing, swimming, sunbathing, camping

Situated on the calm Culebra Bay north of Playa Hermosa, there’s a spot that’s even more secluded and unspoiled: Playa Iguanita. Inside the 84-hectare Iguanita Wildlife Refuge, this beach is quiet, natural, and absolutely gorgeous in the absence of development. 

The wider refuge is home to protected tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and marine sections that create the most stunning backdrop for Playa Iguanita. This is a place to leave the world behind and completely immerse yourself in the present moment. 

Swimming is an ideal activity in the calm waters of Culebra Bay. You won’t be smacked around by huge waves or find yourself thrust into sharp rocks on the bottom.

Instead, the gentle rolling waves provide the perfect place to float on your back or swim out into the bay to enjoy the crystal-clear water. The wide, roomy shores are nice and flat, giving you ample spots to set up for the day with the forests and mountains looming behind you. 

Crowds are almost never a concern here — you may find yourself alone on the beach with abundant wildlife instead. Weekends are busier, but things are never as busy as spots like Playa Tamarindo or Playas del Coco. 

Iguanas, colorful aquatic birds, monkeys, and crocodiles roam the refuge and make you feel wrapped up in a truly untouched paradise.

When you reach the bottom of the mountain where the entrance to the refuge and beach are, take the road to the right to reach the beach parking lot and ranger station. It’s free to visit and you can even camp here for the night! Bathrooms and showers are available at the ranger station. 

With so much beauty and plenty of room to enjoy the beach, what’s missing? The only thing you won’t find here are restaurants and bars, but it’s no problem.

Less than 30 minutes northwest, Playa Manzanilla offers plenty of dining and activity options with a similarly calm shoreline. Check out a dive bar, waterfront seafood restaurant, or taco stand to fill up on Costa Rican goodness after a relaxing day on Playa Iguanita. 

6. Playa Nacascolo

A straight white sand shore dividing the lush greenery and clear green waters of Playa Nacascolo, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica

Joshua ten Brink/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Secluded shores, mangroves, calm waters
  • Nearby: Playa Manzanillo, Playa Blanca, Playa Jicaro
  • Activities: Swimming, wildlife viewing, sunbathing

On the western edge of the calm Culebra Bay where Playa Iguanita sits to the northeast, Playa Nacascolo offers a different experience with one side facing Culebra Bay and the other side on the Gulf of Papagayo. 

Trees line the back end of the shore, contrasting with the white sand and aquamarine waters that gently lap the shoreline in this tranquil part of the bay. Families will really appreciate this beach, as it’s perfect for young kids who want to swim in clear, calm waters. 

The sand is powdery-soft and fine, white in color, and reminiscent of an expensive resort beach but absolutely teeming with natural beauty. Birds fly through the air, white-faced monkeys lurk and screech in the trees, and lazy iguanas lie in the sunshine. 

When you arrive, you’ll park in a lot and take a free shuttle down to the beach. Stay on the shuttle if you want to go further down to Playa Blanca! Swimming is the perfect activity on a calm beach like Playa Nacascolo, but the fun doesn’t have to end there.

Bring your snorkeling gear to explore the crystal-clear waters, binoculars to spot wildlife in the forest, and walk down to the end of the beach where the mangrove swamps are home to incredibly abundant wildlife. 

It’s a secluded spot, but there are still some handy amenities, like showers, restrooms, and covered picnic shelters that you can enjoy during your trip to Playa Nacascolo.

A few restaurants are close by, like the delicious local cuisine at Andaz Beach House. You can eat dishes like sea bass tacos and fresh seafood here with a day pass (grab one at the resort) or if you’re staying at Andaz Costa Rica Resort. 

7. Tamarindo Beach

Silhouette of boats and surfers paddling during the sweet sunset at Tamarindo Beach, a piece on the best beaches in Costa Rica

Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Beachfront dining & entertainment, lively vibes
  • Nearby: Playa Langosta, Playa Grande, Isla Capitan, Tamarindo River
  • Activities: Surfing, shopping, bars, guided nature tours

Playa Tamarindo is one of the most popular tourist beaches in Costa Rica, so it’s far from being a secluded shore. But what it lacks in peace, it makes up for with abundant opportunities to dine, drink, shop, and explore the natural areas around the beach and Tamarindo River. 

This long stretch of sand is lined with all the beachfront restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops you could hope for if you want a classic beach vacation with plenty of things to do on and off the shore. 

It’s not all dining and shops, though. Playa Tamarindo is genuinely gorgeous with big swells that make it a popular beach for surfing (and surfing lessons).

You’ll find several surf schools and water sports operators along the beach (and calmer surf at Playa Langosta and Playa Grande) so take your pick of activities like fishing, horseback riding, and cruises to nearby snorkeling spots. 

There are so many restaurants, breweries, street food carts, and bars along the shore that you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. For authentic Costa Rican cuisine, go to spots where the locals eat casados (beans, rice, plantains, meat, and veggies). 

Sunsets are incredible at Playa Tamarindo, so be sure to stick around to catch the rainbow skies over the beach at the end of the day from one of the restaurants overlooking the ocean. Afterward, head to any of the beach bars to listen to live music and dance! 

Take a guided Sunset Sailing and Snorkeling Tour or an ATV Quad Bike Adventure Tour through the forest, river, and valley for a more exhilarating option in Playa Tamarindo. Tour operators are everywhere on the beach with day trip options near and further out. 

8. Playa Dominical

Silhouette of a running surfer and tall waves on a lovely sunset at the rocky shore of Dominical Beach, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica

Mihai-Bogdan Lazar/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Surfer-friendly waves, laid-back beach town
  • Nearby: Playa Dominicalito, Barú River, Playa Costa Azul
  • Activities: Surfing, adventure hikes & tours, kayaking

Playa Dominical is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, bringing big swells that attract experienced surfers and gorgeous coastal views with the rainforest backing up to the beach. The Barú River opens up to the ocean here, creating a unique natural setting that is truly stunning. 

The beach is set in a funky little 2-block beach town that’s frequented by backpackers and still has a very authentic feel. It’s a place where visitors are treated like family and good food, “secret” spots, and Pura Vida vibes are shared. 

Sitting on the river, Dominical has plenty of great places to eat, from local sodas and breweries like Fuego Brewing Company to fast-casual eateries like Cafe Mono Congo or Restaurante El Coco on Main Street. 

Watching surfers take to the powerful waves offshore is one of the coolest parts of visiting Playa Dominical, but you can get in on the action with surfing lessons at one of the many schools operating along the shore. The beach is lifeguarded year-round for safety. 

Looking for a beach with calmer waters? Nearby Playa Dominicalito is just down the shoreline, offering gentle waves with its bay location and good conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. 

The adventure doesn’t end at the shoreline in Dominical. The area is packed with hiking trails that lead to waterfalls and overlook points in the dense rainforest. It’s a popular area to take adventure tours, from ATV trips to kayaking and snorkeling excursions. 

You can arrange paragliding, zip-lining adventures, horseback tours through the rainforest, and heart-pumping activities like cliff jumping from Playa Dominical. Hike or ride horses through a green canyon to the Nauyaca Waterfalls about 20 minutes away!

9. Playa Jaco

Three people carrying their surfboards towards the wavy sea of Jaco Beach, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, during an overcast day

Jorge A. Russell/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Nightlife, surfing swells, and mountain views
  • Nearby: Playa Hermosa, Isla Palma, Playa Basal
  • Activities: Surfing, entertainment, hiking, adventure tours

Another popular beach that’s far from being off the beaten path, Playa Jaco is one of the busier beaches in Costa Rica for a good reason. It’s heavily developed but beautiful here, with big waves and calmer sections for swimming and taking surfing lessons. 

The beach is long, spanning about 2.5 miles, and while it’s pebbled and not sandy, the stones are smooth (still, wear water shoes).  The shore is lined with shops, waterfront restaurants, clubs, and bars that come to life once the sun goes down.

The sun going down is its own event here in Playa Jaco — gorgeous streaks of color fill the skies every night at sunset. You’re sure to see surfers heading out to catch the biggest waves and people trying water sports in the reliable surf. 

Palm trees and green mountains rising in the distance create the backdrop for Jaco Beach. Getting off the shore and exploring further out, you’ll find some awesome options for adventure and viewpoints.

Head up to El Miro, an abandoned hotel set up on a hill overlooking Jaco and the ocean, for incredible views. In the opposite direction, the Jaco Point of Return is a steep hike that leads to even more stunning views. Walk uphill for 15 minutes, then 5 minutes more to reach Playa Basal where you’ll likely have the beach to yourself. 

You’ll find tons of places to drink, listen to live music and DJs, and mingle with other tourists and locals at night in Jaco. It’s one of the most well-known nightlife hotspots in Costa Rica, but be mindful and stay alert on the beach after dark. 

It only takes about 20 minutes to get to Playa Hermosa, a much more secluded beach just south of Jaco, and you’re about half an hour from Carara National Park and its crocodile bridge, hiking trails, waterfalls, and beautiful Costa Rican views. 

10. Playa Uvita

Things to do in the best beaches in Costa Rica, a couple watching the lovely sunset and the calm waters of Costa Ballena

Manuel Trinidad Mesa/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Whale watching, serene natural beauty, snorkeling
  • Nearby: Playa Hermosa, Playa Dominical, Playa Ballena
  • Activities: Snorkeling, diving, swimming, hiking

Get away from the tourist-heavy beaches and experience the serenity and natural beauty of Playa Uvita inside Marino Ballena National Park. Scenic, quiet, and a locally-respected spot for whale watching and wildlife viewing, Playa Uvita is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. 

This mountainous area is in the Costa Ballena region, unspoiled and totally gorgeous. It’s not just the palm- and forest-studded 2-mile shoreline, but also waterfalls that pour into the ocean, a coral reef for snorkeling and diving, and mangroves between it and Playa Ballena where wildlife congregates in the tangled roots. 

White and golden-toned sands are part of the visual charm of visiting Playa Uvita. With palms swaying in the wind and waves crashing on the shore, it’s one spot that perfectly captures the beauty of wild Costa Rica. 

Iguanas roam the shore, birds fly above the mangroves and circle the coral reef forming a crescent shape offshore, and islands in the distance can be seen from the beach (Las Tres Hermanas). 

Come between mid-December and April or mid-July to November on a Whale-Watching Tour if you’re hoping to spot humpback whales migrating through the region. You may seem them spouting geysers of water from their blowholes and breaching the water’s surface! 

Dolphins, colorful fish, and sea turtles are also common sights around Playa Uvita. It’s truly a natural paradise with so much to see and explore. Swimming isn’t ideal with the big waves (but it’s great for surfing). 

Off the beach, you can take a Kayak Tour to the Mangroves of Terraba, visit the magical Catarata Uvita Butterfly Garden, or head down to Cascada Verde where you’ll hike to a gushing waterfall in the rainforest. 

11. Playa Santa Teresa

Aerial view of a huge boulder and people swimming on the clear waters of Santa Teresa and Malpais Beach, a piece on the best beaches in Costa Rica

Joshua ten Brink/Shutterstock

  • Best for: Boho beach town vibes, surfing, adventure trips
  • Nearby: Playa Hermosa, Playa Cocal, Playa Carmen 
  • Activities: Surfing, yoga, fishing, waterfalls, tidal pools

People that visit Playa Santa Teresa, just south of Playa Cocal, remark that it’s an incredibly scenic surfing spot with white sand, cool rock formations, tidal pools to explore, and great views of the green-blanketed mountains that create the backdrop. 

It’s a place where you can fully immerse yourself in the Pura Vida of Costa Rica. While it’s nowhere near as developed as places like Playa Tamarindo, it does boast some great spots to eat — many of which people still dream about months or years after a visit. 

Make time to eat at the Bakery Santa Teresa for breakfast (try the eggs Benedict), visit Banana Beach or Tropico Latino right on the beach for lunch or dinner, and check out Soda Tiquicia’s fish special with cheap beer to wash it down. 

This beach is popular with surfers and backpackers exploring Costa Rica on a budget, so you’ll find plenty of affordable accommodations on and off the shore if you decide you want to stay for a few days. 

At the water, there are huge rocks you can rest on as the waves lap the shore. Adventurous visitors even try climbing the rocks in front of the beach!

Try casting a line into the surf to reel in fish or book a fishing charter that takes you into the deep Pacific. You’ll see people taking part in yoga classes on the shore, so sign up to join in and let the relaxation wash over you. 

The Montezuma Waterfalls hike is about 30 minutes away. It’s one of the most popular excursions nearby that leads you on a 40-minute hike to beautiful falls in the rainforest (plus, you can visit Playa Montezuma when you’re done).

The tranquil Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve is less than an hour away, making it perfect for a day trip with lots of hiking, wildlife, and the chance to take an excursion to Cabo Blanco island.

12. Playa Samara

Palms tress leaning towards the calm Samara beach, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, photographed during a bright cloudy day


  • Best for: Authentic Costa Rica vibes & food, swimming, adventure
  • Nearby: Isla Chora, Belen Waterfall, Playa Buena Vista
  • Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, adventure tours, water sports

The crescent-shaped Playa Samara is easily one of the best in Costa Rica, tucked away in a scenic bay that’s rich in wildlife, natural beauty, and a true local spirit that makes it feel more authentic than a tourist-centric beach. 

There are no chain hotels to be found here, no chain restaurants or fast food, and none of the tourist traps that are so common on other, more crowded beaches. It’s pure Costa Rica here — just a taste of the lush and tropical oasis this country is famous for. 

Samara Bay boasts calm, gentle waves that make this a great spot to rent kayaks and paddle out, snorkel, swim, fish, and take surfing lessons without hurting yourself in the bigger waves of places like Playa Dominical. 

Surfboards, stand-up paddle boards, boogie boards, and snorkeling gear can all be rented from small stands on the beach if you decide you’d like to do more than swim and sunbathe. Most equipment is rented by the hour on Playa Samara. 

Once you’re comfortable on the kayak, you can take it all the way out to nearby Isla Chora, where you’ll find stunning beaches, lots of marine and wildlife, and great spots for snorkeling when you jump off the kayak. 

Check out the almost-hidden Belen Waterfall and its natural swimming hole about 20 minutes away by driving (4WD recommended) from Samara toward Nicoya until you see a sign for “La Cascada.” 

Tidal pools at the far end of Playa Samara’s shore show you the microcosm of marine life and are so interesting to explore as you walk along the curved stretch of beach.

Along the way, you’ll pass local sodas serving authentic Costa Rican cuisine and seafood, food carts with frozen coconut and fruit treats, and palm trees studding the golden sands. 

Be sure to stop at Sheriff’s for a traditional breakfast, hit the Rincon Mochilero for a buffet lunch with casadas (traditional dishes with beans, rice, and meat), and tiny sodas like Soda La Perla where the food is always fresh and perfectly spiced. 

Things to Consider

Aerial view of Santa Teresa Beach, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, with waves crashing around sunrise


Knowing the best beaches in Costa Rica is just the start of planning an awesome trip to this tropical paradise. Here’s what you need to know before you go to make the most of your visit! 

  • Do you want authentic or convenient? The general choice to make when picking out the beaches you want to visit in Costa Rica is authenticity vs. convenience. The more laid-back, traditionally Costa Rican spots don’t have as many hotels, restaurants, beach amenities, or tours/excursions, but they do offer a more authentic experience. 
  • Some beaches cost money to enter. While many of Costa Rica’s beaches are totally free to visit (with the exception of water sport equipment rentals, food, drinks, etc.), some of the best beaches in the country are within national parks and wildlife refuges that may cost money to enter. Always do your research and make sure you arrive with the cash needed to enter. 
  • Know what not to bring. While packing sandwiches, snacks, and drinks is typically part of any day at the beach, some of Costa Rica’s beaches, like Playa Manuel Antonio, do not allow you to bring food or single-use plastic. Protected wildlife habitats take these rules seriously, so figure out your food/drink options with onsite snack bars and restaurants and bring a reusable water bottle with you. 
  • Don’t forget the sun protection. The best beaches in Costa Rica are so gorgeous and fun, you’ll want to spend the entire day out enjoying the surf, sand, and sunshine. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen, hats, and long-sleeved sun shirts to shelter from the sun in some areas that don’t feature much shade. 
  • Explore up and down the shore. Costa Rica’s Pacific shoreline is almost continual, featuring beach after beach. You may find less-crowded spots just down the shore if you walk a little further, discover different eateries and bars, find cool shops, and stumble across tidal pools, hiking trailheads, and more. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Wide view of Playa Samara and its river estuary emptying into the ocean on a nice day with cloud cover for a guide showing the top beaches in Costa Rica

Stefan Neumann/Shutterstock

The best beaches in Costa Rica are now within your grasp, but you might still be wondering about spots with the clearest water, which beaches are swimmable, and where you can find soft, white sand. Take a look at the most frequently asked questions below to get answers! 

Which part of Costa Rica has the best beaches?

The Guanacaste Province on Costa Rica’s northwestern Pacific Coast is the part of the country with the best beaches along with mountain, rainforest, and waterfall views. This is where the scenic Playa Grande, Playa Tamarindo, Playa Samara, and Playa Iguanita are located with atmospheres from lively to quiet and secluded.

Which beach has the clearest water in Costa Rica?

Playa Nacascolo and Playa Iguanita are the beaches with the clearest water in Costa Rica. Both are located in Culebra Bay, where they are sheltered from powerful Pacific currents and enjoy water as clear as glass with gentle waves that make them perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Does Costa Rica have swimmable beaches?

Yes, many beaches in Costa Rica are swimmable, but some require strong swimming skills with powerful currents, waves, and riptides (usually on the southern end of the Pacific coast). Playa Manuel Antonio, Playa Iguanita, Playa Ventanas, Playa Domincalito, and Playa Nacascolo are the best swimmable beaches.

Which side of Costa Rica has white sand beaches?

The Pacific Coast side of Costa Rica has the most white sand beaches. Some of the best with white, fine sand that's great for playing and lounging are Playa Montezuma, Playa Grande, Playa Nacascolo, Playa Iguanita, and Playa Santa Teresa.

What is the number 1 beach in Costa Rica?

The number 1 beach in Costa Rica is Playa Manuel Antonio in Manuel Antonio National Park. It boasts calm waters, white sand, clear water, a coral reef, and scenic hiking trails through the rainforest. There are other beaches in the park to explore, some with bigger waves and abundant wildlife.

So, What Are the Best Beaches in Costa Rica?

If you’ve been imagining Costa Rica as a tropical oasis with serene beaches, palm trees, mountainous rainforests, and waterfalls, you’re right on the money — this lush and scenic country truly is as picturesque and beautiful as it seems.

When you visit the best beaches in Costa Rica, you’ll appreciate the scenery even more. It’s hard not to fall in love with Costa Rica when you’re bobbing in a warm, calm bay, watching surfers speed through barrels and curls, and enjoying authentic cuisine from a beachfront restaurant while the sun sets majestically on the water.

Costa Rica’s top beaches, from Playa Montezuma all the way to the hidden gem of Playa Samara, offer you the chance to see the different sides of this tropical country and experience its rugged and wild scenery firsthand.

Whether you’re geared up for white sand and abundant amenities or secluded shores with few people and lots of wildlife, we think you’ll fall in love with the most spectacular beaches in Costa Rica — and chances are good that you’ll plan to come back soon.