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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)

When you’re looking for a beach getaway somewhere tropical and exotic, Costa Rica is absolutely stunning. The best beaches in Costa Rica offer pure bliss on their white and golden-sand shores fringed with tall palm trees and rainforests. Let’s explore our favorites below.

12 of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Whether you’re interested in a classic beach vacation with gorgeous scenery and plenty of time to soak up the sun or an exhilarating launch point for ocean adventures and nearby rainforest exploration, you’ll find it all on the shores of Costa Rica’s best beaches. 

Here are our top picks for the most incredible coastal destinations in the tropical paradise of Costa Rica! 

1. Montezuma

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

Juhku/Shutterstock

If you want a true Tico (local) experience, the jungly Montezuma is one of the best beach towns you can visit here. It’s isolated and naturally beautiful with sandy shores studded with boulders, rivers and waterfalls flowing into the ocean, and thrilling water activities to try. 

Montezuma is home to some of the best swimming on the Pacific side of Costa Rica and offers areas with gentle surf if you just want to paddle around to big waves if you’re hoping to learn how to surf. 

This sleepy beach town is one of Costa Rica’s most relaxed areas to lounge on the sand, swim, surf, snorkel, and sunbathe on 9 beaches that span the shore. Nearby tropical forests of Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Preserve offer hiking and exploration in the shade of the tree canopy.

Take a catamaran cruise to Tortuga Island where you can snorkel and ride banana boats! The 3 cascades of the Montezuma Waterfalls are close by to explore, swim, and even jump in with a rope swing. You’ll find plenty of places to ride bikes, horses, or hike through tropical forests just offshore. 

Grab lunch, dinner, and drinks at one of the beachfront sodas, cantinas, or bars scattered on every beach from Las Pangas to Playa Grande in Montezuma. Ylang Ylang Beach Resort gets rave reviews and helps schedule your adventure excursions! 

2. Manuel Antonio Beach

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

As one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica, the premium stretch of white sand inside Manuel Antonio State Park (Playa Manuel Antonio, or Manuel Antonio Beach) is one of the best in the country. 

Most tourists heading to Costa Rica plan this state park as their #1 destination, so chances are good that you’ll be close by and able to enjoy this pristine beach.

The sprawling rainforest continues behind the beach and up into the mountains with thousands of acres of trails to explore. It’s a haven for wildlife, including white-faced and howler monkeys and colorful scarlet macaws. 

This isn’t a beach where you’ll feel stuck on the sand for hours. Instead, you can hike easy to rugged trails through the forest, discover cascading falls and natural pools, and get busy with water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, and snorkeling around coral reefs. 

When it’s time to refuel after a long beach day, venture just 5 minutes away to eat fresh seafood and authentic Costa Rican dishes at places like Rico Tico Jungle Grill and El Arado right outside the park. 

You can make your way to other beaches close by, like Playa Espadilla or Playa Biesanz, if you feel you’ve soaked up all Manuel Antonio beach has to offer (or just to get a break from the monkeys). 

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

Also in the Guanacaste province, Playa Hermosa stands out with uniquely dark sandy shores and endless outdoor recreation options. The deep blue Pacific Ocean creates a beautiful contrast with the palms and coffee-colored sand. 

The beach itself is vast, ringed by rainforests and mountains, and lined with big resorts. You can stay right on the water in the lap of luxury overlooking the beautiful scenery.

While you’re here, you’ll find tons of spots to grab a bite. Places like Ginger Restaurant Bar (upscale fine dining) and Casita del Marisco (seafood on the beach) will tantalize your palate with local and international flavors. 

Playa Hermosa even has zip lining, catamaran, and ATV tours to satisfy even the most adventurous traveler. There are plenty of day trips you can take within an hour of the beach to broaden your options while you’re in the area. 

It’s a short drive over to the lush and wild Rincon de la Vieja National Park for healing mud baths and hot springs, a thrilling jungle slide, hiking trails, massive volcanoes, and cascading waterfalls to explore.  

Playa Hermosa is also easy to reach (which can’t be said for all the best beaches in Costa Rica) and just 30 minutes from the Liberia Airport for the most convenient travel. 

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

Easily one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Grande has a reputation as a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Soft, white sand, verdant volcanic mountains, and lots of attractions and restaurants make it so much fun to visit. 

Sitting on the Pacific Ocean just north of Tamarindo Beach, Playa Grande is a massive stretch of sand and a wildlife hotspot with plenty of tourist-friendly extras for an unforgettable beach trip. It’s a quiet, relaxing place to be here in paradise! 

Known as one of the best beaches for surfing in the Guanacaste province, the waves here are amazing and some zones are beginner-friendly if you’re into taking lessons.

Look for leatherback turtles nesting on the beach, exotic birds flying overhead, and lush, green forests wrapping the edges of the beach. The serenity and incredible sunsets on Playa Grande never get old, but if you’re itching for more, try taking a day trip.

The La Leona Waterfall is an hour and 45 minutes away, you can easily make your way over to the volcanoes and hot springs at Rincon de la Vieja National Park about 3 hours away, or opt for hiking or off-road ATV tours through the rainforest. 

Food options are plentiful in the area, but you’ll always see a line forming at the popular Taco Star and Casa Inti restaurants! Hang out on the beach at night to hear live music at the waterfront bars and dance the night away. 

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

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An hour and 30 minutes north of Playa Grande, you’ll find the oasis of Playa Iguana on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This secluded piece of paradise is a true hidden gem and offers a more relaxing, laid-back place to spend time in the sand and sun.

The beach is inside the Iguanita Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll be able to see iguanas, monkeys, and hundreds of bird species amid forested cliffs, beaches, and mangroves. The shore is wide, long, and flat, bordering the calm Culebra Bay.

Swimming, snorkeling, and paddle boarding are favorite activities on this beach with no mega-waves to make things challenging. It’s also a great place to take surfing lessons and boogie board! 

Crowds are almost nonexistent here, as most people flock to beaches further south. That means you can enjoy Costa Rica in its true state among the wildlife, crashing waves, and rainforest-backed shores. 

It’s worth taking an ATV tour to get to some of the most amazing places within the refuge that are harder to reach. You’re just 2 minutes from mangroves and tropical forests in Costa Esmeralda Wildlife Refuge and just over an hour from Santa Rosa National Park. 

While there are no restaurants on the beach here with its wildlife refuge location, you’ll find lots of great options about 2 miles away. Dive bars, coffee shops, steakhouses, and beachfront restaurants at Playa Panama, Cocal, and Nacascolo are easy to reach.

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

Who doesn’t love a shaded, tree-lined beach that backs up to a tropical forest? Playa Nacascolo on the gentle Culebra Bay offers a tucked-away vibe in one of the most scenic parts of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. 

This is a place where you can bring the entire family and enjoy long, sunny days of building sandcastles, swimming, spotting wildlife, paddle boarding, and launching off for thrilling day tours and adventures close by. 

White-faced monkeys are a regular sight on the beach, and they’re friendly — so friendly that they might try to steal your sandwich! The calm water makes this a great place swim, even for beginners and children. 

Stroll down to the far end of the beach to reach the mangroves, where you’ll find birds flying overhead and fish gathering in the tangled roots.

You won’t feel stranded on this white-sand beach with plenty of amenities around to make your beach days convenient — showers, restrooms, picnic pavilions, and nearby restaurants.

Grab a day pass at Andaz Costa Rica Resort, a cute beach house just steps away, to dine on authentic and fresh Costa Rican cuisine while you’re spending the day at the beach. Locals recommend the sea bass tacos! 

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

Tamarindo Beach is big for tourists who want to experience Pura Vida with Costa Rica’s best stretch of sand, great restaurants, beachfront bars, and excellent fishing in the Guanacaste province. 

This is where all the action is, and it’s tucked into a cove on the Pacific coast with gentle wave action that makes an ideal spot for learning to surf. You’ll find lots of surf camps set up along the beach if you want to try! 

Affectionately known as “Tamagringo,” the beach, farmer’s markets, and bars are often packed with American and European tourists.

Many of the local restaurants serve American-style food, but the real treat is authentic Costa Rican cuisine. If you’re looking for a great meal as you watch the sunset on the shore, you can’t beat El Chiringuito (try the ceviche)!

Food carts are the best way to taste local flavors. Look for a lady set up on Calle Cardinal for amazing grilled chicken skewers and homemade tortillas, or stop by the cart on Central Avenue to grab traditional casados (rice, beans, plantains, meat, and salad).

You’ll find great fishing opportunities (surf fishing or deep sea charters) around Tamarindo Beach. Reel in a big catch and cook it up for dinner or just go for the experience! Look for leatherback turtle nests on the beach or book a tour to see them at night. 

8. Dominical Beach

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

A surfer hotspot and one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for relaxed days of sunbathing and swimming, Dominical Beach is an intimate spot with crashing Pacific Ocean waves and a gateway for outdoor adventures in Costa Rica’s rainforests. 

Dominical is a small and scenic 2-block town. Everything is walkable right from the beach (including lots of hotels) and it has an authentic feel. You’ll appreciate the local sodas and bars that overlook the ocean for an awesome dining experience. 

The beaches here are public and free to visit with easy parking, making it really convenient and affordable for families. Life guards are on duty year-round, so even new swimmers can enjoy the water without worry. 

You’ll be all set if you’re here for adventure, with surf schools operating on the beach for lessons, paragliding, zip lining, horseback riding, and cliff jumping all here in Dominical. 

Check out Fuego Brewing Company for beers or grab a bite to eat with great views of the ocean at Restaurante El Coco. You won’t find much nightlife, but if you’re heading here, it’s for the scenery and adventure. 

You’re less than 20 minutes from the stunning Nauyaca Waterfalls that thunder down into a deep, forested canyon. It’s an enchanting place and you can ride horses to the falls for a cool experience!

9. Jaco Beach

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

Jaco Beach is a well-known tourist destination near San Jose on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast side. It’s a big party hotspot with a row of beachfront bars and you’ll always find live music, great food, and big waves on this fun-filled beach!

Jaco Beach has prime conditions for taking surfing lessons and catching some of Costa Rica’s most gorgeous sunsets. You’ll find plenty of spots to grab lunch overlooking the ocean and enjoy the vibrant nightlife here. 

The beach is long, dark, and rocky with tiny, tumbled pebbles that make it delightfully different from the sandy shores you’ll find in other regions of the country. Strong currents are common, so use caution if you decide to go for a swim. 

The length of the beach coupled with stunning views of the ocean make it one of the best to walk for a romantic or introspective shoreline stroll.

Visiting Jaco Beach puts you about 2 hours from San Jose, 30 minutes from the forested Carara National Park, 20 minutes from the sandy shores at nearby Playa Hermosa, and 1.5 hours from the famous Manuel Antonio National Park

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

Located in the stunning Costa Ballena region on the mountainous Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Playa Uvita has a reputation for being a laid-back, scenic beach frequented by locals and tourists for whale-watching, surfing, waterfalls, and water sports.  

This 2-mile stretch of white sand is in Marino Ballena National Park, so you’ll pay a small entrance fee to access it and the rest of the park.

There are whales, dolphins, turtles, and colorful fish all over, making it an amazing spot to snorkel or dive. It’s a surfing mecca with big breaks, so it’s a little rough for leisurely swims. 

The park’s marine section protects important humpback whale migration zones, and if you keep an eye out between mid-December and April or from mid-July to November, your chances of spotting whales are highest! 

Venture out to Cascada Verde, a gorgeous waterfall in the rainforest, while you’re in Uvita. You can start your adventure at the Catarata Uvita butterfly garden, go down a natural water slide, and swim in pools at the base of the falls. 

Playa Uvita is close to Dominical Beach, which makes an excellent day trip if you’d like to expand your horizons a bit. Check out kayak tours through the mangroves to see crocodiles, monkeys, and colorful birds on your trip! 

11. Santa Teresa Beach

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

The white sand, interesting formations, tidal pools, and rugged-yet-relaxing vibes of Santa Teresa beach makes it one of the best you’ll find in Costa Rica. It’s all about the views, the waves, and the water sports here. 

Huge, rocky outcrops and formations stud the sandy shoreline with lush, green mountains and rainforests as a backdrop to the turquoise, shimmering waters of the Pacific. 

Santa Teresa beach has excellent surf and you’ll see surfers coming here in droves. Watch them catch big waves or join in yourself! Explore the tiny life in tidal pools, do yoga on the beach, visit one of the spas for a massage or class, and catch some amazing sunsets here. 

Fishing is abundant on Santa Teresa beach and if you’re not able to snag something for dinner, you’ll find several great spots to eat on and off the beach. 

Banana Beach resort has a great restaurant right on the sand and Eat Street just a minute or two from the shore is a popular spot for affordable bites with 2 restaurants, a cafe, and a bar depending on your mood. 

This is a laid-back beach that’s not overly developed, so you won’t find as many tourist traps as you would in more-visited spots. Still, surfing lessons, kayaking trips, day trips to waterfalls and nearby beaches, and hiking can fill your days with fun! 

12. Samara Beach

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

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Rated one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for its authenticity, scenic beauty, and excellent Costa Rican food. You’ll feel like a local as you head to the food carts for chilled coconut, go for a swim, and snorkel around the tidal pools. 

Leaning palm trees grace the golden-sand shoreline with views of green mountains and rainforest surrounding you in this taste of the real Costa Rica. The surf here is gentle, making it an ideal swimming spot or a great place to take surfing lessons.

You’ll find the entire Samara town is easily walkable and locals are friendly. What you won’t find? Chain restaurants, hotels, or tourist traps. This place is raw and real — and totally relaxing. 

You have to try some of the local sodas, or open-air restaurants, to taste authentic Costa Rican cuisine! Spots like Sheriff’s (great breakfast), Rincon Mochilero (Costa Rican buffet), and Pablitos and Soda La Perla (totally authentic sodas) are must-tries. 

Rent kayaks at the pier to go fishing or explore Samara Beach and the surrounding area at your own pace. You can rent surfboards, boogie boards, paddle boards, or snorkeling gear by the hour when you’re hanging out on the beach! 

Things to Consider

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

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When you visit the best beaches in Costa Rica, it helps to have a few pointers and tips from seasoned travelers to avoid some of the most common pitfalls. Here’s what you should keep in mind to plan the best possible Costa Rican beach trip! 

  • Authenticity comes at a price. If you’re seeking out the real Costa Rica, you should note that you won’t find many of the creature comforts you would in more tourist-y beaches. There may be fewer restaurants and shops, few people speaking English, and limited amenities on the beach (like restrooms, picnic tables, and showers). It’s well worth it to see and experience Costa Rica in its truest form! 
  • Don’t be afraid to beach hop. Costa Rica’s best beaches are often clustered together, and most of them are on the Pacific coast side. Don’t stick to a single beach for the whole trip — get out and drive down to the next stretch of sand! Some beaches are so close together, you can walk to the next one. You’ll find more restaurants, water sport equipment rentals, tour gateways, scenic spots, and fishing areas this way. 
  • Factor in park fees at some beaches. Some of the best beaches in Costa Rica are located inside of state and national parks, which have small entry fees you’ll need to pay to access the beach. Manuel Antonio State Park (Manuel Antonio Beach) and Marino Ballena National Park (Playa Uvita) are examples. You might pay $5-$20 per person, depending on the park, so it’s worth considering. 
  • Keep your safety in mind. While Costa Rica is a safe country to visit overall, some of the most beautiful beaches may have problems with petty crime and warrant a little extra scrutiny on your part. Leave valuables at home, don’t hang out after dark in areas that seem unsafe, and make sure you know your way back to your hotel. 
  • Be adventurous at mealtime. You’ll find tons of great restaurants around the best beaches in Costa Rica, but many are chains that cater to the American and European tourist crowds. Skip those and head straight for authentic eateries! Eat where the locals eat (it’s helpful to learn a little Spanish to make ordering easier) at sodas, food carts, and cantinas serving up dishes centering around beans, rice, plantains, grilled seafood and protein, and tropical produce. 

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

Planning a Costa Rica beach trip you’ll remember for a lifetime can seem a little overwhelming if you’ve never been to the country before. Take a look at the most frequently asked questions below to learn more before you start planning! 

Which side of Costa Rica has the best beaches?

Locals, travel sites, and seasoned visitors recognize the Pacific Coast side of Costa Rica as having the best beaches in the country. While there are some nice beaches on the Caribbean side, the Pacific coast is truly the best.

This side offers big breaks for surfing to gentle waters for swimming, soft, sandy beaches and cool rock formations, mountain and rainforest views, waterfalls, local hotels to luxe resorts, and amazing fishing, snorkeling, and whale watching.

What is the nicest beach in Costa Rica?

The beaches of Montezuma, Costa Rica are some of the nicest in the country, but people rate Manuel Antonio Beach in the state park by the same name just as highly. If you want idyllic, postcard-worthy scenery and waterfront adventure, either beach will be perfect!

Both are rainforest areas with wide stretches of white sand, abundant wildlife, clear waters to swim, snorkel, and surf, and great restaurants nearby. Montezuma is made up of 9 side-by-side beaches, while Manuel Antonio Beach is inside a massive park with hiking trails, waterfalls, and coral reefs to dive.

Which is the nicest part of Costa Rica?

Many people consider the Guanacaste province the nicest part of Costa Rica. It’s on the northwestern Pacific coast and is home to 7 state and national parks that are refuges for natural beauty, wildlife, beaches, and amazing hiking trails.

Some of the best beaches in Costa Rica are located in the Guanacaste province, including Playa Grande, Tamarindo Beach, Playa Samara, and Playa Iguanita. You’ll find luxe resorts to charming local hotels, excellent food options, and gorgeous scenery in the province.

Which Costa Rica beach has calm water?

Playa Iguanita, Playa Panama, Playa Nacascolo, and Playa Samara are some of the Costa Rica beaches on the Pacific side with calm waters. On the Caribbean side, Playa Cahuita, Manzanillo, and Punta Uva offer calm water conditions for swimming.

Since most of the best beaches in the country are located on the rougher Pacific Coast side, the beaches tucked into coves or on the interior side of peninsulas offer the calmest surf.

Are the beaches swimmable in Costa Rica?

Most of the beaches in Costa Rica are swimmable and offer a relaxing, scenic experience in the water, but there are some beaches closer to the southern end of the Pacific coast that can be dangerous with riptides and strong currents.

Jaco Beach, Santa Teresa Beach, Dominical Beach, and Tamarindo Beach are all excellent surfing spots, but not great for swimming due to the powerful waves and currents.

So, What Are the Best Beaches in Costa Rica?

If you’ve ever dreamed about being surrounded by verdant mountains, rainforests, wildlife, and waterfalls while you lounge or play on a tropical, sandy shore, the best beaches in Costa Rica can bring your vision to life. 

There’s no place on Earth where you can immerse yourself in nature and scenery quite like Costa Rica and its stunning beaches.

From some of the most well-known and often-traveled, like Manuel Antonio Beach and Montezuma’s 9 shining shores, to hidden gems like Playa Samara where everything’s authentic and laid-back, a trip to Costa Rica’s best beaches is one you’ll never forget.