Imbued with rich wildlife, verdant rainforests, and gregarious locals, Costa Rica is living proof of paradise on Earth. While there’s plenty to admire on land, the white sand beaches of this biodiverse Central American destination make it globally renowned.
Featuring coastlines that run hundreds of miles, the best beaches in Costa Rica are lined with palm trees and brimming with adventure. Whether you’re lazing by the Pacific’s golden beaches or gawking over the candy-colored corals of the Caribbean, these beaches are ideal for both spectrums of travelers.
Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean shorelines, beach-goers can choose between untouched shorelines, bustling mega beach resorts, and everything in between. From surfing on big breaks to observing sea turtle nests or flying solo at sundown with a margarita in hand, Costa Rica has it all.
What We Cover
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches
- 1. Manuel Antonio Beach
- 2. Punta Uva
- 3. Playa Conchal
- 4. Costa Ballena
- 5. Tamarindo Beach
- 6. Ostional Beach
- 7. Playa Manzanillo
- 8. Playa Montezuma
- 9. Playa Guiones
- 10. Santa Teresa Beach
- 11. Dominical Beach
- 12. Playa Samara
- 13. Playa Cocalito Beach
- 14. Playa Flamingo Beach
- 15. Playa Hermosa Beach
- Map of Beaches in Costa Rica
- What are the best beaches to visit in Costa Rica for surfing?
- Are there any beaches in Costa Rica that offer calm waters for swimming and snorkeling?
- What are the best beaches in Costa Rica for wildlife sightings, such as sea turtles or monkeys?
Costa Rica’s Best Beaches
With 800 miles of coastline and 300 beaches, where do you go? To help you build your itinerary, we’ve whittled down the choices to the best of the best, according to both online reviews and our own personal experiences.
No matter which of these beautiful beaches you choose, you’re bound to discover something worthwhile. Here are the best beaches in Costa Rica ranked:
1. Manuel Antonio Beach
No other beach in Costa Rica deserves the top spot more than Manuel Antonio. Situated on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and flocked to by over 140,000 visitors annually, Manuel Antonio National Park features four white sand beach spots all worthy of this list.
The rich biodiversity and wealth of activities make these some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio Beach is especially known for its spectacular scenery. This is a great place to swim, surf, or snorkel before or after exploring the rainforests of the national park.
Adventure seekers can encounter abundant wildlife, including squirrel or capuchin monkeys, sloths, agoutis, and iguanas inside Manuel Antonio National Park. They can also hike along the Manuel Antonio trails to look for more elusive rainforest animals of Costa Rica.
Remember that only 600 visitors on weekdays or 800 on weekends or holidays can visit Manuel Antonio at any given time. So, if you’re planning to visit Manuel Antonio during peak seasons like December, come early in the morning.
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2. Punta Uva
Punta Uva’s splendid natural sites, thriving fauna, and soft sand make it one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. To get to this small seaside fishing area, you need to follow a winding dirt road south of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.
You will pass through a thick rainforest, several eco-lodges, and restaurants before you get to this spectacular Costa Rica beach. Most of Playa Punta Uva is located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, offering numerous opportunities to view critters like sloths, monkeys, and birds.
The beach features quiet waters, making it one of the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica. After relaxing on the beach, there is so much more to do.
Snorkeling or scuba diving provides incredible views of marine wildlife and colorful coral reefs. You can also kayak along Playa Punta Uva to watch for turtles, toucans, and numerous bird species.
Though there are multiple accommodation options nearby, Bungalows Punta Uva Inn is an individual-style villa in Punta Uva just a short walk from the beach. If you aren’t up for the beach, the bungalows have a gorgeous pool set-up.
See Related: Caribbean Islands Travel Guide: Tips for Visiting
3. Playa Conchal
Playa Conchal is a gorgeous pink sand beach in Costa Rica. Just South of Brasilito, this palm-fringed beach is often rated as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Named after the billions of shells (conchas) that have been crushed up over time and mixed naturally into the sand, Playa Conchal’s shallow waters feature a bright turquoise that gradually turns into a deeper emerald green.
Tourists will encounter thick groups of people frolicking on this wonderful beach during the peak season, so be prepared for crowds during high tourist season. Part of the reason Playa Conchal is more popular than other beaches is because of the myriad water activities that can be enjoyed from here. This includes snorkeling, jet-skiing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking.
Want to find a place to relax nearby Conchal Beach? Head to the upscale Westin Reserva Conchal, an All-Inclusive Golf Resort & Spa for first-class lodging by the beach. This resort offers a day pass for non-resident visitors who would like to access its multiple amenities.
See Related: One-Week Costa Rica Itinerary
4. Costa Ballena
Stretching 21 miles across three towns, including Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal, Costa Ballena, with its white sand shores, deserves a spot near the top of this list of best beaches in Costa Rica. Also called Whale’s Tail for its visiting humpback whales, this spectacular beach has everything Costa Rica prides itself on – thriving wildlife and picturesque nature scenes.
Verdant nature reserves, postcard-perfect waterfalls, and winding jungle hikes add to the character of Costa Ballena Beach. The green mountains serve as spectacular backdrops to the magnificent coastline.
Explore this rolling beach along the Central Pacific Coast, and you’ll find multiple boutique hotels, including Playaballena Spa Hotel, as well as upscale restaurants with breathtaking views.
Named for the glorious whales that migrate to its waters every year, whale watching is a popular tourist attraction. Head to the nearby Marino Ballena National Park to watch for humpback whales and several types of manta rays, sharks, and dolphins.
Costa Ballena waters are also the perfect playground for diving, surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling the nearby coral reef. Other popular activities include canopy tours, tree climbing, and sport fishing.
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5. Tamarindo Beach
Playa Tamarindo, or Tamarindo Beach, is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. If you crave a modern Costa Rican beach experience, this tourist hotspot features all the modern conveniences travelers may desire.
The bustling Tamarindo Beach is famous among fishermen who flock to its waters for sailfish, marlin, giant tuna, and other species. Tamarindo waters are also consistent but not too harsh, making them great for surfers of all skill levels.
For wildlife, you can swing by any of the nearby lagoons. There are also a few spots where you can spy on giant leatherback turtles. Visitors can also snorkel, scuba dive, jet ski, windsurf, sail surf, or go on beach cruises.
At night, the beach still teems with life. Head to La Barra for salsa dancing or hob-nob with the younger crowd at Pacifica. Although modernity is part of its appeal, Tamarindo has no shortage of traditional Costa Rican culture either, especially in traditional local markets where you can find various authentic Costa Rican goods there.
See Related: 24 Things to Do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
6. Ostional Beach
Ostional Beach is known for its crystal-clear waters and protected wildlife — notably the turtles. Travelers will most likely brush shoulders with local Costa Ricans (known as Ticos) who live day-to-day in this paradise.
While the beach may be a highlight of time in Ostional, the Olive Ridley turtles who visit the coast each year to lay their eggs are the real stars of the show. Your best chance of seeing these lovely creatures is during the rainy season, particularly from August to the end of November.
Keep in mind that these turtles are endangered, so keep your distance. But keep those eyes open for your chance to see these turtles in action.
Once you’re done spying on the sea turtles, it’s time for some water adventures. Surfing is a popular activity here, but the water is a little less calm than on other beaches like Uvita Beach. But if you’re afraid of getting caught in rip currents, you can try snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or scuba diving.
Also, Boutique Hotel Luna Azul is one of the best hotels near Ostional Beach, with an outdoor pool and panoramic views.
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7. Playa Manzanillo
Are you looking for a Costa Rican beach fit for families? Just a short drive or bike ride away from Puerto Viejo is Playa Manzanillo. This secluded palm-fringed beach boasts a unique feel, golden sand, and a tranquil atmosphere.
Manzanillo’s main draw is its pristine beach, where visitors can truly unwind away from groups of people. This is a great beach for families with kids wanting a swimming spot. Manzanillo features calm waves, thanks in part to a large rock jetty that prevents larger waves from reaching the shore.
It’s best to swim during high tide, as the rocky sea floor may be uncomfortable when the tide is low. You could also bring along a pair of water shoes to help prevent any discomfort. Venture farther into the sea via snorkeling or diving, and you’ll find coral reefs and marine life.
See Related: Best Activities in Costa Rica
8. Playa Montezuma
Laid-back Playa Montezuma, or Montezuma Beach, is another must-visit with its trendy bohemian vibe and hipster appeal. This gorgeous beach is on the Southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula and is a particularly favorite spot for budget travelers.
Right smack at the center is a small trendy town flocked by funky backpackers, surfers, and artists, all contributing to the beach’s homey vibe. In the afternoon, arts and crafts galleries feature artisans selling their wares, while at night, especially at Chico’s Bar, the beach comes to life.
There’s never a dull moment at Montezuma Beach in the daytime, either. Take a snorkeling tour to Tortuga Island or explore both land and sea by renting a bicycle or sea kayak.
There’s a 20-minute waterfall hike south of Montezuma, where you can explore the aptly named Montezuma Waterfalls. These waterfall trails don’t have an entrance fee though there is a small parking fee.
If this seaside Nicoya Peninsula area seems like your kind of vacation vibe, we recommend staying at El Pargo Feliz or Hotel Amor de Mar. These hotels offer stunning ocean views as well as easy access to the beach.
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9. Playa Guiones
Travelers looking for a respite from city life can soul-search in Nosara, Costa Rica’s wellness capital. Another haven found along the Nicoya Peninsula, Nosara is home to the quiet Playa Guiones or Guiones Beach.
This health-centered, environmentally-conscious ex-pat beach community attracts surfers, yogis, and nature lovers from different parts of the world. In addition to Playa Guiones, Nosara has two more beaches as well: Playa Pelada, or Pelada Beach, and Playa Garza, or Garza Beach.
You can book a room at the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort or The Harmony Hotel. These two wellness-oriented accommodations of Nosara offer spa treatment, yoga surf retreats, and sustainably-sourced gourmet dishes.
Known as one of the best Costa Rican swimming and surfing beaches, Playa Guiones also frequently has tide pools to watch. This is Nosara’s 1.5-mile-long main beach that features year-round waves, making it a great beginner spot for new surfers.
And not to worry, wildlife lovers, you can also get your fauna fix at the Nosara Biological Reserve. It features 270 animal species, including bats, monkeys, iguanas, armadillos, and various birds. In fact, one of the best things you can do in the area is to partake in a bird-watching tour.
10. Santa Teresa Beach
Santa Teresa Beach is one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica, located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. This place is perfect for those who want a balance of natural beauty and a laid-back hippie vibe.
The stunning white sand and consistent surf attract backpackers year after year. Travelers can enjoy luxury accommodations, modern-day amenities, bustling nightlife, and restaurants in the town of Santa Teresa. Do keep in mind that Santa Teresa is not considered a party town, though there is quite a bit to do.
Waves on this beach are faster and more powerful, making it an excellent choice for experienced surfers looking for a good swell. Catch a surfing lesson in Santa Teresa to ride the waves with a pro.
However, it isn’t great for casual swimming. What folks tend to do instead is check out the tidal pools or take up some fishing.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
11. Dominical Beach
Offering a breathtaking view of natural attractions and lush mountains, Dominical Beach is certainly one of the best beaches in Costa Rica — though it is also not the best for swimming. Situated off the beaten route on the South Pacific coast, this beach is known for its consistent waves, making it an ideal spot for surfers.
It also has a year-round lifeguard program. So although the water is more dangerous, there are usually lifeguards nearby to help in an emergency.
Stretching around 2.5 miles, Dominical is a long beach with deep blue water, dark rocky sand, and an equally rocky shore. It is surrounded by various accommodations to ensure tourists’ comfort even though the beach itself isn’t the most comfortable. From hotels to lodges, vacation rentals to camping sites, you will find lots of options to spend your nights.
Though this is not the most beautiful or cozy beach in Costa Rica, it offers spectacular sunset views. If you’re in the town, you should definitely take a walk around Dominical Beach to enjoy the striking sunsets.
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12. Playa Samara
Playa Samara, or Samara Beach, can be an excellent pick for those who want a relaxing time on the beach or families looking for a safe environment. Its unique horseshoe shape keeps the larger waves at bay, making it perfect for swimming with kiddos.
Boasting beautiful sunsets, long sandy stretches, and parking spaces, this beautiful beach doesn’t have much of a crowd despite being one of the most stunning beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula.
Around 50 minutes from NDA (Nosara Domestic Airport) and two hours from LIR (Liberia Guanacaste International Airport), Playa Samara can be accessed without much hassle. Featuring light tan, fine sand, and dozens of palm trees, the beach attracts all types of visitors.
Samara Beach is known for various water activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking, sport fishing, and scuba diving. Moreover, if you want to experience life below the water’s surface, this is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for exploring some resident wildlife.
In addition, Hotel Belvedere Playa Samara Costa Rica and Hotel Giada are some of the best nearby properties. With a range of amenities and room options, these hotels are some of the top choices for travelers.
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13. Playa Cocalito Beach
Playa Cocalito is yet another rocky beach on the list of best beaches in Costa Rica. Despite its rocky surface, there are two distinct swimming areas at Cocalito.
Featuring sparkling blue water, this white-sand beach is absolutely stunning. Though Playa Cocalito offers two swimming areas, the high beach waves can get hard to swim through due to the winds, especially in January and February.
Playa Cocalito is the perfect spot to cool off and chill. We recommend a stay at the Tango Mar Beachfront Boutique Hotel & Villas to make the most out of your visit to Cocalito Beach.
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14. Playa Flamingo Beach
Well-known for its pinkish sandy complexion, Playa Flamingo is one of the most stunning beaches in Costa Rica. The beach is located in Guanacaste Province, and it provides tourists with spectacular sea views and scenery.
You could even take a catamaran tour of the surrounding water to enjoy the beach from afar.
Playa Flamingo is famous for its soft waves that are perfect for swimming. Since there are plenty of trees, you get enough space to relax in the shade after swimming or walking. The fine pink and white sand beaches and tranquil waters of Playa Flamingo guarantee hours of fun and peace, regardless of your taste.
Be forewarned that the northern section of Flamingo Beach is usually crowded. The reason being this area provides easy access to and from nearby accommodations, including private condos, as well as the Margaritaville Beach Resort and the Dunama Hotel & Casino.
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15. Playa Hermosa Beach
Playa Hermosa is one of the best beaches in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. Its grayish sands and calm waves are known for their plentiful watersports and peaceful beachfront. This beach offers various water activities, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, sport fishing, and sunset catamaran tours.
Decorated by palm trees and plentiful places to stay, Playa Hermosa is also one of the premier surfing destinations in Costa Rica. This beachfront is encircled by ridges of volcanic rock (hence the grayish sand) and tropical forests. The lush surroundings and idyllic beauty of the beach also make it a terrific family spot for all to enjoy.
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Map of Beaches in Costa Rica
Now that we’ve covered the top beaches in Costa Rica, take a quick peek at this map to see where they are in relation to the rest of the country.
What are the best beaches to visit in Costa Rica for surfing?
The best beaches of Costa Rica are located in the southern Caribbean and northwest Costa Rica. Costa Ballena and Ostional Beach are two of the best surfing spots in the country because of the swells. They’re also both just beautiful.
Are there any beaches in Costa Rica that offer calm waters for swimming and snorkeling?
The southern Caribbean coast has the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica. One perfect example is Playa Punta Uva – one of Costa Rica’s famous swimming beaches. Part of the reason these beaches are so good for swimming is because the Caribbean side is much calmer than the Pacific Ocean.
What are the best beaches in Costa Rica for wildlife sightings, such as sea turtles or monkeys?
Hands down, the best beach for wildlife sightings is Manuel Antonio. The multiple beaches at this national park are gorgeous, but they’re also surrounded by the wilds of the park, which is full of all kinds of wild animals, including sloths and various types of monkeys.