Looking for the best beaches in Costa Rica? Blessed with rich wildlife, verdant rainforests, and gregarious locals, Costa Rica is living proof that paradise on earth isn’t hard to find. While there’s plenty to admire on land, it’s the stunning shores that make this biodiverse Central American destination globally renowned. Well explore some of the best beaches in Costa Rica to make your journey a good one.
For travelers, there’s plenty to explore in or off the shore. This topographically-blessed Latin country features coastlines that run thousands of miles, so whether you’re lazing by the Pacific’s golden beaches or gawking over the candy-colored corals of the Caribbean, there’s something here for every water-loving, sun-worshipping traveler.
Tucked between the shorelines of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, beach-goers can choose between untouched shorelines, bustling mega beach resorts, and everything in between.
And no matter what your choice is, the activities are endless: stay solitary at sundown with a margarita on hand, hob-nob with midnight beach revelers, surf on huge breaks, or spy on a nest of sea turtles, all while taking in the beauty of Costa Rica’s sandy coasts.
List of the Top Beaches in Costa Rica
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 ten according to awards and online reviews.
Here are the best beaches in Costa Rica ranked:
#10: Santa Teresa
Starting our list in 10th place is Santa Teresa, one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica, located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. This tiny beach village draws in beach bodies and avid surfers thanks to it’s three main draws: great surfing, beautiful beaches, and of course, Gisele Bundchen, who owns a villa that sits on the hills above town.
Santa Teresa is the place to go if you’re looking for a balance of natural beauty and a laid-back hippie vibe. Its stunning white sand beaches and consistent surf attracts backpackers year after year. Offshore, travelers are rewarded with amazing restaurants, luxury accommodations, modern-day amenities, and a bustling nightlife.
Three main surf breaks offer the perfect playground for surfers. Waves here tend to be faster and more powerful – a great choice for experienced surfers looking for a good swell.
Get a good stretch in with yoga at Pranamar Villas, where classes are offered by a variety of teachers, or taste your way around the town’s traditional sodas, vegetarian cafes, fine-dining restos, and burger joints.
Check out this surfing lesson in Santa Teresa to ride the waves with a pro.
Travelers looking for a respite from city life can soul-search in Nosara, Costa Rica’s wellness capital. This health-centered, environmentally-conscious expat beach community attracts surfers, yogis, and nature lovers from around the world.
Nosara is composed of three beaches: Pelada Beach, Garza Beach, and Guiones Beach. No matter where you are, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate.
Book a room at the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort or The Harmony Hotel, two of Nosara’s wellness-oriented accommodations, and get a spa treatment, participate in yoga surf retreats, or dine on sustainably-sourced gourmet dishes.
Take a relaxing stroll along the expansive Playa Guiones, Nosara’s three-kilometer long main beach that features year-round waves and a great beginner spot. If you’re looking for something more laid back, take a dip in the tidal pools of Playa Pelada.
Get your fix of fauna at the Nosara Biological Reserve which features 270 animal species, including bats, monkeys, iguanas, armadillos, and various birds.
#8: Playa Montezuma
Laid-back Playa Montezuma, with its trendy bohemian vibe and hipster appeal, is a definite must-visit. This gorgeous beach located at the eastern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is a favorite spot for budget travelers.
Right smack at the center is a small trendy town flocked by funky backpackers, surfers, artists, and expats, all contributing to the beach’s liberal vibe. In the afternoon, arts and crafts galleries feature artisans selling their wares, while at night, especially at Chico’s Bar, the beach thrives with life.
There’s never a dull moment at Playa Montezuma. Zipline through the jungle with Montezuma Canopy Tours, take a snorkeling tour to Tortuga Island, or explore both land and sea by renting a sea kayak or a bicycle.
The new Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary is always looking for volunteers who could help care for wildlife or build more animal habitats.
There’s a 20-minute waterfall hike located just south of Montezuma where you can explore three waterfalls. Do note that only the second one is deep enough for jumping, and even if you do jump, proceed with caution – the rocks atop are very slippery.
See Related: Best Activities in Costa Rica
#7: Playa Manzanillo
Looking for a Costa Rica beach for families? Located 12 kilometers from Puerto Viejo is Playa Manzanillo, a secluded palm-fringed beach with a tranquil atmosphere and an untouched feel. Manzanillo’s main draw is its pristine beach with a sprawling stretch of sand void of establishments. Here, visitors can truly unwind away from the throngs of people.
Great for families with kids looking for a swimming spot, Manzanillo features calm waves, thanks to a large rock jetty that prevents large waves from reaching the shore. It’s best to swim during high tide, as the rocky seafloor may be slightly uncomfortable when the tide is low.
Venture farther into the sea via snorkeling or scuba diving and you’ll find vibrant coral reefs and marine fauna. Take a break from the waters and explore the small Tico town you located nearby for a glimpse of small-town Costa Rican life. There are also a few restaurants and cantinas here where you can sit back and enjoy a drink in hand.
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Ostional showcases Costa Rica in its purest form – crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, and protected wildlife. Travelers coming to visit will most likely brush shoulders with friendly locals (endearingly called “Ticos”) who live a slow and humble life.
The spectacular scenery and gregarious locals are great reasons to visit, but Ostional’s true celebrities are the tens of thousands of sea turtles who visit the coast every year to lay their eggs. Turtle activity peaks during the cooler months of June and December, but this spot is such a favorite among turtles that you’ll most likely see some of these amphibians laying their eggs almost any time of the year.
Ostional’s beaches are home to the well-loved but endangered Olive Ridley turtle. This species is so dear to locals that in 1984, the Ostional Wildlife Refuge was established to protect their nesting sites.
Once you’re done spying on sea turtles, it’s time for some water adventure. Surfing is a popular activity, but if you’re afraid of getting caught in rip currents, you can try snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or scuba diving too.
Spectacular Tamarindo is a beach town located on the Pacific coast. If you’re looking for a more modern Costa Rican beach experience, this tourist hotspot features all of the modern conveniences travelers are looking for: hotels and condominiums, shops, upscale restaurants, trendy bars, and more.
While modern in appeal, Tamarindo features no shortage of Costa Rican culture, especially in traditional local markets where you can find various authentic Costa Rican goods.
This bustling beach is popular among blue water sport fishermen who flock to its waters for sailfish, marlin, giant tuna, and other species. Visitors can also snorkel, surf, scuba dive, jet ski, windsurf, sail surf, or go on beach cruises. Tamarindo waters are known to be consistent and not too harsh, which is great for surfers of any skill level.
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.
At night, the beach teems with life. Head to La Barra for salsa dancing, or hob-nob with the younger crowd at Pacifica, which often plays Top 40 music to reel in youthful revelers.
#4: Costa Ballena
Costa Ballena, which stretches 35-kilometers across three towns: Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal, deserves a spot in our list of best beaches in Costa Rica. This awesome beach has everything Costa Rica prides itself with: thriving wildlife and picturesque nature sceneries.
Verdant nature reserves, postcard-perfect waterfalls, and winding jungle hikes add to the character of Costa Ballena beach, but what makes this destination so unique is the verdant mountains that serve as spectacular backdrops to the magnificent coastline. Explore these rolling hills and you’ll find boutique hotels and upscale restaurants that offer breathtaking views.
Named after the glorious whales that migrate to its waters every year, whale watching is a popular tourist attraction. Head to the Ballena Marine National Park to spy on humpback whales and several types of manta rays, sharks, and dolphins.
There is no shortage of water activities here. Costa Ballena waters are a great playground for diving, surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and snorkeling. Other activities include canopy tours, tree-climbing, and sport fishing.
#3. Playa Conchal
Top three on our list is the gorgeous Playa Conchal, one of the best pink sand beaches in Costa Rica. Just 1km South of Brasilito is Costa Rican favorite, Playa Conchal, a postcard-perfect stretch of palm-fringed beach often rated as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Named after the billions of shells (conchas) that wash up on the shore, Playa Conchal’s shallow waters feature a vibrant turquoise that gradually turns into a deeper foam green.
You’ll encounter thick throngs of tourists, vendors, and locals during peak season, but come the low season on weekdays, this beach is pure paradise. Stroll further south and you’ll encounter wider and more spectacular sights.
Here, travelers are treated to a variety of water activities which include snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. Looking to relax?
Head to the upscale Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort and Golf Course for first-class lodging by the beach.
This resort offers a day pass for visitors who would like to access its multiple amenities.
Just a short walking distance away is the town of Brasilito and the community of Playa Flamingo, where you’ll find an array of affordable hotels, bars, and restaurants.
See Related: One-Week Costa Rica Itinerary
#2: Punta Uva
Punta Uva’s splendid natural sites, thriving fauna, and gold sanded beaches make it one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. To get to this small seaside fishing village, you need to follow a winding dirt road south of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.
You’ll pass through a thick jungle, several eco-lodges, and a couple of restaurants before you get to the piece de resistance: the spectacular Punta Uva. Most of Punta Uva is located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, which affords nature viewing opportunities of sloths, monkeys, and various types of birds.
You’ll find two gorgeous beaches here, Playa Punta Uva and Playa Punta Uva Arrecife, separated by a verdant point named Red Cliff. Both beaches feature turquoise waters, palm-tree fringed beaches, and fine tan sand.
You’ll find quiet waters in Punta Uva, making it one of the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica for kids.
After lazing by the beach, there are tons of things to do. Snorkeling or scuba diving offers great views of marine wildlife and vibrant coral reefs, or you can kayak along Punta Uva to spy on toucans, monkeys, sloths, turtles, and birds.
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#1: Manuel Antonio
No other beach in Costa Rica deserves the top 1 spot more than Manuel Antonio. Situated in the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and flocked by over 140,000 visitors annually, Manuel Antonio National Park features a stunning beach worthy of this list, thanks to its rich biodiversity and wealth of activities.
Two of its main beaches: Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla Sur Beach, may be accessed via a 30-minute hike from the park’s main entrance. The more popular Manuel Antonion Beach is known for its spectacular scenery, but if you’re aiming for a crowd-free beach, hike a bit further along the main trail to Playa Espadilla Sur. Both beaches are great places to swim, surf, or snorkel.
Adventure seekers have plenty of activities to choose from. As a national park, you’re bound to encounter abundant wildlife, including squirrel, capuchin, and howler monkeys, sloths, agoutis, iguanas, and a variety of birds. You can also hike along the Manuel Antonio Trails you to spy on more elusive rainforest animals.
Do note that only 600 visitors are allowed to visit Manuel Antonio at any given time, so if you plan to visit during peak seasons like December, come early in the morning.
Want to test your limits with rafting? Book this water rafting tour to see the sites and tap your adrenaline.
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