Set between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is a land of volcanoes, jungles, oceans and sensational beaches. Easily accessible and blessed with warm waters, the beaches of Costa Rica differ depending on where you are in the country.
Along the Nicoya Peninsula in the north, you can find many of the country’s most idyllic and pristine white sandy beaches. Further down south, the beaches tend to be framed by rugged coves and a more tropical and verdant backdrop. While on the Caribbean side, Costa Rica’s beaches are, by and large, quintessential palm tree-lined paradises. You’ll find fantastic places to swim, surf, sunbathe, or simply relax wherever you go. Here are the best beaches in Costa Rica to inspire your next visit.
- Costa Rica Beaches
- 20 Best Beaches In Costa Rica
- 1- Whale’s Tail
- 2- Nacascolo Beach
- 3- Ostional Beach
- 4- Manuel Antonio Beach
- 5- Santa Teresa
- 6- Malpais Beach
- 7- Playa Hermosa
- 8- Tamarindo Beach
- 9- Dominical Beach
- 10- Esterillos Oeste Beach
- 11- Conchal Beach
- 12- Montezuma Beach
- 13- Samara Beach
- 14- Playa Carrillo
- 15- San Juanillo Beach
- 16- Nosara Beach
- 17- Jaco Beach
- 18- Punta Uva Beach
- 19- Manzanillo Beach
- 20- Flamingo Beach
- 21- Playa Ocotal
- 20 Best Beaches In Costa Rica
Costa Rica Beaches
20 Best Beaches In Costa Rica
1- Whale’s Tail
Located in the southern part of Costa Rica, within the Marino Ballena National Park, Whale’s Tail is arguably Costa Rica’s most famous coastal area.
Flanked by Uvita Beach and Hermosa Beach, this stunning peninsula leads out to a flat top where both beaches extend and curve for about two miles on either side.
One of the most photographed sites in Costa Rica, this whale tail shaped sandbar is best seen via an aerial flyover.
If you would prefer to keep your feet on the ground, however, both beaches are lovely places to walk or sunbathe.
Should you visit here between August and October, or December to April, you may even spot humpback whales or even nesting sea turtles.
2- Nacascolo Beach
Nacascolo Beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Costa Rica.
Set on the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula, this stunning stretch of sand sits between the Andaz Papagayo Resort and the Four Seasons Resort.
The water here is protected, so it’s calm enough to swim, snorkel, stand-up paddleboard or kayak.
You can kayak over to nearby Nacascolo from the Andaz resort if you feel adventurous.
It will take less than an hour to do so, and once you reach that destination, you might be lucky enough to be the only one there.
3- Ostional Beach
Comprising black volcanic sand, Ostional Beach has to be one of the most dramatic beaches in Costa Rica.
Located on the Nicoya Peninsula, within the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, this beach is not also a fantastic beach to photograph; it is also a superb beach to see nesting sea turtles as well.
Those who love wildlife should consider a guided night tour between July and October to see the arribada or mass annual sea turtle nesting.
It is an awe-inspiring sight that is the highlight of any visit to Costa Rica.
4- Manuel Antonio Beach
Manuel Antonio Beach is another of Costa Rica’s most popular beach destinations.
Bordering the Manuel Antonio National Park, a lush coastal rainforest that teems with wildlife, it will take you about half an hour from the park’s entrance to reach the beach.
Once you are there, you will be rewarded with some of the country’s most tranquil and pristine stretches of sand.
A lovely spot to swim, there is also a gorgeous coral seascape to explore via snorkelling.
For those wanting to explore the rainforest, several trails will lead you through a terrain where monkeys freely roam to other beach areas within the park.
5- Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is another fabulous beach on the Nicoya Peninsula.
This spectacular two-mile-long stretch of golden beach is very popular with surfers near Montezuma due to its fabulous offshore breaks.
A perfect place to watch the sunset, the beach is also great for walking and sunbathing.
You can even see tidal pools filled with sea anemones and colourful fish during low tide.
It’s close to two other decent beaches – Playa Cobano in the north and Playa Carmen in the south.
An excellent selection of restaurants in the vicinity dishes up a terrific range of cuisines.
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6- Malpais Beach
South of Guanacaste on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Malpais Beach is another good surfing beach.
It is also a haven for yoga enthusiasts who regularly come down to the shoreline to practice their Utkatasanas, Trikonasanas and other such moves.
The extended stretch of white sand is interspersed with rocky tidal pools.
This beach is on the wild side and slightly off the beaten track.
If you need a quiet place to get away from everyone, this beach is a great option.
7- Playa Hermosa
Not to be confused with the beach that shares its name on the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Hermosa is one of Costa Rica’s best surfing spots.
Situated near Jaco, the beach is flanked by stately palm trees and a range of impressive hotel accommodation options.
The waves are always huge, especially at mid to high tide, and create some notable breaks, including The Curve, Terrazas, Backyard and Tulin/Tusubres.
The massive swell makes for quite the spectacle to watch and photograph if you are not surfing yourself.
Aside from surfing, this is also a lovely beach to stroll.
8- Tamarindo Beach
Yet another awesome surfing beach, Tamarindo Beach graces the oceanfront of the town that shares its name.
A lively beach backed by plenty of bars, restaurants and hotels, the soft, golden sand is also suitable for walking and sunbathing.
Swimming and kayaking are popular activities, while the overall vibe is laid-back and relaxed.
9- Dominical Beach
Over on the South Pacific Coast, Dominical Beach is a funky surf town that is a little off the beaten path.
Providing excellent swell, which draws an international crowd of surfers, it is also the only beach in Costa Rica that offers a year-round lifeguard program.
A popular backpacking haunt, the town has several excellent basic accommodation options and some lovely restaurants.
Surrounded by mountains, the beach is a lovely spot to while away a low-key and relaxed afternoon.
10- Esterillos Oeste Beach
A short drive from Jaco, Esterillos Oeste Beach is the epitome of a hidden gem.
The long stretch of black sand is framed by a row of palm trees and a handful of beach hut restaurants.
This quaint beach is the perfect place to clear your mind.
A decent spot for fishing, the wide beach also offers plenty of space to throw down a beach towel and set up for a day of reading, sunbathing and relaxation.
The azure water is suitable for paddling in, while the soft sand seems to massage your feet as you walk on it.
11- Conchal Beach
If you are looking for an idyllic white beach to go to, then the beautiful shoreline of Conchal Beach is where you should head.
Located in Guanacaste, this quiet crescent beach is unique because it is made up of crushed tiny seashells.
For this reason, it is not the best beach to walk on barefoot.
However, as the water is very clear and the waves tend to be calmer, it is great for swimming and snorkelling.
The beach backs onto the all-inclusive Westin Playa Conchal Resort and a selection of other rental properties.
As it is accessed by a walkway leading from a parking lot, it has a pleasantly tranquil and isolated feel.
12- Montezuma Beach
Backed by lush jungle, Montezuma Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Situated close to its southernmost tip, it features a dramatic, expansive coastline of gently swaying palm trees, grey and brown sand and rocky outcrops that are replete with tidal pools.
A relatively small beach by Costa Rican standards, Montezuma Beach has a relaxed and laid-back vibe and a distinctly local feel.
Montezuma is not the best beach for swimming, but if you just want to chill out and forget about the rest of the world, it is absolutely perfect.
13- Samara Beach
Samara Beach is undoubtedly one of the best family beaches in Costa Rica.
Shielded by an island off the Pacific Coast, this long, stunning beach on the Nicoya Peninsula wraps around a horseshoe bay.
As it is protected, its calm waters are a haven for recreational activities like scuba diving, fishing, snorkelling and kayaking.
Its extended stretch also means that this beach is seldom overcrowded despite being popular.
14- Playa Carrillo
Those wanting a quiet beach free from the cacophony of noise that bars, restaurants and hotels bring should consider a visit to Carrillo Beach.
One of the Nicoya Peninsula’s most sedate beaches, there is nothing in the way of development here – just sand, palm trees and water.
The beach is quite broad and the waves are pretty calm, so it’s a good spot for swimming and walking.
It’s also close enough to livelier beaches like Samara Beach, in case you start to yearn for conveniences or amenities.
15- San Juanillo Beach
Somewhere that largely flies under the radar is the magnificent San Juanillo Beach.
Situated on the Pacific Coast, just north of Nosara, this small beach consists of two beaches that merge at a sandy point.
A place largely ignored by tourists, the calm and clear water is perfect for swimming.
It is also a fantastic beach for shell hunting and has plenty of shady spots to escape to when the sun’s heat gets a bit too strong.
16- Nosara Beach
Nosara Beach is a major landmark in the coastal town of Nosara.
Known for being a fabulous wellness destination, this charming beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula actually incorporates the coming together of three beaches – Garza Beach, Guiones Beach, and Pelada Beach.
Each of which provides different types of opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, surfing and relaxing.
Although popular, it’s never too busy here.
The beach town also accommodates plenty of excellent food options for when you get hungry.
17- Jaco Beach
Another popular family beach, Playa Jaco consists of a flat, wide, crescent shape of black greyish sand that unfurls for around 2.5 miles along the bay.
The water is warm, calm and shallow, so pretty good for swimming, especially for young children.
It is also a lovely beach to walk on, especially at sunset when the colours are spectacular.
Located on the Pacific Coast, the beach town also provides a good mix of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and other amenities.
So it is a perfect place to base yourselves for a few days.
18- Punta Uva Beach
Nestled on the Southern Caribbean Coast, Punta Uva Beach is a fantastic beach to visit.
Picturesque to the nth degree, this becalmed white sandy beach is framed by thick jungle from the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
Many different animal species like monkeys, birds and sloths can be seen.
The beach comprises a narrow strip that is largely undeveloped.
It features clear, calm waters and a colourful coral reef just offshore that renders it a terrific place to snorkel.
Another significant aspect of this beach is that it is very photogenic. So you will want to take lots of snaps of it for your Instagram.
19- Manzanillo Beach
With stunning turquoise waters and a remote, off-the-beaten-path feel, the idyllic white sandy Manzanillo Beach is an exceptional place to go.
Known for its fabulous coral reefs and lush tropical seaside rainforest, this is a beautiful and generally less crowded beach to explore by kayak, scuba diving, snorkelling or walking.
20- Flamingo Beach
Just to the north of Conchal Beach lies Flamingo Beach.
So-called because of its gorgeous pinkish-white sand colour, this beach is unique in Costa Rica as most others consist of a dark brown or black colour.
It is a perfect beach for swimming and rarely crowded, which is surprising considering it showcases incredible sunsets.
Backed by cliffsides that overlook the inlets and bays of the Pacific Ocean, this is for sure one of the most romantic beaches in Costa Rica.
21- Playa Ocotal