The Best Beaches in Costa Rica (and Where to Stay) for an Unforgettable Vacation (2024)

People relaxing at the beach

Last Updated on September 16, 2023

With its amazing Central America location, Costa Rica has roughly 763 miles of coastline on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. This diverse geography, of course, gives visitors access to a ton of beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

Whether you’re looking for white-sand beaches, volcanic dark-sand beaches, or a secluded beach to get away from the crowds, Costa Rica’s beaches have it all and then some.

Beaches in Costa Rica are some of the best in the world– seriously.

Whether your vacay goal is to hit up a few surfing beaches, get into some sport fishing, explore a few tide pools, or simply lay out on a beautiful beach to soak in the Pura Vida ambiance, there’s a beach that fits the bill.

To help as you plan your travels, I and a team of travel experts are here to guide you in navigating the best beaches in Costa Rica so you can plan out your Costa Rica vacation in no time.

Below are the best beaches in Costa Rica so you can get your pura vida on in no time.

The Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Here is the best map of Costa Rica Beaches for you to reference as you, well, map out your Costa Rica travels. Enjoy!

#1: Espadilla Beach

Aerial view of Playa Espadilla in Quepos, Costa Rica
Aerial view of Espadilla Beach in Quepos

Some of the best beaches in Costa Rica can be found in Manuel Antonio, one of the smaller beach towns just south of the larger city of Quepos, right in the middle of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

There are quite a few stunning beaches to enjoy during your stay in Manuel Antonio, but one of the best beaches is Playa Espadilla, hands down. This pristine beach is very beautiful, with a long, wide stretch of white sand beach and swaying palm trees.

You can rent surfboards on the beach or even go parasailing. There are a few different food and drink vendors that walk around selling to beachgoers. Want fresh coconut juice straight from the tree? They’ve got you covered.

espadilla beach wayfare with pierre

All in all, it’s a fun, laid-back atmosphere, and the perfect beach to enjoy Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

Where to Stay: Parador Nature Resort and Spa

How to Get to Espadilla Beach: Fly into Quepos Airport (XQP) or San Jose (SJO), then take either a bus shuttle or rental car.

Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast

#2: Manuel Antonio Beach

Aerial view of the famous beach at Manuel Antonio

While Playa Espadilla is definitely a great option in the area THE most famous beach in Manuel Antonio is Manuel Antonio Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park without a doubt. Manuel Antonio National Park is on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and is famous for having a ton of exotic plants and animals to see that showcase the biodiversity that Costa Rica is known for.

In fact, you can often see Olive Ridley sea turtle nests on the beaches near the park! These sea turtles nest year-round, but you can typically see the baby sea turtles from October through December.

Beyond the many, many opportunities for wildlife sightings, the park also has three white sand beaches that are exclusively available for visitors to the national park, and the most gorgeous and easily accessible of these is Playa Manuel Antonio.

People relaxing at the beach
It’s truly unlike any other beach in the area, and the mix of soft sand and jungle nearby makes it even better.

The soft, white sand shores lead into beautiful blue waters and sit on a curved coastline. Because it’s in a national park, there are no services or amenities offered at the beach, but that just adds to the ambiance and charm.

Just watch out for the monkeys – they are everywhere in Manuel Antonio and are known to steal food or belongings from guests!

Capuchin monkey in costa rica
A Capuchin monkey in a tree in Costa Rica. Photo by Wayfare With Pierre

Quick note: Drones are not allowed at the beach. Trust me, I had to learn the hard way when I was turned away at the gate. I had to take a shuttle back to my hotel to leave it at home which cut into my time at the beach. Bummer, but hope this helps save you some time and trouble!

Manuel Antonio has an interesting geography, in that the beaches are set at the bottom of some large hills and cliffs. These hills provide beautiful views over the ocean, but they also mean that there are hardly any accommodations that are actually beachfront.

Where to Stay: Si Como No Resort, Spa and Wildlife Refuge

How to Get to Manuel Antonio: Fly into Quepos Airport (XQP) or San Jose (SJO), then take either a bus shuttle or rental car (20-min drive from XQP, 2.5 hour drive from SJO).

#3: Tamarindo Beach

Tamarindo Beach is easily one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, and definitely one of the most famous. The sand is a beautiful white, the water is a clear blue, and the luscious palm trees that lean over the beach are all an incredible sight to see.

On the beach, you’ll see many people swimming, as the ocean temperatures are comfortable year-round. As this is a family-friendly destination, you’ll see parents and their children boogie boarding and wading in the water.

Many flock to Tamarindo to surf, as well. There are many surf schools and even some surf-themed hostels in town. Tamarindo exudes the laid-back surfer vibe.

The Tamarindo Beach area also has beautiful spas and smaller beach clubs. My favorite is Langosta Beach Club. It offers a tranquil spa, fitness center, pool, beachfront and bar. The smoothies hit the spot on a warm day!

Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica

The town of Tamarindo, located in the Guanacaste Province, is built around the stunning beach. The town offers many great eateries. Some of my favorite low-key eateries are Shrimp Hole, Café Tico, and El Chiringuito, which is right on the beach. Both have great atmospheres.

Pangas Beach Club is a well-known sunset spot. The views of the pink and blue sunsets are incredible. As it gets dark, the ambiance under string lights adds to the steak meals. It sits on the north end of the beach and requires reservations.

Tamarindo is known as a party town. Many American and Canadian young adults flock to this stunning beach town. The Selina is a popular spot, as it offers a large open courtyard with a pool, bar, hammocks, and outdoor games.

Where to Stay: Jardin Del Eden Boutique Hotel

How to Get to Tamarindo: Fly into Liberia International Airport (LIR), then take a private shuttle or rental car (1-hour drive).

Recommended by Eleanor of Elevate Your Escapes

#4: Montezuma Beach

Located on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the small but lively town of Montezuma is home to the stunning Montezuma Beach. Although growing in popularity, the town is away from the traditional tourist route meaning you’re guaranteed fewer crowds and a relaxing time on this postcard-worthy beach. 

Despite its remote location, Montezuma is still full of life with many visitors heading there to get a true taste of ‘Pura Vida’. In fact, Montezuma

Surrounded by lush jungle and perfect palm trees, it doesn’t get more picturesque than Montezuma. The long stretch of white sand goes on for miles and there is plenty of space to relax and have some peace and quiet. Horse riding is a popular activity in Playa Montezuma. Gallop down the beach in search of hidden waterfalls and remote spots. 

The beach lies on the border of Cabo Blanco National Park, one of the most biodiverse spots in Costa Rica. The wildlife often strays out of the park meaning it’s not uncommon for monkeys to make an appearance on the beach. In addition, from May to December, thousands of turtles head to the beach to lay their eggs. If you visit at the right time, you may be able to watch or help release some of the baby turtles that emerge on the beach of Montezuma. 

Turtle sign in Montezuma Beach, Costa Rica

Once the sun sets, the town of Montezuma comes to life and there are parties and live music all around. While in Montezuma, be sure to check out the famous Montezuma Falls and head into Cabo Blanco National Park to experience remote and untouched jungle. 

There is ample accommodation available in Montezuma. Ranging from luxurious villas to backpacker hostels, there is something to suit everyone’s budget. The popular Calala Lodge is a short drive from the town and offers a relaxing jungle experience while still being close to the amenities of Montezuma. 

Where to Stay: Hotel Nya

How to Get to Playa Montezuma: Fly into Liberia International Airport (LIR) or San Jose International (SJO), then take a 25-minute domestic flight to Tambor Airport (TMU).

Recommended by Emily of Journey By Backpack

#5: Samara Beach

Aerial view of Samara Beach, Costa Rica

Samara Beach is easily one of the best beaches in northwest Costa Rica, hands down. This long, white-sand beach stretches for 3 miles (5 km) and is located right in the town of Samara in Guanacaste Province. In fact, the town is based around the beach, which is the main attraction!

One of the best things about Playa Samara is the gorgeous sunsets you can see here each evening. The sky lights up in beautiful hues of orange and pink! You can either just sit on the sand and enjoy the show or visit one of the bars or restaurants on the beach and grab a cocktail.

La Dolce Vita is one of the most popular beachside restaurants and they have plenty of seating including swings, bean bags, and tables. 

A beautiful sunset with a golden sandy shore at Playa Samara

Samara Beach is also one of the best beaches in Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean Coast for surfing, especially for beginners since the waves aren’t typically very big. You can rent a board right on the beach or join a lesson if you need to learn.

The great thing, though, is that the water is still calm enough in areas just to go for a swim. You can also rent a paddleboard and test your balance for something a little different from snorkeling. 

From the beach, you can also join kayaking tours that visit Chora Island just off the coast. Around the island is some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica. In fact, you can even see sea turtles here! If you don’t want to join a tour, you can also just rent a kayak and go on your own. 

Aside from the beach, Samara is one of the most popular places in Costa Rica for digital nomads, due to its many cafes and shops to remote work from, a laid-back small-town vibe, and great internet connectivity.

Where to Stay: The Hideaway Hotel

How to Get to Samara Beach: Fly into Liberia International Airport (LIR), then take a private shuttle or rental car (2-hour drive).

Recommended by Bailey of Costa Rica Travel Life

#6: Dominical Beach

Playa Dominical, Costa Rica

Tucked away on the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Playa Dominical is a long expanse of golden sand that makes up one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and in the southern province of Puntarenas, Dominical Beach is only a 20-minute drive North of Uvita, a popular backpacking town, and 45 minutes from the famous Manuel Antonio, making it the perfect stop on a Costa Rica road trip.

The main draw to Dominical Beach is its consistent waves, which are perfect for surfing. Surfboards and bodyboards are available to hire all over town and lessons are available for newbie surfers too. Bordered by a tropical forest, the surrounding area is also great for hiking. It’s worth keeping your eyes on the treetops as wildlife can often be spotted here, including monkeys, sloths, and scarlet macaws.

As an added bonus, thundering waterfalls and diverse National Parks are a day trip away. All day, every day, market stalls pop up along Dominical’s beachfront. Featuring locally produced, handmade items, these markets are perfect for a spot of souvenir shopping.

And on Friday mornings, an eco farmers market offers fresh produce and organic goods. As well as a surf school, the town is also home to a yoga retreat, scuba diving shop, beach bars, and restaurants.

Playa Dominical is easily accessible by car from towns including Jaco, Quepos, and Uvita, along the winding Pacific coastal road. While the vibrant capital San José is less than 3 hours’ drive away.

There’s a large, free car parking lot right by the beach. It fills up quickly during the day but is makes for the perfect place to camp in a camper at night. Alternatively, Hotel Tropical Sands Dominical Eco Inn is a great sustainable place to spend a night or two.

Where to Stay: Hotel Tropical Sands Dominical Eco Inn

How to Get to Playa Dominical: Fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), then take a private shuttle or rental car (4-hour drive).

Recommended by Lucy and Dan of Thoroughly Travel

#7: Playa Manzanillo

The abandoned ship at Playa Manzanillo makes the beach even more IG-worthy!

Playa Manzanillo, situated along the Caribbean coast in the Limon province, is a hidden treasure and one of the best of the country’s Caribbean beaches for snorkeling and swimming. This idyllic beach stands as a testament to nature’s beauty, offering a unique haven for aquatic enthusiasts seeking a serene and immersive experience.

Playa Manzanillo’s claim to fame lies in its remarkable snorkeling and swimming conditions. The calm and crystal-clear waters create a natural aquarium, allowing visitors to explore the underwater world with ease. The vibrant coral reefs teeming with a kaleidoscope of marine life, from neon-hued fish to graceful sea turtles, making every snorkeling excursion a captivating adventure.

The gradual slope of the shoreline into the sea ensures a safe and enjoyable swimming experience for visitors of all ages. Families with children can bask in the tranquil waters, knowing that the gentle waves and shallow depths provide a secure environment.

Snorkelers can simply wade into the water and embark on an exploration of the marine wonders that lie just beneath the surface.

Manzanillo’s beachside setting is also a key factor in its appeal. Flanked by dense rainforests, the beach offers a soothing contrast between the lush greenery and the turquoise waters, providing a sense of natural harmony that enhances the overall experience.

While the beach is perfect for snorkeling and swimming year-round, the best time to visit aligns with the dry season, which typically spans from December to April. During these months, visitors can expect sunny skies, calm seas, and optimal underwater visibility for an unforgettable aquatic adventure.

Where to Stay: Almonds & Corals

How to Get to Playa Manzanillo: Fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), then take a private shuttle or rental car (2.5 hour drive).

Recommended by Victoria of Guide Your Travel

#8: Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal has some seriously soft sand and crystal-clear waters

If you’re looking for beauty and peace, Playa Conchal is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for you! This gorgeous stretch of white sand is located in the Guanacaste province on the Pacific Coast and is famous for its exceptionally clear turquoise waters and unique shoreline.

Instead of soft sand, Playa Conchal is composed of millions of tiny crushed seashells, making it look like it’s sparkling. Another bonus, it’s less crowded than some of the country’s other famous beaches, making it an ideal spot if you’re looking to relax.

The beach is mainly frequented by resort guests from the Westin Conchal Resort and The W Costa Rica, but you don’t have to stay at one of these resorts to visit it as the beach is open to the public, but it’s a little tricky to get to it.

Unfortunately, there isn’t direct public access; the easiest way to get there is via Playa Brasilito. You can park your car in Brasilito and walk to Playa Conchal.

The beach is gorgeous year-round, but for the best weather, plan your visit between December – March. While exploring the area, be sure to check out the little town of Tamarindo. It’s a great place to learn how to surf, and it’s home to one of the few vegan resorts in Costa Rica, Mother Earth. For direct access to Conchal Beach, you’ll be best off staying at the Westin Conchal Resort.

Where to Stay: Westin Reserva Conchal Resort

How to Get to Conchal Beach: Fly into Liberia International Airport (LIR), then take a domestic flight to Tamarindo Airport (TNO).

Recommended by Rebecca of Veggies Abroad

#9: Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca in Costa Rica

Playa Blanca is one of Costa Rica’s best beaches, not least because it’s in the glorious Cahuita National Park on the southern Caribbean coast of the country.  It’s backed by lush jungle and there’s heaps of wildlife here.

This is no manicured beach– this secluded beach is wild lovely and natural. This park and beach are really easy to access and it’s not at all touristy – it’s one of the top places to visit from Puerto Viejo – it’s just 17 kilometers from the town.  Entrance to the beach (and the park) is free, although donations are requested, and if you enter near the Puerto Vargas sector it’s US$5 for foreign visitors.

The beach here is white sand and calm waters. There are coral reefs that you can snorkel to, but only with a guide (it helps to protect the expansive coral reef).

The wildness of this beach and the lack of facilities make it one of the best beaches in Costa Rica.  Add to that the ability to spot wildlife directly from the beach and it’s amazing.  The best times of the year to visit Playa Blanca are from February until April and September to October.

Where to Stay: Hotel Punta Leona

How to Get to Blanca Beach: Fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), then take a private shuttle or rental car (3-hour drive).

Recommended by Sarah of A Social Nomad

#10: Playa Cocles

Playa Cocles in Costa Rica
Aerial view of Playa Cocles, one of the best beaches in Costa Rica

Without a doubt, one of the best beaches on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast is Playa Cocles. 

Situation just a stone’s throw from the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, this beach has everything you could possibly need. From great waves allowing you to surf to your heart’s content, or relaxing undisturbed on the white sandy beach, Play Cocles is definitely one you should visit! 

The town itself is only a 10-minute walk from the beach making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and one of the many scrumptious local restaurants. There are also loads of local shops you can pop your head into where you can pick up some beautiful souvenirs! 

If you want to get out of the town then there is always the nearby La Ceiba Reserva National to explore. The primary rainforest reserve is 49 hectares and serves as the release site for the Jaguar Rescue Centre.

You can book your very own tour of the reserve, between 9 am and 2 pm where you may even catch a glimpse of a Jaguar!! 

The Jaguar Rescue Center is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured, and orphaned animals. With a focus on monkeys, sloths, other mammals, birds, and reptiles; the JRC provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care, and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the sea of the Caribbean.

People walking on the beach at Playa Cocles in Costa Rica

Also, you’re right within reach of Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, which has tons of hiking and walking trails. You can often see howler monkeys, sloths, anteaters, pacas, iguanas, and many other forms of wildlife here.

The best hotel nearby has to be Selina Hostel Puerto Viejo. With its array of different dormitories and spacious private rooms, there’s the perfect room for you no matter your preferences. 

Selina also has an on-site cafe, pool, and lounge area making it ideal if you’re a digital nomad or looking to spend some days soaking up the sun and relaxing!

Where to Stay: Selina Hostel Puerto Viejo

How to Get to Playa Cocles: Fly into San Jose International (SJO), then take a domestic flight to Limon Airport (LIO).

Recommended by Alex & Leah of Alex & Leah On Tour

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