The 19 Best Beaches in Costa Rica

If scenes of impressive volcanoes, colorful jungles, mysterious cloud forests, and pristine shorelines lined with palm trees immediately come to mind when you hear the words “Costa Rica,” you’re not alone. Costa Rica beaches are among the most beautiful in Latin America, whether you’re a fan of soaking up the sun from their sprawling sands or taking on epic waves alongside surfers from around the world.

With warm waters year-round, an unparalleled tourism infrastructure sporting a number of amazing beach hotels, and limitless attractions spanning two coasts—the Pacific and the Caribbean—Costa Rica is home to some of the best beaches in the world. They’re remarkably easy to visit, but with nearly two-thirds of the country’s borders consisting of gorgeous coastlines, where should you start? Here’s a look at some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, no matter which side you decide to visit.

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Nicoya Peninsula

Nicoya Peninsula

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Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Okay, obviously the Nicoya Peninsula isn't a single Costa Rica beach. But the country's largest peninsula is ringed by so many blissful strips of sand, it really deserves a top 10 list of its own. Besides livelier beachside cities and top backpacker destinations like Montezuma, Tamarindo, and Mal País, the Nicoya Peninsula boasts many Pacific beaches that are far more remote and relaxing, like Playa Hermosa, Playa Sámara, Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, and Playa Grande. Keep reading for a closer look at some of our favorites in this special part of Costa Rica.

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Manuel Antonio

Beach in Manuel antonio

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Manuel Antonio Beach, Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is not only one of the most beautiful Costa Rica beaches, it’s also located inside one of the most incredible national parks in the country, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park). Imagine: perfect horseshoe bays bordered by soft white sands, dazzling blue-green waters, and hilltops piled with jungle and streaming waterfalls. Whether you’re into diving, snorkeling, surfing (or learning to surf), kayaking, hiking, or zip lining, don't forget to relax and enjoy the view. Note that there is a fee to enter the park and access the beach, but just five minutes north, you'll find Espadilla Beach, which is free to enjoy.

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Playa Dominical

Sets of waves crash into a bay.

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Dominical, Puntarenas Province, Savegre de Aguirre, Costa Rica

Playa Dominical, located about 30 miles south of Manuel Antonio National Park, is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for surfing. A number of surf camps and surf shops have sprung up to take advantage of the lively lefts and rights. Even if you don't surf, you're sure to adore Playa Dominical's lush green landscapes, rowdy nightlife scene, and relatively uncrowded sands. If you’re seeking more seclusion, head 15 minutes north to Matapalo Beach, a particularly quiet stretch of sand known for private horseback rides.

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Playa Montezuma


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Montezuma, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Located on the inner base of the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma is a gathering place for Costa Rica's most idiosyncratic locals and travelers. Dreadlocked Rastafarians, tattooed bohemians, sun-kissed surfers, and other examples of exceptional beauty are the norm at this picturesque little beach, which also boasts tide pools, forested waterfalls, and an array of wildlife if you’re hoping for a Capuchin monkey or Costa Rican crocodile sighting.

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Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo

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Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

While Playa Tamarindo, one of the best beaches in Central America, offers world-class shopping, dining, and coastal amusements, budget travelers might find themselves priced out (when I traveled there in college, I grocery shopped and cooked in a communal kitchen to save money). That said, Playa Tamarindo's natural perks make the splurge worth it. On the beautiful beaches adjacent to Tamarindo, giant leatherback sea turtles, among other types of turtles, clamber ashore each year to lay their eggs.

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Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, Costa Rica

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Corcovado Beach, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Corcovado is considered to be the jewel of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Its beaches are windswept beauties, with dark sands shaded by towering palms, while the mountainous inland jungles of Corcovado National Park are home to some of the country's most distinctive wildlife. No trip to Corcovado is complete without a boat excursion to the nearby Isla del Caño, which offers fantastic diving as well as the opportunity to examine the island's ancient stone spheres.

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Jacó Beach

Jaco Beach

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J96C+RGP, C. Central, Provincia de Puntarenas, Jacó, Costa Rica

Located right in the center of Costa Rica's Pacific Coast lies Jacó Beach, a surfer's mecca with no shortage of attractions for travelers. It's easy to reach (it's just a two-hour drive from the capital, San José), and boasts a booming nightlife and international dining scene, complete with casinos. Thanks to the budget-friendly backpacker surf crowd, accommodations and amenities span the entire price spectrum; at Jacó, no one is left out. Also worth checking out is Playa Hermosa, a beautiful beach and resort town located about 10 minutes away that’s better suited to families or those looking to swim, snorkel, fish, sail, or scuba dive.

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Mal País

Mal pais

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Playa Mal País, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

While Mal País' own beaches are great for stringing up a hammock and swaying in the sun, surf culture is the principal philosophy here, as well in the coastal neighboring town of Santa Teresa. If you're not a wave worshiper, there’s still plenty to do—for a real treat, book a boat tour and watch dolphins, manta rays, and other creatures thrive in the area's protected waters. Travelers can also hike to the Montezuma waterfalls and take a flying leap or take on an adventurous four-hour trek through Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve to enjoy its pristine, white sand beach.

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Tambor Beach

Tambor Beach

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Tambor Beach, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Northeast of Montezuma, Tambor's crescent-shaped bay, called Bahia Ballena, was once frequented by whales. Now, it's frequented by travelers, enough to keep the gentle giants out at sea, but not enough to drive them away completely. The bay's mild waters make it one of Costa Rica's best beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Tambor's inland areas are fun to explore on horseback, while its pinkish-gray beaches are perfect for a barefoot stroll. Boats also launch from Tambor Beach to Tortuga Island, home to its own immaculate beaches and unparalleled scuba diving opportunities.

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Playa Carrillo

Palm trees on the beach at Playa Carrillo in Costa Rica

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Playa Carrillo, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

As far as off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica beaches, it doesn’t get any better than Playa Carrillo in Southern Guanacaste. Located along the Nicoya Peninsula about 10 minutes south of popular and lively Playa Sámara, you won’t find much here except unspoiled sands, beautiful blue water, a sea of palm trees, and gentle waves perfect for swimming and wading. Vendors sell shaved ice, coconut water, and other wares from carts, while locals celebrate weekends and holidays with barbecues and campouts by the beach.

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Esterillos Oeste

A sign points to Esterillos Oeste on the road in Costa Rica

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Puntarenas Province, Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica

Just south of Jacó Beach (25-minute drive) and Playa Hermosa (15-minute drive) is Esterillos Oeste, a lovely and quiet black sand beach not many travelers make time to visit despite it only being a 90-minute ride from San José in Puntarenas. Wade in the waves but be careful of riptides. The beach is a great spot to spread out and have a picnic or check out the many tide pools along its northern end at low tide to see tiny crabs and fish that live there.

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Playa Biesanz

Beautiful beach scene in Playa Biesanz, Costa Rica

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Biesanz Beach, Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica

A great spot for swimming due to its location near a small cove by Quepos Point, Playa Biesanz is known both for snorkeling and for being a hard-to-find spot frequented mostly by locals. It is, however, not sandy, so make sure you’re wearing water shoes so you won’t be bothered by the rocks underfoot. Otherwise, the waters at this secluded crescent-shaped Costa Rica beach are shallow and calm, perfect if you’re looking for a pretty place to take a dip after a long day.

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Uvita Beach (Whale Tale Beach)

Overlooking Uvita Beach in Costa Rica

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Uvita Beach, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Instagrammers, rejoice! This beautiful stretch of sand, which, from above, closely resembles a whale’s tail, is located within Southern Costa Rica’s Marino Ballena National Park. You’ll get the best view of it at low tide, when both ends of the tail are visible. Otherwise, it’s a great beach to take a swim, as waters are calm, and quite popular with families, especially those with little ones in tow.

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Playa Conchal

Overlooking Playa Conchal in Costa Rica

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Playa Conchal, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

If you’re looking for a quiet beach to spend a day lounging, swimming or snorkeling along the reef, head to Playa Conchal, an idyllic spot in a calm bay about a 40-minute drive from Playa Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula. Be aware that the beach is made up of millions of tiny crushed seashells, which give its sand a pinkish hue but can be hard on your feet, so bring along a good pair of sandals.

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Tortuguero, Limón Province, Costa Rica

At the helm of Costa Rica's Caribbean side, Tortuguero is every eco-tourist's fantasy. Travelers can experience any number of outdoor attractions, including tours down jungle canals in dugout canoes, scenic hiking trails, and guided safaris. Sixteen of Costa Rica's endangered animal species—like tapirs, ocelots, manatees, and green sea turtles—live nearby in Tortuguero National Park, the site for which the area is named. Tortuguero's beaches are also perfect for sunbathing if you’d rather lay out and enjoy a relaxing day along the water.

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Beaches South of Limón

Palm Trees on Coast

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Limón Province, Limon, Costa Rica

South of the port city of Limón heading toward the Panama border on the Caribbean side, a number of stunning beaches are the personification of the low-key Caribbean lifestyle and are impressive enough to warrant their own list. Cahuita National Park is an excellent place to camp, if you don't mind waking to the sounds of monkey chatter. Farther down the coast, dramatic sunrises await at Puerto Viejo, while in Manzanillo, a protected area with tropical rainforests, palm swamps, coral reefs, and of course, idyllic Caribbean beaches, can be found. The next few entries will break down some of our favorite spots south of Limón.

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Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Waves hitting the sand at Playa Negra in Costa Rica

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P5P2+XJG, La Union, Limón, Cahuita, Costa Rica

In the southeastern part of the country along the Caribbean coast, you’ll find a smattering of beautiful beaches centered around Cahuita Parque Nacional (Cahuita National Park) that are definitely worth a visit. If black sand beaches made of ancient volcanic rock are your thing, head to Playa Negra, where the waters are gentle enough for beginner surfers and swimmers. Surfing enthusiasts, meanwhile, will love Playa Salsa Brava, known for its legendary break. The town of Puerto Viejo is a great base for exploring both, with a funky international dining and nightlife scene and laid-back Caribbean vibes.

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Playa Punta Uva

An aerial view of Playa Punta Uva Arricife in Costa Rica

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J8R5+5J5, Limón Province, Punta Uva, Costa Rica

About a 15-minute drive south of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Playa Punta Uva is a peaceful place to park with the Caribbean on one side and palm trees and jungle on the other. See if you can spot the sloths in the trees or set up a hammock and watch local fishermen come home with their catch. With basic accommodations and a handful of restaurants, this off-the-beaten-path beach town is also popular among surfers, here to hit the waves at nearby Playa Arrecife.

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Playa Manzanillo

Playa Manzanillo in Costa Rica

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Playa Manzanillo, Limón Province, Costa Rica

Just a short drive from Playa Punta Uva and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is Playa Manzanillo, home to beautiful white sands, blue waters, and idyllic palm trees. Kayak among the mangroves or break out your snorkeling or diving equipment to explore the vast coral reef system offshore. Remember to keep an eye out for dolphins and manatees; this beach is part of the Gandoca–Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge after all.

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The 19 Best Beaches in Costa Rica