Costa Rica is this fascinating country in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama. It is well known for respecting the environment and its “Pura Vida” (Pure Life). Protecting wildlife is one of the most important political and social topics in the country. That obviously means every landscape is breathtaking and authentic.
If you decide to drive along the coasts, you will see that each of the 300 beaches are perfectly preserved. White sand, black sand, surfing beaches, or family beaches, on the Pacifc Coast or on the Caribbean Coast, you will love each of them for sure.
First things first, rent a car in Costa Rica, and let us take you see the 10 most beautiful beaches of Costa Rica
Pacific Coast Beaches
Most of the beaches on the Pacific Coast are famous for their waves and attract surfers from all around the world. If you plan to travel with your family and want smaller and quieter beaches, you will find them, do not worry even though you can go on a “surfing beach” for a swim too. If you do, be careful, the currents can be strong, you can check the weather before you go.
Playa Tamarindo - North Pacific
It is probably one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica and more especially in Guanacaste. In fact, this beach gives you access to the Marino Las Baulas National Park. Waters are crystalclear and the spot is ideal for scuba diving or snorkelling. You will see hundreds of different fish. For those who would rather stay both feet on the land, you can try a yoga class on the sand. This sport is a classic in Costa Rica.
At Tamarindo Beach, you will find all the amenities you need to spend an entire perfect day. That includes several very nice restaurants next to the beach.
Playa Tamarindo is located in the city center. Therefore, it is very easy to go there and it is usually the first beach people go to when they arrive in Costa Rica as the road from the airport leads straight to it.
If you are looking for more intimacy and calm, Playa Flamingo, not so far from here, is a very nice beach where families also love to go to.
Our piece of advice : We love to go to Tamarindo Beach and Flamingo Beach at the end of the day for the sunset… You would need to be there before 5.30pm to enjoy this beautiful moment and see the sky on fire. Some of you might see the green light… it is the last ray of sun before it disappears behind the Ocean… Magic ! One of the activities definitely not to be missed in Costa Rica !
Playa Samara - Nicoya Peninsula
Playa Samara is located on Nicoya Peninsula (Center Pacific). It is well known for being a very calm beach and families love spending time there during weekends. Tourists also like going to this wild beach, and we get why. What would you think about chilling-out on the beach, drinking a mango pina colada ? Exactly… That’s what we thought.
Many other activities are possible on Samara Beach. The best of all is to go horse riding in the water at sunset time… Let your dream come true !
Our piece of advice : You need to check the tide schedule before you go to Playa Samara. Even though you can go for a swim at any time, it is better to go there at low tide for the horse ride… Just saying.
Next to playa Samara, you can go to Carrillo Beach. It is the typical picture-postcard beach : White sand, crystal clear water, palm trees… You can stay there all day long and will even find picnic tables.
We suggest you arrive early enough to be able to find a palm tree to get in the shade. Don’t forget to bring water and mineral sunscreen.
Playa Hermosa - Center Pacific (Jaco)
Playa Hermosa is often considered as being the most ecological beach in Costa Rica. Why is that ? The beach's first goal is to protect fauna and flora. The quality of its water is absolutely perfect and makes this spot ideal for snorkelling. You are about to swim in a giant opensky aquarium.
Hermosa Beach is huge (more than 6 miles long). Waves can be very high especially from April to November. Yes, Playa Hermosa is a surfing paradise. Every year, national competitions are organized. Even if you don’t surf, you should come see it. The show is impressive.
As on almost every beach of the country, you will easily find a restaurant not too far away.
Playa Ballena - South Pacific (Uvita)
You will find Playa Ballena in the Marino Ballena National Park, next to Uvita. In this park, strict rules have to be respected to preserve wildlife :
- No car or any motorized vehicles are allowed inside the park
- Firecamps are forbidden
- It is forbidden to collect seashells, corals etc.
You will only need to bring your bathing suit, towel, and snorkel kit to enjoy the beauty of the Ocean. If you come between December and April, you might have the chance to see one or two whales.
You can fly your drone above the beach and the park. You will see the form of a whale tale shaped by the Ocean. that gave this name to the park…
Playa Manuel Antonio - Center Pacific (Quepos)
At Manuel Antonio National Park, you will find four beautiful beaches :
- Playa Manuel Antonio
Local people say they are the most beautiful beaches of the country and love to go there during weekends.
The most famous beach is Playa Manuel Antonio. It is the perfect picture-postcard beach (another one) : white sand, palm trees, tropical forest, emerald water… Do you visualize it ? Ok perfect. The Natural Park is very famous for its coral reef. You should definitely go there with your snorkel kit, you will not regret it.
Be careful, you will see monkeys and Racoons coming around your bags, looking for a sandwich or some biscuits… Don’t forget, it is forbidden to feed animals in any Natural Park of Costa Rica.
The enter-fees are $16 per person older than 12. If you don’t want to pay, you can go to Playa Biezans, another very nice beach, next to the Park. As it is outside of the park, it is free to access, and you can drive there, whereas cars are forbidden inside the park. Good to know right ?
Caribbean Coast Beaches
The Eastern Coast is less touristy than the Pacific Coast. It means it is wilder and we love it ! Beaches are absolutely gorgeous, nice, quiet, and authentik. Europeans usually prefer to go to this part of the country whether American People would rather go to the North or Center Pacific Coast.
Punta Uva Beach - Puerto Viejo de Limon
Punta Uva Beach is very close to Puerto Viejo (only 6 miles away) and is one of the most beautiful beaches of the country. White sand, mangrove swamp, green forest : the water is beautiful and you cannot resist going there for a swim. This beach is actually one of the best of the country for swimming as the water is very calm and beautiful.
Our piece of advice : Before you go to Punta Uva Beach, you want to check the tide Schedule. It’s better to go at low tide so that you will have more space on the sand.
You can also rent a kayak and go on the Rio Ernesto, the river right next to the beach. If you are lucky, you might see river turtles as well as monkeys and sloths. The beach is very calm except on Sundays as local families like to come here for a nice day.
Playa Chiquita - Puerto Viejo de Limon
If you like doing nothing on the beach or swimming for a while in steady water, you would want to go to Playa Chiquita. Why is that ? Many natural pools were built by the ocean and Coral reefs that protect you from currents. The beach is lined with the tropical Forest. Pura Vida ! Open your eyes you will probably see sloths and monkeys.
Playa Arrecife - Puerto Viejo de Limon
The name Playa Arrecife is due to all the reefs and small islands facing the beach. This peaceful beach is perfect for families. The ocean is very calm and swimming in it is pure perfection. It will be easy to find a spot for your towel under a tree.
Arrecife Beach is next to Puerto Viejo in the South part of the country. It’s better to ask your GPS to lead you there as the signals on the road are not very clear…
Playa Cocles - Puerto Viejo de Limon
You will love Playa Cocles ! This beautiful 2.5-miles-long beach is the perfect spot for surfers. Plus, people usually go to Playa Negra, not so far away, so you will have plenty of space for yourself. If you want to surf there, it is better to go during the week when it is less crowded. Try to go to Playa Cocles in the morning as the waves are usually better at this time of the day.
If you prefer to swim, Playa Cocles is also a very nice spot for snorkeling. Don’t swim too far away from the beach as the current can be strong.
Our piece of advice : The further South you go, the quieter the beach is. You will see that people often stay at the entrance of the beach.
Playa Cocles is only 1.2 mile South of Puerto Viejo. The quality of the road is ok, you don’t need to rent 4x4 to go there. However, do not rent a very small car either in case you have surfing boards to bring with you.
You will not find a parking spot. In this area, people park their cars along the road.
Playa Grande - Cahuita
Playa Grande is a beautiful beach located between Limon and Cahuita (South Caribbean Coast). The beach is famous in the area as being a very good surfing spot. You just need to be careful with the currents, but the waves are not so hard to catch and even beginners can have fun there.
If you’d rather stay out of the water, that’s fine, you’ll find something else to do on this beach. A 4.3-mile hiking trail (round trip) line the beach. It’s an easy walk in a very nice area.
Playa Grande is adapted for everybody of every age. We never met someone who disliked it.