Best Beaches in Costa Rica: Tucked between the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, Costa Rica is a holiday-makers dream. From the white sandy beaches to the perfect waves for surfing and incredible wildlife spotting opportunities, visiting Costa Rica is everything you could hope for and then some. There are plenty of natural attractions including tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, beautiful hiking trails, waterfalls and national parks, setting you up for lots of adventure and places to discover.
With more than 300 beaches at your disposal it can be hard to pick which one to visit. Each beach is suited to a different kind of traveler and offers a different atmosphere, amenities and activities. From secluded beaches away from the crowds to vibrant, festive beach clubs and surfing paradise, we are narrowing it down to 12 of the best beaches in Costa Rica.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica on Caribbean Coast
The beaches on the Caribbean coastline are like something out of a postcard with creamy sand and glassy turquoise oceans framed by gently swaying palm trees. Turtles are also common on this side of Costa Rica.
You will find Playa Negra is the seaside town of Cahuita, well-known for its expansive national park and coral reefs. The sand at Playa Negra is a unique inky black, one of Costa Rica’s few black-sand beaches, due to volcanic activity nearby. The sea is gentle enough for a pleasant swim but further out the waves are robust enough for beginners to give surfing a go.
This is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for watching nesting turtles. The protected beach offers a sandy safe haven for the local turtle population and is only accessible by boat or plane, generally for guided tours only.
Playa Chiquita is a small and uncrowded beach with gentle waves perfect for swimming and for families with kids. Horseback riding along this stretch of beach is common and a much-loved activity for visitors. Because the beach is so secluded, it is favored by free-spirited beach goers who prefer sunbathing in the nude, so be prepared to cover innocent eyes!
Playa Punta Uva
If all you picture when you think of Costa Rica is clear blue water lapping powdery white sand, Playa Punta ticks all the boxes. The beach is spacious and dotted with palm trees to provide shade for all who are lucky enough to visit. Playa Punta is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for snorkeling and for adventurous tourists who want to brave coastal hiking trails.
Playa Salsa Brava
Playa Salsa Brava is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for surfing with its infamous challenging break. The beach offers the perfect spot to hang out while watching the brave surfers or catch one of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see.
The waters here are turquoise and like glass, gently gliding over the coral reefs for a top-drawer snorkeling adventure. The beach lies alongside a tropical rainforest making for interesting discoveries and opportunities to explore. There are also some superb seafood restaurants in town serving out-of-this-world seafood dishes.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica on Pacific Coast
The Pacific coastline is more rugged with a large number of more secluded beaches and plenty of natural attractions to explore for adventure seekers.
Millions of tiny seashells give the sand on Playa Conchal its pinkish hue, while it’s calm waters and flourishing coral reefs make it a great spot for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is fringed by lush forest and with no neighboring town, it provides a tranquil escape for travelers seeking peace and quiet.
As one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica on the Pacific coastline, Playa Sámara checks every box. The surf is excellent, the nightlife is booming and the town exudes an exclusive small town vibe with friendly locals and amazing food.
Surrounded by a dense, green National Park, Tamarindo is anything but conspicuous. There’s something for everyone here with great waves for surfing close to the shore, opportunities to spot nesting turtles and vibey restaurants and bars only a short amble down the beach.
Playa Mal País
Expect to find a sleepy stretch of white sand beaches and azure waters lapping the shore. Playa Mal País is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for fishing, with an abundance of tropical marine life. It is also a very safe beach for solo female travelers and bird watching enthusiasts. Commonly spotted species include herons, parrots and falcons.
While it was once a favored stopover for pirates (and Jack Sparrow!), this beautiful island is now a popular tourist destination with pristine white sand beaches, excellent scuba diving, snorkeling tours, hiking trails and canopy tours. While in the water keep an eye out for stingrays, angelfish and sunken ships! The most popular full-day tours depart from San Jose and Jacó Beach.
From booming nightlife to being a surfing-enthusiasts dream, Jacó Beach is an active beach town with plenty for visitors to do. Two worlds collide here with posh hotels and art galleries next to laid back beach shops and cafes. Besides the stunning beach itself, there is a national park, various waterfalls and scenic hiking trails to explore. Restaurants are a mix of fine dining and casual eateries, all with a heavy focus on seafood dishes.
These are just some of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica where each beach caters to different preferences. Whether you visit a quiet escape like Playa Manzanillo or a bustling coastal hub like Jacó Beach, there will always be the perfect beach to visit either for the day or for an extended stay.