Here is my pick for the best beaches in Costa Rica, a country that will always stick in my mind (and heart) as one of my favorite places in the world. Yes, Costa Rica has amazing low-budget-friendly beaches, beautiful, untouched rain forests and countless exotic animals, but the reason I fell in love with it is because it was the very first country I ever traveled abroad to. Basically, the great Costa Rica beaches are directly responsible for the permanent nomadic lifestyle I have today.
The best beaches in Costa Rica are a wonderful mix of hippies, surfers, scuba divers, yogies and nature lovers, and if you happen to be all of these things, you’re in heaven! All of Costa Rica’s beaches would take a life time to discover, but thankfully you can easily find one perfectly suited to you, and be able to maintain a low budget in paradise! Visit one or visit them all, it doesn’t matter since you can’t really go wrong in what one of these Costa Rica beaches you choose!
I fell in love with the beaches of Manuel Antonio, the cloud forests of Monteverde and The volcano of Arenal. Costa Rica invented and perfected the “pura vida” vibe, that all nations should strive for. This post is dedicated to highlighting all of the world-class beaches in Costa Rica, that you wont want to miss!
Best Beaches in Costa Rica
1. Manuel Antonio
I’ll list Manuel Antonio as one of my favorite Costa Rica beaches, because I spent the most time here. When you get here you will see why. Imagine world class horse shoe beaches nestled in between monkey and sloth filled jungles, and an ocean with year-round warm waters, and you’ll begin to see the appeal, in the best of Costa Rica. The are the popular beaches, such as the main one next to the national park, and then there are hidden, not-so-well known ones such as Playa Biezans, that only a local can show you.
Manuel Antonio is one of the easiest and best beaches to get to from the capital, Jaco being the only one closer, and when it comes to listing the best beaches in Costa Rica, you can’t leave this one out. Whether you rent a car, take a taxi, or hit the bus station from San Jose, you will be on the paradise in a couple hours or less! You will pass through Jaco and then the cozy little town of Quepose, before getting into MA. If you need a place to stay in Manuel Antonio, there are many great hotels to choose from, both luxury and budget, so here are two recommendations that you will NOT regret staying at: One budget, one luxury.
2. Playa Uvita
When I decided to go from Manuel Antonio to the Panamanian border on the Pacific coast, I accidentally discovered this amazing beach. It was one of the most beautiful beach I’ve seen, and it was huge. It must be a mile long, and is in the shape of a whale’s tale. Probably the greatest and most surprising thing about it was that there were NO people there. Not even locals. I could not believe that I had such a huge stretch of world-class beach to myself, and I had to stay a while and do some snorkeling. Don’t miss one of the best Costa Rica beaches there is. The sand was amazing as well as the snorkeling. When I had had too much sun I sent to the edge of the jungle and hacked away at a coconut I found, and watched the sunset. I even seen some dolphins paying off shore. It is definitely a very serene and tranquil beauty to discover. One of the best of Costa Rica. There is local transport in the way of VERY cheap local chicken buses that run up and down the coast, and it being such a tiny country, you wont have too long a ride. Obviously having your own car would be the most fun, as you can stop anywhere along the way, at the many other hidden beach towns between Manuel Antonio and Golfito. Accommodation is scarce in this not-so-visited town of Uvita, but I would definitely recommend the few places there are.
You will be able to get away from typical gallo pinto here in Tortuguero, with its strong Afro-Caribbean influence, that is noticeable in the atmosphere as well as the cuisine. Nearby is the national park that is famous for its lush rain forests, crocodile filled canals, and unique species. Toruguero is also one of the most important green turtle breeding grounds as well. You will be sure to see a large and diverse amount of rare birds monkeys and fish here.
There are no roads leading to Tortuguero, so you either have to take a short flight from San Jose, or canal boats from Porto Limon. There is an amazing abundance of beautiful Costa Rica beaches and spectacular wildlife attractions. The best of Costa Rica. When it comes to the accommodation options, there are only a handful, and they aren’t the cheapest in the country. Here are a couple I recommend.
Jaco is the go-to for surfer and beach lovers, and is the closest beach to the capital of San Jose. It might not be the cheapest beach in Costa Rica, and its probably the most visited beach in Costa Rica, but there is a good reason for it. The beach is world class and beautiful. The town is relatively big for Costa Rica, meaning there is a lot more to do when it comes to excursions, nightlife, water sports, and eating. I personally enjoyed a guided ATV tour of the beaches and surrounding hills and jungle, a very long zip-line trip, some great diving and snorkeling, and some awesome seafood. There will be no problem getting to Jaco beaches, as there are many buses heading that way for very cheap. And once you are there I would highly recommend a place called Tsunami, if you like sushi, because it was the best I ever had anywhere! Best of Costa Rica. There are many places to stay in Jaco, and here I will list a few great ones, both budget and luxury, for you too choose from. Click on their links for more information or to book a stay with them! Any one you choose will be just minutes from one of the best of Costa Rica beaches!
5. Playa Tamarindo
Like Jaco, Tamarindo is another very popular spot in Costa Rica. World-class beaches, top-notch accommodations, lively nightlife and many guided tours are just a few of the reasons that this town is one of Costa Ricas most visited. Even someone who doesn’t travel much will feel right at home and relaxed in this paradise. That said, budget minded and low-key backpackers might steer away from Tamarindo’s more touristy elements. One thing is for sure, you will never be bored in Tamarindo.
There is no end to the fun things to do here. All levels of scuba divers and surfers will love it here, as well as people wanting to try sport fishing, sea kayaking, wind surfing, jet skiing and much more. If the sort of holiday you seek is an action packed days with luxurious and pampered nights with amazing eats in between, then Tamarindo is where you’re heading. If you’re looking for Costa Rica things to do in January, this is it.
Accommodation is aplenty here, and can be difficult to know what one is actually the best for you. Here are a couple of my recommendations, but if they don’t look right for you I’ll also include another link where you can browse through the best and cheapest options yourself. One of the best places in Costa Rica.
6. Mal Pais
Located on the south west tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and one of the best places in Costa Rica; the town of Mal Pais and its beaches is about as far off the grid as it get in Costa Rica. It is known for being a great surf destination, and the big swells attest to that. The stretches of beach that are Mal Pais and Santa Teresa are about as laid back and “pura vida” as it gets. Mal Pais, though it offers much fewer tourist attractions and activities, is much less developed and visited than Santa Teresa. It is one of my favorite areas to just kick back and relax, without being bothered. There are a few tours you can do, including horse riding and canopy tours, and Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve is only 6km away and can make an excellent day trip from Mal pais. The real treasure is the long stretches of nice sandy beaches, lined with dark green jungle with energetic monkeys everywhere. Getting there: Mal pais is accessible by road via Highway 160, or you can take the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera or Naranjo Beach, and ride a bus or drive the rest of the way. Flights to the nearby town of Tambor are also available via San Jose and Liberia. Where to stay in Mal Pais: Here are a couple of my recommendation of where to stay in Mal Pais, but feel free to click the link at the end if you want to scroll through more!
Costa Rica beaches don’t get much better than this. Over to the Caribbean coast, you will feel an ever more relaxed and “pura vida” vibe then you did on the Pacific side! Just 43 km south of Limon on the Carribean coast, Cahuita’s a must-see if you are already in the region. The culture and feeling you get here might be unique, but the beaches are stellar. One of the best places in Costa Rica
Cahuita’s unique Creole culture, brought about by its Afro-Caribbean heritage, comes from the predominantly Jamaican roots. The Rastafarian village is a popular location for the young and free spirited, or those who want the easy life, even for a short while. This will make an awesome Costa Rica beach vacation.
There is the nearby Playa Negra, named for its black sand, and east of town is a white-sand beach within Cahuita National Park, that is also great. Both are host to all kinds of water sports and activities, but the diving and snorkeling here is amazing, as it has some of Costa Ricas best reefs. Puerto Viejo has lately been attracting more tourists, as it has basically the same experiences, but on a large scale, so maybe Cahuita is a little less crowded.
There are an abundance of accommodation options in Cahuita, both budget and luxury, and here is a couple you should definitely check out. Any one you choose, will be just steps away the best of Costa Rica beaches!
Your Costa Rica beach vacation will be memorable here. Ranging from mangroves and estuaries to dense tropical forest, and situated on beautiful coastline, Montezuma attracts a wide range of surfers, backpacker, divers, wind surfers and more. It is another ideal beach town to be lazy and have an easy life. At night however, Montezuma transforms into a nightlife and fiesta-oriented vibe. For such a small town it has a great nightlife, with lots of bars and clubs to choose from. Montezuma is located at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, opposite of Mal Pais, easily accessible by ferry, road and air. While Montezuma offers many cheap accommodations for those on a budget, the area also features upscale resorts, catering to luxury and comfort travelers. All types of traveler’s will enjoy Montezuma’s intimate and romantic scenery. Here are a couple of my favorite places to stay, very near to some of the best beaches in Costa Rica!
9. Playa Gandoca in Manzanillo
Playa Gandoca is located inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, on the Caribbean coast, in the far south almost to the Panama border. Its white sand Costa Rica beaches are world renowned, and the snorkeling is arguably the best in Costa Rica. Those pristine beaches are lined with lush green jungle and mountains, with sloths, iguanas and monkeys everywhere.
The waters are warm year round, but the very best times to visit are the dry season, in March and April. The actual village is also inside the national park, and you can see dolphins and manatees during your visit. If you are looking for the best beaches in Costa Rica, then this is definitely one not to miss!
10. Playa Cocles
Well surfers, I might have just saved the best for last. The town of Puerto Viejo is a kick-back-and-relax surfer town with a unique Afro-Caribbean vibe, due to its Rastafarian culture. Surfers come for the Best waves in Costa Rica, called Salsa Brava. sweet spot for a Costa Rica beach vacation. Playa Cocles is the main beach in Puerto Viejo and the busiest, especially for surf action.
There are plenty of beach bars and simple restaurants. Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge are nearby, offering visitors a chance to observe the region’s stunning wildlife. There are also many tours to partake in, from snorkeling to horse riding and everything in between, all on some of the best Costa Rica beaches.
To get to playa Cocles, it is a relatively short drive or bus ride from Puerto Limon. It is also one of the closest beach areas if you are crossing over from Panama, and the near by Bocas Del Toro. Either way, it is another one of the beast beaches in Costa Rica!