The 11 Best Beaches in Costa Rica for Swimming and Sunbathing

What You Will Learn (Click to Expand)


Overview of Costa Rica's beaches

Welcome to our take on Costa Rica’s beaches! Be it the pristine Pacific coastline or the vibrant Caribbean side, beaches in Costa Rica are diverse and adventurous.

All said, these gracious beaches promise you warm water and glorious sunshine, with a laid-back tropical vibe!

So without further delay, here are The 11 Best Beaches in Costa Rica for Swimming, Sunbathing, and water sports.

The Hidden Gems of Costa Rica’s Beaches

1. Unveiling Manuel Antonio Beach

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

First up, let’s unveil Manuel Antonio Beach, nestling within the national park of the same name. If you like beach landscapes with towering palm trees, shimmering turquoise waters, and golden sands, this is your place to be.

It’s famed for rich biodiversity and offers trails through the rainforest, where you might spot howler monkeys or vibrant birds.

Being one of Costa Rica’s scenic and popular beaches, there’s more, you get to indulge in scuba diving and explore the abundant marine life just offshore.

2. Exploring the Charm of Tamarindo Beach

Next, let’s catch the vibe at Tamarindo Beach. It’s truly a charm nestled on the Northern Pacific Coast, pulling in beach bums and surf enthusiasts from around the globe.

Tamarindo is popular, not for its tranquility, but for the bustling life – restaurants, bars, shops, surf lessons, fishing trips, sunset sailing cruises, and live music.

The star attraction? It’s the sprawling sandy stretch making it a perfect spot for world-class surfing.

So, whether you’re a pro surfer or just beginning, Tamarindo invites you to ride its waves.

Not into surfing? No problem; there’s lively nightlife waiting to be explored.

A Dive into Costa Rica's Pacific Coast

3. Dive into Playa Santa Teresa

Let’s dive into Playa Santa Teresa, a more secluded spot on the Nicoya Peninsula.

You won’t find large crowds here. Instead, it’s home to those seeking adventure and tranquility.

Owing to its open face to the Pacific, Santa Teresa boasts amazing surf spots. Perfect for both swimming and snorkeling, this beach also offers long, scenic walks.

After a day full of activities, relax while watching a breathtaking sunset as the day unwinds. It’s that idyllic!

Hiking trails, yoga retreats, and local cuisine from beachside restaurants add to the complete beach experience.

4. Discover the Beauty of Flamingo Beach

Now, let’s discover Flamingo Beach, one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful Pacific side beaches.

While its name might suggest a haven for flamingos, the truth is rather different. Instead, the name refers to the beach’s rosy pink sands that paint a stunning picture against the serene blue waters.

Venture beneath the waves for snorkeling or sport fishing, or stay on the surface for a delightful swim or boogie board ride.

With a small town center offering a blend of shops and restaurants, and luxury condos and resorts reflecting the life of the residing North American expat community, Flamingo Beach offers more than just pretty sights.

This is Pacific paradise!

5. The Stunning Playa Conchal

Let’s transport ourselves to Playa Conchal! As the name suggests, which translates to “shell beach,” this beach’s unique feature is its sand.

This beach is like no other; instead of regular sand, it’s made up of millions of tiny crushed seashells. This adds to the mysterious beauty of Playa Conchal.

Seashell baths, anyone? The shimmering, clear turquoise waters are ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

Being one of the few places where the reef is relatively close to the shore, it is a haven for snorkeling.

You can also relax under the shade of the sprawling dry tropical forests that line the sand.

With amenities like luxury hotels and the upbeat town of Tamarindo close by, it’s a beach destination that leaves you wanting for more!

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Unmasking The Caribbean Coast

6. The Vibrant Life at Puerto Viejo

Let’s head to the Caribbean Coast, starting with Puerto Viejo. This small, vibrant village, once a well-hidden secret, is now a hot spot. It’s not for everybody, but perfect for you adventurous souls.

Puerto Viejo is highly sought after for its stunning black sand, exciting surfing spots, and glorious sunsets.

The experience is complete with the lively culture, infused with Afro-Caribbean flavors, and bustling nightlife.

The highlight: Salsa Brava, the most formidable wave in Costa Rica, and a surfer’s dream.

Wanna catch a break? Head to the nearby Lazy Mon beach bar, offering a serene spot for sundowners.

Whether an expert surfer or a sunset lover, Puerto Viejo offers the experience of a lifetime!

7. Captivating Cahuita

Let’s tour Cahuita, another gem on the Caribbean coast! It’s tranquil yet teeming with wildlife.

For those who love nature, Cahuita National Park running alongside is heaven. This park guards the forest and the coral reefs off the coast, and its beaches – Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas – are unlike any other, with white sands, calm waves and coral reefs.

The waters are ideal for a gentle swim or a relaxed snorkeling session.

Stay vigilant, as you might spot white-faced monkeys, iguanas, or sloths in the midst!

Whether you want a quiet beach day, an exciting nature trail, or a thrilling snorkeling adventure, Cahuita is your destination.

Surfing Spots Worth Riding in Costa Rica

8. Playa Hermosa - Surfer's Delight

Coming up next is Playa Hermosa, a surfer’s delight, located in Guanacaste. Don’t confuse it with its twin in Jaco, as this one has its own charm.

Playa Hermosa translates to “beautiful beach” and truly lives up to that name, featuring a 1.5-mile-long gray sandy beach.

Known for its massive waves, especially at mid to high tide, it’s one of the country’s best surfing beaches.

This beach also perfectly serves up adrenaline-pumping activities like windsurfing, jet-skiing, and sailboarding.

What makes Playa Hermosa extra special? It’s surrounded by a lush tropical forest with hiking trails by large rocky volcanic ridges, perfect for exploration after a challenging day of surfing.

Oh, and did we mention it? Playa Hermosa has been awarded the “Blue Flag” for its exceptional safety facilities and environmental standards.

9. Catch the Waves at Playa Negra

Now, let’s catch the waves at Playa Negra! This beach might remind you of a scene straight out of a movie – and you wouldn’t be wrong, with Endless Summer II having been shot here.

The black-sifted sands are what give Playa Negra its name and allure.

The real stunner? It’s world-class surfing, especially for the bravest wave riders out there. The spectacular, powerful, fast-breaking wave is certainly not for newbies.

The beach’s isolation and the nearby town of Los Pargos add to its charm and solitude.

Ready to catch the perfect wave? Playa Negra awaits you!

Family Friendly Beaches in Costa Rica

10. Gather Around At Montezuma Beach

Everyone, gather around as we move to the magnetic Montezuma Beach.

Tucked away at the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, it’s surrounded by thick forest and feels like a well-kept secret.

Walking through the town gives the feel of a 15-minute journey, ending in a seemingly boundless white sandy beach. It entices all people seeking oceanic adventures – surfers, divers, marine biologists.

Why not the rest? The captivating beach also offers sunbathing in the hippie-esque, bohemian atmosphere. If you hang around long enough, low tides reveal mesmerizing tide pools!

With Montezuma’s main stretch extending along the rugged coastline featuring wooden houses, hotels, and a wide range of restaurants, Montezuma grabs a place in varied travel journals.

Be it backpackers, young families, or couples aiming for a romantic getaway, Montezuma has it all!

11. Building Sandcastles at Samara Beach

Let’s end our beach tour with Samara Beach – perfect for families and sandcastle builders! Protected by an island off the Pacific Coast, Samara Beach offers tranquil waters.

This is a haven for those looking for a soothing beach day. The long beach wraps around a horseshoe bay, beautifully dispersing weekend crowds.

Fun activities? Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sport-fishing, with calm waters just beckoning you.

Are you around in March? There’s a fabulous sandcastle-building contest waiting for you, complete with live music, beer, and festive celebrations.

But that’s not all! Samara is also a small beach town offering plenty of unique restaurants and small food shops.

Universally loved for its white sand and tropical vegetation, Samara Beach is one of the most beautiful hangouts in Costa Rica.


The Peaceful Playa Punta Uva

Hey, we promised 11 beaches, but there’s a bonus! Lay your eyes on the peaceful Playa Punta Uva. This beach, located on the Southern Caribbean Coast, is an absolute getaway from the bustling life.

You’d fall in love with the calm, clear waters, the white sand beach, the backdrop of lush jungle, and frequent sightings of monkeys, sloths, and many bird species.

Quaint, isn’t it? And if you’re in for an extraordinary underwater experience, the coral reef just offshore makes Punta Uva a fantastic snorkeling spot.

It’s also a family-friendly beach with calm waters, gentle waves, and few crowds. A walk away from the beach, you’d find a town that offers little eateries and basic accommodation options.

If you’re seeking white sand, turquoise waters, and a hammock under a palm tree, Punta Uva is your paradise!

Safety Measures for a Beach Day in Costa Rica

Understanding the Rip Currents

Let’s take safety into account now. When it comes to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, riptides are a common occurrence, and understanding them is critical.

A riptide is a powerful current caused by tidal flow in confined areas.

If caught in one, don’t panic or try to swim back directly to the beach. Instead, swim along the shore until out of the pull of the tide, and then make your way back to the beach at an angle.

The most dangerous time for riptides is two hours before and two hours after low tide.

Remember, never swim alone or leave children unattended. Safety first, fun follows!

Here is a Complete List of Costa Rica Travel Tips.

Sunscreen and Hydration Matters

Sunscreen and hydration matter! Believe us, the Costa Rican sun can get intense.

Protect your skin by slathering on a generous amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen, at least SPF 30. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours and after swimming.

But, sunscreen is only half your defense. Watch for sunstroke signs – like headache, dizziness, or nausea – and stay hydrated. Carry plenty of water and have it often.

Also, remember, ocean water isn’t fresh water! Shade can be your friend too, so use a hat, umbrella, or a canopy.

Moreover, staying indoors between 11 a.m – 3 p.m, when the sun is at its strongest, can minimize harmful UV exposure.

Staying sun-safe secures a memorable beach experience!

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Beyond Beaches: Other Attractions in Costa Rica

Visit the National Parks

We can’t wrap up without mentioning Costa Rica’s National Parks! More than 25% of the country’s landmass is dedicated to national parks, biological reserves, and wildlife refuges.

Particularly, the Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovado National Park are phenomenal for wildlife spotting and trekking.

In the cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena, expect to be enchanted by the verdant treetops and hummingbirds’ hums.

The Arenal Volcano National Park is yet another stunner, where lava trails and hot springs promise a thrilling time.

Swap your beach time for lush green rainforests, active volcanoes, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife for a day and see Costa Rica from a different viewpoint!

Here is my Ultimate List of Things to Do in Costa Rica.

Explore the Wildlife in Costa Rica

Beyond beach beauty, Costa Rica hosts an unprecedented abundance of wildlife. Did you know, this small nation holds about 5% of the world’s biodiversity?

From observing the four different species of monkeys or watching a sloth crawl on a tree in its slow-motion style, to spotting a scarlet macaw majestically flying above or getting playful with dolphins in the warm ocean; Costa Rica offers it all.

Sea turtle nesting is another spectacle worth viewing. On specific beaches, trained guides can show you the turtle nesting process up close. The place is a symphony of nature that simply never misses a beat.

So, while you sunbathe, surf, and build sandcastles, don’t forget to flirt with the fauna in this wonderland.


What is the best time to visit Costa Rica’s beaches?

The best time to visit Costa Rica’s beaches depends on your preference.

  • If you prioritize sunny weather with balmy temperatures, the dry season (Mid December to April) is perfect.
  • For surf enthusiasts, however, the wet season (May to November), with significant swells hitting both coasts, is ideal.
  • Consider the crowds too! The beaches can get busier during the dry months and Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.

Always check local weather updates for any sudden changes.

Are the beaches in Costa Rica safe for tourists?

Yes, Costa Rica’s beaches are generally safe for tourists. However, always paying attention to safety measures, especially when swimming or surfing, is crucial.

Understanding rip currents on Pacific Coast beaches, staying hydrated, and using sunscreen are all recommended.

Also, it’s usually safer to swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty.

What are some secluded beaches in Costa Rica?

A few secluded beaches in Costa Rica include:

  • Santa Teresa Beach on the Nicoya Peninsula,
  • Playa Punta Uva on the Southern Caribbean Coast,
  • and the 5-mile-long beach on the Papagayo Peninsula.
  • Montezuma Beach and Playa Conchal are also less crowded, offering respite from tourist-packed shores.

Please note that, given their remote locations, these beaches might require extra travel efforts. But trust us, they’re well worth the effort!

Which part of Costa Rica has the best beaches?

Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches are located in two regions:

  • the northwest (Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula)
  • the southern Caribbean (Puerto Viejo, Cahuita).

Guanacaste is known for its golden sand beaches and great surfing, while the southern Caribbean boasts white sand, warm tropical water, and vibrant coastal life.

Both regions promise you an awe-inspiring coastline experience!

What is the best side of Costa Rica to stay on?

The best side of Costa Rica to stay on depends on what you’re seeking.

  • The Pacific side, particularly Guanacaste, is famous for luxury beach resorts, surfing, and diving spots.
  • The evergreen Nicoya Peninsula is popular with yoga retreaters.
  • For the Caribbean flavor and laid-back life, the eastern coast with Puerto Viejo or Cahuita is best.

With diverse offerings on every side, wherever you choose to stay, Costa Rica won’t disappoint!

Where are the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica?

For the best swimming beaches, head to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

  • Playa Punta Uva, with its warm, clear, calm waters, is unbeatable for swimming.
  • Cahuita National Park houses safe and serene swimming spots.
  • Playa Conchal and Flamingo Beach on the Pacific Coast also boast calm waters that are excellent for swimming.
  • Lastly, Samara Beach is popular among families for its safe and shallow swimming areas.

There are plenty of options to dive in and enjoy!

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Conclusion: The Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Thus concludes our beach-hopping journey across Costa Rica! Whether you are a surf enthusiast looking to ride waves, a wildlife lover eager to explore the biodiversity, or a family wanting a relaxing beach day, Costa Rica has a beach for everyone.

From secluded hideouts like Santa Teresa to bustling spots like Tamarindo, or a unique shell beach like Playa Conchal to black sand charm at Puerto Viejo – each marvel promises an unforgettable experience.

So, pack the sunscreens, surfboards, binoculars, and all your beach essentials as you stamp your footprints on the pristine sands of Costa Rica!

Ready to be spellbound by the unique and varied characters of Costa Rican beaches? Let’s get beachy!

What is your favorite beach in Costa Rica? Let me know in the comments below.

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