10 of Our Favorite Beaches in Costa Rica

Quick, when I say “Costa Rica” what immediately comes to mind?  Chances are that for many of you, stunning beaches filled with sand, surf, and incredible sunsets are high up on the list of things you imagine.  Now, when I ask you “what are the best beaches in Costa Rica?” chances are you have limited reference as most of us haven’t explored the entire country.  So, we’ve taken the liberty to pull together a list of some of our favorite beaches to get you excited to explore even more!

North Pacific Coast 

Nacascolo Beach

This secluded beach is located on the Papagayo Peninsula — home of large resorts such as Andaz Papagayo and the Four Seasons and is known for its white sand, clear water, and scenic views.  You get to this secluded beach best by kayak.  Once there it’s private, relaxing, and magical!  (as are all the beaches on the Papagayo Peninsula) Tip: pack in all you need as there aren’t any bodegas/minis nearby.

  • Location: Papagayo Peninsula, Guanacaste
  • Popular activities: kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling

Tamarindo Beach 

Coined by locals at “Tamagringo”, this is probably the most popular surfing and nightlife destination in Guanacaste.  While you will see surfers from all over the world hanging out in town, know that the surf is great for beginners (I took lessons on the beach) but local spots are known to be quite challenging for those more advanced.  This is also a great beach to take a sunset cruise, snorkel, or take ATV rides along deserted beaches.  Tip: there are a lot of things for sale on this beach, from tame tourist trinkets to drugs — so be careful.   

  • Location: Guanacaste
  • Popular activities: surfing, snorkeling, ocean cruise, ATV, hiking, nightlife

Playa Conchal 

Not as well known or crowded as Tamarando, this Guanacaste beach is postcard worthy — with perfect turquoise surf breaking onto the sand and crushed shell beaches surrounded by lush tropical forest.  Accessed near the Westin Playa Conchal, this beach also has a good number of rental properties.  And come ready to snorkel as the coral beds are teaming with life!

  • Location: Guanacaste
  • Popular activities: surfing, snorkeling

Playa Flamingo 

Known for incredible sunsets and the pinkish-hue sand that gives the beach its name, Flamingo is a resort beach with many hotels on the cliffs overlooking the beach.  While not as nightlife and tourist-shop laden as Tamarindo, this beach caters to families on vacation — be it for a long weekend away from the city, or down from an international destination.  

  • Location: Guanacaste
  • Popular activities: kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, snorkeling

Montezuma Beach 

Some call this a bohemian beach, others just call it laidback.  Located at the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, this isn’t a surfers’ beach, nor swimmers (too rocky) but it’s incredible in low tide for tide pools, and the sunsets cannot be beat!  And the town is a lot of fun at night.  

  • Location: Nicoya Peninsula
  • Popular activities: tide pools, relaxation, sunsets, nightlife

Santa Teresa Beach 

This long, sandy beach is located on the Nicoya Peninsula and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and great waves for surfing.  It’s also a popular yoga retreat destination.  The beach is one of many in Nicoya that is both well known yet less touristy than the beaches in Guanacaste.

  • Location: Nicoya Peninsula
  • Popular activities: surfing, yoga

Central Pacific Coast

Costa Ballena (Whale Tail)

One of the gems of the southern Pacific coast, Costa Ballena comprises Uvita & Hermosa Beaches and the peninsula that juts out into the pristine Pacific Ocean.  While the name of these beaches comes from the visual of a whale tail when seen from above, it’s also one of the Humpback Whale’s breeding grounds!  It’s also well known as a sea turtle breeding area.  So when you come, make sure you book a whale-watching tour or plan around a turtle hatching.

  • Location: Punta Uvita / Marino Ballena National Park
  • Popular activities: whale watching, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, turtle hatching

Manuel Antonio Beach

Located a short 30-minute hike from the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park, this is one of the most well-known stretches of beach in Costa Rica.  With coral reefs and great breaks, this beach is a popular destination for snorkeling, surfing, and true beach relaxation.  Tip: lock up your valuables in the car or keep just keys on you and rest in car, as the curious wildlife are known to come close.  And this beach is known for its clear blue waters, white sand, and lush jungle surroundings.  

  • Location: Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Popular activities: surfing, hiking, snorkeling 

South Pacific Coast

Dominical Beach

Fun fact: this is the only beach in Costa Rica with a year-round lifeguard.  Why?  Because while far south and a bit isolated, this beach should be on everyone’s bucket list.  While well known by surfers, there’s enough to make this a great couples or family destination as well as those looking for the perfect wave.

  • Location: Dominical
  • Popular activities: surfing, fishing

Caribbean Coast 

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca / Punta Uva / Manzanillo

Situated on the southern Caribbean coast lies a stunning stretch of beach between the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to the north, and Manzanillo Beach to the south.  Afro-Caribbean energy infuses the region and beaches with a laidback, easy vibe.  The beaches are long and clean, and the water a stunning turquoise blue and calm.  Paddleboarding, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking are just a few of the water sports, while hiking, enjoying the towns and culture, and a trip to the Jaguar Sanctuary are just a few of the non-beach activities.  The area abuts the massive biodiversity of Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo’s dense jungle filled with every kind of animal you think of when you think of Costa Rica (sloths, monkeys, parrots, toucans, more monkeys, iguanas, etc.).  

  • Location: Caribbean Coast
  • Popular activities: snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, jungle trekking, diving

As always, this isn’t meant to be THE list, just our list.  But we know it’s not complete so we want to hear from you.  What would you add?  What would you take off?  And what activities changed your perspective?  Just remember: when you’re on the beach: wear sunscreen. 

And as always: Pura Vida!