Best Beaches In Costa Rica For 2024
Best Beaches In Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s is renowned for its pristine, tropical beaches which draws travelers from across the globe. Many beaches in Costa Rica afford glistening white sand, warm blue waters, and incredible ocean views with either an awe-inspiring sunrise or a magical sunset. With over 800 miles of coastline and 300 beaches to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones to visit. In fact, despite Costa Rica being a relatively small country, just driving even a short distance can take a considerable amount of time. More so, visitors may be arriving into and out of San Jose which once again limits what they can see in a single trip. That’s why knowing what popular beaches are close by and which are worth the drive are crucial for a successful Costa Rican vacation! In this blog, we will discuss the best beaches in Costa Rica for 2024 and why you have to visit them.

Top 10 Best Beaches In Costa Rica

Here we discuss the top 10 best beaches in Costa Rica as rated by us and our many travellers for 2024.

1. Tamarindo

Tamarindo Costa Rica
Tamarindo Bay & Township

Tamarindo is situated on the pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, based in the province of Guanacaste. It’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Costa Rica and its beach is really something to admire. What makes this particular beach so special is because it is positioned right next to Tamarindo’s township, which offers plenty of hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars as well as an incredible nightlife. It’s also a fairly short distance from both Liberia International Airport as well as a number of other excellent beaches all within driving distance of each other.

Tamarindo Beach
Tamarindo Beach

As for the beach itself, it’s a relatively long stretch of coastline which starts from Playa Langosta and ends with an estuary at the edge of the township, which acts as the beginning of the Las Baulas National Park where boat tours are available to see the local flora and fauna along the vast rivers and mangroves. The beach is very popular spot for a number of water activities including snorkeling, diving, kayaking, canoeing, wind surfing, charter fishing, and of course surf lessons which attracts tourists from miles around. Likewise, there are sunset cruises which leave everyday from the beach. For those who just want to enjoy the ocean views then there are lots of bars and restaurants strategically positioned right on the beach, where you may even be lucky enough to enjoy one of the famous fire performances at night.

Travel time from San Jose is roughly 5 hours and 1.5 – 2 hours from Liberia International Airport. It’s also situated close to a very small airport for short regional flights.

2. Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park Aerial View
Manuel Antonio National Park Aerial View

Based on the pacific coastline in the southern end of the Puntarenas province, Manuel Antonio is perhaps one of the best beaches that is, relatively speaking, not far from the capital of San Jose. Manuel Antonio is actually a national park and wildlife reserve, but is also home to some of the best playas Costa Rica has to offer! Each beach is covered in beautiful white sand and the alluring warm waters of the pacific beckon you in for a swim. The most popular of these beaches is Manuel Antonio Beach: here you can enjoy the pristine waters while admiring the dense rainforests of the national park. In fact this particular area of Costa Rica is well known for it’s abundance of wildlife and incredible vantage points, which means you can also enjoy a nice stroll through the hiking trails to see many of the animals on offer including sloths, monkeys, iguanas, racoons, and so much more!

Beach at Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio Beach

As for activities, you can join a walking tour of the national park with an experienced guide. This is highly recommended for those wishing to see animals that maybe hidden in the thick vegetation that are close to invisible to the untrained eye. If you would like to see more of the coastline of Manuel Antonio, then an all inclusive catamaran will take you further down the coast to experience a stunning cove on a nearby beach. There is also plenty to do in the neighboring township of Quepos and a lot of incredible hotels and accommodation located close by.

Travel time to Manuel Antonio from San Jose is approximately 3 and a half hours. Please note that the park is closed to the public on Tuesdays. Day tours from San Jose to Manuel Antonio National Park are also available.

3. Manzanillo

Manzanillo Costa Rica
Manzanillo, Limon

One of the most awe inspiring beaches in Costa Rica. Manzanillo can be found nestled in the southern end of the Limon province on the Caribbean coast, about a 20 minute drive south of the popular tourist town of Puerto Viejo. Manzanillo itself is a small fishing village located very close to the Panama border. Though the township itself is humble and does not attract a large amount of tourists, the real secrets are hidden inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge. From the edge of the township is a trail which takes you to some of the most spectacular vantage points and beaches in all of Costa Rica (including the image seen above). Underneath the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean is a spectacular coral reef where you can snorkel or even scuba dive with a certified guide. This is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can see a diverse range of coral and fish species within shallow coastal waters.

Manzanillo Beach
Manzanillo Beach

Manzanillo is roughly 4 and a half to 5 hours away from San Jose depending on traffic. Shuttle options and private and transports to Puerto Viejo are also available (as well as public transport options).

4. Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste
Playa Conchal, Guanacaste

Playa Conchal is not only a hidden gem, but a must visit for anyone staying around the Tamarindo or Flamingo area. This beautiful beach borders the coastline of Brasilito in Guanacaste. It may seem like a hidden beach but it’s easy enough to find. The most popular route is to simply head to Playa Brasilito and then walk south down its beach until you arrive at a small headland. A quick walk over and you will arrive at Playa Conchal. It was given the name “Conchal” (Spanish for “shell”) due to the thousands of tiny shells that wash up along it’s shore line, making this stretch of coastline unique throughout Costa Rica and perfect for those who love to shell hunt. Combine that with its glistening white sand and beautiful warm waters, it makes Conchal one of the best “secret beaches” in Costa Rica. It also connects to another beautiful beach named Puerto Viejo (not to be confused with Puerto Viejo in the Limon province) which acts as a second point of entry. Both beaches are a very popular swimming spot for locals with plenty of shaded areas so it’s perfect for the family. If you plan to stay at the The Westin Reserva Conchal, then you will be lucky enough to have exclusive access to Playa Conchal.

Playa Conchal Costa Rica
Swiming in Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal is located around 40 minutes from both Tamarindo and Playa Flamingo. Distance from San Jose and Liberia is 4 and half hours and 1 and a half hours, respectively.

5. Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Beach
Santa Teresa Beach (Image: Zanzabar Photography)

One of the more longer travels one would have to embark on to get to this beach, but if that doesn’t phase you then we can say with confidence the journey is totally worth it. Santa Teresa is located close to the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, which confusingly is actually apart of the Puntarenas province and not apart of the Guanacaste province as you would think. There are two ways to get there if driving from San Jose. First and most popular option is to drive to the port city of Puntarenas and take a ferry across the channel followed by some more driving along the southern coastline until you arrive at Santa Teresa. The second option, which takes the longest, would simply be to drive up to the Nicoya Peninsula and then head south to Santa Teresa.

Santa Teresa Sunset
Sunset at Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa’s coastline is actually made up of a number of beaches starting from Playa Hermosa Cóbano in the north stretching all the way down to Playa Carmen. All the beaches of this area are stunning and offer some excellent swimming, surfing, and a range of other water activities. As with many beaches along the pacific coast you will be able to enjoy an unbeatable sunset at dusk  The small townships of this region has become a hot spot for tourism and this area holds a very large expat community. As well as housing some of the best yoga and wellness retreats in the country, this stretch of coastline attracts novice and professional surfers from far and wide to tryout some incredible waves. There is also a number of excellent activities and points of interest outside of Santa Teresa too including canopy zipline tours and the stunning Montezuma Waterfall.

Santa Teresa takes about 5 hours from San Jose with ferry included and 6+ hours without the ferry. Travel time from Liberia is just a little under 4 hours.

6. Punta Uva

Punta Uva
Punta Uva, Limon

Punta Uva beach is one of the best kept secrets of the Caribbean. Located around halfway between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo in the Limon province lies a stunning beach which may be easily missed if you’re not looking for it. Punta Uva is among the best and most easily accessible beaches for those staying in the Puerto Viejo region. It’s golden sand and warm tropical waters make it a perfect place for swimming and sunbathing. Like Manzanillo, Punta Uva lies not far from the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge which is teeming with wildlife. On any given day you may be lucky enough to see sloths, monkeys, agoutis, coatis, and more, while peering through the thick rainforest behind you. There are also a number of trails that you can take around this area as well as some excellent other beaches close by including Playa Arrecifes, Playa Chiquita, and Manzanillo.

Playa Arrecife
Playa Arrecife, Punta Uva

With regards to activities, the famous Jaguar Rescue Center is located close by. This incredible wildlife reserve and rescue center has rescued and rehabilitated Costa Rican animals for over 15 years. You will get to see some of these incredible animals up close while touring the facility. If you’re looking to combine a tour of the Jaguar Rescue Center with a guided hike to Punta Uva beach, then be sure to check out this very popular tour package.

Punta Uva is about a 15-20 minute drive from Puerto Viejo and less than 10 minutes driving from Manzanillo. It’s easy to miss so keep an eye out for signs. If coming from San Jose it will be around a 4.5 hours drive time.

7. Uvita

Marino Ballena National Park
Marino Ballena National Park

Perhaps one of the more iconic beaches in Costa Rica, Uvita is a two mile wide pristine white sand beach which is apart of the greater Marino Ballena National Park. Not only is Uvita well known as a breeding spot for migratory humpback whales from both the Artic and Antarctica, but coincidentally the Marino Ballena National Park also features a unique phenomena during low tide when a sandbar opens up revealing a 600 metre wide “whale tail”. This phenomena attracts tourist from miles around! Likewise, Uvita and the Marino Ballena National Park is a hot spot for its many swimming and surfing areas along its coastline. There is a small fee to enter the Marino Ballena National Park to view the “whale tail”, but it’s stunning shoreline and superb swimming and sunbathing spots makes the costs worth it.

Whale Watching Uvita
Whale Watching in Uvita

Uvita acts as a main hub for the countries very popular whale watching industry! When the season is right, you can join a whale watch boat tour where you can see migratory humpback whales who come to this coastline every year to breed and give birth. If you are very lucky, you might even encounter a mother and calf cruising through the water or spectacular courtship behavior such as breaching and spy hopping! Be sure to check out our listing if you are in the area and would like to book a whale and dolphin watching combo tour.

Uvita lies in the southern pacific coast, just under 1 hours drive south of Manuel Antonio/Quepos and about 3 and a half hours from San Jose. It is also close to a number of other excellent beaches such as Dominical located 20 minutes north.

8. Cahuita

Cahuita National Park, Limon
Cahuita National Park, Limon

Cahuita is another hidden gem of the Caribbean, with both a lovely township and a fantastic national park located along its coastlines. If looking for a change of pace than the hustle and bustle of Puerto Viejo, then this is the place to be! Cahuita is not only home to both a quaint little village with some excellent shops and restaurants, but also the stunning Cahuita National Park located just along its shoreline. This beautiful park offers a stunning Caribbean rainforest that is home to a host of native animals including sloths, monkeys, iguanas, agoutis, racoons, and more! Its also an excellent spot to see rare ibis, herons, toucans, kingfishers, and curassow. If that’s not enough, Cahuita houses a beautiful and protected coral reef within its national park borders. This is one of the few places in the country where you can view various species of coral and over 500 species of fish. Please note that this can only be done with a certified guide as the reef itself critically endangered. With that said, if you would just like to enjoy a swim in its clear blue waters and bask in the warm sun along a white sandy beach, then Cahuita is certainly not to be missed.

Cahuita Beach, Limon
Cahuita Beach, Limon – (Image: travelmag.com)

Cahuita is found just 20 minutes north of Puerto Viejo in the Southern Caribbean coast and a 3.5 to 4 hours drive from downtown San Jose. Its definitely a great substitute to the party atmosphere of Puerto Viejo. The national park itself does not require a fee to enter, but there is a log-in at the ranger station and donations are very much appreciated to help protect the parks coral reefs, rainforest and animals.

If you are staying in Puerto Viejo and would like to do a walking tour of Cahuita National Park with a trained guide, then be sure to check out our Cahuita National Park & Waterfall tour.

9. Sámara

Playa Sámara
Playa Sámara, Guanacaste

Sámara is the epitome of “beautiful Costa Rican beach town”. Located midway between Tamarindo and Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste, Sámara offers both an attractive township filled with locals and expats as well as a beautiful secluded bay. This makes Sámara one of the best places to be if you want to enjoy a stunning Costa Rican beach while also being isolated from other busy tourist destinations found throughout the peninsula. The beach itself is large and offers many great spots for a cocktail or dinner. Sámara is renowned as an excellent surf location which attracts surf goers from miles around. If visiting for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at surfing by picking up a lesson or two from one of the many surf instructors in the area. Otherwise, you can simply find a nice spot on the beach to soak up the sun or enjoy a swim in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Playa Sámara Sunset
Sunset at Playa Sámara

Sámara is located approximately 4.5 hours northwest from San Jose and a 2 hour drive from both Liberia International Airport and Tamarindo. Sámara is an excellent alternative for those looking for a pristine Costa Rican beach town with far less tourists than its northern counterparts.

10. Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa Bay
Playa Hermosa Bay

The aptly named Playa Hermosa simply translates to “Beautiful Beach” and its very easy to see why! This stunning stretch of coastline is found in the northern part of Guancaste’s Nicoya Peninsula and attracts a large number of tourists and locals alike. The beach also hosts some truly excellent hotels where people can enjoy an all inclusive stay and direct access onto the beach. Though there is not much of a village or township here (unlike the other beaches on this list), Playa Hermosa is situated only a fifteen minute drive north from Playas del Coco: another popular destination with plenty of restaurants, supermarkets, and other amenities. The beach itself is well known for being peaceful and family friendly, as well as offering one of the best places to view a Costa Rican sunset in the entire country!

Playa Hermosa Beach
Aerial View of Playa Hermosa Beach

Playa Hermosa is roughly a 4 hour drive from San Jose and a 30 minute drive from Liberia International Airport. There are also a number of stunning beaches close by so be sure to explore this area if visiting. Nearby Playas del Coco is a launching point for a popular sunset cruise where you can swim in secluded bays and enjoy a remarkable sunset on the boat on your return journey.

Other Places To Visit In Costa Rica

Above is just a small number of popular and beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, but there are so many more which we weren’t able to touch on in this blog. Be sure to do some research and hear what others have to say before making a decision on which beaches to visit. If you would like to know about other special places in Costa Rica, then be sure to read one of our past articles on the 10 best waterfalls in Costa Rica or have a look through our website where you will find a large number of activities and tours that visit every corner of this incredible country!

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