While Costa Rica might be best known for its lush jungles, wellness retreats, and sustainable travel havens, it’s also home to some of the best beaches in Central America. With hidden, laid-back beach towns on the Caribbean coast and built-up resorts and epic surf spots on the Pacific coast, it’s just a matter of taking your pick: Costa Rican beaches have it all.
In this ultimate guide to the best beaches in Costa Rica, we share everything from tiny, secluded spots of white sand to the miles-long beaches perfect for catching waves and rays. As you plan your trip to Costa Rica, use this guide to find the Costa Rica beaches perfect for those unforgettable beach days to complete your itinerary.
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12 Most Impressive Costa Rica Beaches
1. Playa Conchal
Easily one of the most beautiful beaches in the province of Guanacaste, Playa Conchal is considered among the best beaches in Costa Rica – but don’t come looking for ultra-fine white sand! This unique beach is composed almost entirely of tiny seashells, making a visit a memorable one. Just remember to bring a towel if you plan on laying out all day!
This beach has plenty of amenities, including vendors and beach shacks offering food and drinks, and spots to rent equipment for watersports like snorkeling and even jet skis.
While the beach is most easily accessible via the Westin Reserva Conchal or W Costa Rica Reserva Conchal, both excellent options if you’re looking to stay the night, it’s also popular with visitors who make a day trip to enjoy this unique and beautiful beach.
Read More: 12 Best Resorts in Costa Rica
2. Playa Danta
Located in the small, laidback beach town of Las Catalinas, Playa Danta is a great Costa Rica beach destination still off the beaten path. With generally calm seas, it’s a perfect spot for swimming, even with kids.
Despite being centrally located in growing Las Catalinas, Playa Danta never seems to get too crowded, making it the perfect place to enjoy some rest and relaxation. Just a short walk from the parking area, it’s easily accessible. While there aren’t public restrooms or changing areas available at the beach, there are some beachfront restaurants.
Complete your visit with a trip to Playa Dantita, just a short hike on a marked trail from Playa Danta. Much more secluded, you likely won’t find many beachgoers here. The beautiful white sand and relaxed waves make it a great choice for a more laid-back beach day.
3. Playa Tamarindo
It wasn’t long ago that Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast was just a small fishing village. Now one of Costa Rica’s most popular beach destinations, Tamarindo has seen a huge boom of travelers flocking to its beautiful shores, home to some of the most beautiful Costa Rican beaches on either coast.
While Tamarindo remains relatively small, it boasts plenty of places to see and things to do, though the beach is the main draw. While the waves can get a bit much for some swimmers – the beach is known for surfing, and you’ll find plenty of surf schools offering lessons even for beginners – nearby Langosta Beach is another popular alternatively, with few waves and popular with families.
Basing yourself in Tamarindo is also a great way to explore the nearby beaches, national parks, and the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula. Tamarindo is just an hour south of the Liberia International Airport, meaning many travelers skip San José altogether and spend their entire trip exploring this dreamy northern region of the country.
4. Playa Manuel Antonio
The most beautiful beach located within the famous Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park), Playa Manuel Antonio is lauded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. With its long expanse of white sand and generally calm waters, it makes for a great day trip.
Many travelers make the most of a visit to the Playa Manuel Antonio as part of a day trip including a guided tour of the park; while you can certainly visit on your own, we found that taking a guided excursion was much easier, especially if you don’t want to rent your own car.
Word has certainly gotten out about just how beautiful this beach is, so it can get crowded on the weekends, holidays, and during high season for travel. While this provides a lively atmosphere many travelers love, if you’re looking for something a but more tranquil, head to nearby Playa Biesanz, Playa Espadilla, or even Playa Tulemar, all just a few minutes north of the national park.
5. Playa Jaco
One of the closest beaches to San José and a popular day trip for travelers on a shorter itinerary in Costa Rica, Playa Jaco is arguably one of the country’s most popular beaches. With its long, wide stretch of sand, beautiful rocky viewpoints perfect for watching the sunset, and abundant beach amenities, it’s a popular choice with travelers of all kinds.
While the town of Jaco lacks much of the charm of some of the other beach towns on this list, it has all the amenities you could ask for – a wide range of restaurants and accommodation options, surf schools, and plenty of transportation options. Round out a trip with a visit to Playa Hermosa, a popular surf spot with larger waves located just to the south, or the popular Playa Herradura to the north.
6. Playa Manzanillo
Playa Manzanillo is a favorite beach in Costa Rica, but take care when planning your trip! There are two famous Playa Manzanillo beaches in Costa Rica, one on the Pacific coast in the province of Puntarenas and one on the Caribbean coast in Limón. Both are well worth a trip!
Playa Manzanillo in Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast is arguably the better-known of Costa Rica’s two beaches of the same name. Located near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Manzanillo is north of major surfing spots, though its curved shape makes it more protected and ideal for swimming.
With just one local restaurant facing the beach, you’ll enjoy the local, relaxed feel of this beautiful beach, a hidden gem among some of the area’s more popular and crowded destinations.
If you’re heading to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Playa Manzanillo is certainly worth a visit. Just south of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and the impressive Playa Uva Grande (also on our list of the best Costa Rica beaches!), the Caribbean Playa Manzanillo is a laid-back beach along the tiny town of Manzanillo, a favorite with backpackers and surfers.
7. Playa Biesanz
Just north of Manuel Antonio National Park, Playa Biesanz is a stunning and relatively off-the-beaten-path beach if you’re looking to escape the sometimes crowded Playa Manuel Antonio. Just a small cove with tranquil waters, Playa Biesanz is the perfect place for swimming, kayaking, or even snorkeling, with gear rentals available on the shore.
Even better? Playa Biesanz is surrounded by lush jungle filled with unique wildlife, making a visit to this hidden Costa Rican beach part jungle walk and part day on the sand. To reach the beach, visitors need to take a jungle path from the parking area, though the walk is only about 10 minutes and relatively easy. You’ll spot howler monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds along the way.
Looking to spend the night near this lush paradise? The neighboring Shana By the Beach Resort has direct access to the beach and is the perfect spot to enjoy an overnight or a few days in this beautiful corner of Costa Rica.
8. Playa Dominical
A hippie, yogi paradise located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast south of San José the tiny beach town of Dominical boasts great beaches for surfing and swimming. Playa Dominical is a surfer’s paradise, while the tiny cove Playa Dominicalito is better for swimming, with much smaller waves.
With its laid-back vibe, abundance of accommodation options and wellness retreats and nearby day trips for snorkeling, jungle excursions, and more, it’s easy to see why this tiny town is a favorite with backpackers.
A trip to Playa Dominical wouldn’t be complete without visiting the nearby waterfalls. The Nauyaca waterfalls north of town are gorgeous and relatively easily accessible, though you’ll want to bring along good shoes for slippery steps and a bathing suit to enjoy the refreshing swimming holes along the river.
9. Playa Quesera
Located within the Curú Wildlife Refuge, Playa Quesera is a natural, protected beach easily among the most beautiful Costa Rica beach destinations you’ll find on either coast. With pure white sand and warm, flat water, it’s as dreamy of a beach destination as you’ll find anywhere.
Given the beach’s protected surroundings, accessing its sandy shores is a bit more challenging. You’ll need to take a 20-minute boat ride that will leave you on the beach or plan on a 1.5-hour hike through the refuge. The journey is worth it, and the hike will reward you with an incredible opportunity to spot unique flora and fauna, itself a highlight for travelers.
Despite its remote location, you’ll find beach amenities like bathrooms, a restaurant, and even rental cabins where you can stay overnight. Looking for some adventure? Choose a kayaking tour to the beach from the adjacent town – it’s a great way to reach the beach!
10. Playa Rajada
Despite being one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in the much-visited province of Guanacaste, Playa Rajada is still thoroughly off the beaten path for most travelers, making it a great choice for in-the-know travelers looking for a relaxing beach day.
Make sure to take the trail on the south side of the beach for a quick and easy walk to a lookout over the beach; you’ll get a stunning view of the white sand and gentle, clear waves that will make you question why this beach isn’t overflowing with travelers from near and far.
You won’t find many beach amenities here, so bring snacks, towels, and anything you need to make for a perfect day at this beautiful hideaway – it’s one of the best things to do in Guanacaste.
11. Playa Punta Uva
One of the southernmost beaches in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast, Playa Punta Uva is a hidden gem just south of Puerto Viejo well worth traveling for. This white sand beach with clear water is surrounded by the seagrape teas that give the beach its name, meaning there are plenty of shady spots to enjoy as you relax in a beautiful natural setting.
Playa Punta Uva is also a highlight for travelers looking to spend a day beach-hopping. Start your day at the black sand beach in Puerto Viejo, before heading south to Playa Cocles and Playa Chiquita, and end the day on a high note at Playa Punta Uva. This 15-minute route is easily accessible via taxi, a rental car, or even by bike.
12. Playa Nosara
Nosara is a haven for surfers, wellness retreats, and yoga intensives, and the beautiful, laidback beach at Playa Nosara makes it easy to see why.
Despite the area’s popularity with travelers, Playa Nosara is a mellow and relaxed beach offering the perfect spot for a beginner surfing lesson or a few hours spent on the sand before exploring the jungle or mangrove forests surrounding the beach and town.
If you’re a surfer or are just interested in watching the pros from the shore, make sure to head to nearby Playa Guiones, just a 20-minute drive south – this is one of the most famous beaches for surfing in Costa Rica, and the surrounding town is packed with surf shops, laidback cafes, and cool hostels and hotels if you’re looking to spend a few days here.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica
From laidback beach towns along the Caribbean to the legendary surfing spots on the Pacific and everything in between, there is a Costa Rican beach for every traveler. Whether your Costa Rican itinerary includes one of these twelve dreamy beaches or any of Costa Rica’s other sandy escapes, get ready for a memorable beach retreat.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.