Before you head out to the beach, please remember: in general, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is known for its riptides. Never swim alone or leave children unattended. If you have been caught by the current, don’t attempt to swim back to the beach you were on. Don’t panic and go towards the beach at a 45-degree angle. The most dangerous time for treacherous riptides occur 2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide.
Manuel Antonio Beach. Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. This coastal gem borders Manuel Antonio National Park, a coastal rainforest teeming with wildlife. It takes about 30 minutes to hike from the park’s entrance to Manuel Antonio Beach. If you’re up for some rainforest exploration, the park is interconnected by hiking trails leading to other beaches within the park. Regardless, you’re practically guaranteed to see wildlife – namely monkeys. Don’t forget to wear your swimsuit and grab some snorkeling gear. The coral seascape is worth exploring.
Tamarindo Beach. Interested in surfing? Visit Tamarindo Beach, off the wildly popular surf town of Tamarindo, where the perfect right breaks strike right off the coast. Tamarindo Beach is great for beginning surfers – so don’t be intimidated by its surf town reputation. There are a variety of accommodation options to choose from near Tamarindo Beach. Most hotels can either set you up or direct you to a nearby water sports rental. After a lively beach day, grab dinner in the happening town of Tamarindo. The neighboring white sand beach of Langosta is also worth a visit if you’re looking to swim and escape the crowds of Tamarindo.
Conchal Beach. White sand and tiny seashells sprinkle the shoreline of Conchal Beach, a less frequented Guanacaste beach. A variety of coral and underwater discoveries can be made there – so bring your snorkeling gear! The beach backs up to the all-inclusive Westin Playa Conchal Resort and a variety of other rental properties.
Flamingo Beach. To the north of Conchal Beach sits Flamingo Beach in the Guanacaste region. Flamingo Beach gets its name from its pretty pinkish white sand. The hotels overlooking Flamingo Beach sit high up on a cliffside overlooking the bays and inlets of the Pacific. The sunsets overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Flamingo Beach are exceptionally beautiful.
Nacascolo Beach. Nacascolo Beach is a hidden gem on the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula. This golden stretch of sand sits between the Four Seasons Resort and the Andaz Papagayo Resort. If you’re staying at either hotel, grab a kayak and have your hotel pack a picnic for you. It takes less than an hour to kayak over to Nacascolo, and the odds are good that you’ll be the only one on the beach. The water there is calm and protected, great for swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Dominical Beach. Located off the beaten path on the South Pacific coast, Dominical Beach is well known around the world as one of the best places for surfing. It also offers a wonderful beach surrounded by great restaurants. Dominical is the only beach with a year-round lifeguard program.
Costa Ballena (Whale Coast). The coastal treasures of Uvita Beach and Hermosa Beach border the beloved “Whale’s Tail” on Punta Uvita in Marino Ballena National Park on the South Pacific coast. An aerial flyover of the coastal park will reveal a whale tail shaped sandbar. This is also coincidentally the location where humpback whales return to breach every year from August through October and December through April. Sea turtles also come to the park to nest from May to November. Book a whale watching tour and rent some snorkel gear to explore the expansive coral reef for the full experience! Kayak and stand up paddle boarding rentals are also available.
Santa Teresa & Malpais Beach. Just south of Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula is a popular beach destination for surfers and yoga enthusiasts. Malpais, Carmen Beach, Santa Teresa, Hermosa Beach, and Manzanillo Beach are the string of beaches that back up the little beach towns of Malpais and Santa Teresa. These wild beaches are standouts that still remain relatively off the beaten path. The soft sand of Santa Teresa Beach is great for those looking for a secluded beach escape with great surf. On the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Malpais Beach is a well-known surf spot with stretches of white sand and rocky tidal pools.
San Juanillo Beach. Just north of Nosara on the Pacific Coast sits San Juanillo Beach. This under-the-radar beach doesn’t have nearly as many tourists as some of the more popular beaches to the North in the Guanacaste region. San Juanilo is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Two white sand beaches come together and you can walk up to the point where they meet for absolutely jaw dropping views. Waves are soft for swimming and the water is a clear blue. The water is generally clear and calm – great for swimming!
Ostional Beach. It can be said that the volcanic black sand beach of Ostional Beach within Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula belongs to the turtles. If you love wildlife, turtles in particular, don’t miss a night tour to Ostional to watch the olive ridley sea turtles annual nesting between July and October. The arribada, or mass annual sea turtle nesting, happens anywhere between 4 and 10 times a year, and the timing can be relatively unpredictable. Ask a Costa Rica Expert if your visit will line up with the arribada.
Manzanillo Beach. The turquoise waters and off the beaten path white sand beaches are the main draws of the Southern Caribbean beaches. Visit the small, laid-back beach town of Manzanillo on Manzanillo Beach for the coral reefs and seaside tropical rainforest, especially during the less touristy months of September and October. Dive, snorkel or explore by kayak.
Punta Uva. South of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, a narrow road twists through the jungle on its way to the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Along the way you’ll pass great restaurants and eco-lodges, but the real highlight lies at the end of the unmarked dirt roads that head to Punta Uva. Home to two spectacular beaches separated by a lush point called Red Cliff, Punta Uva is one of Costa Rica’s most enchanting destinations. Golden sand, pristine water, coral reefs, palm trees, monkeys — qué tuanis, mae! As you wander around Punta Uva, keep an eye out for great green macaws in the trees above. These magnificent parrots, which are native to the region but highly endangered, were recently reintroduced to Punta Uva as part of a captive breeding program.
Samara Beach. Samara is another one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for families. This laid back beach has plenty of land and water activities to enjoy. There is even a nearby island with great snorkeling you can kayak to! But the thing that you'll love the most about Playa Samara? The sunsets.
Montezuma Beach. When it comes to fascinating coastal landscapes, Montezuma beach definitely earns that reputation. Montezuma is a small beach town in the Nicoya Peninsula and has some of the wildest, most striking coastlines in the country. The beaches in Montezuma are not the best for swimming because stretches of rocks weave in and out of the coast. However, in low tide you can lay in the tide pools! The beaches stretch for miles and the further south you go, the less humans you’ll see and more monkeys you’ll encounter.