12 of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica That You Can’t Miss!

12 of the Best Beaches in Costa Rica That You Can't Miss!

Did you know that Costa Rica has over 800 miles of coastline? I know, it’s crazy!!!

So if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, chances are you’ll visit one of the hundreds of great beaches we have here.

There are four specific beach regions:

North Pacific
Central Pacific
South Pacific
Caribbean

Here’s my list of the best beaches for each region:

North Pacific Beaches


Playa Tamarindo

This area is known to have the best beaches, that’s why it’s called the Gold Coast. The weather here is almost always perfect year round. The beaches will satisfy all types: lazy loungers, die-hard surfers, and small wave beaches to play around in.

Find the best beaches of Costa Rica

Top 3

Playa Flamingo – calm, crystal blue waters and white sanded beaches that are part of a cove so it’s always peaceful and super safe for kids.

Playa Tamarindo – This beach is one of the most popular in Costa Rica because it’s great for surfing and playing in small surf. The beach town is developed and easily accessible by foot to yummy restaurants, supermarkets, bars, and stores. It’s a great location for families, couples, and surfers.

Playa Grande – Ok, I’m going to be very partial here! I absolutely love this beach because of it’s beauty, tranquility, and calmness. Plus, it’s got great surf as well. The best part about this beach, it’s part of a Marine National Park for the Leatherback Turtle. From the months of December til March you can take a tour and see this tender, on-the-verge of extinction giant lay her eggs. It’s one of the most magical experiences of your life.

Central Pacific Beaches

Playa Hermosa

These beaches are super popular because of the proximity to San Jose. Plus they are developed with all the great beach town amenities your heart desires, and surfers will find awesome breaks as well.

Top 3

Jaco Beach – This is by far the most popular beach. It’s the closest to San Jose with great hotels, spas, international restaurants, stores and a nightlife that kicks some major butt! Surfer’s love it for the breaks, couples love it for theluxury accomodations and families love it for all the family friendly activities.

Manuel Antonio – Is the most visited National Park in Costa Rica which also has a gorgeous white sanded beach that is untouched inside the park. All budget style hotels surround the park and beaches. Plus, when you walk inside this National Park you’ll be amazed with the amount of wildlife that you’ll encounter!

Playa Hermosa – The beach area is a 5 minute drive from Jaco, but a different bay and doesn’t have the city feel to it. However, it’s more popular with surfers than families because of the strong surf and riptide.

South Pacific Beaches

Playa Dominical

These region starts from around Playa Dominical going all the way down to the Osa Peninsula. You wanna know why these are special? Because of their untouched, pristine beauty. With the majority of the development in the northern areas, these beaches and the little villages surrounding them are yet to be fully explored. So why don’t you check them out!

Top 3

Playa Dominical – I love this beach town more than the actual beach. With cute and cozy hotels, tasty restaurants and bars outlining the dirt road, main street, you’ll fall in love with the laid back, tropical environment. However, I will warn you. The surf is rough and not for the faint-hearted. It is not a place to let your kids hop around in the waves, because the rip tide is strong. However, the pros outweigh the cons with the beautiful beaches and if you look closely you’ll find some cool pools amongst the rocks for the kiddies to do their thing.

Puerto Jimenez Beach – Not many mention this beach because there are so many others around it. However, I’m going to put it on my list of Top 3 because it’s great for the kids. My five year old spend the whole day hanging out in the water without any waves and it was waist high on him for over 200 feet out. Plus, the beach itself is lovely, with plenty of shade you get to look at the pier with the fishing boats coming in and out.

Cabo Matapalo – Matapalo is at the tip of the Osa Peninsula. It’s a bit of trek, but once you get there it’s gorgeous. You can bring all your own food, make a bbq and hang out of the day. I will say, it’s a bit rough and rocky. But once you get past the rocks, it’s great fun!

Caribbean Beaches

Manzanillo Beach

The most popular beaches on the Atlantic side (Caribbean) are in the southern part starting from Cahuita going towards Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. If you’re renting a car, take a scenic drive all the way to Manzanillo and find hidden beaches with no one on them at every kilometer. If you don’t have a car, I highly recommend renting a bike in Puerto Viejo and enjoying a day trip towards Manzanillo.

Top 3

Cahuita National Park beaches – This is actually one very long strip of beautiful, palm tree-lined beaches. You don’t have to pay to enter, a donation will suffice, and enjoy the calm waters and soft sanded beaches for as long as you like. It’s also known for great snorkeling.

Playa Negra – This popular, black sanded beach is south of Puerto Viejo. The sand is so black you’ll think it’s purple. It’s wonderful for swimming and snorkeling.

Playa Manzanillo – I love this place! It’s at the tip of this region and is 100% inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Also, the village of Manzanillo is the only town in all of Costa Rica inside a wildlife refuge. This beach is extremely popular for snorkeling, swimming and lazying around!

If you’ve had a great experience at any of these beaches or know even better ones, please share them with me! I love to know what people think.

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About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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