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18 Popular 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 Costa Rica has to offer.

There are four specific beach regions in Costa Rica North Pacific, Central Pacific, South Pacific, and the Caribbean, but out of all the beaches in the country, Jaco and Tamarindo are by far the most popular beaches.

If you are wondering which side of Costa Rica has the best beaches? Well, below you will find out some of the most popular and best beaches in Costa Rica.

tamarindo beach costa rica

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

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.

Beaches in the area

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 its beauty, tranquility, and calmness. Plus, it’s got great surf as well. The best part about Playa Grande, 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.

people surfing tamarindo beach costa rica
Tamarindo Beach

Central Pacific Beaches

Playa Hermosa

These beaches are super popular because of their 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.

Best beaches in the area

Jaco BeachJaco Beach is by far the most popular beach. It’s the closest to San Jose with great hotels, spas, international restaurants, stores, and nightlife that kicks some major butt! Surfers love it for the breaks, couples love it for the luxury accommodations and families love it for all the family-friendly activities.

Jaco is the perfect place for those who want to learn how to surf. You’ll find plenty of surf schools around. There are also many adventure tours you can choose from canopy tours, ATV tours, Jet skiing, hiking, and lots more. Not your style? What about pampering yourself? Here you will find top-notch hotels and all service spas, it’s hard to complain. Jaco also has been classified as one of the top places where you can party like a rock star!

Can’t-Miss-This!

• Tarcoles River is home to over 2000 American crocodiles and one of the best places to see them up close
• Surf a world-known break at Playa Hermosa (with or without a professional instructor)
• Visit Carara National Park, which is full of scarlet macaws
• Eat at a multitude of restaurants specializing in international cuisines.

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 Manuel Antonio National Park you’ll be amazed with the amount of wildlife that you’ll encounter!

This area is commonly known as the place to stay in if you are visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park. This park offers an abundance of wildlife and attractive white-sanded beaches. Here you will have a close encounter with the highly endangered Titi monkey and sloths, monkeys, lizards, coatis, just to name a few.

Can’t-Miss-This!

• Top-notch hotels, spas & restaurants
• Catamaran tours, sunset sailing & dolphin watching
• Wildlife sightings at Manuel Antonio National Park
• World-class sport fishing

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.

manuel antonio beach in costa rica

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!

This is a laid back town where you will be able to experience walking barefoot or swinging in a hammock in this cool seaside village. So if you want to relax this is the place for you. But if you are a beginner surfer I wouldn’t recommend it because of the strong wave currents.

It is located only 3 hours away from the nearest international airport. Making it a great option for those looking to skip the cities and move on to the beach right away. Also, make sure you check out the Mario Ballena Marine Park while you are there.

Best beaches in the area

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 Puerto Jimenez 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.

This is also a secluded place of the Osa Peninsula, with a tiny town of barely 3,000 inhabitants. Puerto Jimenez is a beautiful place where you will find dirt roads, well-developed tourist infrastructure, luxurious hotels, a variety of restaurants and lots of great tours. It also borders with Corcovado National park.

A few of the things that you should definitely try here are sports fishing, boat tours to see dolphins, and hiking the pristine local rain forest in search for the colorful scarlet macaw.

Cabo MatapaloMatapalo 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!

Drake Bay

This is a secluded spot of Costa Rica popular among nature lovers and eco-tourists. You can only access it by plane or by boat and sometimes by taxi. Don’t be surprised by how remote this place is because locals want to preserve the natural environment of a natural world. For me, this was the best thing about it.

This quaint little town is where you want to be if you are looking to go to the amazing Corcovado National Park. But keep in mind that the place is so secluded that you won’t find things like ATMs, so be prepared.

Pavones

It is famous for its left point break. It is one of the longest surf breaks in the world and is the pride of Pavones. It has been recorded to last up to three minutes on a slow, south swell. So surfers this is your call!

But surfing is far from being the only thing to do in the area. Fun activities such as canopy tours, horseback riding, exploring a wildlife refuge and relaxing at the beach are going to keep you busy. Plus, there is no shortage of restaurants and hotels.

costa rica beach drake bay

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.

Best beaches in the area

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!

Things to Do at the Beaches of Costa Rica

There are many activities you can do at most of the beaches in Costa Rica, some are traditional like sunbathing, reading a book, swimming and playing with the sand but the biggest draw about this country is the nature, it’s so full of wonderful outdoor activities to do near these beaches, you must try them!

List of activities to do at Costa Rican beaches:

  • Bird and Wildlife Viewing
  • Dolphin & Whale Watching
  • Diving and Snorkeling
  • ATV Tours
  • Sailing & Catamaran Cruises
  • Canopy Tours (zip lines & aerial trams)
  • Canyoning (waterfall rappelling)
  • Day Spas
  • Golfing
  • Hang Gliding
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Mountain Biking
  • Para-Sailing
  • Rafting & Tubing
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Sport Fishing
  • Surfing

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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