Breathtaking Beaches in Costa Rica

When people think about Costa Rica, more often than not what comes to mind is an image of a sandy, white, endless beach with palm trees blowing in the wind, waves lapping onto the shore and gorgeous sunsets melting into the horizon. It is no doubt that Costa Rica has some of the best and most beautiful beaches in the world and this is why it is considered “Paradise.”

Travelers’ motivations for visiting beaches in Costa Rica can vary significantly and with so many beaches to choose from, it can be hard to distinguish which one(s) to visit. Costa Rica Escapes is here to assist and break down this seemingly overwhelming task of “Which beach is best for me and what I want to do?”

One thing is for sure – no matter what type of vacation you’re taking (family vacation, honeymoon vacation, or perhaps just a customized trip), we can guarantee that there will be something for everyone as you explore these incredible slices of paradise in Central America!

Costa Rica Beaches (Family)
Explore gorgeous Caribbean Beaches in Costa Rica for the whole family!

300 Beaches in Costa Rica…and They’re all Different!

With over 900 miles of coastline, Costa Rica has almost 300 different beaches that line the Pacific (west coast) and Caribbean (east coast) Oceans. Aside from the geographic difference, each beach has its own a unique draw and distinct characteristics. There are beaches for those that love to surf, also for those that want to sit and relax under the sun, and also beaches for families who are traveling with kids to Costa Rica.

The variation of sand on these beaches is absolutely incredible and can change drastically in a very small distance. The sand can vary from a white, black, brown or mixed coloration. In addition to the color, the texture of the sand also changes a great deal. Some of these beaches are full of shells or pieces of shells, while others are covered with rocks or coral. But don’t worry, most of the Costa Rican beaches are covered with soft, fine sand, perfect for relaxing and enjoying your Costa Rica vacation!

A Tale of Two Beaches: Costa Rica’s Carribean & Pacific Coastlines

The beaches in Costa Rica are initially divided into two groups according to which coast they are located on.

Best Beaches on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Side

In general, the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Ocean tend to provide an excellent home for snorkeling & swimming beaches. The Caribbean’s topography and coast are considerably more as compared to the Pacific’s coastline. This allows beach hikers to walk for miles on end from beach-to-beach, occasionally passing through a section of jungle to reach the next beach. While the Pacific coast is more revered for its surfing beaches there are still some incredible surfing beaches and surf breaks on the Caribbean side. Salsa Brava & Playa Cocles are two of our favorite surfing spots in the country and both of these places are located just south of Puerto Viejo.

Costa Rica Beaches (Bike 3)
Feeling adventurous? Explore Costa Rica’s Coastline by bike or foot!

Cahuita

The beach of Cahuita is lay-back, beautiful, and wild. A popular destination in the Caribbean that somehow never feels crowded. The Cahuita National Park is a fantastic destination for easy hiking and wildlife spotting, snorkeling or just relaxing and sunbathing.

Puerto Viejo

Colorful, lay-back, breathtaking views and beaches, and excellent food that is the simpler way to describe Puerto Viejo de Limón, the most vibrant and active town in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, besides the actual city of Puerto Limon.

Manzanillo

If you keep on driving past Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, right where the road ends, there is Manzanillo, a much smaller town but a very long beach and excellent hiking and snorkeling possibilities.

Best Beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific Side

Not only is Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline is larger than its Caribbean; it is also more developed and more accessible. This combined with the weather & swell patterns make the beaches of the Pacific a “Mecca” for surfers. Many of the beaches on the Pacific are great for swimming and snorkeling as well; however, the sunsets & surfing are what people who visit these beaches remember!

Nosara

If you are looking for beauty, yoga, and surf, Nosara is the place to go. This beach is located on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica and besides the attributes already mentioned, it has a great advantage that it always feels solitary and rustic, even though luxury is all around.

Manuel Antonio

This is one of the most visited parts of Costa Rica, and for excellent reasons: great beaches, all kinds of activities for all ages and budgets and a national park were wildlife coexists with visitors in a very open way. Ah! And add to that great lodging options and food options. Including Manuel Antonio area and its beaches in your visit to Costa Rica makes a lot of sense!

Dominical

This beach marks the beginning of an extraordinary part of Costa Rica, the South Pacific coast. Dominical is an excellent place for passionate surfers, or for those who love good food and natural settings with some hidden treasure spots to relax in the cold water.

Costa Rica’s Beaches Classified by Activity: Surfing, Snorkeling & Swimming

Surfing Beaches

  • Bahía Salinas
  • Cahuita
  • Cahuita National Park
  • Camaronal Wildlife Refuge
  • Dominical
  • El Roble
  • Esterillos Este
  • Esterillos Oeste
  • Garza
  • Jaco
  • Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Marine Park
  • Mal Pais
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Marbella
  • Matapalo
  • Pavones
  • Playa Avellana
  • Playa Bahia Ballena
  • Playa Bejuco
  • Playa Caletas
  • Playa Coyote
  • Playa Doña Ana
  • Playa Grande
  • Playa Guiones
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Junquillal
  • Playa Langosta
  • Playa Negra
  • Playa Nosara
  • Playa San Miguel
  • Playa Zancudo
  • Puerto Limon
  • Puerto Soley
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  • Quepos
  • Santa Rosa National Park
  • Santa Teresa
  • Tamarindo
Snorkeling Beaches

  • Bahía Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge
  • Ballena National Marine Park
  • Cahuita
  • Cahuita National Park
  • Caño Island Biological Reserve
  • Coco Island National Park
  • Drake Bay
  • Isla Ballena
  • Isla Tortuga
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Manzanillo
  • Montezuma
  • Papagayo Gulf
  • Playa Carrillo
  • Playa Chiquita
  • Playa Conchal
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Herradura
  • Playa Ocotal
  • Playa Pan de Azucar
  • Playa Panama
  • Playa Potrero
  • Playa Uvita
  • Playa Zancudo
  • Puerto Limon
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  • San Juanillo
  • Tortuga Abajo
Swimming Beaches

  • Bahía Junquillal National Wildlife Refuge
  • Ballena National Marine Park
  • Cabuya
  • Cahuita
  • Cahuita National Park
  • Caño Island Biological Reserve
  • Coronado
  • Curú National Wildlife Refuge
  • Drake Bay
  • El Roble
  • Garza
  • Golfito National Wildlife Refuge
  • Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve
  • Hacienda Pinilla
  • Isla Ballena
  • Isla Tortuga
  • Islita
  • Jaco
  • La Palma
  • Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Marine Park
  • Mal Pais
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Manzanillo
  • Marbella
  • Matapalo
  • Montezuma
  • Papagayo Gulf
  • Paquera
  • Parismina
  • Piedras Blancas National Park
  • Playa Bahia Ballena
  • Playa Bejuco
  • Playa Brasilito
  • Playa Carrillo
  • Playa Cativo
  • Playa Chiquita
  • Playa Conchal
  • Playa Coyote
  • Playa Flamingo
  • Playa Grande
  • Playa Guiones
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Herradura
  • Playa Manzanillo
  • Playa Naranjo
  • Playa Nosara
  • Playa Ocotal
  • Playa Pan de Azucar
  • Playa Panama
  • Playa Pinuela
  • Playa Potrero
  • Playa Real
  • Playa Tortuga
  • Playa Uvita
  • Playa Zancudo
  • Playas del Coco
  • Puerto Jimenez
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
  • Punta Banco
  • Punta Leona
  • Samara
  • San Juanillo
  • Santa Rosa National Park
  • Santa Teresa
  • Tamarindo
  • Tambor
  • Tortuga Abajo

Note: This article was originally published on 2/12/2013, and updated on 1/22/2019.

Plan a Trip to Visit Costa Rica’s Beaches!

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