As parents, we know that heading on a beach vacation with our kids is a great way to tire them out. With the combination of sun, salt water, and sand, we do it well here in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has two coasts brimming with all of the above plus large doses of natural beauty, family activities, great eats, and incredible accommodations.
As a bonus, Costa Ricans love kids, and you may notice that apart from lots of cuddles and possibly an extra candy or two, people will go out of their way to assist you and your loved ones. But how to choose where to go when there are so many options?
We’ve assembled a list of seven of the best family beaches in Costa Rica to help guide your journey with your family through this beautiful country.
Manuel Antonio is usually at the top of everyone’s must-see list of destinations in Costa Rica, and it is a particularly excellent family getaway spot. First, Manuel Antonio is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Jose airport on a sweet highway. It has some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and tranquil, perfectly swimmable waters inside Manuel Antonio National Park. In addition, the beach outside the park can get waves and is perfect for learning to surf.
Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s most visited park, and you’ll understand why when you witness its beauty. There is plenty of accommodation, restaurants, bars, shops, and tourism agencies from the neighboring town of Quepos to the national park. In addition, this area offers plenty of tour options, such as snorkeling and diving adventures, canopy tours, horseback riding, and kayaking.
On the opposite coast, Cahuita is one of Costa Rica’s top Caribbean destinations for families. Cahuita is a 20-minute drive from the famous beach destination of Puerto Viejo. Still, it is a quieter option, more suitable for families looking for an authentic Caribbean experience surrounded by nature.
Cahuita’s gem is undoubtedly Cahuita National Park, home to one of Costa Rica’s most stunning beaches, a classic white sand beach with turquoise and emerald green waters set against a lush, green jungle. Bring your snorkeling gear or book a tour to explore the reef’s colorful tropical marine life. The park has several trails leading to different beaches, and if you’re lucky, you might encounter a few monkeys, sloths, iguanas, colorful crabs, and birds along the way.
You can find cheap accommodations in Cahuita, and even the most expensive hotels offer a unique rustic ambiance. If you have yet to taste Caribbean cuisine, you are in for a treat. Head to Ranchon del Negro for tasty Caribbean cuisine, or if you are craving some yummy Gallo Pinto from Costa Rican cuisine, you will be disappointed.
Playa Hermosa de Guanacaste
Playa Hermosa, the one in Guanacaste Providence, is an idyllic family destination, first of all because of its pool-like, child-friendly waters, and second of all because it is located just a half-hour drive from the international airport in Liberia.
Hermosa is usually quiet and uncrowded and attracts mainly sport-fishing tourists and families. It has a wide variety of luxury accommodations and a couple of small resorts and makes a fantastic, quiet base to explore the rest of northern Guanacaste.
Make sure you distinguish Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste from Play Hermosa de Puntarenas.
Everyone knows that traveling with your loved ones can be exhausting, and sometimes we want luxury to ease our existence. Flamingo is home to some of the best beach resorts in Costa Rica for families. So why not sip on a cocktail with your partner while the kids splash around in the pool?
If this sounds like a dream, Flamingo is one of the best locations for your family vacation. Why? It is generally uncrowded, the beach is gorgeous, and many resorts offer activities such as movie nights, diving, and kayaking, and include children’s play areas and a Spa.
Flamingo town is quaint, elegant, and a great base to explore other beaches in northern Guanacaste. It is also just an hour’s drive from Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia.
Nosara, or Playa Guiones, is famous for its waves and yoga, which may only sound appealing if you are a family of surfers or yogis, but there is so much more to do in Nosara. Nosara is in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, about a 2.5-hour drive from the Liberia airport, or for those who wish to avoid the long drive over unpaved roads, there is an airport in town.
Nosara is home to several different beaches, so you can choose how wavy you want your waters. Playa Garza and Playa Pelada offer swimmable waters, and Guiones is the main surfing beach with a consistent swell. Babies and sleepless parents love soaking in the tide pools that form in Playa Pelada and south Guiones at low tide.
There are many activities that families can enjoy here in Nosara:
- River safaris through the Nosara River
- Turtle watching at the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a half-hour drive from Nosara
- ATV tours, tennis, SUP at sea, or the Nosara River
- Yoga and surf lessons for kids and adults of all levels
- Spa Days such as massages and healing therapies
In addition, the Nosara Kids Camp in North Guiones offers Spanish and surf lessons, and Gabi’s Play, a large play park, is located right next to it.
Samara is one of the best little towns on the Pacific Side of Costa Rica. On quality roads, it is a 2-hour drive from Guanacaste Airport (LIR) in Liberia.
Samara still has the Costa Rican lifestyle of excellent restaurants to eat the famous Gallo Pintos and plantains for breakfast, along with fresh fish and ceviche caught from the local fishermen, who sold it to the restaurants.
The beach of Samara is over 10k long, and plenty of shade if you want to stay away from the hot sun in Costa Rica. However, the surf is more manageable than at Playa Guiones, so if you want to try more surfing, find a surf shop in Samara to help you out or rent some boogie boards.
There are two grocery stores, an organic store, and fruit stands, so you can easily pack a picnic and head to the beach all day. Remember to take your trash with you!
If you go 10k from Samara, you will find Playa Carrillo, and this beach is incredible. From the fantastic palm trees that align the beach, the beautiful sandy beach, and the food trucks around Carrillo, the family will not be disappointed in this beach.
If you want a picnic in Carrillo, make sure you stop in Samara first to grab your goodies, as you will have to drive past the beach to head to a Soda shop or one of our favorite restaurants, Hulu Jungle. Grab their pizza; you won’t be disappointed.
The palm trees make way for some beautiful shade, and if you want to set up a hammock, there are ways to do that for a little siesta.
You can always make a day trip to Samara and watch the sunset at Carrillo or start in Carrillo and finish up in Samara.
Plan a Costa Rica Family Beach Vacation
As you can see, some incredible beaches surround Costa Rica, from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Whatever beach you choose for your family will be the right one.
We offer several (customizable) Costa Rica family vacation itineraries that include beach time for you and the kids. Please read our testimonials to experience what our past family clients have enjoyed on their trip to Costa Rica. We are ready to help you plan the family trip of a lifetime. Pura Vida!
John Rabenau has been working in the eco-tourism & adventure travel industry in Costa Rica since 2002. He has worked in a variety of capacities from Outdoor Educator & Principle Guide to Itinerary Design Manager & Business Owner for numerous organizations. He has grown Costa Rica Escapes into one of the most reputable Costa Rica travel agencies since its creation in 2006, hosting more than 5,000 people with custom vacation itineraries.