Bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Costa Rica is famous for its spectacular beaches, surf, and aquatic activities.
Costa Rica’s lengthier Pacific Coast is popular with local and foreign tourists alike. With its hundreds of beaches, dense rainforest, and dazzling wildlife, many visitors find it easy to spend their entire vacations exploring the South Pacific, Central Pacific, and Nicoya Peninsula.
But if you don’t have years to explore every beach, inlet, and bay, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top places to visit on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.
Which Side of Costa Rica has the Best Beaches?
There is no wrong answer when it comes to deciding which side of Costa Rica has the best beaches.
The Pacific Coast is significantly longer and has more beaches from which to choose. You can find swimmable bays or waves that just beg to be surfed. To the north, the Nicoya Peninsula is full of surf towns, and the Central Pacific once hosted the World Surfing Games.
In addition, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is better-developed, which can make it a more popular destination for families and travelers seeking upscale accommodations.
Best Costa Rica Pacific Coast Beaches
Some of Costa Rica’s best beaches are on the Pacific Coast. From surfing to swimming to palm-lined white sand, there is something for everyone.
And on the Pacific Coast, every day ends with a spectacular over-water sunset that will make all of your Instagram followers and Facebook friends jealous!
Here are some of the best Pacific Coast beaches and destinations in Costa Rica.
There’s a reason Manuel Antonio is the most-visited national park in Costa Rica. Not only is it a great spot to see sloths, monkeys and other wildlife, but Manuel Antonio boasts family-friendly beaches.
Playa Espadilla Sur, located inside the national park, has white sand and tranquil waves, and it’s surrounded by lush forest. Immediately outside the park, the slightly larger waves are perfect for beginner surfers.
Manuel Antonio is well-developed for tourism, and you can easily sign up for a surfing class, go parasailing, or visit a soda (local restaurant) for a traditional meal and a cold beverage.
More experienced surfers will love Nosara, a town hidden in the rainforest on the Nicoya Peninsula. Miles of pristine beach means it’s never too crowded, and there are enough swells for intermediate surfers to experts alike.
Even non-surfers fall in love with Nosara, which has a unique blend of Costa Rican and European gastronomy, beachside yoga, and some of the most spectacular sunsets in the country.
There are no actual flamingoes on this beach, which instead gets its name from the sand which turns a (very) light pink under the right weather conditions.
Flamingo, also in Guanacaste on the Nicoya Peninsula, has white sand and calm waves, and it’s surrounded by an upscale neighborhood with a variety of restaurants and shops. It’s also the starting point for many popular activities, like scuba diving, sportfishing, and sunset sailing.
And from Flamingo, you’re just a short drive from other family-friendly beaches like Las Catalinas and Playa Penca, while the bustling surf town of Tamarindo is just down the road.
The Osa Peninsula
Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean from southern Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula creates Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), home to crucial marine ecosystems.
Several species of whales, turtles, and dolphins visit Golfo Dulce. Humpback whales in particular are frequent visitors to the inlet, as they use the warm, calm waters as a safe area while raising their calves.
In addition to whale-watching and sportfishing, beach-goers will love San Josecito, a secluded beach lined with almond trees that are home to scarlet macaws.
The Osa Peninsula also contains Corcovado National Park, considered as one of the most biologically intense places on earth. Adventurers can visit for a chance to see tapirs, jaguars, pumas, tamanduas, and other species in their natural habitat.
Is the Pacific Ocean Warm and Safe?
The oceans are warm in Costa Rica year long, especially in the dry season, when the sun beats down on the water all day. Regardless of when you visit, expect ocean temperatures in the low- to mid-80s.
As with anywhere else in the world, be smart if you plan on swimming in the ocean. Some of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches do have lifeguards, but the vast majority do not.
Some good rules of thumb are to never swim alone and don’t swim near river mouths or estuaries, where currents may be stronger. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask local beachgoers if the water is safe – Costa Ricans are known for their friendliness.
Costa Rica’s oceans are no more dangerous than anywhere else. In the event of an emergency in Costa Rica, dial 9-1-1; English-speaking operators are always available.
Check out our Costa Rica safety guide for more beach information and safety tips in general.
Costa Rica Pacific Coast Resorts
Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast has accommodations for travelers of all budgets.
In Nosara, for example, budget-conscious travelers can find several hostels that offer basic accommodations within walking distance from the beach. Those seeking a higher level of luxury will enjoy The Harmony Hotel, with its private patios, outdoor showers, and spa.
Located in Manuel Antonio on the Central Pacific, Tulemar Resort is well-known for its setting among the rainforest, while Lapa Ríos on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula is a perfect starting point for a truly wild adventure in Corcovado National Park.
Of course, Costa Rica has hundreds of resorts, hotels, and hostels to accommodate any type of traveler. From adult-only hot springs to family-friendly all-inclusives, to beachside cabanas, visitors can always find properties that meet their travel style and goals in Costa Rica.
Plan a Trip to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
Nothing screams “vacation” quite like the combination of sun, sand, and saltwater. Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast provides seemingly endless amounts of all three.
Whether you want to relax on a beach, explore the underwater world by scuba diving, or carve waves on your surfboard, Costa Rica offers sunkissed activities for just about anyone. The only question is picking the right destination to fit your Costa Rica needs.
Costa Rica Escapes can help plan your perfect Costa Rica Pacific Coast vacation. Simply contact us using the form below to begin conversations about planning your very own trip!
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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.