The best beaches in Costa Rica

An ariel shot of a Costa Rica beach

Costa Rica is an incredible place for a beach vacation with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Costa Rica beaches are varied, with dramatic black sand options, serene and secluded beaches, and lively places for families and nightlife. If you’re heading to this beautiful country in Central America, take a look at our guide to the best beaches in Costa Rica, or use the links below to explore different topics.

The best beaches in Costa Rica for snorkeling

Regarded as one of the best places in the region for snorkeling and diving, Costa Rica is a magnet for those who want to explore life below the waves. With the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Costa Rica boasts incredibly biologically diverse snorkeling sites, where you could see a range of species including hawksbill turtles, Pacific seahorses, whitetip reef sharks, stingrays, and nurse sharks. Here are our picks for the best Costa Rica beaches for snorkeling.

Manuel Antonio beach in Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio

The coral reefs at Manuel Antonio Beach are nothing short of spectacular, with countless species of underwater flora and fauna to discover. Located on the central Pacific coast, this beautiful Costa Rica beach is home to animal inhabitants including whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles, and starfish. It’s also a fantastic place for scuba diving and whale watching.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal has a unique appeal for snorkelers and scuba divers. The beach is not made of sand, but instead has crushed shells, which act as a natural water purifier. The lack of sand means that the waters on this Pacific Coast Costa Rica beach are sparklingly clear, offering fantastic visibility and none of the clouds of murky silt that usually get churned up in sandy locations.

Playa Uvita

Also known as the ‘whale tail beach of Costa Rica’ because of its tail-like shape at low tide, Playa Uvita is one of Costa Rica’s best spots for snorkeling and is located on the Costa Ballena. One of the largest coral reefs in the country is accessible from Playa Uvita, and from May through October, Ridley and Hawksbill turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. It is also regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica due to its unique whale-tail sand banks at low tide.

Playa Hermosa

Rather confusingly, there are two Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica. This one, in the Guanacaste region in the Gulf of Papgayo, is an incredibly calm spot with little in the way of wave activity, making it an accessible place for a spot of snorkeling or scuba diving. It is regarded as one of the all-around best beaches in Costa Rica, particularly if you don’t want to contend with the big waves that are present on many other Costa Rica beaches.

Playa Hermosa Beach in Costa Rica
Playa Hermosa

Best swimming beaches in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a warm destination, and what better way to cool off on vacation than with a cooling dip in the sea? Sea temperatures at Costa Rica beaches are pleasant all year round, although the high levels of heat during the dry season make it the best time by far for a beach holiday. (If you want to find out more about the best time to visit Costa Rica, check out our guide.) If taking a swim in the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea is at the top of your Costa Rica vacation wishlist, read on for our top picks for the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica.

Playa Hermosa

In the Guanacaste region, Playa Hermosa is quiet and protected. This means that the waves at the beach are small and gentle. In fact, it has some of the calmest waters of any Costa Rica beach. This makes it a brilliant place for swimming and water activities of all kinds. As well as swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding are also popular choices.

Playa Manzanillo

Manzanillo Beach on the southern Caribbean Costa Rica coast has calm waters that harbor plenty of marine life. Swimming is incredible here. Calm, still waters, are the norm, and wildlife spotting is rich. There are also abundant species of reef fish and crustaceans living in the area, as well as two species of turtles, dolphins, and manatees.

Playa Manuel Antonio

Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rice, Playa Manuel Antonio is located within a national park. It’s a 30-minute hike through the park to reach the beach, but the walk is more than worth the effort. Playa Manuel Antonio is in a bay, meaning calm waters that are perfect for swimming in.

Playa Flamingo

One of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, beautiful Flamingo Beach is a sheltered and generally calm place for a dip. Flamingo Beach is particularly popular with ex-pats living in Costa Rica. As such, it is one of the beaches in Costa Rica in terms of nearby facilities such as bars, shops, and restaurants. 

Playa Manzanillo Costa Rica
Playa Manzanillo

Costa Rica pink sand beaches

When it comes to Caribbean destinations and luxury beach breaks, everyone conjures up an image of the palm-fringed, sea-backed white sand beach stretching into the horizon. Costa Rica has got something even more idyllic than that. It is home to a beautiful rose-hued beach, one of few places on Earth to boast such a beautiful attraction.

Playa Rosada

Playa Rosada is unique amongst the beaches of Costa Rica, it is the only pink sand beach in the country. The fine sand has a gentle but distinctive blush color. When contrasted with the bright turquoise of the ocean, it gives the location a particularly ethereal feel. You might think that Playa Rosada would be rammed with visitors because of this, but the beach is in fact rather isolated. The easiest way to get there is via an organized tour. You will be taken to the beach at the best time according to tides and conditions.

Costa Rica surfing beaches

One of the best-loved surfing destinations in Central America, Costa Rica has got some truly incredible spots to take to the waves. From places for beginners to more challenging beaches with big swells and wild waves, there are many Costa Rica surfing beaches to choose from.

Playa Tamarindo

One of the most lively and popular beach resorts in Costa Rica, Tamarindo Beach is a fun place to spend your Costa Rica vacation. Tamarindo Beach is long and sandy and is known as a must-visit for keen surfers. Even if you’re a total beginner, there are several fantastic surf schools at Tamarindo Beach that will introduce you to board life on some mellow breakers in the surf.

Nosara Beach

Whether you’re a beginner or a wave-riding expert, Nosara Beach is a fantastic beach in Costa Rica for surfing. Located on the Pacific Northwest coast, Nosara Beach has swells that challenge in March and April. The waves are smaller around September and October. Home to numerous surf camps for beginners and improvers, Nosara Beach is one place where surfing is a way of life.

Samara Beach

Samara Beach is renowned for being one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches. It is also an excellent place for novice surfers to try out the sport. With numerous surf schools, camps, and gear hire right on the beach, it is the perfect place to start. The waves are generally small and gentle, making Samara Beach a great place to get some confidence on the board away from the larger swells that Costa Rica is famous for.

Playa Tamarindo beach and estuary
Playa Tamarindo

Costa Rica black sand beaches

Dramatic examples of Costa Rica’s volcanic landscapes, the black sand beaches around the coastline are must-sees when vacationing in Costa Rica. Black sand beaches are formed when volcanic rock is ground up and deposited on the shore by ocean currents. They are some of the most unique and interesting Costa Rican beaches that you can visit.

Playa Hermosa

This black sand beach near Jaco is lively and popular, with a big surfing community. Playa Hermosa’s beautiful black sand is just one of the attractions in and around this fantastic region. Being popular with both tourists and locals, you’ll find it well-equipped with facilities, and perfect for a family day out. Remember though, black sand beaches get far hotter underfoot than white sand beaches do. Take some close-toed shoes to prevent your feet from getting too hot on the sand.

Playa Negra

With a name translated as ‘black beach’, it’s no surprise that Playa Negra is one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica. Located on the Caribbean coast, the beach is near the lively Puerto Vieja de Talamanca. The spot is known for its parties and nightlife. However, Playa Negra itself is one of the calmer Costa Rican beaches. It has a small-town feel and beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea framed by a dramatic arch of black sand. It is arguably the best beach in Costa Rica if you want to experience black sands.

Playa Negra black sand beach
Playa Negra

Best beaches in Costa Rica for families

There is so much to do in Costa Rica for families from rainforest treks to volcano adventures. After all that, you’ll probably need a few days on Costa Rican beaches to rest and relax. Luckily, there are several brilliant family-friendly beaches in Costa Rica.

Samara Beach

This quiet beach has the added benefit of having great facilities on-site. There is a coral reef just off-shore, making it great for snorkeling. The reef keeps waves to a minimum, making it one of Costa Rica’s safer swimming spots. Samara Beach is rarely very crowded, so you can enjoy a restful day on the sand with the family. It’s also worth sticking around until the end of the day, for what will be one of the most beautiful sunsets over the ocean that you’ll ever see.

Playa Hermosa

Located on the northern Pacific side of Costa Rica, Playa Hermosa is a great spot for a family day at the beach. The beach is in a wide cove, protecting it from the elements. It has wide, slow waves that roll gently up the sand, and break calmly on the shore. There is also a low risk of riptides or undertows at Playa Hermosa. Therefore, it is one of the best beaches for paddling.

Samara Beach Costa Rica
Samara Beach

Book a Costa Rica vacation rental

If you’re heading to this incredible destination for a Costa Rica beach vacation, why not book one of our luxury Costa Rica vacation rentals for your trip? We have an incredible range of stunning villas in Costa Rica and Central America to choose from.