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The Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Updated on December 19, 2013

Best Beaches - North Pacific

Playa Tamarindo.
Playa Tamarindo. | Source
Playa Grande
Playa Grande | Source
Lolita, Playa Avellanas.
Lolita, Playa Avellanas. | Source

The North Pacific Region of Guanacaste

Costa Rica has nearly 300 different beaches along it's shores. This allows for each visitor to explore and experience not only one breathtaking Costa Rica beach, but many!

The north Pacific region in the province of Guanacaste offers visitors to Costa Rica some of the best beaches, much like the kind you would see along the west coast of the United States.

Tamarindo is probably the most popular of all of the beach towns in this region. It is a very popular surfing beach and you will find it's waters full of surfers each and every day. The town of Tamarindo, affectionately nick named "Tama-gringo" by the locals is a tourist destination hot spot. Full of hotels, hostels, restaurants, night life and shopping - it is where all the action is in Guanacaste.

For those who are looking for a more tranquil, laid back beach experience - Tamarindo is centrally located in between some of the best beach hideaways that Costa Rica has to offer.

Playa Grande, located to the north is a very popular surfing beach. It is also home to Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas - nesting ground for the Leatherback turtle. The town of Playa Grande offers small hotels, hostels and rental homes. You will find multiple surf breaks starting at the river mouth and heading towards Hotel Las Tortugas. Although Grande's waves are big enough to surf the beach is a also a great place for swimming.

A little further north from Playa Grande is Playa Flamingo. Playa Flamingo is an upscale community located on a mile long, crescent shaped white sand beach and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica. (It offers a wonderful resort, you can read my review on Flamingo Resort and Spa here.)

To the south of Tamarindo you will find the backwoods surfing paradise communities of Playa Avellanas and Los Pargos (also known as Playa Negra.)

Playa Avellanas offers a few different breaks with it's most famous being "Little Hawaii" which is just off the river mouth. This break has been known to have offshore waves up to 18 feet making it a coveted surf destination for surfers from around the world. The beach is never crowded and the local community of people there are truly remarkable.

Located right on the beach is the restaurant "Lola's" which was named one of the top beach bars in the world. It's mascot, Lolita the pig, can be seen in front of the restaurant enjoying herself sunning on the beach and playing in the waves.

Right down the dirt road from Playa Avellanas is the small community of Los Pargos. It's beach, Playa Negra is a beautiful dark sand beach that is known in the surfing community for it's right hand barrels.

Los Pargos is also home to Cafe Playa Negra, a hotel with a Peruvian restaurant that offers up some of the best food in all of Costa Rica. Don't miss the passionfruit cheesecake!

A little further south of Los Pargos you will find Playa Marbella and San Juanillo. Marbella is a popular surfing beach and San Juanillo is a small fishing village. If you are looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy a beautiful beach all to yourself, these spots will not disappoint.

For those who are looking to spend time on the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula - the best beaches in that area of Costa Rica are Samara, Nosara and Montezuma.

Visit Costa Rica Hook-Up for more Costa Rica travel information. Destination guides, national parks and reserves and a Costa Rica business directory to connect you with travel, surf, yoga, real estate and restaurants throughout the country.

The Central Pacific Region

Quepos and Jaco are the two most popular beach towns in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica. If you are looking for action, these are two of the best beaches in all of Costa Rica for it! They are always packed with tourists and often play host to major surfing contests which draw large crowds. Themed restaurants, US hotel chains and high rise condominiums create an environment which feels a lot like Daytona Beach.

If you are looking to escape the crowds head to the small town of Dominical. The community is a mixture of expats, surfers and friendly locals. The beach is breathtaking, a place where the cliffs meet the ocean surrounded by mangroves and marshes. Surfing is very good here however, swimming is not recommended due to the strong rip tides. Bird watching is a very popular past time in this area as well as relaxing, surfing and unplugging from all your cares.

Nearby Dominical is Playa Uvita, which is known for it's shoreline that looks like a giant whale tail. At high tide the sandy strip is submerged. When low tide exposes the whale tail, you can walk to the rocky tip and enjoy its calm waters.

ChirripĆ³ National Park and Manuel Antonio Park are located very close to this beach, offering adventure and some of the best experiences of nature in all of Costa Rica.

Beaches in Costa Rica

Isla Tortuga

If you are near the central Pacific region, let me recommend a visit to Isla Tortuga. This stunning island can be reached by various excursion boats that leave from Puntarenas. It's about a 90 minute journey during which you may see manta rays and whales in the warm waters of the Pacific.

The idyllic white sand, coconut lines shores of the island are hands down one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. A typical day excursion will give you about 2 hours on the island where lunch will be served. You can kayak, snorkel in the crystal clear waters, explore the island on a hike or just relax on the beach.

Although a little harder to reach then most beaches, this one is definitely worth the effort!

Isla Tortuga Boat Excursion

Recommended Reading On Costa Rica

Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Two Weeks in Costa Rica
One of the most entertaining guide books to Costa Rica I've ever come across!

Caribbean Coast

South of the port city of Limon on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica (towards Panama) the beaches are lined with coconut palms, pristine white sand and crystal clear calm waters that the Caribbean is famous for. The laid back attitude of the "reggae" culture of the Caribbean will give you a completely different experience of Costa RIca beach life then the towns on the Pacific.

The trees around these beaches are filled to the brim with monkeys, sloths and toucans. The locals describe their way of life as "living in tune with nature" and here you will find yourself in a raw, natural paradise. (You not find most of the comforts that you will find on the Pacific side of Costa Rica such as fancy resorts or even air condition.)

The best beaches on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica are Puerto Viejo, Playa Chaquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo. Surfers head to Salsa Brava in Puerto Viejo, one of the heaviest surf breaks in Costa Rica.

Cahuita National Park, although one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, offers a punch for nature lovers. Camping, hiking trails, diverse nature, golden sand beaches as well as great snorkeling along it's almost 600 acres of living coral reef. The park begins at the southern end of Cahuita and is home to two and three toed sloths, both the white faced and howler monkey species, armadillos, coatimundi, bats, parrots and snakes. It's reef hosts over 400 species of fish including the colorful sunfish and sharks.

Cahuita National Park

Finding the best beaches in Costa Rica.

What is the best way to find the best beaches in Costa Rica?

Visit for yourself and visit as many of them as you can!


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