The Best Beaches in Costa Rica: 18 Stunning Stretches of Sun-Kissed Sands

Between the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, Costa Rica is a land of two faces, where impressive surf and black sand contend against picturesque palms and sprawling white sand beaches. The result is a dreamy landscape that shapeshifts into the perfect beachy getaway for any self-proclaimed beach lover. Wave surfers flock to the Pacific Coast while sun chasers kick back in Guanacaste, and fans of gorgeous scenery soak in the views in the south Caribbean. No matter what makes your perfect beach getaway, Costa Rica offers some of the best beaches and sun-kissed sands to find your fairytale shoreline.

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1. Manuel Antonio Beach

No one would expect to find one of the best beaches in Costa Rica in a national park, but that’s precisely where curious beach lovers will find Manuel Antonio Beach. 

Manuel Antonio National Park encompasses a verdant forest hiding swinging monkeys, hanging sloths, and pristine white sand beaches. While the forest canopy may tempt you to cross off some bucket list adventures like ziplining through the trees, a short hike through this teeming jungle unveils its crowning glory: Manuel Antonio Beach. 

A glittering shore of sand and sea, this slice of coast makes it hard not to fall in love. Serene blue waters and blindingly white sand form one of the most tranquil and picturesque beaches visitors will ever lay eyes on. And while the park’s enticing trails lead to many more shores, the spell of Manuel Antonio Beach is one that’s hard to break.

2. Conchal Beach

This stunning white sand beach isn’t made up of sand at all. In a fun break from the norm, the familiar white shore at Playa Conchal is composed of white seashells rather than fine white sand, lending a unique quality to this gorgeous beach paradise. 

While the shells may keep you from taking long walks on the beach, some might say they serve a far better purpose: keeping the crystalline waters clear. The stunning visibility at Conchal Beach makes it a snorkeler’s dream. Lapped by only small waves, Playa Conchal is the perfect place for a refreshing swim on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. 

3. Tamarindo Beach

Sunbathers and wave-riders don’t need much convincing to pack up their gear and head to one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica. The lively surf village of Tamarindo promises play, parties, and perfect waves, and no beach does it better than Tamarindo Beach. 

The mellow breaks make this a choice destination for beginners, while more advanced surfers head further up the coast for wilder rides. Meanwhile, sunbathers can take to the sand on a long stretch of beach backed by palm trees to soak up the sun and even elect for a massage right there on the sandy shore!

4. Dominical Beach

Touted as a bit of a hidden gem, Dominical may be a sleepy beach town, but sleeping is the last thing you’ll feel like doing here. Visitors have their hands full between the walkable town, incredible wildlife, and Nauyaca Waterfalls. But, of course, you can’t forget the beach. 

Bordered by palm fronds and lush tropical greenery, Dominical Beach is enticing enough. And that’s before you consider its status as one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. Whether you’re a surfer or beach lover, few will regret traveling out of their way for this hidden slice of heaven.

5. Montezuma Beach

Journey to the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula to find where the jungle kisses the Pacific shore, and you’ll discover the beguiling Montezuma Beach. 

Sat on the southernmost tip of the peninsula, Playa Montezuma’s rocky coast and rough waves do little to dissuade travelers from visiting this dazzling white sand beach. And for those who time it just right, the beach becomes even more magical with the hatching of baby sea turtles as they burst from their shells and make for the coastline.

But, with its peaceful setting, Montezuma always holds a little bit of magic. Backed by a thick forest, the rest of the world quickly fades away on the shores of one of Costa Rica’s best beaches.

6. Costa Ballena

Encompassing more than just a single stretch of beach, Costa Ballena is a singular location nevertheless. The charm of this sandy shore extends far beyond its rugged beauty and unspoiled nature and into the sea—quite literally. The area is most famous for what else but its name and how it got the name in particular. A uniquely shaped sandbar extends into the water in a perfect replica of a whale’s tail. 

To make it even better, humans aren’t the only creatures who love whale coast; the whales do too. They can often be spotted off the shores of Costa Bellena during whale season. So whether you stick to the beach or head further into the Ballena National Marine Park, visitors can luxuriate in the natural paradise surrounding them. 

7. Nacascolo Beach

Playa Nacascola lies nestled between some of the best beach resorts in Costa Rica: the Four Seasons Papagayo Resort and Andaz Costa Rica Resort. Despite that, Nacascolo Beach remains largely untouched, but it’s not for lack of enticements.

Warm waters sit calm and crystal clear, highlighting the beach’s tranquil atmosphere. The serenity is only broken by the white-faced monkeys that frequent the beach, eager to play and put on a show for anyone watching. So pack a picnic and head to this little-known gem that manages to stake its place among the best beaches in Costa Rica.

8. Santa Teresa & Mal País Beach

Often bundled together, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Mal País offer the complete package. If you want action and idleness in equal measure, these are the beaches for you. 

Santa Teresa Beach offers a stunning two miles of white sand and fun surf breaks. Plenty of beach means you can lay out and work on your tan or stroll along the beach admiring the view. Come low tide, beachgoers find fun tide pools that house colorful sea creatures and reflect beautiful sunsets in the evening.

But if the crowds start to weigh on you, that’s when some will make their escape to Mal País Beach. Quieter than its neighbors, it’s no less impressive thanks to its gorgeous views and hidden wildlife. Here, you can sit back and fish or pull out the binoculars to see which of Costa Rica’s many bird species you can spy in the trees.

9. Samara Beach

Somewhat overlooked among the many grand beaches of the Guanacaste Province, Playa Samara still manages to stand out thanks to its breathtaking beauty. 

Rather than busy and rowdy chains, local shops take center stage scattered at intervals along the beach. The effect is a less crowded beach and a much quieter vibe, with space to walk, run, and play in the sand. Standing under the palms and taking in the view from Playa Samara is a moment when Costa Rica’s beauty will hit you all over again.

10. Carrillo Beach

Travelers looking for white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and no development in sight will quickly name Carrillo Beach among the best beaches in Costa Rica. We’re not saying they’d be wrong. No shops play peek-a-boo from the treeline. Calm waves lap gently at the shore. Picnic benches sit under broad palm fronds. It all boils down to an idyllic beach for anyone whose primary goal is to soak in the sun and bask in the views.

Speaking of views, you won’t find many beaches in Costa Rica more pristine than Carrillo Beach. Thanks to the work of the local community, it’s one of the cleanest and most sustainable beaches in the country—that’s not just on the word of a few travelers either. The ecological Blue Flag program awarded Carrillo Beach one of Costa Rica’s five Blue Flags.

11. Guiones Beach

Nosara is known for two things: surfing and yoga. So, it’s no surprise you can find both on the shores of Playa Guiones. Coasting under the radar, Playa Guiones isn’t as well-known as other surf destinations but serves up a treat of choice waves and plenty of schools to get beginners on their feet and riding the waves. Of course, those not too keen to surf can always practice their yoga on the sand or stroll through the many shops bordering the beach.  

Nosara’s serene atmosphere promises beachgoers some of the best beaches in Costa Rica and one of the best places for couples to travel on a budget

12. San Juanillo Beach

You don’t often get two beaches in one, but Playa San Juanillo is unlike any other beach. Sure, it has the staple features of many of the best beaches in Costa Rica: white sand, turquoise waters, rocky formations, and a lush forest backdrop. 

However, what’s different here is the convergence of two beaches to form a sandy point jutting out into the water. The effect is a spectacular beach with unparalleled scenery. 

When the tide is low, many beachgoers rush to the rocks, hoping for the ultimate view. But, when the high tide rushes in, the rocks are swallowed up, leaving gorgeous perspectives looking back on the playa. San Juanillo is a hidden gem unlike any other.

13. Ostional Beach

The black volcanic sand of Ostional Beach is a strange sight among the many white sand beaches on this list. Of course, it’s that same uniqueness that earns it a spot among the best beaches in Costa Rica. 

But, it’s not the only unique thing about Ostional that draws visitors to its shore. Because come the rainy season, the beach sees hundreds of thousands of sea turtles nesting on the volcanic sand. It’s a rare sight and a magical reason to travel to Costa Rica during the rainy season and see this arribada for yourself.

14. Punta Uva Beach

Playa Punta Uva is a quintessential Caribbean Beach sporting blue waters, calm waves, and one of those picture-perfect white sand shores that Costa Rica’s best beaches are known for. 

Located a stone’s throw from Manzanillo Beach in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, it also sports eye-catching wildlife from the shore to the sea. Monkeys and sloths populate the dense jungle, while many fish species swim among the vibrant coral reefs offshore. The latter makes Playa Punta Uva a popular snorkeling beach. But whether snorkeling or swimming, the warm waters invite everyone in to play.

15. Manzanillo Beach

Another Caribbean coast, Playa Manzanillo sits just east of Punta Uva Beach. A bit more remote than its neighbor, Manzanillo Beach is where travelers can go to escape. The palm-fringed shore leads into the gentle waters of the Caribbean, perfect for some scenic kayaking or swimming. 

Colorful coral reefs make taking to the water an alluring prospect whether you’re snorkeling or scuba diving. However, those that kick back on the sand are also in for a treat with a stunning stretch of beach to themself, spectacular views at their feet, and the chance to see dolphins and manatees enjoying the ocean playground.  

16. Flamingo Beach

Thanks to a large mangrove forest, Flamingo Beach isn’t largely developed. Instead, visitors will find condos and hotels dotting the hills surrounding Playa Flamingo, leaving the mile-long stretch of beach virtually untouched. Here, under the Costa Rican sun and fluttering beach umbrellas, the beautiful white sand takes on a decidedly pinkish hue, making the picturesque scene even more beautiful.

After visitors have had their fill of sun-drenched sands, calm swims, and gorgeous sunsets, they can retreat to one of the many luxury properties around Flamingo Beach. As one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica, Flamingo offers an upscale experience, from mansions with epic views to beach resorts with plenty of amenities to spoil yourself on vacation.

17. Esterillos Oeste Beach

The quiet serenity of Esterillos Oeste Beach is fairly surprising, given its allure of sun, surf, and sirens. Okay, so visitors won’t necessarily find any flesh and blood sirens swimming along the coast, but La Sirena eagerly awaits. Her profile looking out over the coast is a beach staple, as is the black sand and tempting surf.

Beginners and experienced surfers alike will find the beach breaks at Esterillos Oeste Beach a fun ride. At the same time, large tidepools promise endless entertainment for visitors searching for crabs and fish and taking a dip in the larger pools.

18. Jaco Beach

One of the largest beaches in Costa Rica, Jaco Beach stretches for over two miles with promises of sun and sand along an eye-catching shore. While families routinely enjoy the large beach, Jaco’s lively energy and great surf make it a hotspot for boarders and partygoers. 

From sunrise to well past sundown, Jaco Beach comes alive. Surf the waves in the morning, soak in the afternoon sun, then dance through the night at Jaco’s vibrant nightclubs. 

Jaco Beach also serves as a gateway to adventure, from Carara National Park, with its bright scarlet macaw, to journeys into the mountains to chase waterfalls. 

Which Part of Costa Rica Has the Best Beaches?

The answer, as anti-climactic as it sounds, is both. The Pacific Coast offers a wealth of diverse beaches covering everything from black sand to incredible surf, while Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast delivers classic Caribbean vibes and views, with white sand beaches and palm trees galore. 

However, if you’re looking for the best beaches in Costa Rica with the most beautiful shores and views, then you’ll likely find yourself in one of two places. The northwest region of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula all but guarantee dry weather and gorgeous views. Or, elect for the opposite shore on the south Caribbean side near Puerto Viejo for the best classic Caribbean vibes and sunshine.

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Whether you’re up for a romantic getaway or a solo adventure, Next Vacay can help you follow the sun to Costa Rica’s stunning shores. It’s time to fly with Next Vacay.

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