Best Beaches of Costa Rica

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Costa Rica beaches are as varied as they are plentiful, from the volcanic black sands of Playa Hermosa, Jaco to the sparkling white of Punta Leona and Playa Conchal. There are bay side beaches like Tambor on the Gulf of Nicoya and Puerto Jimenez on Golfo Dulce that attract mating whales and offer great marine life viewing opportunities. Then there are beaches offering optimal surf conditions as the ocean beats down on them like Playa Nosara and Santa Teresa.
The graph below the article attempts to compare the best beaches of Costa Rica by pointing out their strengths and weaknesses to help you match what you are looking for. After giving it a look, check out the featured beaches below and why they have become our favorites.

Best Luxury Lodging

Costa Rica boasts with stunning, diverse nature, with lush tropical forests densely packed between scattered towns, but that doesn’t mean inaccessibility or lack of luxury. Luxury resorts are sprinkled over Costa Rica’s Golden Coast—sunny Guanacaste, whereas the rest of the country offers excellent choice of luxury boutique hotels.

1. Papagayo is home to the famous Four Seasons resort and the all-inclusive Grand Papagayo. The entire peninsula is exclusive and non-hotel guests are only allowed access by hotel shuttles that go to three designated public beaches. The views are majestic as the peninsula curls around offering views of the Guanacaste shore and nearby islands.
2. Playa Conchal is home to the Reserva Conchal, offering world class ocean front golf and luxury rental villas, as well as The Westin Playa Conchal, one of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the country. The beach is public but frequented mostly by hotel and villa guests. Service and lodging here is 5-star and indulgent.
3. Punta Islita, a remote little beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula, revolves around the daily working of the Hotel Punta Islita, a world-renowned boutique resort. The hotel is not only luxurious, it is also sustainable environmentally and socially speaking. The hotel offers the majority of employment to the local population and offers empowerment programs. Perfect destination for a romantic getaway.

Best Nightlife

1. Jaco is the beach town nightlife destination of Costa Rica. Its proximity to San Jose makes it the easiest destination for residents to hit up on the weekends for some fun in the sun. Local bars are known to put on a show on the weekends and its reputation has made it a popular destination for spring breakers from the States.
2. Tamarindo has recently come to give Jaco a run for its money. This Guanacaste surf town has developed a strong tourism infrastructure inviting luxury travelers, families, backpackers and more to the beautiful 7 kilometer long beach. From reggae to electronica, the nightlife options here are plentiful, just ask the locals where to go on each given night of the week!

Best Surfer/ Backpacker Beaches

1. Getting to Santa Teresa, on the Nicoya Peninsula, is an adventure in itself. The long trip and dusty roads may deter luxury travelers but it has become a mecca for backpackers and surfers looking to travel off the beaten path.

2. Puerto Viejo on the southern Caribbean is a big backpacker destination and within boating distance to the infamous Salsa Brava surf break, the best on the Caribbean coast and the only one in Costa Rica that could be compared to the conditions of Hawaii. The vibe here is Rasta with reggae music, bright colors, pristine beaches and limited development. Days are spent here biking down the beach, relaxing in a hammock, chatting with other travelers and relaxing on the beach.

Best Wildlife

1. Tortuguero is a natural paradise set amid canals, rivers and the Caribbean sea. The town itself is on a thin peninsula between the ocean and a canal and can be traversed in under 10 minutes on foot. The main industries here are fishing and tourism and tours to the national park will have you spotting a variety of monkeys, poisonous snakes, insects and more. The park is home to several species of large cat, though like in any other region, these are difficult to spot. Also a great destination for birdwatchers.
2. Manuel Antonio has long been known as the most popular national park in Costa Rica. While tourism has taken over the region, the abundance of wildlife has not diminished. While the local town has its charm, visiting the park is a must as you will uncover trails to amazing views, tiny swimming coves with white sand beaches, and the only tame monkeys in Costa Rica who are known for stealing picnickers food.

 Beach White Sand Swim Surf Restaurants Touristy Wildlife Fishing Remote
Central & South Pacific Coast
Jaco ✓✓
Playa Hermosa ✓✓
Manuel Antonio ✓✓
Drake Bay
Puerto Jimenez
North Pacific Coast
Playa del Coco
Ocotal ✓✓
Tamarindo ✓✓ ✓✓
Playa Conchal
Playa Samara
Punta Islita ✓✓
Santa Teresa/ Mal Pais ✓✓ ✓✓
Tambor ✓✓
Caribbean Coast
Tortuguero ✓✓
Cahuita ✓✓
Puerto Viejo


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