Costa Rica Beach Vacations

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Best Beach Vacations in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers a wide variety when it comes to beaches. After all, the country's name means "Rich Coast" in English, and for good reason. A tropical Costa Rican beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind, but it's also great if you want ocean adventures. Whether it's the dark sand coastlines in the Central and Southern Pacific, or the long, sun-kissed beaches of Guanacaste, or the off-the-beaten-path jungles of the Caribbean, there's a beach for all tastes.
This is why our customizable Costa Rica beach vacation packages showcase the top beaches in Costa Rica. Browse, pick, and choose. This will be the vacation of a lifetime!

Visiting the Top Beaches in Costa Rica

Aerial view of a beach from the top, with sandy shores and a blue sea
What's the best beach in Costa Rica? That's the eternal question. Coming to Costa Rica, it's natural to want the best of the best. But the important thing to remember is to find the absolute best beach for you. For that, think about the type of beach vacation you want.
Are you looking for a classic family vacation? Or maybe adrenaline-filled adventures? Deciding the sort of activities you want to do is what will determine which beach is best for you. Whether you're traveling in a large group or solo is also important, as is whether you want to do watersports or just relax. If you crave white sands, sun, and relaxation, it changes your destination. If you want off-the-beaten-track getaways, coziness, and privacy, you have other options.

Beachfront Accommodations: Rentals vs Hotels

One of the most significant decisions about vacationing is what type of accommodation to book. Costa Rica has plenty to offer on that end as well. Boutique locations, large resorts, secluded hideaways, or even bustling fishing communities are all on the table. Both hotels and vacation rentals provide similar opportunities to experience luxury, relaxation, and comfort. The difference lies in what you're most comfortable with.

Perks of Vacation Rentals

On one hand, rentals often provide the opportunity for more privacy. Individual homes come with appliances and different amenities to use yourself. Another big draw is the option to self-cater and cook your own meals, sometimes saving money or the hassle of finding a restaurant to your liking.
This type of accommodation is particularly popular with larger families or groups who want to stay close together and make the trip more cost-effective. Also, everyone has their own space, and the kids can laugh and play while the adults get their me-time to rest. Some rentals sit within larger resorts and provide access to sports and entertainment facilities, restaurants, and pools. Many even have concierge service to arrange any last-minute plans.

Pros of Beach Hotels

Hotels provide a whole different experience. Whether it's a boutique or an internationally-known resort, hotels are all about the service you receive. The most famous beachfront destinations in Costa Rica usually include luxury or all-inclusive stays, meaning more attention and pampering throughout the day.
An added advantage is that there's no need to worry about meals at these locations, removing any stress from your vacation. Depending on the type of hotel, there are different on-site and off-site activities to enjoy as well, including kid clubs, pool bars, or even golfing.

Popular Areas of Costa Rica for a Beach Vacation

Once you've decided what style suits the vacation best, there's the question of location. Costa Rica has excellent options for different types of travelers dotted across its coasts, with the Pacific coast being the most popular. Choosing the right one depends on what you expect from the beach and the property.


Conchal beach with lounging chairs
In the North Pacific, Guanacaste has a variety of rental homes to offer. One of our most popular locations is Las Catalinas. It's a private and secluded beach town where families, groups, and couples find a swimmable beach with many on-site amenities. These include a club, a store, and a couple of restaurants.
The Papagayo Peninsula is renowned for its luxury resorts. This is the home to the Four Seasons Resort among other top locations. This compound offers rental lodgers the use of its facilities, making for a private, high-end stay. The peninsula also provides the calm waters of Culebra Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Flamingo is another popular destination. Here rentals like The Palms are great for those who want easy access to local communities while keeping their privacy and comfort. The beach is steps away and children have the freedom to run around and be free.

Manuel Antonio

Another renowned destination in Costa Rica for beach vacations is Manuel Antonio. Here, it's not only about the beaches but also the proximity to the iconic rainforests and wildlife of the region. Staying in a true beachfront location isn't so easy in Manuel Antonio. Most hotels in the area are in the hills above the beaches - given that the beaches are either inside or next to the protected national park. You're still close to the beach, just not directly on it, although the ocean views are far better.

Top Family-Friendly Beaches in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an excellent destination for a family-friendly beachfront getaway. There are many family-friendly beaches around the country, each with its unique appeal. These are our top beaches based on their accessibility, the number of available family-friendly activities, and the safety of both the ocean and its surroundings.

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste

Aerial view of the bay with Conchal beach and the surrounding forests
For a unique beach, Playa Conchal is a must! The beach comprises millions of tiny shells to keep kids and adults entertained as they search for perfect little treasures. The crystal-clear water is inviting for a swim, and water sports like kayaking and snorkeling are also available.
Accommodation options are at Reserva Conchal, offering world-class oceanfront golf and luxury. The most popular is The Westin Conchal, one of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the country. The beach is public, but mainly frequented by hotel and villa guests. Service and lodging here are 5-star and indulgent.
Other options, like the W Hotel, are also available. This is more geared to an adult public in search of luxury, seclusion, and top service.

Playa Panama, Guanacaste

Playa Panama seems to be fronting a lake rather than the ocean, making it perfect for families. Located on the Gulf of Papagayo, it's protected from the waves, so smaller children can play at the water's edge and swim without fear. Playa Panama is also an excellent beach for activities like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and riding a banana boat!

Experience Luxury by the Ocean

If you seek a luxury beach vacation, it doesn't get better than Guanacaste. There are both large resorts and boutique hotels where you can sit back and relax. Papagayo is home to several luxury resorts, including the famous Four Seasons Resort and Andaz Peninsula Papagayo. The entire peninsula is exclusive, and non-hotel guests are only allowed access by hotel shuttles to three designated public beaches. The views are majestic as the peninsula curls around, offering views of the Guanacaste shore and nearby islands.
Punta Islita, a remote beach community on the Nicoya Peninsula, revolves around the daily work of the Punta Islita hotel, a renowned boutique resort. The hotel is not only luxurious but also environmentally and socially sustainable. In addition, the hotel offers most of the employment to the local population and provides empowerment programs.

Beaches with Eco-friendly Accommodations

Costa Rica's southern Pacific, particularly the Osa Peninsula, is especially eco-conscious. Here is where you'll find the pristine Corcovado National Park, where tapirs and jaguars leave their footprints on the beaches.
Most hotels from the area participate in eco-friendly practices and are happy to share how they stay sustainable and with a low impact on the environment. Accommodations are eco-luxury, meaning wifi and TV are probably not offered, but still provide world-class service. Beaches here are also a little harder to access, so stay for a few days to be able to explore and enjoy them. But, again, it's an opportunity to get off the beaten path and reconnect with nature.

Swimming Beach: Perfect for Active Visitors

If you want calm waters to swim in or practice other sports, there are many options, but this is one of our favorites.

Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste

Guanacaste's Playa Hermosa ("Beautiful Beach") lives up to its name. It's a few miles of white sand shore curving around the calm waters of Culebra Bay. This secluded spot is perfect for swimming and other water-related activities: nearby diving spots, snorkeling, and stand-up paddle boarding. The waters are calm year-round.

Best Beaches to Surf

With Caribbean and Pacific swells, Costa Rica is one of the world's top surf spots. Warm waters make surfing accessible year-round to surfers of all abilities, from first-timers to experts.

Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula

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. The consistent break is a big draw for those looking for a day of action amongst the waves.

Puerto Viejo, South Caribbean

Beach on a sunny day in Manzanillo
Puerto Viejo is a surf town on the southern Caribbean coast, home of the famous Salsa Brava, Costa Rica's biggest and best wave. The vibe here is true Afro-Caribbean style with reggae music, bright colors, pristine beaches, and laid-back atmospheres. It also has limited city development, but it's part of the town's charm.

Dominical, Central Pacific

Less than an hour south of Manuel Antonio is the small surf community of Dominical. Follow the main road past the row of small shops and eateries, and you'll find the beach. The break is not for the faint-hearted, and when there are storms off the coast, you can feel the vibrations of the waves pounding as you watch from the beach. The area features popular surf competitions several times throughout the year that are fun to watch, even if you don't venture into the water.

Jaco & Playa Hermosa, Central Pacific

Jaco is the go-to surf destination for locals and travelers alike due to its easy access from San Jose. Jaco and Playa Hermosa, just to the south, are great places to hop aboard a surfboard, from lessons for beginners to competitions for those who already know what they're doing.

FAQs about Best Beach Vacation in Costa Rica

What is the most excellent beach in Costa Rica?

With hundreds of beaches across two coasts, it's difficult to say what's the most excellent beach in Costa Rica. The nicest for what? Surfing? Swimming? Sunsets? Costa Rica has so many gorgeous tropical beaches backed by palm trees, jungles, and sands of all colors that it's easy to discover that the most excellent beach in the country is the one you're sitting on right now. It's all about what you want to get from your vacation and finding the right destination for it.

Which side of Costa Rica has the best beaches?

Both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of Costa Rica have beautiful beaches. There's nothing to choose between the two sides if you're a lover of tropical beaches. However, the Pacific side is more developed with more accommodation choices and things to do.

Are the beaches in Costa Rica swimmable? 

Yes. Although Costa Rica is famous for its surfing beaches, meaning big waves and strong undertows, there are plenty of calmer beaches with smaller waves and perfect swimming conditions.

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