8 of Costa Rica's Best Beaches
Whether you fancy deserted, wild shores or laid-back surfer vibes, with two picture-perfect coastlines - one Caribbean, one Pacific - Costa Rica has just the beach for you. We have put together some of the country's best beaches for the beach goers.
Best for surfing - Playa Cocles, Limon
There are surfing beaches galore in Costa Rica - but Playa Cocles, just east of popular beach town Puerto Viejo, is among the finest, with its soft white sands and moderate waves. Just starting out? Lined with dense palm forest, this Caribbean Sea beach provides a pretty backdrop for a lesson with a local surf instructor, who will teach you the basics. Experienced enough to go it on your own? Come at high tide, when the ride is longest, and break up swell sessions with beach volleyball games or strolls down the forest trails.
Best for snorkelling - Playa Chonchal, Guanacaste
With some of the clearest waters on Costa Rica's beach-packed Gold Coast, cream-sand Playa Conchal is a snorkeller's dream. The area is bursting with a rainbow of Pacific Ocean marine life. Pull on your snorkel mask and plunge into the water to see darting butterfly fish, floating puffer fish and purple-bodied Cortez wrasse among the bulbous coral and rocks. Back on shore, spread a towel on the unique sand - full of tiny crushed seashells - and keep your eyes peeled for howler monkeys in the nearby rainforest.
Best for sunsets - Playa Flamingo, Guanacaste
Thanks to its prime west-facing location, pearly-pinky sands, and copious guaro sour cocktails ('guaro', a sugar-cane spirit, with lime and sugar syrup), served up at bars overlooking the expansive Pacific Ocean, Playa Flamingo nails sunsets. It's a brilliant swimming beach, where you can take in the sky's fiery hues while bobbing in gentle, warm waves. Alternatively, join a sunset catamaran ride or just grab a frosty beer from a beachside restaurant and perch on the sand.
Best for nightlife - Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste
Craft beers, reggae beats or scenery beach clubs - you'll find the lot in Tamarindo, a beloved, buzzy beach town in Costa Rica's Pacific Ocean-facing northwest. There are plenty of excellent beaches here, but when it comes to good times after dark, Playa Tamarindo's main stretch wins out with its oodles of options. Hop from live music bars or pool parties to karaoke sing-along's or the local casino.
Best for chilled-out vibes - Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas
A favourite with hip young travellers, bohemian Santa Teresa town is the Pacific side's hub of wellbeing, with beachside yoga and Pilates, slick juice bars and tidal pools for lazy afternoon dips. You've got an array of silky strands to choose from, but make for Playa Hermosa, translated as 'Beautiful Beach' - quieter and less developed than some of its neighbours. True to its name, it's wide, flat and smooth, great for both swimming and surfing - and, at low tide, when a vast tract of sand is on show, for sunbathing.
Best for wildlife - Tortuguero National Park, Limon
The sands fringing Tortuguero National Park, which is tucked in the remote northwest on the Caribbean coast, are famous for more than their unusual slate-hued colour. From spring to autumn these are the nesting grounds for thousands of sea turtles, especially the endangered green and the enormous leatherback (which, as the world's largest, can reach up to 2.5m in length). Visit the nesting sands with a trained guide, who will talk you through how to approach the epic scene.
Best for active types - Playa Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas
This perennially popular stretch of sand - found at the edge of the national park of the same name- has plenty to entertain if a simple beach flop isn't your bag. For starters, it's a scenic half-hour hike from the park entrance through monkey and sloth-filled rainforests to reach the golden Pacific-coast sands. Once you've arrived, snorkel through the coral seascape, paddle in water sheltered by rocks, or kick a football along the sand. Or just keep on walking - Manuel Antonio is one of the country's most bio diverse forests, and a hike along its trail will have you spotting rare species.
Best for secret swims - Playa Punta Uva, Limon
Southeast of popular Caribbean seaside town Puerto Viejo, this pretty beach blends good looks with an easygoing vibe. With its gentle curve of powdery white-gold sand and its Instagram-perfect outcrop of palm trees lined by bright blue waters, it's a wonder it's not busier. You can often spend a day here in solitude, reading a book or splashing in the waves. Bring your own drinks, snacks, towels and snorkel gear, because there's nothing here but glorious nature.