If you’re planning to visit paradise on your next vacation, you won’t get much closer than Costa Rica. This peaceful country in Latin America is a beacon for others to follow – especially when it comes to tourism. Many of its top destinations are big on sustainable tourism, and you can find some awesome places to stay, as well as visit.
While you can hike volcanoes, bike through the rainforest, and zipline across mangroves, the best thing is arguably the beaches in Costa Rica. No matter what you expect from a tropical paradise, you’ll find it in Costa Rica. With both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, it has a number of surfing destinations too. You can also enjoy wildlife watching – whether that’s birds or marine life.
In this post, we’ll look at seven of the best beaches in Costa Rica. No matter your travel style or tastes, one of them will be perfect for a few days (or who knows, weeks), while on your adventure. We’ll take a look at the best beaches in Costa Rica, and where to stay and what to do when you’re there. Welcome to your essential Costa Rica travel companion!
- When to Go to beaches in Costa Rica
- Most Popular Beach in Costa Rica | Manuel Antonio Beach
- Best Beach for Swimming in Costa Rica | Conchal Beach
- Most Beautiful Beach in Costa Rica | Samara Beach
- Best Beach for Surfing in Costa Rica | Jaco Beach
- Quietest Beach in Costa Rica | Santa Teresa Beach
- Best Party Beach in Costa Rica | Tamarindo Beach
- Best Beach for Wildlife in Costa Rica | Tortuguero Beach
- Costa Rica Packing List
When to Go to beaches in Costa Rica
The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April. This is the country’s dry season when the weather is at its finest and you’ll find many backpackers travelling through Cost Rica. The downside of visiting during their ‘summer’ is that prices for accommodation, travel, and tours are more expensive than the rest of the year.
When it comes to beaches in Costa Rica, it’s a little more complicated. That’s because the weather on the country’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts is different. High season is the best time to visit the Pacific Coast; however, that’s between March and September on the Caribbean side. Unless you’re visiting Caribbean beaches, Costa Rica is best avoided in September and October, when heavy rain is common.
If you’re planning to combine beach visits with trips to the country’s rainforests, then June and July are a good time to visit. Rain showers are less frequent, and the country is bursting with beautiful green foliage – and you’ll be able to catch a tan during your beach time!
Most Popular Beach in Costa Rica | Manuel Antonio Beach
- Who It’s For: Wildlife lovers who want to chill on the beach while spotting monkeys and birds in the jungle.
- Don’t Miss: Any opportunity to see endangered squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and sloths. With or without a guide!
One of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio Beach is a tropical paradise that’s part of a national park. The beach in question is a 30-minute walk from the park’s entrance, but it’s well worth the hike through the jungle. Make sure to pack beach gear including your snorkel and swimsuit, as it’s the perfect place to explore the coral reefs. Several hiking trails lead away from the beach, so it’s good for active families and adventurers.
Best Airbnb – Apartamento Leon
With room for four guests, this is an excellent option for a small family or group of friends on their Manuel Antonio adventures! There’s a kitchen where you can whip up a feast.
Best Hostel – Hostel Plinio
Fancy being woken up by the sounds of the jungle? Check out this awesome hostel in Manuel Antonio. It’s got a pool and restaurant to keep you busy while you’re on-site!
Best Hotel – Peace of Paradise
There are some pricey resort hotels near MA Beach in Costa Rica, but Peace of Paradise isn’t one of them. Instead, this colourful and welcoming place is an affordable option near the beach – you can even hire bikes here!
Best Beach House for Couples – Beach Nest with Terrace
Travelling with your other half? This romantic beach home will give you the privacy you want without breaking the bank.
Take a hike along this peninsula, which juts out like a whale’s tail. It’s just a mile long, but the walk is a great opportunity to see flora and fauna without a guide, and there are several viewing platforms. [source: Stefan Neumann (Shutterstock)]
The closest place to eat near Manuel Antonio National Park, this spot on the beach is open all day and has a sea view dining area.
The only zip coaster in Quepos, this is better than your average zip line thanks to the twists and turns along the way! [image credit]
Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
Come face to face with sloths, iguanas, and toucans on a wildlife adventure through Manuel Antonio National Park with a local guide.
Go On a Night Tour
See the nocturnal beasts that call this place home with a fun and educational private night tour through the park.
Not bothered about the sloths, monkeys, and reptiles? Well, grab your binoculars to see the birds of Manuel Antonio with a local birder.
Best Beach for Swimming in Costa Rica | Conchal Beach
- Who It’s For: If you want to swim and snorkel without being disturbed by surfers, Playa Conchal is the place to do it.
- Don’t Miss: The incredible sunsets from the beach.
One of the less busy beaches on Playa Guanacaste, the calm blue waters make this a swimmers’ and snorkelers’ paradise! You won’t need to head out too far to see coral reefs and marine life at this picturesque beach in Costa Rica. There’s a trade-off for the natural feel though: there’s only one hotel close by, and it’s quite expensive. However, we’d say it’s worth it to experience an unspoiled, beautiful beach.
Best Airbnb – Pequeño apartamento en Brasilito
This beachfront apartment comes with everything you need for your stay. Fifteen minutes from Playa Conchal, you’ll have a bed, a kitchen, and one hell of a view!
Best Hostel – Hotel Brasilito
In nearby Brasilito, you have this small hostel which also offers easy access to the busier Playa Brasilito. There’s a bar with a very long happy hour should you want to meet fellow travellers!
Best Hotel – Conchal Hotel
This three-star hotel is an elegant choice in nearby Brasilito. When you wake up, choose between heading straight for your free breakfast at the Papaya Restaurant or a dip in the outdoor pool.
Best Beach House – Brasilito Beach House
The architecture of this wooden house matches the beauty of the beaches surrounding it. Ideal for a small group of friends or family – who wouldn’t want to come home to this?!
Head to the nearby Westin Hotel’s bar for a cocktail or beer with a view of the beach.
Conchal Adventures Costa Rica
Get your fix for things to do in the area by going on a trip with Conchal Adventures. [image credit]
La Casita del Pescado
Westin Hotel a bit too upmarket? Check out this beachfront restaurant nearby and watch the sunset with a plate of freshly caught seafood! [image credit]
Don’t just stop at the beach, see the mountains too! And what way could be more fun than with an ATV tour?
Did you enjoy the food you’ve tried in Guanacaste? Learn how to make it and impress your family and friends when you get back home.
Learn about life on a Costa Rican farm and take a horseback ride through the gorgeous countryside.
Most Beautiful Beach in Costa Rica | Samara Beach
- Who It’s For: Discovering this gorgeous tropical beach will delight any traveller who loves to get off the beaten track.
- Don’t Miss: Kayaking out to the deserted Isla Chora nearby. You will be astounded by the birdlife!
One of Costa Rica’s prettiest hidden gems, Playa Samara has seen an increase in popularity in recent years – but it’s still enough of a secret to feel special. Get to the powder white sands here while you can. The small town of Samara is a great place for a slice of authentic Costa Rican beach life too. It has plenty of restaurants and shops without feeling too touristy. Head to Samara Beach in Costa Rica while it stays like this!
Best Airbnb – Bird’s Nest Cabin
This wooden cabin is just a short walk from Playa Samara. Your local hosts will be more than happy to give you advice on the best things to do and see in the area!
Best Hostel – Matilori
A sociable hostel with a choice of dorms and privates, whip up something to eat and meet other travellers in one of two communal kitchens.
Best Hotel – Cabañas Lamaite
Boasting a swimming pool, this Cabana Hotel is a great choice if you don’t mind spending a little more without breaking the bank. Free parking is useful for those on a road trip.
Best Tiny House – Casa Bea La Cassetta
The tiny house craze has reached Costa Rica! This lovely blue apartment is the perfect place for a couple to stay on Samara Beach.
This flamboyant restaurant serves food from across Europe in a NYC setting, all made with local ingredients. [image credit]
Samara Deep Sea Fishing
Whether you want to practice fishing or just take a tour out onto the ocean, this is the place to do it. [image credit]
Sample the local beers with a view of the beach. Life could be worse! [image c
Best Beach for Surfing in Costa Rica | Jaco Beach
- Who It’s For: Surfers and backpackers will have Jaco Beach near the top of their Costa Rica itinerary.
- Don’t Miss: Jaco’s awesome nightlife.
Right in the centre of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Jaco is perfect for surfing and partying. When you’re not lounging on the beach or catching a wave, head to one of the legendary beach clubs – you’ll feel like a movie star pulling up a cabana and sipping on superb cocktails. Fancy a day away from the sands? There are several waterfalls in the area, so why not visit them on a jeep safari with a local company? This spot is one of our favourite beaches in Costa Rica and after your visit, you’ll feel the same!
Best Airbnb – Beach Loft with AC
A cute and inexpensive beach loft, this is part of one of Jaco’s best surf camps. You’ve access to a garden when you take a break from the waves!
Best Hostel – Room2Board Hostel and Surf School
If you’re looking to have a go at surfing for the first time, you won’t find any hostel in Costa Rica better than this one! Oh, and it’s a lot of fun too!
Best Hotel – Hotel Ibiza
A romantic spot, Hotel Ibiza is literally just steps from the beach. If that’s not enough, it also offers water sports facilities and bike hire!
Best Tiny House – Shipping Containers by Jaco Beach
These industrial units make for a cool and comfy place to stay in Jaco. And something out of the box is just what you go to Airbnb for, right?!
Craving your sushi fix while in Central America? Look no further than Tsunami Restaurant. [image credit]
Jaco Blu Beach Club
Beach bar by day, nightclub after dark – a good time can be had here no matter what the clock says! [image credit]
Miro Mountain Viewpoint
This secluded mountaintop viewpoint gives a panoramic vista of Jaco from the south end of the beach. A great place to watch the sunset!
Head inland to Jaco’s waterfalls on this Jeep safari tour.
Ditch the traditional nightlife of bars and clubs for frogs and tarantulas. This night safari will be unforgettable, and you won’t have a hangover!
Enjoy some day drinking and see what you can win at the competitions of the Jaco Pool Party.
Quietest Beach in Costa Rica | Santa Teresa Beach
- Who It’s For: Adventurous travellers who are willing to make the effort will be rewarded with their very own slice of paradise.
- Don’t Miss: The surfing at Santa Teresa Beach – with the uncrowded waters, it’s a great place to learn.
Santa Teresa is another of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets. While most tourists flock to Tamarindo and Jaco, only the bravest and most adventurous bother with Santa Teresa – but what a reward it is! Surrounded by tropical jungle, this strip of white sand is perfect for snorkelling and swimming, and there are several hiking trails nearby, making it a must-visit beach in Costa Rica. Throw in two amazing surf spots – Suck Rock and La Lora – and it’s hard to see why there aren’t more people here. No complaints, though!
Best Airbnb – Jane’s Safari Tent
Looking for a romantic alternative to the standard hotel? This safari tent might just do it. It’s also great for two friends travelling together!
Best Hostel – Casa del Mar Surf Destiny
Just 50 metres from Santa Teresa Beach, this hostel boasts an open garden kitchen and a wood-fired restaurant.
Best Hotel – Hotel Meli Melo
This budget hotel gives you the privacy of your own room, but there are also features including a shared kitchen and tropical gardens.
Best Tree House – The Banyan Tree House
When you’re staying in the jungle, you may as well go the whole hog and stay in a treehouse in Costa Rica. Here’s one that won’t break the bank; it offers an experience that’ll stay with you forever!
Restaurante Al Chile Viola
Your evening meal is sorted at this excellent seafood restaurant in the centre of town. [image credit]
Take a break and catch up with a piece of work or your latest book at Zwart Cafe. [image credit]
A gorgeous open-air space and one of the best places to practice yoga in Santa Teresa.
Take your first surf lessons at the nearby beach of Playa Hermosa.
Get up close and personal with deer, bears, and more endemic Costa Rican wildlife at an animal sanctuary.
Head over to Montezuma and go on one of the most exhilarating adventures there is – mountain biking!
Best Party Beach in Costa Rica | Tamarindo Beach
- Who It’s For: Backpackers and flashpackers looking for lively nightlife and lazy days on the beach will be delighted with Tamarindo.
- Don’t Miss: The sea turtle nesting season in nearby Las Baulas National Park.
Another of Guanacaste’s epic beaches, make a beeline for Tamarindo if you fancy dancing the night away as it’s one of the best party beaches in Costa Rica. It’s not just great for nightlife though – it’s also a haven for beginner surfers. With a perfect break just off the coast, it’s ideal for catching your first waves. You also have Las Baulas National Park on your doorstep. If you’re visiting between October and February, you’re likely to see nesting sea turtles.
Best Airbnb – Pipe House by the beach
These unique pods make for one of the coolest places to stay in Tamarindo. There’s a wooden jungle gym where you can keep fit, too.
Best Hostel – La Botella de Leche
“The Milk Bottle” is a hip hostel in Tamarindo for flashpackers at a backpacker price. There are board games that you can play with those you meet in the swimming pool!
Best Hotel – Hotel Palapa
You won’t find a better base in Tamarindo than Hotel La Palapa. It’s right on the beach, and you can cool off in the shade in one of the huge hammocks!
Best Tipi – Family Tipi in Glamping Surf Camp
Don’t want the restrictions of a hotel room? This family tipi will allow you to truly connect with nature, with a little bit of luxury thrown into the mix!
El Be Club Restaurant
No matter the time of day, there’s always something going on at the awesome El Be Club. [image credit]
Digital nomads can use the free Wi-Fi to send off emails over a cappuccino or a mocha. [image credit]
Las Baulas National Marine Park
One of the most important leatherback turtle nesting sites in the world! [source: chrisontour84 (Shutterstock)]
Catch your first waves with the supervision of a local surf expert!
Take a turtle watching tour at one of the most important nesting sites in Costa Rica.
Go scuba diving and come face to face with the world’s largest fish – the gentle giant that is the whale shark!
Best Beach for Wildlife in Costa Rica | Tortuguero Beach
- Who It’s For: Those who make it to Tortuguero Beach can see tapirs, ocelots, and manatees in the National Park of the same name!
- Don’t Miss: A guided safari – you will see a lot more when it comes to wildlife when accompanied by an expert pair of eyes!
The only beach on this list on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero is part of a national park that has an endless wealth of wildlife watching opportunities. It’s tricky to get to Tortuguero Beach and getting around the area isn’t easy either; you can only access this beach by boat from Limon or a flight from San Jose! It’s well worth the effort though. Accommodation can be expensive, so look into multi-day tours where everything is included.
Best Airbnb – Casa Los Chilamates
Enjoy your own space in the jungle with this bright and beautiful house!
Best Hostel – Aracari Garden Hostel
One of the cheapest places to stay in Tortuguero, this small hostel has a range of rooms suitable for all budgets. There’s a common area and kitchen – great if you’re travelling solo.
Best Hotel – Los Amigos Jungle Hotel Tortuguero
With a pool and views of the Tortuguero River, you’re surrounded by water here. Some rooms have a terrace or a patio!
Best Hut – Rainforest Cabin
If you want to be close to the entrance of the national park, this is the place to stay. You can also enjoy a chocolate tour from your host!
Tortuguero National Park
To see all the fascinating flora and fauna of the area.
Open from 5 am. Pick up some baked snacks to keep you going on a day hike through the national park.
Enjoy tasty food and a drink after an exciting day in the national park. [image credit]
One day in Tortuguero will feel rushed. However, a 3-day adventure from San Jose will help you see a lot more.
Tortuguero is named after the “tortugas” (turtles) that live here. It’d be rude to come here and not spend some time with them!
Seeing Tortuguero during the day is only half the story. There are loads of nocturnal animals too – but who says you have to miss them?!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do think about getting insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before: you may well need it.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. To find out why I use World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Costa Rica Packing List
1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
2. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl geopress is a true behemoth amongst water bottles acting as a purifier AND temperature regulator – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are.
3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
4. Headtorch: Every backpacker should have a head torch! A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl Actik Core rechargeable headlamp – an awesome piece of kit! Because it’s USB chargeable I never have to buy earth polluting batteries.
5.Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colourful and tough.
6. Toiletry Bag: I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag as it’s a super efficient way to organise your bathroom stuff. Well worth having, whether you are hanging it from a tree whilst camping, or a hook in a wall, it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Final Thoughts on the Best Beaches in Costa Rica
Now that you know more about Costa Rica’s beaches, you’ll probably have an idea about which one is the most suitable for you. Remember what we’ve seen – with Manuel Antonio National Park, you’ve not only got a gorgeous white sand beach on your doorstep but also acres of pristine rainforest perfect for wildlife watching.
Tamarindo is a place where you can let loose and soak up the awesome nightlife, while Tortuguero gives you a chance to get off the beaten track for a tan and a spot of turtle watching. We’ve left no stone unturned in finding the best beaches in Costa Rica; all that’s left is for you to decide which one you’re going to visit first.
Be sure to leave some time to go hiking in Costa Rica, sample exquisite farm-to-table restaurants, and indulge in the county’s pura vida. We hope you have a great time!
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