With five per cent of the world’s total biodiversity, Costa Rica is a fascinating destination. It's packed with abundant natural charms, from ethereal cloud forests to the pounding waves of the Pacific Ocean. For many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination. And the best way to process all the colourful memories? A quiet day or two at one of the best beaches in Costa Rica.
Even the beaches are widely varied in this beguiling country. You’ll find everything from rugged surf spots to white sand Caribbean charmers. Although this list could have been twice as long (easily!) here we offer a few places to start when it comes to exploring Costa Rica's best beaches.
Keen on exploring Costa Rica's beaches? Perhaps our Beaches and Volcanoes trip is something for you.
The park is home to three beaches (with a fourth just outside the entrance), the most picturesque of which is Playa Manuel Antonio, also called Playa Tres. It's the safest beach in the area for swimming and offers good snorkelling too. Head to the rocks at the end of the beach to see an array of marine life. Being one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, this spot is popular with locals come the weekend – so visit during the week if you can.
RoughGuides Tip: be even more prepared for your trip and check out our tips for travelling to Costa Rica.
Isla Tolinga’s two enchanting beaches are ideal for swimming, snorkelling or simply soaking up the atmosphere. There’s no accommodation on the island so visitors come for the day by boat. During the week the islands are relatively peaceful, but at weekends boatloads of visitors arrive, spoiling the tranquillity somewhat. Plan to avoid a weekend visit if you can.
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To the west of the point, this beach is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you’ll find a coral reef ideal for snorkelling within swimming distance of the shore.
Playa Grande, to the east, has the classic Caribbean-style palm trees, but the water here is rougher and less suitable for swimming. If you’re lucky you might spot a rare green macaw while you’re here. The nearby Ara Project in Manzanillo has been breeding and releasing the endangered birds since 2011.
Travelling beyond Costa Rica? Don't miss our guide to the best beaches in the world.
Steep sandbars out to sea create consistent waves that break close to shore, offering a challenge to surfers of all levels. There are strong rip tides here so it’s not a good place to swim. It's also not the best place for surf lessons unless you’re confident in your skills already. For those with some experience, however, you’re practically guaranteed a memorable day on the waves.
Want to adventure beyond the best beaches? Read our guide to the best hikes in Costa Rica.
As many as 11 million eggs are laid during this time. For many, spotting wildlife in its natural habitat is a top reason to travel. If that's you, you’ll be wowed by the annual spectacle. We don't recommend swimming at Ostional, especially during nesting season. The presence of so many turtles can draw sharks to the area.
Surrounded by green forested mountains, this bay features shallow, gentle waters ideal for wading while large flocks of pelicans dive for fish. Enjoy a wide choice of cheap cabinas and sodas (neighbourhood restaurants) nearby the main entry point of the park.
Visit in December through April and spot humpback whales visiting their young. The annual Whale and Dolphin Festival is held nearby in September featuring whale-watching, concerts, activities for families, sand sculptures, and sports competitions.
Now that you have seen the very best beaches that Costa Rica has to offer, you might just be ready to start planning your trip.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Costa Rica without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
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