There are several hundred beaches in Costa Rica, so it is difficult to name the “best” or “nicest“ beaches. In addition, we all have our own tastes and preferences. However there are beaches that stand out as the most popular and are more suited to cater to visitors. The following list is broken these down into regional categories for your convenience.
Flamingo: This is a beautiful off-white colored beach with soft grey sand that is ideal for swimming. Guests of Flamingo Beach Resort can walk right across the street to enjoy it.
Conchal: This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the northwest Pacific coast. The grey sand is composed of crushed seashells. It is perfect for swimming or snorkeling. Guests of the Westin Playa Conchal enjoy direct access to this otherwise difficult to access beach.
Tamarindo: This is a great beach for swimming or surfing. The town is fairly Americanized with modern conveniences, shopping and plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Samara and Carrillo: Samara is a fun little beach town with a lot of local personality. It still maintains Costa Rican charm, yet offers shopping, restaurants and bars. While Playa Samara is beautiful, there is another stunning beach just 5 minutes south, Playa Carrillo. There are no hotels on Playa Carrillo, allowing it to maintain its natural beauty.
Mal Pais and Santa Teresa: Located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, this area has recently turned into a hot spot for well-to-do surfers and yogis. The beaches here are beautiful, but better left for experiences surfers.
Montezuma: Montezuma is another beautiful beach on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. The area is known for the eclectic bohemian lifestyle of its inhabitants. The scenic long stretches of grey sand beaches are broken up by various rock outcroppings.
Manuel Antonio: This is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica and for good reason. The gorgeous grey sand beaches are backed by jungle lined hillsides. There is a national park and loads of wildlife in this paradisiacal beach town. Don’t forget your camera for the amazing sunsets!
Dominical: While Playa Dominical in the center of town is not the prettiest beach, we include this beach on the list as there are several beautiful, but lesser known smaller beaches surrounding the area. Dominical is an awesome beach for big wave surfing. Just to the north, Playa Baru is a picturesque palm studded beach with good swimming and surfing sections. Just to the south, Playa Dominicalito provides calmer waters for swimming and incredible sunsets.
Uvita: The beaches of Uvita are all located within Marino Ballena National Park. Therefore, visitors have to pay to enter. The beaches here are simply stunning with the cloud covered mountains in the background.
Carate: Located on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula, Playa Carate is one of the most isolated beaches in Costa Rica. The jungle lined beaches are the gateway to the southern end of Corcovado National Park.
Cahuita: There are several beaches in the small town of Cahuita. The most beautiful are the grey sand beaches within Cahuita National Park. There is great swimming and snorkeling in this area which is backed by rainforest that is teaming with wildlife.
Playa Cocles: This is the closest beach to the south of Puerto Viejo. It is a long, grey sand, spectacularly beautiful beach that is good for surfing nearly year round at the north end and better suited for swimming in the middle and southern end.
Punta Uva: This is a stunning grey sand beach located 10 km south of Puerto Viejo. The beaches provide calms waters and are protected by a reef.
Manzanillo: This is possibly the most beautiful beach area in Costa Rica, but protected from building as it is within a wildlife refuge. Day trips are available from nearby Puerto Viejo.
For more information on these and other beaches, check out our Costa Rica beaches page.
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