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Best Beaches in Costa Rica

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There is a reason why Costa Rica welcomes over 2 million visitors each year and is a top pick from the best tropical vacation spots. The country is a playground for nature lovers and with some of the most inviting beaches in the world, travelers can easily plan a Costa Rica beach vacation. From black sand beaches and sleepy palms to roaring surf and nightlife, the best beaches in Costa Rica include diverse opportunities for enjoyment. With a seemingly endless landscape of beaches, it can be hard to choose where to travel. Here is a breakdown of the top beaches in Costa Rica in no particular order, to help you plan your trip.

1. PUNTA UVA

Dive Center at Punta Uva beach
Punta Uva is one of Costa Rica's best kept secrets.

Undoubtedly one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets, this gorgeous beach boasts smooth white sand, clear Caribbean waters, and tropical coral reef. With flat terrain spanning the greater area to Puerto Viejo, Cahuita National Park and Manzanillo, renting bikes is a popular way to explore the stunning coastline.

Location Limón Province, 5 hours from San José
How to get there From San José, the fastest route is to bus directly to Puerto Viejo, then taxi to Punta Uva; alternatively, a direct bus from San José to Manzanillo, stopping at Punta Uva is available. Daily flights from San José to Limón (1.5 hours north) are also available.
Crowd density Uncrowded and quiet, nearby Puerto Viejo is much busier.
What to take Snorkel gear to float over the bright reef and make friends with aquatic species.  It is worth the luggage space, but rentals are also available in the local dive shops.

2. PLAYA MANUEL ANTONIO

Playa Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica
Playa Manuel Antonio beach lies within the Manuel Antonio National Park and is rich in scenic views, breathtaking sunsets and lush rainforests.

Playa Manuel Antonio is one of the best beaches to visit in Costa Rica. Scenic views, breathtaking sunsets, calm water, and lush rainforests teeming with diverse wildlife are the main attractions here. Nestled within Manuel Antonio National Park, travelers to this beach can bask in the sun, snorkel, meander through a nice system of walking trails, and spot a variety of animals. Monkeys, sloths, birds, and dolphins are popular sightings.

Location Puntarenas Province, 3 hours from San José 
How to get there Direct buses leave from San José’s Tracopa Station throughout the day; From Jaco, bus to Quepos, then take the Manuel Antonio National Park bus (1.5 hours).  Shuttles can also be arranged from either city.
Crowd density Moderate; tours bring people in late morning, which means hiking trails can become more crowded.  Still, entry to the park is capped each day. Arrive early morning for more solitude.
What to take Binoculars to maximize your wildlife viewing potential

3. PLAYA HERMOSA

Playa Hermosa’s name, meaning “beautiful beach,” says it all. Nestled between two lush mountains and adorned with smooth grey sand, this beach is one of Costa Rica’s hidden gems. The atmosphere is laidback and relaxed, making it a perfect getaway for basking in the sun, walking the beach, or finishing that novel you started last summer. For more action, try horseback riding or snorkeling in the calm sea. Though it is noticeably more secluded than nearby beaches, plenty of options for food, drinks, and excursions are available.

Location Guanacaste Province, 3 hours from San José
How to get there Fly directly into Liberia and taxi to Playa Hermosa (17 minutes); local flights from San José to Liberia are available (40 minutes); Otherwise, direct buses to Playa Hermosa depart daily from San José (6 hours) or hourly from Liberia (1 hour).
Crowd density Minimal crowds; it is likely other tourists will be on the beach, but it is a pretty tranquil beach
What to take A blanket to sprawl over the sand, perfect for your beach nap

4. TAMARINDO BEACH

At Tamarindo Beach, you can surf, do kayaking, windsurfing or ATV riding
Tamarindo Beach is a mix of surfer's paradise, vibrant nightlife and every outdoor enthusiast's ideal vacation spot.

One of the most popular Costa Rica beach destinations, Tamarindo Beach invites those seeking adventures, water play, excellent food, and vibrant nightlife. The beach is beautiful with warm blue water, but the current can be strong. Aspiring and experienced surfers alike will delight at the premiere surfing opportunities. Or try windsurfing, fishing, kayaking, or ATV riding. Later, dance the night away at the local discotheques. If you’re lucky, you may be able to join the fun at one of Tamarindo’s famous full moon parties.

Location Nicoya Peninsula, just 30 miles outside of Liberia, 5 hours from San José 
How to get there From San José, direct flights (45 minutes) and direct buses (6 hours) to Tamarindo leave daily.  From Liberia, shuttle or take a cab to Tamarindo (1 hour).
Crowd density More crowded than most of Costa Rica’s Beaches, it can be quite busy and active.  Still, it is not overwhelmingly so.
What to take Extra water-repellent sunscreen so you can fully enjoy your water-sports experience, and the next day’s too — sunburn free.

5. PLAYA CONCHAL

Experienced Costa Rica travelers will agree that Playa Conchal is indisputably one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Unique sand made of tiny pink and white shells, splendid warm water, and magnificent marine life define this beach as an exotic paradise. Snorkel, scuba, or watch for stingrays wading in the bay. Enjoy pampering at a nearby spa resort or spend the evening camping under the stars. Either way, this beach is so unspoiled, you’ll leave feeling renewed.

Location Guanacaste Province, just 30 miles outside of Liberia, 5 hours from San José
How to get there Fly from San José to Tamarindo (45 minutes), then taxi to Playa Conchal.  Or, taxi from Liberia airport (45 minutes).
Crowd density Secluded and undisturbed
What to take Water and food if you’re not staying nearby as the few restaurants on the beach are for use by hotel guests only

6. Playa Jaco

Jaco Beach is the closest beach to San Jose in Costa Rica.
Jaco Beach is the closest beach to San Jose and one of the most crowded.

The closest beach to San José, Playa Jaco is good destination for a quick beach getaway. The beach and surrounding town are booming with activities and it can be particularly enjoyable for watersports enthusiasts. For years, Jaco has been a hotspot for nightlife, which has come with its challenges. We recommend sticking to the day-time adventures here.

Location Puntarenas Province, 2 hours' drive from San José
How to get there From San José, shuttle buses leave multiple times daily providing fast and comfortable transportation. Public buses are also available, making several stops along the way before ending the route at Playa Jaco.
Crowd density Crowded
What to take Breathable clothing and sunscreen to beat the heat and humidity while soaking up the rays.

While there is a plethora of Costa Rica beach destinations, this handful of beaches are some of the most spectacular. Don’t miss an opportunity to visit one of these incredible spots. With easy access throughout the country, you may even be able to visit a few in a single trip. Satiate your craving for extreme adventure or sooth your senses with relaxing vibes. No matter your choice, the best beaches in Costa Rica have what you need.

For more Costa Rica Beach Holidays, see here.

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