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Costa Rica's Pacific Coast: Best Places to Visit

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Costa Rica is blessed with two beautiful coastlines, the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast. Although both sides have stunning spots to visit, enjoying Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is one of the best ways to spend your next holiday. Warm sunny days on palm-lined beaches, inviting surf and wilderness treks through the dense jungle are just some of the hallmark experiences to be had in this oasis. Whether you seek all-inclusive luxury or rustic backpacking adventures, consider these destinations, activities, and attractions for an exhilarating vacation.

#1 PAPAGAYO GULF

A beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Papagayo gulf has some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

Seeking luxury and pampering in paradise? As a major hub for all-inclusive resorts, Papagayo Gulf is a first-class destination with exclusive hotels, golf courses, a marina, and sumptuous spas. Some of the most beautiful Costa Rican beaches on the Pacific side can be found here. We recommend visiting Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Matapalo for black and coral sand plus sparkling, turquoise waters.

Best time to visit: November to mid-December to beat the tourist crowds, encounter lush scenery, and enjoy warm weather with afternoon rains.

Good to know: Though Papagayo hosts fabulous beaches, it is also home to some of Costa Rica’s iconic jungle scenery and wildlife. Try taking a quick day trip to Santa Rosa National Park, Palo Verde National Park or Rincon de la Vieja National Park to enjoy the jungle and take a break from the beach.

#2 SÁMARA

Playa Samara has soft waves perfect for novice surfing in Costa Rica

Samara is a serene beach located in the Pacific coast.

An idyllic palm-lined beach and wildlife-abundant reef sets the scene for one of the most relaxing Costa Rica vacations in a Pacific coast paradise. Sámara is largely free of all-inclusive, big resorts and makes a great destination for independent, budget-minded travelers. Stingray and sea turtle sightings are frequent and a special kayak trip to Chora Island wildlife reserve in Sámara Bay provides the opportunity to marvel at a pink sand beach and diverse seabirds.

Best time to visit: Year-round, as the climate is temperate. December to April are best avoided as the beach becomes crowded.

Good to know: For wallet-friendly eats, order casado, a classic Costa Rican dish of rice, beans, plantains, meat or egg, and a small salad, at any of the local restaurants called sodas.

Check out this Coast to Coast tour that visits both Pacific and Caribbean coast including Playa Samara.

#3 MARINO LAS BAULAS NATIONAL PARK

Marino Las Baulas Park in Costa Rica's Pacific side.
A baby leatherback turtle rushes towards the ocean.

Every year, leatherback sea turtles arrive on the shores of Marino Baulas National Park, one of the country’s most important sea turtle nesting grounds and destinations for ecotourism. Visitors can likely spot other wildlife such as monkeys, waterbirds, ocelots, and crocodiles while kayaking the mangroves and estuaries. Or enjoy walking or surfing on Playa Grande.

Best time to visit: October 20 to mid-November for leatherback nesting season. Ranger-led night tours offer your best chance at seeing the turtles and can be arranged up to 8 days ahead by calling the Las Baulas National Park headquarters.

Good to know: Leatherback sea turtles are considered endangered and are the largest turtles on Earth, growing upwards of 7 feet long. Your visit to this national park supports conservation efforts. Make sure you do not purchase crafts and goods made of turtle shell, eggs, or meat, which may be found in local markets.

#4 TAMARINDO

Water and sun mix effortlessly in this popular beach town in Guanacaste known for its surfing, fishing, diving, and good vibes. Wind down at the end of the day with a sunset walk down Tamarindo beach or go on a cruise for a chance to see dolphins, turtles, or whales. Sundown brings dreamy ocean views and vibrant nightlife.

Best time to visit: Late November to late April for dry, sunny weather. Late May to August for consistent surf.

Good to know: A great selection of boutique arts, crafts, and souvenirs can be purchased on Tamarindo’s main street, Calle Central.

#5 PLAYA CONCHAL

This Costa Rica Pacific beach has uniquely exotic and picturesque beaches. Walking the crescent white sand beach, admiring seashells, and snorkeling right off shore in crystal clear water are some of the delights to enjoy. Scuba diving, deep sea fishing, sailing, and stand-up paddle boarding are other popular pastimes at this low-key destination.

Best time to visit: December to March is most popular, offering 11–12 hours of sunshine daily for plenty of outdoor fun. November is great for more seclusion, greener surroundings, and lower rates.

Good to know: Overnight camping is permitted on the beach in designated areas. Bring your gear for an unforgettable night under the stars.

#6 JACÓ

Jaco Beach is the closest beach to San Jose in Costa Rica.
Jaco Beach is the closest beach to San Jose.

If you’re in search of adrenaline rushes and pumping nightlife, Jacó is the spot for you. Offering a wide variety of adventure sports from parasailing and skydiving to canyoning and surfing, there is no lack of thrill rides in this city. Those seeking a tamer version of adventure can enjoy hikes and wildlife viewing at Carara National Park, Bijagual Waterfall, and Mount Miros.

Best time to visit: Tourism is in full swing from December to April thanks to consistent warm weather and an energized night scene.

Good to know: Opt for a canoe on Hawaiian style outriggers and discover secluded bays and rocky nooks away from the shore and the crowds.

#7 MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK

Manuel Antonio is one of the most accessible destinations on Pacific side.
White faced capuchins can be spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Without a doubt, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most accessible destinations on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Here, visitors can enjoy the country’s famously varied landscape and iconic wildlife in a single area. Spot as many as four species of monkeys and two species of sloths in addition to other interesting wildlife on a well-developed network of walking trails. Discover crescent bays and read a book under coconut palms. Then head through the inlets via sea kayak to the mangrove estuary of Isla Damas to learn about this important, intricate ecosystem.

Best time to visit: December to April to avoid rain showers that could interfere with outdoor exploration and wildlife activity. The park is closed on Mondays.

Good to know: The monkeys and raccoons of Manuel Antonio National Park have quite the appetite. Do not feed any wild animals in the park and be sure to watch your belongings as they have been known to take up thievery. Also, try to arrive early as the park has a visitor capacity.

Check out this 15-day tour in Costa Rica that takes you through the rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park or find other tours in Manuel Antonio National Park.

#8 OSA PENINSULA

A trip to Osa Peninsula is unlike any other experience to be found in Costa Rica, perhaps the entire world. Home to some of the world’s greatest biodiversity, Corcovado National Park is one of the most popular attractions in the area. Hiking here is popular. Although the trails can be demanding and require planning for multi-day treks, they offer immersion in virgin rainforest and unmatched encounters with exotic wildlife. Balancing your trip with land and sea exploration is possible thanks to the area’s other gem, Caño Island Biological Reserve. This marine reserve is teeming with dolphins, whales and turtles for an exotic snorkeling or diving experience in Costa Rica.

Best time to visit: From January to April for jungle treks, as rain during other months can deteriorate the trails. Visit between July and October for whale sightings.

Good to know: Getting to Caño Island Biological Reserve, 20 km offshore, requires a charter boat trip, which can be arranged with many of Costa Rica tour companies.

Whether your ideal Costa Rican holiday includes fun in the sun, hiking through the lush rainforest, or exploring the waters, these places on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast create an unforgettable backdrop to let loose and create lasting memories. Start planning your trip today to discover the true Costa Rican pura vida experience.

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