Dotted along both Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific coastlines are some of the world’s most enticing stretches of sand.
Perhaps best known for its rugged rainforest and incredible wildlife, this captivating Central American country is also a haven for beach-lovers. With long, winding expanses of coast on both its east and western shores, and stretching from south to north, where dark-sand beaches are set among mangroves, visitors have a huge choice of beaches to pick from, many of which back onto vibrant resort towns and national parks teeming with exotic creatures. Below we’ve picked out 12 of the most charming beaches that Costa Rica has to offer.
Situated within Manuel Antonio National Park on Costa Rica’s north-western coast, this idyllic crescent-shaped beach is dotted with swaying palm trees and frequently plays host to parties and festivals. The beach is shielded by an imposing rocky headland, helping keep the water calm and drawing large numbers of families every year, as well as novice surfers. Needless to say, with its buzzing atmosphere, stunning scenery, and some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities to be found anywhere in the country just moments away, Espadilla can consider itself a worthy inclusion on this list. As for accommodation, one of the area’s best hotels is the 3-star Hotel Playa Espadilla, positioned just a minute’s walk from the beach and featuring a swimming pool and tennis courts.
Where to stay: Situated at the entrance to the Manuel Antonio National Park, the 4-star Hotel San Bada Resort & Spa combines some luxurious amenities with easy access to the hotel’s captivating surroundings. Or for a slightly more affordable option, the 3-star Jungle Beach Hotel Manuel Antonio is similarly well positioned, a short walk form the park and also close to Manuel Antonio Beach.
With no direct access by car, Conchal Beach has a more secluded feel than many of its coastal counterparts across the country. But the pristine beach, tucked away in Costa Rica’s north western upper reaches, is most famous for the millions of pink crushed seashells that line its shore. It’s also a haven for swimmers and snorkellers, thanks to its geographical setting wrapped around a beautiful turquoise bay and plethora of underwater treasures positively begging to be uncovered. If ever there was an Insta-worthy beach in Costa Rica, this is certainly one. And if you’re happy to push the boat out, stay at the ultra-luxurious Westin Reserva Conchal, an All-Inclusive Golf Resort & Spa set directly on the beach.
Where to stay: The accommodation in and around Conchal Beach is a choice of high-end resorts or self-catering apartments and villas. For the former, one of the very best resort hotels in the area is without doubt the Westin Reserva Conchal, an all-inclusive golf and spa resort set directly on Conchal Beach. Amenities here include a gym, tennis courts, outdoor pool and spa. Alternatively, the W Costa Rica Resort is similarly lavish, boasting outdoor swimming pools, a fitness centre and a choice of three on-site restaurants.
A hidden gem in northern Guanacaste on Costa Rica’s north-eastern coast, Nacascolo Beach is another of the country’s lesser known stretches of glorious sand. With small waves, crystal clear warm water, and plenty of shade, not to mention the amusing spectacle of white-faced monkeys playing near the entrance, it’s ideal for families with small kids. Surrounded by lush tropical dry forest vegetation, along with a spectacular mangrove, a stream and to the south side of the beach, what it looks in amenities it certainly makes up for in charm. In terms of where to stay, a 7-minute drive south brings you to one of the area’s most luxurious hotels, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo.
Where to stay: While there are no accommodation options directly on the beach, you can find several nearby. Positioned 1.5 miles away, the Four Seasons Resort has all the amenities you’d expect of this quality of property. And just half-a-mile further on is the similarly sumptuous Andaz Costa Rica Resort, situated in the Costa Rican jungle near Culebra and boasting an on-site spa and gym, plus a swimming pool and three restaurants.
Punta Uva Beach
Nestled on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, just south of Cahuita and a few miles north of the Panamanian border, Punta Uva is an enticing white sand beach surrounded by palm trees and crystalline waters. The beach Itself has retained all of its character and charm thanks to laws that require all nearby buildings to be at least 50 metres from high tide. Other notable features include a picturesque sea grape tree that grows along the beachside, a small coastal town just behind it that’s a pleasure to explore, and amazing butterfly gardens nearby. Keep your eye out for sloths and monkeys living in the trees, too. For a no-frills but charming accommodation option, Casa Violeta Beach House is situated just steps from the beach.
Where to stay: Less than a mile from Punta Uva Beach, this 4-star oceanfront property has been a bar, free private parking, a garden and a terrace, while guests rooms fuse energy, colour and design in a distinctive style. A mid-range option is the 3-star Villas del Caribe, positioned 1.5 miles from the beach and featuring a restaurant, parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar.
Laid-back and with turquoise waters, tropical surroundings and a vibrant ambience thanks to the offering of water sports, bars, and restaurants nearby, this beach is as relaxing as it is sociable. Situated in the wilderness-drenched Limon province, close to the Panama border, the mile-long beach is the dictionary definition of a picture-perfect Caribbean paradise. It’s framed by swaying palm trees and boasts arguably the best surfing waves to be found anywhere on this stretch of eastern coastline. In short, this beach has it all. And if you want somewhere special to stay to add to the experience, the 5-star Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel is surrounded by beautoful tropical forests and is just minutes from the beach on foot.
Where to stay: The bulk of the places to stay around Playa Cochles are villas and homestays and one of the best reviewed is MiniUp!, a one-bed holiday home suitable for couples located just 0.7 miles from Cocles Beach and featuring a TV and a well-equipped kitchen. Even closer to the beach is the 2-bedroom Casa Cucula Pool House, where a balcony affords superb views together with a private pool and a well-maintained garden.
With its fine white sand lining a small cove, clear blue waters, lagoons, vegetation and action-packed activities, it’s no wonder that Playa Flamingo is one of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches. The waters off this section of north-eastern shoreline are also awash with marine life, making it a top destination for scuba divers who come to delve deep and discover starfish, coral reefs, eels, and wildly coloured tropical fish. It’s also a busy jumping off point for sportfishing excursions. Yet even if the only recreation that interests you is of the reclining-on-the-sand variety, then this beach is a sure-fire winner. For a mid-range accommodation option, the Margaritaville Beach Resort Playa Flamingo can be found nearby.
Where to stay: Set just over half-a-mile from Playa Flamingo, Paradise Flamingo Beach Hotel offers a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, a garden and a terrace. Another attractive local option is Casas del Toro, almost the same distance from the beach. Here, guests can make use of an extensive garden with a swimming pool and free WiFi throughout. Activities such as scuba diving, canopy tours, snorkelling and even Spanish lessons can be arranged directly at the hotel.
From humble beginnings as a quiet fishing village Tamarindo has grown into one of Costa Rica’s most bustling beach towns – with its sandy shoreline a popular party destination. Located in the Guanacaste province on the east coast, the beach backs onto a main boulevard lined with boutiques and art galleries, adding to the bohemian vibes. The beach itself is long and with great waves, and by sunset becomes crowded with younger patrons seeking to enjoy the last remnants of rays before hitting the local bars and discotheques. There are plenty of hotel choices here too, and among the most popular in the mid-range category is the 3-star Hotel Selina Tamarindo, just two minutes’ walk from the beach.
Where to stay: A few minutes on foot from Tamarindo Beach, the 3-star Wyndham Tamarindo combines affordable rates with a great location. There’s an outdoor pool and sun terrace, a spa, and a restaurant serving authentic Costa Rican cuisine. A slightly pricier option, but with exceptional reviews, is the 4-star Ten North Tamarindo Beach Hotel, where guests are moments from the beach and can also make use of a scenic outdoor pool in a tropical setting.
Located in Santa Teresa, on the country’s northern peninsula, this beach and its surroundings have experienced something of a renaissance in recent year, with international coverage and visits from notable celebrities putting it firmly on the map. And it’s easy to see why. The jungle-backed beach town may be remote, but is anything but dull, with hip restaurants, beach parties, and a growing population of young expats creating an alluring atmosphere. Indeed, besides surfing and sunbathing, the beach serves as a major gathering place, especially at sunset when it can seem like the whole town comes out to play, either to gather on the sand or catch those last waves of the day. And for rest, there’s no shortage of hotels either, among which the 4-star Shark Town Mal Pais gains consistently rave reviews.
Where to stay: The majority of the accommodation choices near Playa Carmen are self-catering apartments, among which Nala Luxury Living is among the best. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness centre and a balcony – making it ideal for guests who want to relax and unwind after a long day’s sightseeing. For a budget option, the Mini Hostel Santa Teresa is located 100 yards from the beach and is surrounded by tropical gardens. Guests can chose from rustic dormitory rooms or private rooms.