Coming up with a list of the best beaches in Costa Rica is a little like compiling a list of the best Beatles songs. They are all fantastic and there is a plethora to choose from. Costa Rica is a gorgeous country, offering breathtaking views and experiences on both coastlines as well as its lush, highland interior. Costa Rica’s beaches offer something for every type of traveler. Regardless if you are a hardcore surfer, or a dedicated sunbather who wants to settle down on soft, golden sand and enjoy a good book while absorbing the rays, Costa Rica offers plenty of choice. If you are a first time visitor to Costa Rica the choice of where to go and what to do can be overwhelming. One thing’s for sure though. You are going to want to spend at least part of that vacation at the beach. Here are eight of the best beaches in Costa Rica:

8 – Playa Cocles

 

As I proceed with my list you will notice a relatively high percentage of the beaches listed are on the Caribbean side. This might not seem surprising, since beaches throughout the Caribbean are among the most beautiful in the world. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline – at least the portion that is actually accessible to visitors – is tiny though, compared to what is available on the Pacific side. Still, despite that small percentage, the beauty of the few Caribbean beaches there are forces me to include them on this list. Playa Cocles, not far from the bustling town of Puerto Viejo, sports a beautiful golden sand beach against a backdrop of lush green forest. The water can be a bit rough, so weak swimmers might want to stick to laying in the sand, but I can think of worse ways to while away an afternoon.

7 – Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo is a bit of a polarizing destination when it comes to Costa Rica travel. Some who’ve frequented the country for years stick up their noses at Tamarindo, citing rampant overdevelopment and a feel that isn’t in tune with the rest of this laid back country. Still, even those jaded travelers can’t deny the beauty of Tamarindo’s endless beach. Boasting beautiful sunsets, the spot is also one of the best places in Costa Rica to learn to surf. The waves are consistent and relatively gentle, allowing beginners on longboards to ease into this addictive sport. The beach is also a treasure trove for shell collectors. The unicorn-horned shells are particularly abundant. For the most part it is a great beach for swimming, but take care if you are dipping in near the mouth of the river where riptides can be strong and unpredictable.

6 – Playa Hermosa

The best beach in the area around Jaco, Playa Hermosa is paradise on Earth for the party crowd. A great spot for surfing, beach volleyball, or enjoying a few Imperial beers to stave off the lazy heat of the day, Hermosa is just the ticket for the younger set who are looking for a little more action.

5 – Playa Santa Teresa

While Tamarindo and Playa Hermosa will appeal to the active crowd, Mal Pais is very much a destination for those who want to get away from it all. The beach at Santa Teresa is a favorite among surfers, but the vibe is much more laid back, and it is easy to lose track of time in this chill out zone. If you came to Costa Rica to relax and unwind there is no better spot to do it.

4 – Cahuita

Back to the Caribbean we go for my number four pick of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Cahuita is a little ways up the road from Puerto Viejo, and is a pretty sleepy spot without all the bustle of its neighbor. The beach is part of a national park, and you can come up close and personal with many of Costa Rica’s native fauna, including capuchin monkeys, sloths, coati, and crab-eating raccoons. The snorkeling is pretty good in this region as well, with plenty of opportunities to check out the marine denizens as well.

3 – Manuel Antonio

Speaking of getting up close and personal with Costa Rica’s wildlife there is probably no better place to do it in the country than at Manuel Antonio National Park. The national park is right next to the town of Quepos, and a short bus ride from town will have you strolling the trails of this nature lover’s paradise. Park officials limit the number of daily visitors to 600, so be sure to get there early in order to ensure you aren’t disappointed. Once in the park you are all but guaranteed to see monkeys, particularly if you make your way to the beach around lunchtime. A large troop of capuchins have figured out that is the best time to show up in order to try and score some food. Careful though. They can get pretty aggressive. If you’ve spent the morning hiking the trails you will probably be in need of some cooling off. The beaches inside the park are beautiful and pristine, with crystal clear turquoise water to tempt you. A quick (or not-so-quick) dip will revitalize you for the afternoon’s exertions.

2 – Corcovado

Of all the visitors who visit this tropical paradise very few venture down to the Osa Peninsula. Those that do are rewarded with beauty and unspoiled nature at its finest. Near Puerto Jiminez, the entrance to Corcovado National Park is just a short, bumpy collectivo ride away from civilization. People and amenities become scarce as you approach the border of the park, with just a few eco-lodges and campgrounds dotting the otherwise pristine landscape. Once you cross the boundary into the park you will truly feel as though you have gotten away from it all. Be prepared for some extreme heat and some rugged terrain as you traverse the park’s trails. For the first leg of your journey (from the Puerto Jiminez) side you will never be far away from the ocean and a gorgeous, deserted beach. Definitely take care if you want to dip in though. The waves here can be massive and fierce. You are best served staying on the sand and dipping your toes, particularly considering there won’t likely be anyone around to come to your rescue if you run into problems.

1 – Punta Uva

The #1 spot on the list of Costa Rica’s best beaches goes to another Caribbean gem. Punta Uva is partway between Puerto Viejo and Playa Manzanillo, and is one of the most gorgeous stretches of sand to be found anywhere in Central America. With crystal water, soft golden sand, and a forest of palms providing shade, Punta Uva is a great place to string up a hammock and let all your cares drift away. Despite its incredible beauty the beach is almost deserted most of the time, and if you arrive fairly early in the morning you can enjoy a mile long stretch of paradise all to yourself for an hour or two. If you are staying in Puerto Viejo I highly recommend renting a bicycle and making your way to this beautiful Costa Rican jewel.