There are over 300 different beaches in Costa Rica along its two stunning coastlines. It’s perhaps little wonder that this wonderful country attracts so many tourists in search of sea, sun and surf. Whether you’re looking for fluffy, fine sand to sunbathe on, or a more rocky terrain in suiting with sport and adventure, Costa Rica simply has it all.
Of course, everyone has their favourite beach – for whatever reason that might happen to be – but by far the most popular is the stunning beach at Manuel Antonio which attracts over 140,000 tourists each and every year.
Why? Well, you only have to sink your toes into the soft, white sand of Playa Manuela Antonio whilst casting your eyes over the gentle, turquoise sea to understand why it’s a huge hit with surfers, sunbathers and quite literally, anyone seeking a bit of adventure by the sea.
Along this particular stretch you’ll also find three separate beaches – all of which are truly unique in their own right: Playa Espadilla, Playa Biesanz and the main Manuel Antonio Beach.
If you’re an avid surfer then the northern end of Playa Espadilla is a great place to catch the waves whilst the southern side tends to attract more swimmers and body surfers since the waves tend to be less aggressive and much smaller – perfect for beginners or the not so confident!
Beach in Costa Rica
The main attraction about Manuel Antonio is that whilst it offers more activities than most other beaches in Costa Rica it’s also the least populated in terms of businesses, so it tends to have a much more relaxed and non-touristy feel about it.
Well worth noting is that Manuel Antonio beach is located within the main national park so can only be visited by paying for entry (and if you’re planning to eat there, beware of the white-faced monkeys who’ll quite shamelessly steal your lunch when you’re not looking!)
If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten track then Samara is definitely worthy of a visit since it’s often referred to as being the most beautiful beach on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. It’s also ideal for families since the resort itself has plenty of small shops and restaurants to browse at leisure.
Another popular beach area in Costa Rica is Tamarindo. Whilst it was once renowned as being a quiet surf beach and fishing hamlet, it now offers a lovely touristy feel, unspoiled beaches and a great range of beach-side activities such as sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling and surfing. Slightly separated from Tamarindo is Playa Grande, which makes for a great place to spectate at the local surf competitions which just about says it all about the tidal waves you can expect here. Like Santa Teresa it provides consistent and outstanding tidal swells all year round.
If you’re looking for a beach with an added touch of adventure, then Drake Bay (or Bahia Drake as it’s known locally) is another great hit for those brave enough to travel there! From Palmar Norte you’ll have to head south for around 15km before taking either a water taxi or boat from Sierpe. Nestled on the norther side of the Osa Peninsula, the Bay is named after Sir Francis Drake who is said to have ventured there in the late 16th century. These days it offers scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and even horse riding along the beach although regional flooding can sometimes render it an impossible place to visit so be sure to check in advance.
For those visiting the capital of San Jose then the closet beach to here is Playa Jaco – and it’s one of the most visited costal destinations in Costa Rica. With a beach spanning over 2.5 miles you can sign up for a wide range of activities such as deep sea fishing and surfing. What’s more, you only have to travel around 6 miles south of Jaco to find Playa Hermosa which offers a much quieter, 6 mile stretch of beach which is usually populated with both sunbathers and surfers.
If you’re travelling with younger members of the family then Playa Herradura is a great destination not to mention a much safer swimming haven than its neighbouring beaches since the sea here tends to be a lot more tranquil, whatever time of year. The beach itself stretches for around 3.5 miles and its Spanish name means “horseshoe”; just to give you an idea of how it’s shaped.
One of the more isolated beaches in Costa Rica
Situated on the Nicoya Peninsula’s western shore you’ll also find the beautiful coastal hamlet of Samara which simply radiates wonderful white sand in contrast to the aquamarine water. Stretching over 3 miles, the beach is a firm favourite with locals, tourists and wealthier Ticos to form a unique quintessential beach community offering the very best when it comes to the ultimate in R&R. In fact if you stroll just a mile down the beach you’ll find the tiny hamlet of Matapalo which makes for a great snorkelling spot and bird-watching area. Again, swimming conditions here are excellent and the water tends to be an ideal warm temperature, making it the perfect choice for younger children.
Finally, for something a little more off the beaten track, then a visit to Uvita is certainly worth thinking about. Here you’ll find a much less crowded beach, not to mention tropical palm trees and a unique opportunity to visit Punta Uvita which you’ll find on the southern end of the town. Just be sure to check the tide chart before setting off to ensure you’re able to get back before it comes back in!
It perhaps goes without saying that the beaches in Costa Rica are somewhat unique but wherever you travel you’ll always find great places to relax, unwind and enjoy the different surroundings. If there’s a specific activity you have in mind then be sure to do your homework in advance and if you want lessons it’s advisable to book these too. Otherwise the beaches of Costa Rica are, quite simply, your oyster and are merely waiting to be explored.