Costa Rica’s Best Beaches!
There are hundreds of beaches in Costa Rica. The, “best beaches in Costa Rica,” is — obviously — a matter of opinion. But, it’s safe to assume that there are four things people look for in a beach.
The first thing people look for in a beach is a is a beautiful view. The second is great sand. Clean water is another important aspect of a great beach. Finally, the best beaches have easy and legal access.
What makes the best beaches in Costa Rica so unique is that Costa Rica has beaches on the shores of two of the largest oceans in the world, the Pacific and the Atlantic! In the same day, a person can watch the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean!
It is only a six hour drive from the Pacific across Costa Rica to the Caribbean! So, naturally, it makes sense to talk about the beaches on both coasts.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica, Caribbean
All of the beaches on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica are in the Province of Limon. The Province of Limon runs from the border of Costa Rica/Nicaragua to the border of Costa Rica/Panama. The beaches on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica are divided into two regions. There are the beaches north of city of Puerto Limon and the beaches south of Puerta Limon.
There are five major tourist destinations on the Caribbean side: Tortuguero, Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. But, to visit any beach on the Caribbean side — save Tortuguero, — you must travel through the city of Puerto Limon.
There are fewer beaches on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica because north of Tortuguero, there is very little access. There are no roads on the northern Caribbean side and boat access to the beaches via rivers and through the marshes is limited. It is possible to access those beaches via the sea, but logistically it is still difficult.
That said, some of the most amazing beaches in Costa Rica are on the Caribbean side. Some of the best beaches in Costa Rica are between the port city of Limon and the Panamanian border.
If there is one place on the Caribbean you can’t miss it’s Cahuita. It’s one of the few places on the Caribbean side with exceptionally fine, champaign colored sand on one beach and volcanic black sand on the other. Playa Blanca is less than a mile from Playa Negra, but the two could not be any more distinct.
While there are other beaches around Cahuita, Playa Negra and Playa Blanca are the two most popular. However, irrespective of the beach you visit near Cahuita, the veiw of the Caribbean sea is fantastic. And, though low-key, many of the best medium to high-end hotels and resorts on the Caribbean side are in Cahuita.
And in addition to the beaches, there are plenty of other things to do in Cahuita as well and plenty more to see.
The most popular beach town on the Caribbean side, Puerto Viejo has great beaches as well. It’s the people in Puerto Viejo, however, that make it such a great little town. A party atmosphere full of young people from all over the world, Puerto Viejo is most famous for its surfing. On any given day, there will be up to 100 surfers in the water. And there are restaurants and clubs that provide a perfect view of the action.
No matter what you want in a beach town, you can’t go wrong with Puerto Viejo.
The last beach town before Pananama in southern Caribbean Costa Rica, Manzanillo is a gem. While it doesn’t have the same quality of hotels as Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, the beach is spectacular. The beach runs for miles in both directions and there are no houses or buildings to fuss up the aesthetics.
The sand in Manzanillo is black and brown and soft and as fine as any you’ll find in Costa Rica. The hiking around Manzanillo is second to none as well. If you don’t mind having a secluded beach all to yourself next to a small town that only offers the basics, Manzanillo is for you.
Manzanillo is at the edge of the map and there is no place quite like it in Costa Rica. The one restaurant in Manzanillo, Maxi’s, is famous throughout Costa Rica. You have to try the head-on red snapper at least once! There may not be a dish in Costa Rica that is more Caribbean!
Best Pacific Beaches in Costa Rica
There are a number of famous resort towns in Costa Rica on the Pacific side that — while fun — don’t have the best beaches. Jaco and Dominical are two examples. While great little beach towns, they aren’t on the list of best beaches in Costa Rica. Both have nice views, plenty of people, good beach access, and clean water, but instead of soft sand the beaches are gravel.
The best beaches in Costa Rica on the Pacific side strung out on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast from Nicaragua to Panama.
Next to Manual Antonio National Park, Quepos might be Costa Rica’s most popular beach among Costa Ricans. Though there is a huge North American and European influence, Quepos has something for everyone. From some of the nicest hotels in the country to lodging for backpackers, Quepos has lodging for everyone. From the highest-end sushi bars to rice-and-beans “sodas,” whatever you have a hankering for, you can find in Quepos.
There are all kinds of activities to choose from in Quepos.
And the beaches are awesome! Soft sand, fantasic sunsets, views from high above the ocean, Quepos has it all.
The beaches around Puntarenas are fantastic, but what’s more, Puntarenas might be the coolest town in all of Coast Rica. With a European feeling to it, Puntarenas is like nothing else in Costa Rica. Exceptional hotels and resorts, wonderful food, and views that are extraordinary even for Costa Rica, Puntarenas is high-end Costa Rica.
Of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Tamarindo is the best. The western most point of Costa Rica, Tamarindo has better hotels, resorts, and restaurants than almost anywhere else in Costa Rica. Tamarindo has more to do as well. And, Tamarindo has prettier beaches and better views than all the rest of the best. The only problem with Tamarindo is that it’s a long drive from the rest of the great parts of Costa Rica.
Also on the Nicoya Peninsula, Samara has incredible water. The beaches are fantistic as well, but the water always seems crystal clear. Of the best beaches in Costa Rica, the water in Samara might be the closest to pure, crystal-clear, Pacific blue.
Drake and Golfito
If you are looking for nature and privacy and peace and quiet, Drake Bay and Golfito are amazing. If you want to see whales and dolphins and wildlife and birds and flowers and virgin coastal forest, Drake Bay and Golfito are impossible to top. Undeveloped and protected, the Nicoya Peninsula is simply gorgeous.
And if you’re going to go one or the other, make certain that — either way — you visit Corcovado National Park.