Costa Rica’s 7 Best Beaches Put All Others to Shame
Costa Rica has made a name for itself as the adventure capital of Central America thanks primarily to its diversity of land-bound diversions, from rainforest hikes and volcanic sightseeing to zip-lining above the jungle canopy and ATV-ing through the wilderness. But the country’s shoreline also has plenty to boast about, as any surf enthusiasts can tell you. To help you take full advantage of all it has to offer, we’ve rounded up seven of Costa Rica’s best beaches. With sun-kissed sands and turquoise waves, these not-to-be-missed beaches effortlessly embrace the pura vida lifestyle.
Jen has been a staff editor at Architectural Digest, Travel + Leisure, and Martha Stewart Weddings, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Afar, and Elle Decor. When she's not snowmobiling in the French Alps or tasting scotch straight from the barrel in Scotland, she's at home in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
While surfers flock to catch the waves at nearby Tamarindo, those seeking a more subdued beach experience head to Guanacaste’s Playa Conchal, a turquoise stretch of shoreline that’s ideal for snorkeling, swimming, or simply capturing a From Here to Eternity moment. If you’re strolling north, the white sand takes on a pinkish hue on the aptly named and equally picturesque Flamingo Beach. After a day in the sun, retreat to the Westin Resort & Spa Playa Conchal, a 2,400-acre escape that features three pools, eight restaurants, and an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II.
On Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, just above the Panamanian border, Playa Manzanillo is the prototypical beach with white-sand shores, azure waters, and a backdrop of palm-fringed rainforest courtesy of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. But despite the abundance of coral reefs, which can be explored by kayak or swimming thanks to the area’s gentle waves, its remote location has largely kept it off the tourist radar (don’t be surprised if your only neighbors are manatees and dolphins). If you’re looking for low-key luxury, set up camp at the Tree House Lodge in nearby Punta Uva, where five sustainably built villas are situated around a century-old Sangrillo tree.
New Age, bohemian types will find plenty to love on the Nicoya Peninsula, where laid-back surfers, blissed-out yogis, and health-conscious hippies find their happy place among the beachfront bars and taco shacks. Fishermen net the fresh catch each morning on Playa Garza and swimmers prefer Playa Pelada, while boarders seeking an alternative to Tamarindo hit up the waves on Guiones. It’s here that you’ll also spot the Harmony Hotel, a chic 10-suite oasis that’s known for its farm-sourced restaurant and juice bar as well as its restorative wellness treatments and open-air yoga studio. Just south, the beaches of Malpaís and Santa Teresa are other off-the-beaten-track contenders.
Even farther south, at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, bohemian Playa Montezuma is a go-to for backpackers, divers (there are three known shipwrecks in the area), and surfers. When you’ve had your fill of beach time, trade your flip-flops for hiking boots to canvas the jungle in search of two nearby waterfalls, or wander through the trees in the Cabo Blanco and Curú wildlife preserves. While the vibe here reflects the hippie revelry—the area’s nickname is Montefuma, after the Spanish word for smoke—you can still find laid-back luxury among the hostels. Opt for the affordable villa rentals at Casa Frangipani.
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Tourists aren’t the only visitors known to frequent Costa Rica’s south Pacific coast. Named as much for the whale’s tale–shaped sandbar off its shore as the humpbacks that migrate here from August to October and December to April, the Costa Ballena in Punta Uvita’s Marino Ballena National Park also welcomes nesting sea turtles from May to November, making every time of year a must-visit. Spend your days on a whale-watching tour, snorkeling the coral reef, or sunbathing at Playa Hermosa, then retire for the evening in your private villa’s king-size four-poster bed at Oxygen Jungle Villas.
Boarders from near and far beeline to the laid-back surf village of Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northwest coast. Riders will find some of the country’s most enviable waves, but sunbathers will likely take to the palm-fringed golden sand, where fish shacks and bohemian beach shops have sprung up like mirages in a desert oasis. Drop your bags at the JW Marriott Guanacaste, located in a quiet beach and golf community 30 minutes away (don’t worry, there are shuttles to take you where you want to go), then make your way to the beach’s southern tip and the white-sand beach of Playa Langosta to open-air Taco Stop for the best fish tacos in town.
There’s a reason why Manuel Antonio is known as Costa Rica’s most popular beach. Nestled within the national park of the same name, it’s home to sparkling Pacific Ocean waters, families of swinging monkeys, and a swath of luxury hotels perched precariously on the cliffs overlooking the sea, making it a must-visit for nature lovers and sybarites alike. Opt for one of the modern condos at the Preserve at Los Altos, where you can gaze out at the pristine scenery from floor-to-ceiling windows while enjoying a massage at the hotel’s spa. More active types might book zip-lining or white water rafting excursions nearby.
What to rock on your Costa Rican beach excursion:
Fun Women’s Swimwear for a Costa Rican Beach
Men’s Swimwear for a Costa Rican Beach
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