Which Costa Rican Beach Is For Me?

There are so many incredible beaches in Costa Rica that it’s difficult to select the right one for your holiday. Here’s a short description of some of the beaches to help you plan your next vacation.

If you know which region you’re interested in, you can go straight there by using these links. Southern Pacific, Nicoya Peninsula, Northern Pacific (Guanacaste)

Southern Pacific Beaches

1. Manuel Antonio National Park

Inside Manuel Antonio National Park are some of the most amazing beaches. Set in small coves with gentle waves, these gorgeous white sand beaches are relatively quiet because you require a park pass ($16 USD) to access them. All beaches in the park have clean, white sand, trees for shade and a gentle ocean for swimming. There are no services such as umbrellas or food vendors on the beach but there is a small cafeteria inside the park.


2. Playa Espadilla Norte

Outside of the park, in the tourist town of Manuel Antonio, is the popular Playa Espadilla Norte. Like the beaches in the park, the sand is white and fine, and the surf is gentle. Unlike the park, the beach is very busy. There are many vendors with sunbeds and water sports like seadoos and parasailing. The busy town is filled with western hotels and restaurants.


3. Playa Playitas

A little further from Manuel Antonio is the smaller, much more chill Playa Playitas. There are fewer vendors and beach goers than at Espadilla making it a more relaxing beach. The water is fun to play in but there can be rip currents at tide change.

Pictures and information on this beach are courtesy of our friends Kent and Julie.


4. Playa Matapalo

Near the small non-touristy town of Matapalo, Playa Matapalo is a long, quiet beach with nice sand. There are good waves for playing in, but not enough to surf. In town there are a few very basic hotels and several nice locations to eat in town. You can also go kayaking in the nearby mangroves. Watch out for the cheeky Capuchin monkeys and sloths hanging out in the trees around town. Don’t confuse this one with the Playa Matapalo in Guanacaste.

Pictures and information on this beach are courtesy of our friends Kent and Julie.


Ballena National Marine Park

1. Playas Uvita and Colonia

Uvita and Colonia beaches form a 3 ½ km long beach on the Pacific Ocean. It’s inside the Ballena National Marine Park so you require a park pass ($7 USD) making the beach relatively quiet. The sand is muddy, but the scenery is spectacular. There are no sunbeds or restaurants, but palm trees provide shade. When tide goes out one of the most interesting sandbars appears so even though it’s not the best beach, it has one of the most fascinating features.


2. Playa Arco

South of Uvita, Playa Arco is the most southern beach in Ballena National Marine Park. This secret beach has a stunning setting with tall forest clad cliffs along its edge. The water has fun waves but may also have riptides. The beach is accessible only during low tide on a short trail from the Ballena Sector Ranger Station (entry fee $6 USD). Local hotels have their own access trails for their guests. There are a few caves along the trail that you can explore adding to the beach’s mystique. As a result of its location, the beach is very quiet with no amenities.

Pictures and information on this beach are courtesy of our friends Kent and Julie.


Nicoya Peninsula

1. Puntarenas

You’ll likely travel through Puntarenas on your way to Nicoya Peninsula, Monteverde or north to Guanacaste. Not a beach town, this fishing city has a muddy beach on its south side that is popular with locals. It’s not a great beach for swimming or sunbathing but is a nice spot to see the sunset behind the Nicoya Peninsula. Ferries leave from Puntarenas for the Nicoya Peninsula. There are great views from the ferry as it passes many small islands.


2. Montezuma

This laid-back town is right on the beach at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The sand isn’t the best right in town, but you can walk along the coast and stop at one of the many small cove beaches to find the atmosphere you prefer. There are no sunbeds at any of these beaches, but you can find shade under the palm trees that line the edges. There are many locally run hotels, hostels and restaurants in town. It has a very local feel.

When you need a break from the beach, hike to the free Montezuma Waterfall and take a dip in its pool. Don’t bother paying to go to the top 2 waterfalls as they’re very small in comparison.


3. Playas Santa Teresa/Carmen/Hermosa

The connected beaches of Santa Theresa, Carmen and Hermosa form a 6 km long stretch of gorgeous white sand. In many areas there is a strong surf making it a very popular surfing beach.

The beaches have gorgeous fine sand with a few rocky areas adding texture to the scene. In some areas these rocks create tide pools where you can soak in the calm sea water. There are many good restaurants, coffee shops, resorts and hotels in both Carmen and Santa Teresa.

The only thing that spoiled our time here is the one long road connecting all 3 centres. It’s not paved and is always busy with cars, motorcycles and ATVs. As a result, the towns are incredibly dusty. You can’t get anywhere without walking this road or at least crossing it so you can’t get away from the dust. If it weren’t for the dust, Santa Teresa would be our favourite spot in Costa Rica.


Northern Pacific (Guanacaste)

1. Playa Coco

Small, dry mountains surround the pretty cove of Coco Beach. The sand isn’t very nice as it’s muddy, but the waves are very gentle. The cove is filled with dozens of tour and fishing boats making swimming more difficult. It’s a popular town for ex-pats and there are plenty of western and local restaurants and hotels.

There is a nice secluded beach on the other side of the southern rocky point. The waves are gentle and the sand is nicer than the main beach. Access to this cove is dictated by the timing of low-tide.


2. Playa Tamarindo

This is a very busy beach town, and because of this we didn’t expect to like it as much as we did. The beach is in a 3 km long picturesque cove. The waves are a little strong, so there are surfers, but it’s still possible to swim. There are a few bars on the beach and many places to rent umbrellas. Even though it’s busy, the main beach is so huge you can walk to one end or the other to find your own space. The town of Tamarindo is very touristy with many choices for restaurants, bars, hotels and shops.

On the south end of the beach you can walk to the small Playa Logosta and a large lagoon. Many people swim in the lagoon as its gentler than the ocean. When the tide is out it’s easy to cross the lagoon’s inlet to reach another beach which is part of Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. Here the sand seems even whiter and the waves even higher than Tamarindo and yet is quite empty.

We had the most amazing sunset in Tamarindo. The entire sky was coloured in red, yellow, orange and even purple. At times it looked like another world.

Coming Next: Sacrifical Caves & Stone Pyramids – Maya Ruins in Belize

For extra pictures from Costa Rica click here. For pictures from our other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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