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Top Caribbean Beaches in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast may not be as developed as the Pacific side but, in all honesty, it does house some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. If you’re looking for a destination where you can enjoy a quiet vacation and an abundance of flora and fauna, Costa Rica’s Caribbean beaches should definitely be on top of your list. Here are a few that are truly gorgeous and worth exploring.

Remember that the weather on the Pacific side is the opposite as on the Caribbean side, so the best time of year to visit is July-November. The cuisine is a little different here too- the traditional Costa Rican food is spiced up with habanero peppers and coconut milk. Make sure to have a cold glass of agua de sapo and to try the traditional “rice and beans” with Caribbean chicken.

Tortuguero National Park

If you’re a person who adores nature and animals, the Tortuguero National Park would be a great place to visit. Located in the remote village of Tortuguero, three hours from San Jose, this is a popular wildlife hotspot, attracting eco-tourists from all over the world. Along the magnificent land trails, zigzagging canals, and primitive beach, you’ll find everything from sloths and howler monkeys to exotic birds and fishing bats.

But the main draw of the park is the turtles than come here to nest. Every year, green sea turtles, leatherbacks, and hawksbills come to the gray sand beaches of Tortuguero to lay their eggs. Visit between July and October and you’ll witness this phenomenal event!

Playa Cocles

South of Puerto Viejo on the very southern Caribbean coast hides this panoramic paradise that boasts clear turquoise waters, great surfing waves, a mile-long stretch of soft white sand, a picture-perfect shore dotted with gorgeous palm trees, and a lively vibe.

While the beach welcomes a steady stream of surfers and backpackers traveling along the coast, it rarely feels overcrowded, which makes it one of the best places to get away from it all.

For families, couples, or anyone looking to relax or enjoy a galore of watersports in the warm water, this is the perfect spot. Sunbathe on the sandy shores, swim in the shallow clear waters, go horseback riding into the nearby luscious jungles and rent a board and ride the vibrant waves!

If you’re an advanced surfer, however, consider coming here during the rainy season (May through November) when there are big enough waves to catch.  

Playa Negra

A beautiful pearl-black sand beach with traces of soft volcanic ash is what welcomes you to Playa Negra, a beach that settles between the towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. Apart from being one of the cleanest beaches in the region, Negra also has incredibly warm waters, making it a popular destination for swimmers.

The beach has gentle waves for beginner surfers too, but the majority of people who come here prefer to swim, walk along the shore, or just relax and soak in the beautiful views of the Caribbean sea. For people who would like to do some animal sightings, a visit to the nearby Cahuita National Park or a day trip to Jaguar Rescue Center can be arranged.

Cahuita National Park

For wildlife enthusiasts adventuring the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, Cahuita National Park is yet another destination that will offer you a unique opportunity to view animals. The tropical jungle is full of capuchin and howler monkeys, sloths, raccoons, and armadillos and the two beautiful beaches within the park – Playa Blanca and Puerto Vargas – are decorated with hundreds of tropical fish species that live in the rich coral reefs near the shore.

From wildlife spotting and hiking to swimming and snorkeling, there’s a lot of fun to be had by everyone. If none of these activities pumps you up, you can choose to lay all day on the stunning white sand and let the cool breeze from the sea and the beautiful sound of swaying palm trees soothe your body and soul.

One of the best things about the little town of Cahuita is the local restaurants that serve some of the best and most surprising international cuisines in the whole country.

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boat wreck on beach

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

In the southeastern side of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast sits Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a lively small town where colorful homes, coconut rice, refreshing Reggae music, delicious cocktails, and the unique culture of Afro-Caribbean residents dominate.

Spend your days experiencing the gorgeous beaches, magical wildlife, and verdant jungles – eat coconut on secluded beaches, go on chocolate tours, spot sloths and monkeys, catch the waves of the crystal blue waters, sample local cuisine in the many restaurants available, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.

At low tide, you can see the wrecked ship just off the coast, which kids love. No matter what you do, you’ll have the time of your life.

Playa Chiquita

People come to Playa Chiquita to unwind and get away from the crowd and noise of Puerto Viejo. Nestled between Playa Cocles and Punta Uva, this small, golden sandy beach provides an excellent opportunity for snorkeling and is an awesome place for launching hiking trips to the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.  

If you would rather just relax on the beach, the lovely almond trees at the shore will provide great shade and there are even some tropical palms on site where you can hang your hammock and read a book or watch green macaws that frequent the area.

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Playa Punta Uva

The laid-back beach of Punta Uva is another destination that has grown in popularity over the years and for a good reason; it’s an absolute paradise, offering everything you would expect from a top beach – clean, soft white sand with an abundance of palm trees to keep you cool while you relax, calm clear waters protected by coral reef for safe swimming and snorkeling, a beachfront restaurant to enjoy a variety of delicacies, you name it!

With a calm atmosphere, this is one of the best beaches for couples and families looking for a quiet getaway. Also, thanks to the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, there’s no shortage of wildlife spotting opportunities – go see some manatees, sea turtles, and other endangered species who call this place home.

Playa Manzanillo

If Chiquita and Punta Uva don’t allow you to enjoy the full experience of the phenomenal Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, making Manzanillo your vacation destination definitely will, as this town is located right inside the animal refuge.

But the idyllic beach will probably be the highlight of your trip. With a magnificent strip of soft white sand, a green mantle of fabulous palm trees, and gorgeous blue water that dazzles in the sunlight, spending some time on the beach will certainly not disappoint – whether you’re swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or just getting a tan at the shore!

About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, travel and language. I’m a mom of two Latinas, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here

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