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There are so many beaches in Costa Rica that it can be hard to narrow it down to just one place to stay in Costa Rica. But if you are serious about finding the best beach for you, you’ll want to read this review of 20 of the best beaches in Costa Rica on the Pacific side. Since Costa Rica’s beaches are as varied as they are gorgeous, on this list, there’s a beach for every personality!
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There’s a reason Costa Rica translates to “rich coast.” From end to end, the Pacific coast of Costa Rica spans three provinces and over 16 hours of driving. This post breaks down the best of the best along that coast.
Do note, this post does not include any Caribbean Coast beaches. If you are flying into the Liberia International airport and want to stick just to Guanacaste, check our list of Best Beaches in Guanacaste.
Finally, if you are looking for beaches that are best for families with young children, I’d hop over to our Top Costa Rica Beaches For Families post.
Northern Guanacaste Region of Costa Rica Pacific
Many people fly into Costa Rica’s newest international airport in Liberia. Liberia is a strategic point as it is about 20 minutes from the nearest beach. If you are going this route, there are several different clusters of top beaches we recommend.
Many of these beaches are within an hour’s drive of Liberia, but if you are flying in late or flying out early, you’ll want to check out our great list of Where To Stay in Liberia. Ok, here’s the list.
Tamarindo Beach is one of the most developed and beautiful beaches in the northern Guanacaste area. – there are countless hotels, restaurants, tour operators, surf schools, and even a brewery. A long swath of golden sand beach with waves that are perfect for those learning to surf is what best characterizes Tamarindo Beach.
The town of Tamarindo is also one of the busiest tourist centers in the region. It has everything from a farmer’s market to food trucks beachside to international cuisine. There are countless tour operators, surf schools, and even a brewery. Add tons of places to stay (everything from budget hostels to high end luxury villas) and you’ve got a recipe for success. Basically, if you want it, you can most likely find it in Tamarindo.
However, even though Costa Rica is very safe, make sure to keep a very close eye on your belongings, and expect a party/Spring Break vibe here year-round. It’s still safe for families though, and a great place to spend a week!
Playa Grande is home to a pristine white sand beach that seems to stretch endlessly. Lined with shade trees and palm trees that are just begging for a hammock, Playa Grande is often deserted. That means it is perfect for families looking to relax and enjoy the beach. High tide brings in great surf and lots of surfers, which is fun to watch!
There are several restaurants on the way in and out of the main parking area, so you can easily pack up and grab a bite before heading back to the beach for sunset. With few hotels and a host of high-end private residences, Playa Grande is super chill, and a popular destination with surfers.
Playa Avellanas may very well be my favorite beach in Costa Rica. It’s well off the beaten path, and up until recently, most people didn’t even know it was there. Home to one of my favorite restaurants- Lola’s- you will often find the big pink pig named Lola wandering the beach.
There are tons of shade trees along the beach, tidepools, and perfect surfing and boogie-boarding waves. Apart from Lola’s, there isn’t much in the way of services at this beach, so make sure to pack in what you need for the day.
Playas del Coco
Playas del Coco is one of the closest beaches to the Liberia airport, making it a preferred home base for many tourists. Boasting a Hard Rock Café, a huge American-style supermarket, and countless bars and restaurants, Coco Beach is definitely the happening place to be.
This beach is also a hub for international visitors looking for scuba diving in Costa Rica as it’s near some of the most crystalline waters and some of the best places to find coral reefs in the area. It’s also a unique black sand beach, which is pretty fun to see.
Coco Beach is a great home base to beach hop, so that’s why it’s on this list. The beach itself isn’t my favorite, although the sunsets are epic. There are several amazing beaches nearby (like Playa Ocotal) where you can spend a calm day before heading back into the fray.
Make sure to watch the sunset at Bar El Ancla or Cafe de Playa. You won’t regret it!
There are not one, not two, but three Playa Hermosas in Costa Rica, all on the Pacific Coast. So… don’t get confused! The Playa Hermosa that I am talking about here is to the north, in the Guanacaste province.
One other is adjacent to Jaco, and one is even further south at Marino Ballena National Park, about a 6-hour drive from Coco Beach. When renting a car in Costa Rica, make sure you put in the correct Hermosa Beach to your GPS, Waze, or Google Maps.
Now, this Playa Hermosa is a tiny little inlet home to crystal blue waters, local restaurants, and tons of local Costa Rican families. There’s a local banana boat driver who often comes offering inexpensive rides that keep everyone laughing.
The waves are calm, and there are tons of mini supermarkets just steps from the beach, so you can just keep going back for cold beer and you don’t even need a cooler! The sunsets here are EPIC.
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Another one of my favorite beaches, Playa Panama is an easy trip from Coco Beach. The beach is groomed to a gorgeous wide flat area lined with palm trees leading up to the small beach. The water is warm, the waves are small, and the atmosphere is super calm.
Not much in the way of services here either- but don’t leave too soon. The sun sets right over the water most times of the year, making the end of the day at Panama Beach the place to be.
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Playa Ocotal is a tiny little hidden gem just about 4 km from Playas del Coco, making it a great taxi trip for the day. The beach is relatively small and shaded, and there are lots of tiny tide pools for snorkeling and exploring. Starting at about 11 am there are two professional massage therapists who offer beachside massages at very reasonable prices. Cash only.
Another reason to visit Ocotal Beach is its restaurant, Father Rooster. Father rooster is located right on the beach, and there are hammocks, swings, and tables in the sand. Offering a wide variety of typical Costa Rican cuisine, the prices are excellent for a beachfront restaurant. Expect to pay between $7-10 a plate. With an extensive beer, wine, and cocktail list, also expect to stay awhile. Father Rooster also offers a nice kid’s menu and high chairs.
Playa Conchal is one of my favorite beaches in all of Costa Rica. It’s named so because the beach is made entirely of shells. The water is blue and warm, and the weekend vibe here is festive with DJ’s, a small food vendor and more. In fact, it was recently named the best beach in the world.
Conchal Beach is located adjacent to the Westin Beach Resort, one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica and they’ve got all the parking.
The best way to arrive at Playa Conchal without staying at the Westin is to park your rental car at the public parking lot at Braslito Beach. You’ll pay a few dollars and then hike over to Conchal at low tide. Stay for the day and hike back at the next low tide. You’ll love it- I promise!
Playa Nacascolo is a hidden beach in the Four Seasons complex. It’s a great place to see howler monkeys, and enjoy calm waters and complete silence.
Getting there can be a bit of a headache as you need to park near the Four Seasons and then take a shuttle. But I promise- it’s well worth it! We go here when we stay at the Planet Hollywood All-Inclusive Resort.
We love the Flamingo Beach area. The beach itself is really pretty, and the little town nearby is quaint and charming. There are lots of international restaurants here too. Many people come to dive or snorkel off the coast, and Flamingo can be a great alternative to Playas del Coco because it’s so much calmer.
Stay at the Margaritaville Beach Resort– they even have an all-inclusive option. We love to beach hop here- Playa Potrero, Playa Danta and Playa Dantita aren’t far and they are oh-so-pretty.
Want a beach with no one? Playa Cabuyal is not even that far off the beaten path (just about 30 minutes from Liberia) but it’s deserted. That’s because very few people know about it.
Rumor has it there are tons of sting rays dancing in the water in the summertime. We loved the parking right on the beach, and the fact that there were bathrooms and showers.
Beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula- Costa Rica Pacific
The Nicoya Peninsula sits about in the middle of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and is home to the longest-living people on Earth. It is also easily accessible from both San Jose and Liberia, making it a highly visited region for travelers and Costa Ricans alike. Here are some of our favorite beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Playa Samara has long been known as one of the best beaches for families in Costa Rica- and locals love it here. The beach is crescent-shaped, lined with palm trees, and the water is relatively warm.
There are plenty of accommodations for families with kids to fit every budget, same for restaurants. Samara Beach is a favorite- with ample parking and a great family atmosphere. You could boogie board here, but probably not surf. It’s the perfect beach for families.
Next to Samara is Carrillo Beach- a picture-perfect half-circle of a beach lined with fantastic palm trees. The water is bathwater temperature and the waves are nearly non-existent. You can take a pool float and just relax.
There are no services at this beach, and little shade. Pack what you need and avoid arriving at the heat of the day. We love to use a big beach umbrella to cut down on the sun’s rays between 10 am and 2 pm.
Playa Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa Beach is a popular site for tourists given how many amazing restaurants, hotels and activities are here. The beach is wide white sand with turquoise water and big waves.
The palm trees are set pretty far back from the beach so there isn’t much shade. The vibe here is very relaxed and laid back, and this is definitely a popular surf beach. Prices at Santa Teresa tend to be a bit on the higher side, so we love to pack snacks and rely on restaurants for fewer meals.
This beach is located just about a 15-minute drive from the ferry that connects the Nicoya Peninsula to the mainland, making it a great weekend trip for ticos living in the Central Valley. The beach is extremely calm- and home to lots of Costa Ricans who make great food. The all-inclusive resort Barcelo Playa Tambor is also located on this beach.
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Off the beaten path you will find Playa Coyote and Playa San Miguel. Next door to each other, the beaches are similar- lined with private homes and tiny restaurants. There aren’t gas stations for miles, and lots of tico families spend extended time here.
Playa Coyote houses a couple of supermarkets and restaurants, so stock up on your supplies here. The beach is long and wide, with tan sand and gorgeous waves.
Playa San Miguel
Playa San Miguel is one of the eight cleanest beaches in Costa Rica, garnering the prestigious Playa Azul flag. Turtles nest here and come home year-round, and the beach is three miles long. Perfect for walking!
You can boogie, surf, skimboard, or just enjoy the view. There isn’t a ton of shade near the water here, so bring an umbrella and chairs. Finish the day with a beer and a bite at the only restaurant on the beach- Cocos Locos. It’s made from a shipping container! Prices are a bit high so ask how much things cost before you buy.
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This beach is a hidden gem for families, and one of the best beaches for kids in Costa Rica. We love it because there are several great places to stay right on the beach, like Junquillal Eco Resort.
At the north end of the beach, there are countless tide pools for spotting tiny fish and crabs- this will keep your kids entertained for hours. On top of that- you can see turtles nesting year-round at this beach.
Montezuma Beach is a surfer’s paradise, and one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. If you get tired of the beach (which I never do), the hike to the Montezuma Waterfalls is definitely worth it- it’s one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica.
Playa Nosara is the place to be. It’s within minutes of some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, and retains a small-town feel without sacrificing amenities. There are tons of things to do in Nosara– even kid’s camp and nannies are available. There are also great hotels here- check out our list of top places to stay in Nosara.
Puntarenas Region of the Costa Rica Pacific Coast
For these beaches, you’ll want to fly into the San Jose International Airport.
Jaco is the quintessential Costa Rican tourist beach. Located just about 90 minutes from San Jose, it’s where people go to party and relax. The North end of the beach is hopping- surfers, Spring Breakers, bachelor parties- it’s nuts. Don’t miss Rioasis for pizza or the fun little soda Marea Alta just off the main drag for cheap typical foods.
We recently discovered the South end of the beach, home to family-friendly lodging and some awesome restaurants, as well as close to the famous hike to the beach overlook. Jaco is home to every type of shopping, food, tours, and other amenities imaginable. We think Jaco with kids is the bee’s knees.
Jaco Beach Costa Rica recently became the first Central American beach fully accessible to people with disabilities. The beach access is open Monday through Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm and includes parking, bathrooms, and the accessible beach walk. The boardwalk is made entirely from recycled plastic bottle tops and plastic bags.
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Just 15 minutes north of Playa Jaco is Mantas Beach, one of the best-kept secrets in the area. Located near the famous Punta Leona resort complex, Playa Mantas is a hidden gem for families and those wishing to escape the craziness of Jaco.
There are no services at Playa Mantas- but there is a pizzeria, ice cream shop and mini supermarket just about 3/4 of a kilometer off the beach. Expect almost no waves, water so clear you can see your toes, and tons of shade trees lining the beach.
Playa Blanca is apty named. This white sand beach is just adjacent to Playa Mantas and the turquoise waters are breathtaking. You’ll have to hike over at low tide to get there, but it is worth the short walk!
Costa Rican Pacific Beaches- South Pacific/Southern Tip
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is located just south of Quepos, and is one of the most popular and famous national parks in all of Costa Rica. The Manuel Antonio beach itself is relatively small. Still, visitors from all over the world flock to Manuel Antonio to see the birds, iguanas, monkeys, sloths and insects that make their home in the national park.
Plan your visit to Manuel Antonio well in advance, and expect large crowds. This is a must-see area for many visitors to Costa Rica, but if you are looking for tranquility, you are better off heading a bit south to Dominical or Marino Ballena National Park.
Dominical Beach is a long rocky beach located about an hour south of Manuel Antonio. Waves are large and there is a relatively large rip current, but the beach is generally pretty deserted and there are restaurants, shops and accommodations for every taste and budget. We love to eat lunch at the beachfront Tortilla Flats- which also has very basic accommodations for under $25.
Bahia Ballena Beach and National Park
Even further south from Dominical is Bahia Ballena- or whale bay. It’s named more for its geographical structure- the bay looks like a whale tale. Whales can be spotted offshore here, but not year-round. Recently the beach has gained lots of popularity for its Instagrammable whale tail formation at low tide.
Parking is ample at whale bay, it’s located near the national park, and there are nearby restaurants and few services at the small town. Whale watching is August- November and December-April.
I recently visited here for the first time and I just think it’s one of the top laces to visit in Costa Rica for families with kids. You can see tons of wildlife in the national park, and it’s way way way less crowded than Manuel Antonio. I adored it and can’t wait to go back.
For the adventurous, Drake Bay is the place to go. It’s the last town before Corcovado National Park, home of every single Costa Rican bird and animal species imaginable. Drake Bay is accessible by car only during the dry season.
If you are headed to Drake Bay in the rainy season you’ll have to go by boat through the mangroves and then through the mouth of the river to the town by the beach. Drake Bay is about 6 hours south of San Jose- you can take jumper planes there if you are short on time.
It’s only been about 10 years since Drake Bay has electricity and internet, and the vast majority of the inhabitants still live a very off-the-grid, laid back lifestyle. There are tons of accommodations and restaurants for every taste and budget here.
Expect to find an endless number of beaches to explore via the vast trail system that leads into Corcovado. You can also spot whales and dolphins on the way to Cano Island- the perfect place to snorkel and dive.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by