At Casa Pura Vida, we are beach people. We feel so lucky that we currently live so close to the Rocky Mountains, but in our hearts, we are people who love the ocean.
So when we travel to Costa Rica, we make sure to spend time at our favorite beaches.
It’s important to properly prepare for a visit to a Costa Rican beach, but before preparing for your actual visit, it’s important to pick a great beach.
Costa Rica is blessed with not one but two panoramic coastlines that house some of the most stunning spots for family getaways. In this post, I give you the low down on the best family beaches in Costa Rica that offer something for everyone. Ready?
Located next to the popular town of Sámara, this crescent-shaped beach is great for families because there are large palm trees lining the entire stretch of the beach, which gives some relief from the sun.
Additionally, the tide isn’t very strong here, making it a great place for small children to play in the sand and not get bowled over by waves. The waves are pretty small, which makes the place perfect for kids or beachgoers who love calmer waters.
The beach isn’t very crowded most of the time, making for a relaxing stay. There aren’t public restrooms, shops, or restaurants very near the beach, making this the ideal place to pack a picnic and cooler for the day and hang out.
The main road into Sámara Beach is nearby, something to keep in mind when you have very young children that might like to run towards the road.
Snorkeling the coral, kayaking, swimming, sport fishing, windsurfing, and jet skiing are among the activities enjoyed here, but you could also explore tide pools, go horseback riding, or indulge in some beach yoga on land.
This beach is NOT easy to find, but it is worth the trip! It’s about an hour’s drive from Tamarindo, although as the bird flies it’s only a few kilometers. It’s an off-the-beaten-path surfer beach in pristine condition. Lots of low trees under which you can place blankets and chairs and just chill.
Lola’s Restaurant is located here, with phenomenal fresh food and drinks (I actually have monthly dreams about the nachos and guacamole) that you can enjoy at tables right in the sand as you look out at the ocean. Again, there are very few people who frequent this beach, and it’s great for walking.
There’s even a little boardwalk through the forest, taking you to Cabinas Las Olas, a fun place to stay or to eat and drink if you are just spending the day at Avellanas. The beach is so phenomenal that I hesitate to even write about it for fear that it will become popular!
Note- this post was written in 2016, and since then Playa Avellanas has exploded in popularity with surfers and families alike. It’s still a favorite, just not so off-the-beaten-path anymore.
Related post: 30+ Foods To Try In Costa Rica
Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste)
“Hermosa” is Spanish for “beautiful” and Playa Hermosa truly lives up to its name. The rarely crowded 1.2-mile long beach features splendid grey sands, crystal clear blue waters, and spectacular scenery, making it one of the best places to vacation with your loved ones.
I’ll admit that the first time I visited Playa Hermosa, I wasn’t super impressed with it. Granted, I was 21 and looking to fiesta, and Playa Hermosa is definitely a family beach.
Now that we have kids and have slowed down a bit, it’s perfect. The beach is another crescent-shaped beach in a cove that feels private. The waves are super calm, which is again a great beach for kids to swim and play on the shore.
The town of Playa Hermosa is very well-developed, with supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants everywhere. It’s the ideal destination to stay a few days or to jump in the car and spend the day with no preparation.
There’s almost always a banana boat giving rides in the deeper water and the far south end of the beach is super private and quiet. If you enjoy being out in the ocean, this place offers some of the best kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, and swimming opportunities. There are horseback rides along this beach too- making it a fun place to do many different family activities onshore too.
Do not miss eating fresh seafood at La Casita del Marisco – the red snapper is fresh and yummy!
Boasting gorgeous white to pinkish crushed shells, pristine turquoise-hued waters, and charming marine life, Playa Conchal is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Located south of the more expansive Playa Flamingo, this less frequented gem has warm, shallow waters and is nicely sheltered for kids, making it a great place for family vacations and chill time.
This beach is another one that’s a bit hard to get to, but once you arrive you’ll love it. Because of Costa Rica’s laws on beach access, this is technically a public beach.
However, you have to access it at low tide by walking from Playa Brasilito (There are no cars allowed at Playa Conchal). This is the only beach in Costa Rica that is made entirely of shells… not sand!
The waves are calm and it’s perfect for bathing babies without them getting splashed by waves. On Sundays, there are people selling food and drinks for a good price, and even music and dancing. The other days of the week, this is just a calm beach that’s perfect for families.
Bring your scuba or snorkeling gear, as there is a lot to be discovered underwater. In the afternoon, picnic with the family next to the beach, and in the evening, camp under the stunning starry sky.
Pack your food and drink in, and plan your trip around the tides. You can’t get out at high tide.
Playa La Penca and Surrounding
When our oldest daughter was just 4 months old, we spent a blissful week in a rented house near Playa Potrero. The area had a zillion mini tiendas for purchasing food and liquor, and every single beach was beautiful and deserted.
Nearby is Playa La Penca– I’ll never forget heading down to the beach at sunrise and watching sting rays dancing along the waves as the breeze kept us company.
Playa Danta (Tapir beach in English) is a limited access beach -you park and walk along a beautiful boardwalk to arrive at a shady beach, named after the Tapir because the black sand looks just like a tapir’s skin when wet.
There’s a little restaurant here, and the adventurous can walk over to the even more remote Playa Dantita. We love this area because it’s super quiet, but you can easily head over to Playa Flamingo or Brasilito for dinner. Rent a house here immediately… you will not regret it! You can also stay at the Margaritaville Beach Resort in Flamingo and day trip to this area.
Nestled along the magnificent Caribbean coast, Cahuita welcomes visitors with scenic black sand beaches, warm turquoise and emerald green waters, a calm laid-back vibe, and the monumental Cahuita National Park. This beach is just north of the more raucous Puerto Viejo beach and town.
The low-key beach offers a plethora of outdoor activities to be enjoyed by the whole family including snorkeling, scuba diving, and canoeing.
When you have had enough of the watersports, go hike along one of the trails at the park; if you’re lucky, you will see some sloths and monkeys, iguanas, and colorful birds along the way. If you’re visiting between March and July, you may also be able to see nesting leatherback sea turtles.
Playa Santa Teresa
On the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula hides the incredible Santa Teresa, a small beach town that’s going to win the heart of any surfer in the family. You’ll find many surf spots here, each marked by rocks that can clearly be seen at low tide.
Beyond surfing, there are oodles of activities you can enjoy on the beautiful white sand including sunbathing, beach walks, horseback riding, and watching striking sunsets. If you prefer to see some wildlife, a day trip to the nearby Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve will be truly worthwhile.
If you’re vacationing in Costa Rica, the off-the-beaten-path Punta Uva has everything a family-friendly beach is expected to offer – warm calm waters protected by coral reef for safe paddling and swimming, beautiful golden sands for the little ones to build castles with, swaying palm trees to provide the much-needed breeze and shade on those hot afternoons – you name it!
This is a beach just south of Dominical, and a much more laid-back beach option than the more popular Dominical. There is a great ex-pat community in this area as well.
There’s also an abundance of marine life including giant humpback whales, thanks to the beach’s close proximity to Marino Ballena National Park. For extra fun, check out horseback riding, birdwatching, and other notable activities offered in the area.
With few crowds, warm waters with gentle waves for surfing and swimming, and plenty of fun activities for all ages, Playa Samara is another fantastic destination for families looking for a quiet holiday. Kids can play near the reef-protected shore and then kick back on the warm, fine white sand.
Some of the things you can try both onsite and offsite include kayaking, sport fishing, canopy tours, hiking, turtle watching, and horseback riding. If you have surfers in the group, the surf shops near the tall palm trees offer awesome surf lessons that all can enjoy.
Just minutes from the fishing town of Quepos, Playa Espadilla is one of the most popular destinations for Costa Rica family vacations. Not only does it offer a great spot to relax and cool off; but the monumental Manuel Antonio National Park is also just a stone’s throw away.
The beach does have large waves but it’s still great for wading, plus surf lessons are available to ensure safety for those who would like to ride the waves. Non-surfers can go parasailing, jet skiing, horseback riding, or visit the park for wildlife watching.
If your definition of an ideal family vacation involves hanging out with some turtles, then Playa Tortuguero would be an amazing place to go. The gorgeous black sands offer a remarkable sanctuary for leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles who come here to nest between July and October. If you go scuba diving, you’ll also see an abundance of sharks in the deep ocean.
Unfortunately, because of the heavy currents experienced here, this spot is not safe for swimming. But there are still other activities you can enjoy including walking along the beach, watching colorful toucans flying about the beautiful palm trees, and touring the magnificent Tortuguero National Park.
The Guiones beach is a surfers’ paradise. Here, you can stand up on the board even if you have no prior experience in surfing, as there are plenty of surf schools on site. Also, the waters are shallow and uncrowded, providing the perfect playground for first-timers and family members of all ages to practice.
When you’re tired of being atop a surfboard, take a stroll along the beach or just soak in the little dazzling tide pools and enjoy the cool ocean breeze. Don’t forget to reserve a day for turtle viewing at one of the world’s most famous turtle nesting sites, the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. It’s only 30 minutes away!
We first visited Playa Junuqillal by accident and then fell in love with the rustic town that surrounds it.
Along the north part of the beach, there are a zillion tide pools that will keep your kids entertained for hours at low tide.
The central area of the beach is home to the Playa Junquillal Eco Resort, one of the best places to try traditional Costa Rican food while watching the sunset.
The southern end of the beach has plenty of opportunities to watch turtles nest. It’s a great remote beach to spend a week or so with your kids.
Next to Punta Leona, the most popular all-inclusive resorts among ticos are two of my favorite beaches- Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca.
Playa Mantas is known for its calm and gentle waves, and there is a small estuary in the middle of the beach. For some reason, kids just love to play in water that goes into more water!
Playa Blanca is a white sand beach that is only accessed if you are a guest at Punta Leona, or if you walk over at low tide.
What’s so amazing about Playa Blanca is the turquoise waters- the color is quintessential Costa Rican blue. For both of these beaches, you’ll need to rent a car, head in with all of your food and drink, and keep track of the tides if you plan to hike over to Playa Blanca.
Most people don’t think of Jaco as a family beach, but I totally disagree. The south end of Jaco has gentle waves and great accommodations. The dining and early nightlife is great for families- we go to bed before the craziness happens anyway. The north end of the beach offers a great estuary for swimming and frolicking in the water. Our favorite crocodile tour is just minutes away.
The major disadvantage to Jaco is that there isn’t much shade, but vendors rent chairs with umbrellas all over. We love to visit Jaco and stay at Las Palmas next to Crocs.
The beach is generally deserted, houses picnic tables for a fun beachfront meal, and you can spot manta rays in the water at certain times of the year. What’s not to like?
Playas del Coco is one of the major hubs of activity in northern Guanacaste- it’s super popular with divers and ex-pats alike.
In my opinion, however, the beach isn’t that pretty, and you don’t get those epic sunsets you get at other nearby beaches. Plus there is a lot of craziness at Coco Beach!
Next door though is the peaceful Playa Ocotal. The waves are gentle, there are tide pools, and the restaurants are awesome.
This is a hidden beach within the Four Seasons Resort and next to Planet Hollywood and The Andaz Hotel. You’ll have to park on the Papagayo Peninsula and take the free shuttle to the beach- but you won’t regret it.
There’s almost no one here, the waves are tiny, and the water is bathtub temperature. Babies, toddlers, and kids alike will love to splash here, and parents can relax knowing the water is safe.
Bring all your gear for the day- there are no services or facilities at Plata Nacascolo.
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