Nothing says “beach vacation” like a stretch of soft, white sand seashore with dazzling water splashing up the shoreline. And Costa Rica has a good number of gorgeous white sand coastlines to entice even the pickiest of sand chasers!
From the vibrant Pacific shoreline to the more low-key Caribbean coast, here are some of the best white sand beaches in Costa Rica. If you are looking for black sand beaches, make sure to check out Playa Negra.
When you Google the “best beaches in the world”, Conchal appears almost on every page, and for a good reason. It is absolutely stunning and has calm, clear waters all year round. Its alluring white sand is decorated with tiny shell particles that have been washed up and softened by the ocean, making this beach truly unique. There are also rocky tide pools at the north end of the beach that make snorkeling a breeze- you can literally walk to the pools and see marine life.
From the sounds of crashing waves and swaying palm trees to howler monkeys echoing from the forest, this little piece of paradise offers optimal relaxation while bringing you closer to nature. Be sure to swim or snorkel in the warm, turquoise waters and enjoy the diverse marine life that dwells here.
For the more adventurous, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing are also offered. When you have had enough of the waters, go hiking, ride a horse, explore the caves, or simply relax on the beach and order a massage.
The best way to get to Playa Conchal is to walk across Playa Brasilito at low tide and leave again at low tide. The Westin Playa Conchal all-inclusive hotel is on this beach, so if you stay there you can just walk right off of the property to the beach. There is no parking lot at Playa Conchal- you have to walk over or stay at the hotel.
Just short drive (10 minutes away) from Conchal is Playa Flamingo, another spectacular white sand paradise with lots of activities to be enjoyed by the whole family. And no, there are no flamingos here despite what the name says. But when the light is just right, the brilliant white sand takes on a pink hue that resembles the color of a flamingo. That’s where its name comes from.
Although sunbathing and dipping your toes in the warm sand is a must, there is a lot of fun to be had at the ocean as well. Try your hand at surfing, swim at the shore, or rent some scuba diving gear and hang out with the reef sharks and colored tropical fish underneath.
For golf enthusiasts, there are several golf courses nearby including Hacienda Pinilla, one of the country’s best. End your day with a Catamaran tour; it’s a great way to watch the remarkable sunsets!
When we stay here we love the Margaritaville Beach Resort– the pool is right up next to the water, and the hotel offers an all-inclusive option or the option to eat your meals elsewhere.
If you’re looking to explore Guanacaste province beaches, the Tamarindo Beach area is a great spot to base yourself on because it is centrally located. For many years, it has attracted thousands of tourists looking to have a good time. This is one of the most popular beaches on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.
With breathtaking white sand beaches for soaking up the sun, magnificent sunsets for those intimate evening strolls, and a vibrant nightlife for party lovers, Tamarindo is indeed the perfect place for families and couples who want to play and party.
Surfers can also find great waves here. Because of the warm, calm waters, this spot is especially ideal for beginner surfers. Visitors can enjoy sport fishing, swimming, and other water sports during the day too.
One of the big advantages of Tamarindo is that you are also near one of Costa Rica’s national parks– Marino Las Baulas- and you can take a river float to experience birding and other Costa Rican animal sightings. We love to stay at the beachfront Tamarindo Diria.
Playa Hermosa (Puntarenas)
Famous for its low-key atmosphere and high-quality waves, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas is a great place to stay for avid surfers looking to explore the Central Pacific. Ranked one of the most popular surf spots in Costa Rica, Hermosa boasts seven distinct surf points that welcome both intermediate and advanced surfers.
But this is not the only reason people come here. There’s a lot more to do both on the beach and in nearby areas including scuba diving and hiking. For animal lovers, a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park would be truly worth their while. It’s only 45 minutes away. The crocodile tours on the Tarcoles river are also epic.
Playa Hermosa is relatively quiet- and also only about 10 minute drive from Jaco Beach. There are plenty of places to eat in Jaco, and great grocery stores and farmer’s markets. This makes the relative quiet of Playa Hermosa attractive to visitors who also love to experience a bit more Costa Rican culture and nightlife.
Samara beach is another laid-back destination for families, couples, and solo travelers looking for a quiet getaway. Here, you will find a happy mix of locals and visitors playing in the calm waters, exploring the beautiful coral reefs offshore, or just kicking back in the crescent-shaped strip of white-grayish sand.
While you will likely just want to hang out at the beach and ride the waves or watch sea creatures underwater, there’s a lot of fun to be had away from the waters too. For example, you can hike to the waterfalls, watch beautiful scenery on a horseback tour, or make arrangements to tour the Warner Sauter Biological Reserve.
Samara has recently become quite popular with expats, and for parents with kids, the Marea Academy accepts students for short-term studies of Spanish and Costa Rican culture.
Playa Santa Teresa
The small, easy-going town of Santa Teresa hides one of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in Costa Rica (aptly named Santa Teresa Beach). The beach welcomes vacationers of all kinds- especially nature lovers. During the day, the off-the-beaten-path paradise offers fantastic waves for surfing, and in the evening, visitors lounge in the splendid white sand, watching the striking sunset and enjoying the majestic views of the Pacific Ocean.
This beach is one of the best places to vacation with family; you can all soak up the sun at the shore, walk along the beach, or explore the tidal pools that fill up with colorful fish and manatees at low tide. This beach is also known as one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica.
Chiquita beach is a small and quiet beach on the Caribbean Coast, not far from Playa Punta Uva. Don’t let that fool you; this spot teems with thrilling activities for travelers of all ages. For many years, the clear blue waters and brilliant white sands of Chiquita have been drawing families who come here to snorkel, swim, delve into the coral reef treasures, or explore the surrounding forests.
Also, because it is somewhat isolated, hiking is one of the best things to do here. Visitors use the beach as a base for launching hikes to neighboring nature areas and towns. They can delight in the pleasures of the nearby adventures during the day but return to the tranquil, laid-back beach to sleep. Don’t miss eating traditional Caribbean rice and beans with Caribbean chicken when you visit!
On the Southern end of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, inside Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge, sits the idyllic Manzanillo beach that offers terrific Afro-Caribbean ambiance, beautiful hikes, magnificent white sand to sunbathe, and calm, warm waters to swim and snorkel. This beach is just a stone’s throw from the popular beach town of Puerto Viejo.
You will find a steady number of visitors wading in the waters, playing soccer, or barbequing under the coconut trees near the shore. Visit between March and October and witness the phenomenal nestling of the sea turtles at the animal refuge. The habitat also houses manatees, mangrove oysters, and other threatened species that would be worth watching.
Marino Ballena National Park
Known as the “Whale’s Tail,” Marino Ballena national park’s main attractions are the humpback whales and dolphins. The lovely white sand beach is one of Costa Rica’s most famous, as it looks like the tail of a whale at low tide.
Enjoy gorgeous views of the whale’s tail from the lush tropical rainforest above the town of Uvita, or enjoy a sunset cold brew at one of the town’s microbreweries. Stay at the gorgeous Vista Ballena hotel, or the more adventurous can stay right at the Whale’s Tail Microbrewery and Hotel.
Manuel Antonio Beach
Nestled just south of the town of Quepos in the southern zone of Costa Rica is Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most beloved national parks in all of Central America. Inside that park, along with ample opportunities for birding, sloth watching and monkey spotting, is the pristine, white sand beach called Manuel Antonio Beach.
Given the fact that only a certain number of visitors are allowed in the park each day, you are guaranteed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world almost entirely to yourself. The crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkeling, and the lush jungle is home to a myriad of white-faced monkeys.
I recommend staying in Quepos, or even better, near the national park entrance. We love Karahe Beach Resort.
This beach is one of the most beautiful in all of Costa Rica! Located just a few minutes north of Jaco beach, you’ll either have to stay at the Punta Leona Beach Hotel, or you’ll walk over at low tide.
You won’t be sorry if you do- this pristine beach is tiny, and private and the water is a gorgeous cerulean blue. There aren’t any services here so make sure to pack your lunch and plan to spend the day.
Playa Blanca is just minutes from Jaco Beach, and a great day trip from San Jose.