Costa Rica is a world famous beach destination. Every year, around 2 million tourist come to Costa Rica for a variety of reasons, including visiting one or more beaches. Every time someone asks us, which is the best beach; unfortunately, the answer is normally a question. What kind of a beach are you looking for? Do you want a large white sand beach, or do you like the natural black sand beaches? Do you want to be close to a beach village, or do you want to be secluded? In Costa Rica, the permutations of the number of beaches, and the number of the available activities around the beach, can make this a difficult decision.
Best Surfing Beaches
1. Playa Jaco and Hermosa, Central Pacific
Without a doubt, if you are a hard-core surfer, you can do no wrong visiting either Playa Jaco or Playa Hermosa, just a few minutes south. Jaco was once a sleepy beach town. However, its proximity to the airport and San Jose combined with excellent surf conditions have made the town explode in growth in the past 15 years. There are two well known surf schools in Jaco called Third World Surf Camp and Jaco Surf School. If you cannot bring your gear, there are many surf shops in town where you can purchase or rent gear. More advanced surfers usually go south to Playa Hermosa where there is more consistent high swells. Both Playa Hermosa and Jaco can have strong rip currents. There are no lifeguards, so you need to be a very good swimmer and seasoned surfer. If you are just learning, you can usually ask a surf instructor to take you out when the waves are more tame. They normally know the rhythm of tides quite well.
Recommended Hotels in Playa Jaco:
- Hotel Poseidon Avg. Nightly Rate From $69
- La Palmera Hotel Avg. Nightly Rate From $39
- Copacabana Hotel And Suites Avg. Nightly Rate From $79
- Blue Palm Hotel Avg. Nightly Rate From $62
Recommended Hotels in Play Hermosa:
- Hermosa Lofts Avg. Nightly Rate From $119
- Marea Brava Avg. Nightly Rate From $133
- Fuego Del Sol Avg. Nightly Rate From $85
2. Playa Tamarindo and Langosta, North Pacific
Although much smaller than Jaco, Playa Tamarindo is a growing surf town located north in Guancaste. The one common difference between Tamarindo and Jaco is the beach of Tamarindo is white sand and much cleaner. Tamrindo does not have nearly the hustle and bustle of Jaco, but there is a descent nightlife for younger people. There are two well known surf camps in town Witches Rock Surf Camp and the Tamarindo Surf School. There are also lots surf shops, restaurants and beach shopping in town. If you turn the local radio station 99.5 Radio Dos on Friday at happy hour, they feature a show from the bar in Witches Rock Surf Camp. (You can click that link and listen to it live from anywhere in the world over the internet!)
Recommended Hotels in Playa Tamarindo:
- Best Western Tamarindo Avg. Nightly Rate From $76
- Hotel Pasatiempo Avg. Nightly Rate From $70
- Hotel Flores Avg. Nightly Rate From $65
- Hotel Domus Kahuna Avg. Nightly Rate From $69
- Hotel Mahayana Avg. Nightly Rate From $43
- Hotel Luna Llena Avg. Nightly Rate From $75
- Hotel Bula Bula Avg. Nightly Rate From $85
Recommend Hotels in Playa Langosta:
- Sunset Inn Avg. Nightly Rate From $73
3. Playa Domincal, South Pacific
Playa Dominical is located a few hours south of Quepos and is a little more secluded than Jaco or Tamarindo. The nearby town is called Uvita (Little Grape) adn offers restaurants and a very casual atmosphere. There are no night clubs, casinos or high rise condominiums like Jaco. There is a small nightlife, but it is more tame than Tamarindo and Jaco. The beach starts at Rio Baru. It is rumored that Dominical is similar to Hermosa in that there are consistently high swells. There are several surf schools in town and all the gear you require can be rented or purchased. For beginners, there is even a beginner beach called Playa Dominicalcito just to the south, where the waves are small for beginners.
Recommended Hotels in Dominical:
- Villas Rio Mar Avg. Nightly Rate From
- La Tierra Divina Avg. Nightly Rate From $75
- Villas Alturas Avg. Nightly Rate From $125
- Kura Design Villas Avg. Nightly Rate From $220
- Oxygen Jungle Villas Avg. Nightly Rate From $199
Best Beaches Near National Parks
Costa Rica has 28 National Parks and if you are looking for a beach close to, or even inside the park, then this is a must read. We recommend three parks: Manuel Antonio, Cahuita and Tortuguero. Each of these parks have hotels inside where can immerse yourself with natural biodiversity and the beach. Manuel Antonio is located on the central Pacific coast and about 3 hours from San Jose. Cahuita and Tortuguero are located on the Caribbean side and just about 4 to 6 hours from San Jose.
1. Playa Manuel Antonio
The beach in Manuel Antonio is an almost surreal expression of natural beauty. There are actually two beaches in the park. The first beach is located in front of the commercial zone where you have public parking, restaurants, convenience stores and souvenir shopping. The beach is very natural white sand and the surf is perfect for the beginner, as the swells are consistent, but not much larger than six feet. The second beach is located inside the national park. To get there you either need to take the hike through the canopy tour from the park entrance, or you can take a boat across and enter the park from behind. It is an absolute treat to take the nature hike from the park entrance and observe the tropical forest. It is almost a surprise to walk down a slope of trail to find the second, mores secluded beach, inside the rainforest. Here you are also guaranteed to share the beach with white-faced monkeys who live in the trees.
Recommended Hotels In Manuel Antonio
- La Mariposa Hotel Avg. Nightly Rate From
- Hotel Parador Resort And Spa Avg. Nightly Rate From
$380$190 . Save 50%!!!
- Hotel San Bada Avg. Nightly Rate From
$240$156 . Save 35%!!!
- Inn On The Park Avg. Nightly Rate From $107
- Hotel California – Manuel Antonio Avg. Nightly Rate From $93
- Hotel Costa Verde Avg. Nightly Rate From $116
- The Falls Resort at Manuel Antonio Avg. Nightly Rate From $105
- Si Como No Resort, Spa and Wildlife Refuge Avg. Nightly Rate From $236
2. Playa Negra near Cahuita
If you are interested in a more relaxed, Afro-Caribbean theme, go to Playa Negra near Cahuita National Park. Playa Negra is just north of the park entrance, you may also notice the blue flag at the beach which states bandera azul ecológica. This means the beach passes the highest ecological standard. This is a beach where you can take relaxing swims in it’s calm waters, or learn surfing in the gentles swells. You can also swim out to the coral reef to snorkel and capture underwater pictures of undersea marine biodiversity. Visitors that come between March and June normally will be able to watch the sea turtle nesting grounds.
Recommended Hotels in Playa Negra:
3. Playa Tortuguero
Tortuguero National Park is one of Costa Rica’s largest national parks with 46,000 acres of natural biodiversity including wetlands, mangrove forests, beaches and rainforests. It is one of Costa Rica’s most remote parks, and is only accessible by a water taxi which leaves from La Pavona on a regular basis. Once you are in the park, you can explore the park by boat, kyak or by foot. The park is an eco-tourists dream as you can observe 11 or 12 Costa Rican natural habitats. Ofcourse, as the name implies, you can also see all four of six species of sea turtles native to Costa Rica including leatherback, loggerneck, green and hawksbill sea turtles.
Recommended Hotels in Playa Tortuguero:
Beaches with Nightlife
1. Playa Jaco
Jaco Beach has grown in the past 15 years to become a large thriving beach town, with a nightlife that could be compared to a miniature Las Vegas. There aren’t as many neon lights or tall hotels, but the town is the life of partying, gambling and sex tourism. If you are a single adult, and looking to misbehave, you virtually have no limits. The town is also full of younger folks from the US, Canada and Europe. Most of them come to surf and party in the bars, night clubs and discos, which often stay open until sun rise.
Recommended Hotels in Playa Jaco:
- Hotel Poseidon
- Copacobana Suites (Adult)
- Morgan’s Cove
- Best Western Jaco
- Blue Palm Hotel
- Canciones Del Mar (Now Hotel Del Rey Jaco)
- Hotel Club Del Mar
2. Playa Tamarindo
Playa Tamarindo has grown from being a sleepy beach town and fishing village to the a town with the third largest nightlife scene. Of course, you are still located to great eco-tourist activies and parks. The town is still famous for surfing. But, the night time has taken on a life of its own. The night scene is not as crazy as Jaco, but there is something for everyone on almost every night of the week. Since Tamarindo is close to many other beaches and towns in Guanacaste. Often times, there is a steady mix of travellers form outside of Tamarindo who come to town to drink and dance the night away. While some of the bars have remained rustic, some of the newer bars are more upscale with modern disco lighting systems and flat screen high definition TVs on the walls.
Recommend Hotels in Tamarindo:
- Tamardindo Diria Beach and Golf Resort
- Hotel Capitan Suizo
- Barcelo Langosta Beach
- Best Western Tamarindo
- Hotel Arco Iris
- Hotel el Jardin Eden
- Hotel Flores
- Hotel Domus Kahuna
- Hotel Pasatiempo
- Cala Luna Boutique Hotel
- 15 Love Bed and Breakfast
- Tamarindo Yam
- Hotel Luna Llena
- Hotel Pueblo Dorado
- Hotel Blua Blua
- Sunset Inn
3. Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo boasts Costa Rica’s third largest nightlife destination. It definitely maintains a rustic, roots rock reggae beat and rhythm, with Reggae music on almost every street corner. Ten years ago, there were only one or two bars that would stay open past dark, now there are probably a dozen and they feature more than just Reggae. In some bars, they regularly have live music from Caribbean styled Calypso to Rhythm and Blues.
Recommended Hotels in Puerto Viejo:
More reading on the best beaches in Costa Rica:
- Best Beaches in Costa Rica Along Caribbean Coast | coast op – Coast Best Beaches in Costa Rica Along Caribbean Coast Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, less traveled than the country’s Pacific Coast, offer some of the best.
- Costa Rica Vacation – Allinclusive.co Reports Travelers’ Choice 2013 Best Beaches in Costa Rica – San Francisco Chronicle (press release) … Allinclusive.co Reports Travelers’ Choice 2013 Best Beaches in Costa Rica – Danbury News Times …
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