Costa Rica is best known for its volcanoes, greenery and famous wildlife — but the beaches are also worth daydreaming about. Because of its rich biodiversity, there’s a little something for the surfer to the yogi or the casual sunbather.
Here are eight beaches that are worth adding to your Costa Rica itinerary for your next trip.
1. Playa Negra
The black sand beach in the Guanacaste region is arguably one of the country’s most famous beaches — and when you visit for the first time, yo’ll see why it’s considered a natural wonder. And despite its popularity, it manages to never get too crowded. While you can swim in the water, the waves attract a lot of surfers so just stay aware of your surroundings.
Playa Negra is surrounded by a handful of budget lodges and vacation rentals. But what makes the beach such a great spot is the nearby town of Cahuita, where travelers learn more about the Afro-Caribbean traditions.
2. Playa Carrillo
Carrillo is one of those places where “if you know, you know.” Located near the town of Sámara, this rural beach is popular with locals and repeat visitors who have probably gone to all of the well-known haunts along the coast.
You’ll know you’ve arrived by the sight of the palm trees lining the beachfront and views of the distant mountains. Playa Carrillo’s proximity to water sports, resorts, and its namesake town makes it one of the best beaches for families, too.
Planning Tip: Because of its popularity with locals, the beach gets crowded on weekends and holidays like Easter or Christmas. Consider making the excursion during the weekday for a quieter experience.
Playa Conchal is a strong contender for Costa Rica’s most beautiful beach © Ryan Henke/Getty Images/500px Plus
3. Playa Conchal
If you’ve seen a postcard with a Costa Rican beach on it, chances are you were looking at Playa Conchal. This beach is an all-around great pick for couples, solo travelers, and families because of its amenities, from renting gear to sports vendors to food.
Its signature white-shell sand makes it a sought-after attraction, along with its endless days of sunshine. The area is known for its clear skies, making it very popular during the high season in the first half of the year. The beach sits close to the popular town of Tamarindo, should you want to do a short excursion while you’re in the neighborhood.
4. Playa Quesera
If you are looking for more turquoise-colored waters and white sand vibes, Playa Quesera will give you just that. Beach loungers will love the calm ocean that feel more like a natural swimming pool, and its clear waters make it attractive to snorkelers.
This public beach is more remote than some of the others on this list. To get there, you’ll need to either take a 20-minute ferry ride from nearby towns Puntarenas and Paquera or embark on a 1.5-hour hike through the adjacent Cúru Wildlife Refuge, making it a worthwhile find for more adventurous travelers.
Detour: Speaking of adventure, hiking in the Cúru Wildlife Refuge is the best precursor to the beachside trip – here, nature lovers will enjoy all kinds of animal sightings and varieties of multi-color flora. While the hike may seem a bit daunting, it’s worth taking a trip to see it firsthand before you take a dip in the ocean.
5. Playa Rajada
This pristine beach is a lovely spot to enjoy with friends or family if you want something quieter without the hustle of beach vendors or nearby establishments.
Don’t worry if you forget your umbrella – the nearby trees offer a lot of partial shade. Playa Rajada is free and easily accessible for those staying along the coastline, but it can be a hassle for those staying further inland.
Playa Hermosa makes for a gorgeous place to relax on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast © Kryssia Campos / Getty Images
6. Playa Hermosa
Sitting just 20 minutes outside Liberia Airport, Playa Hermosa is one of Costa Rica’s most scenic beaches. The strip attracts a lot of families because of its proximity to the airport, resorts (mainly luxury accommodations like the Four Seasons and El Mangrove), and restaurants.
7. Playa Biesanz
In a quiet corner of the Manuel Antonio National Park sits Playa Biesanz. Along the white sand beach you will be welcomed by different wildlife, from monkeys, sloths, and lizards who live amongst the dense greenery of the jungle. The cove is excellent for snorkeling, kayaking and swimming. While the surroundings are stunning, beachgoers shouldn’t expect many amenities outside of small gear rentals.
Planning Tip: There’s a jungle path that connects the parking spaces (no formal lot) to the beach. The 10-minute walk is easy but can be slippery at specific points.
Playa Jaco is a convenient option for those © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images
8. Playa Jaco
If you are staying closer to San Jose, Playa Jacó is one of the most accessible beaches for visitors – it gets a spot on the list because of its proximity to nightlife options and its rocky vantage points that deliver excellent sunset views.
Younger travelers and spring breakers will particularly enjoy Jacó, whether they want to enjoy its great parties or just vibe on the beach. While its neighbor Playa Hermosa (not to be confused with the one in Guanacaste) gets more of the shine, this is an excellent option if you don’t want to venture too far outside of the city limits.