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Playa Tamarindo | © Kaitlyn Shea Photography
Playa Tamarindo | © Kaitlyn Shea Photography

The Most Beautiful Beaches in Costa Rica

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 6 March 2017
Costa Rica is home to around 300 beaches, many of which are unknown to the everyday traveller, aren’t mentioned in any guide books, and might only possess a name that the closest locals gave it. There are also a great deal of beaches that are more easily accessible, often way less crowded than Tamarindo or Jaco, and ravishingly beautiful. Every beach on this list (in order from north to south to the Caribbean) is unique and absolutely worth the visit, especially if you are staying in the vicinity.

Best by boat

Playa Naranja is part of the Santa Rosa National Park in northern Guanacaste. The access road to this beach is purposefully kept in treacherous conditions in an attempt to dissuade or make it very difficult for poachers to access the park this way. The Santa Rosa National Park covers 49,515 hectares of dry forest, mangroves, and marine territory and is a sanctuary for a vast array of land and marine animals and plants. Playa Naranja is quite extensive, with nothing but nature touching it on both sides. This is truly a mystical and breathtaking place that is worth the journey.

Surfers will recognize this rock

Surfers will recognize this rock| © Chon Fotos

A picnic-perfect spot 

Playa Mina is a relatively unknown and unvisited beach; it is also one of the most beautiful in Guanacaste. The beach sits in a protected bay with calm turquoise waters perfect for an ocean soak. Trees line the upper perimeter of the beach making it an ideal place to set up a hammock and open the cooler. This is the type of beach that invites you to pack a picnic and settle in for the day.

Pack a picnic and stay the day

Pack a picnic and stay the day| © Kaitlyn Shea Photography

Shell beach

Playa Conchal (which literally translates to Shell Beach) is a popular but relatively uncrowded beach near the town of Brasilito. The sand is visibly made up of tiny fragments of shells that haven’t been worn all the way down into soft sand yet; it’s quite a unique texture. The crystal clear, tranquil waters of this beach are ideal for swimming, soaking, and snorkelling.

Tiny shells beneath your toes

Tiny shells beneath your toes| © Traveling Otter/Flickr

Rugged beauty

There are several beaches that make up the greater area of Playa Junquillal and more often than not they’re empty, with the exception of the occasional surfer or passing beach walker. The rugged terrain makes Playa Junquillal a photographer’s dream. There are shady trees to be found, calm tidal pools to swim in, and a complete sense of serenity to be had here.

Stunning beach in a sleep small town

Stunning beach in a sleepy small town| © Kaitlyn Shea Photography

Just a tiki hut and black sand

Playa Marbella is just a little bit south of Playa Junquillal. This black sand beach is a glittery and captivating beauty, with the charming Tiki Hut as the only establishment around. It offers traditional Costa Rican cuisine and fresh seafood dishes, along with icy beers and tropical cocktails. At times, the ocean can be a little powerful here with some strong currents, so be mindful when going for a swim. This is another beach that is often sparse with visitors. It is truly a picturesque and prime example of one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

Black sand beauty

Black sand beauty| © Kaitlyn Shea Photography

Famous olive ridley sea turtle nesting site

Playa Ostional is a very special place as it is the annual nesting site for thousands of olive ridley sea turtles. These great arribadas usually take place between August and December. It is strongly advised that visitors do not touch or interfere in any way with the nesting or hatching turtles (unfortunately a huge problem); give them plenty of space and observe them as if you were a fly on the wall or a monkey in a tree. Playa Ostional is typically pretty empty outside of these mass egg-laying events, which are interesting and convenient too as this beach is stunning and relatively easy to get to.

And the flotilla begins

And the flotilla begins| © Tico Times

The beach that has it all

Playa Guiones in Nosara is a surfer, yogi, nature lover, wellness seeker, and beach walker’s version of utopia. There is consistent surf, a yoga institution and multiple shalas to join a class and delve into your practice, as well as eco-friendly accommodations and a laid-back hippie vibe to this sleepy beach town. The beach is rather extensive and can take over an hour to walk down the entire length of it. There are driftwood and debris-made shade huts that line the beach and several access points. Nosara is great place to spend a relaxing few days.

Peace and love vibes

Peaceful vibes on the beach | © Kaitlyn Shea Photography

A hidden whale’s tail

At low tide, Playa Uvita reveals its whale tail-shaped sandbar. Part of the Marino Ballena National Park, Playa Uvita is on the migratory path of the humpback whale between December and April. This region of Costa Rica is less populated and dense with tropical rainforests, and it’s a great spot for snorkelling, swimming, and being in nature.

Low tide magic

Low tide magic| © W&J/Flickr

National gem

There are several beaches that make up the coastal area of the Manuel Antonio National Park, but Playa la Macha is one that is worth the slightly tricky hike in. Playa la Macha is one of the most secluded and private beaches in the area and being there will likely make visitors feel like the beach belongs entirely to them. The lush jungle surroundings and rich blue-green ocean is the epitome of paradise.

Protected and pristine

Protected and pristine| © Martin Garrido/Flickr

Rasta vibrations

Chuita offers a totally different vibe and experience from the Pacific coast towns and beaches. On this side there is a strong Creole culture, and many of the residents – who are mainly of Jamaican decent – speak an Africanised Creole-English. This white sand beach is not to be missed if you are already on, or planning to go to, the Caribbean coast. The little town of Chuita is ideal for the free-spirited, laid-back and relaxation-seeking traveler.

The other coast

The other coast | © Traveling Mag/Flickr