The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is different from the Pacific coast in multiple ways. Although the Pacific’s ‘Gold Coast’ is renowned for exquisite beaches, there are many along its Caribbean counterpart that are equally spectacular. Here are a few of Culture Trip’s favorites.
Playa Cocles is a popular beach in Puerto Viejo, frequented by backpackers travelling along the Caribbean coast. Playa Cocles has a lively atmosphere, but rarely feels overcrowded. At times, the waves and currents can become overpowering, so be careful when you enter the sea (especially considering there is only one lifeguard stand along the whole length of the beach).
Playa Punta Uva is a must-visit spot on the Caribbean coast for beach and ocean lovers. The area is lined with palm trees and is an excellent place to spot monkeys and green macaws. The sand is golden, the water is crystal clear and there are coral reefs right offshore for you to explore. Best of all, Playa Punta Uva is likely to be uncrowded, as not many travellers want to drive down the twisty, jungle-lined road to get there.
Playa Manzanillo is one of many small beaches around the sleepy fishing town of Manzanillo, which can be reached by bike from Puerto Viejo. This quaint village is rich in Afro-Caribbean culture and pristinely kept. The locals love to spend weekends relaxing on Playa Manzanillo, as the ocean typically remains calm and they can enjoy a relaxed swim or a nice snorkeling trip. If you are lucky enough to visit, be sure to check out Maxi’s Place for traditional Caribbean seafood.
Playa Chiquita is a small, secluded beach just southeast of Puerto Viejo. Outside of the more popular travelling months, Playa Chiquita is incredible tranquil and sometimes even completely empty! A lush section of jungle separates the beach from the road and there aren’t any really road signs to point you in the right direction. Your best bet is to ask a local!
Playa Salsa Brava is home to the best wave on the Caribbean coast (and one of the best in Costa Rica as a whole). But don’t get ahead of yourself: this wave should be surfed by experts only, as it breaks over a razor sharp reef. If you can’t go out into the ocean, don’t worry—it is almost as exciting to watch others paddle out and try their luck! For those not surfing, the beach also offers protected tidal pools and areas better suited for a quiet, relaxed swim.
Playa Negra is appropriately named after its sand, which turns black at night. This beach is usually quiet and there is a nearby wildlife rescue center (Tree of Life), which is definitely worth checking out. You can also take a horseback ride along this beach before dining at the highly recommended restaurant Sobre las Olas.
Next to Playa Negra is Playa Blanca, the picture perfect white sand beach. Playa Blanca is part of the Cahuita National Park and home to a variety of amazing animals, such as sloths and monkeys. There is a beautiful reef just offshore that is that is excellent for snorkeling, and the surrounding ocean is perfect for long afternoon sea soaks.
Playa Tortuguero is isolated in the northern region of the Caribbean coast. It is a massive beach that runs all the way up to Nicaragua, interrupted only by the occasional river. It is a bit of an effort to get to Playa Tortuguero, as the area can only be reached by small plane or boat, but it is well worth the struggle. This zone is a famous turtle-nesting site for all four types of sea turtles found in Costa Rica. At Playa Tortuguero, you will feel truly separated from the human world and can immerse yourself in the natural one.