Costa Rica Beaches: How To Choose? Which are Best?

With the Caribbean and Pacific coasts hugging either side of this small nation, Costa Rica has over 1,200kms (750 miles) of shoreline.   Costa Rica (literally meaning Rich Coast) is rimmed with some of the greatest, practically untouched beaches in the region.  Travelers from all over the globe make the trek to this peaceful country to experience the sand and surf destinations that can be as varied in makeup as their names would imply.  All beaches in Costa Rica are public land and some are easier to access than others.  Let’s take a look at a handful of the many great beaches this county has to offer.

The northwest corner of Costa Rica is host to Santa Rosa National Park.  This is a great region for those truly seeking adventure and a chance to step completely out of conventional vacationing.  The beaches in this national park are simply stunning.  They are a little tricky to access as they are not in a developed region of Costa Rica.  Travelers have a 13 km (8 mile) path to hike or drive in 4×4 to reach the most basic of facilities, including outhouses and cold-water showers.  However, upon arrival you can expect to enjoy the splendor of these untouched beaches to yourself or a small handful of like-minded adventurers looking to truly get away from it all.

Staying in the Guanacaste peninsula, you are able to enjoy spectacular beaches that are a little easier to get to.  Many venture to Playa Samara as a launching point to a number of popular beaches down this mostly untouched West coast.  Staying in the town of Samara you will find no shortage of locals and foreigners willing to help you navigate to many of the hidden gems found north and south of this sleepy coastal town.  Playa Carrillo, Playa Barrigona and Playa Buena Vista are just a few of the white-sand beaches with stunning palm tree backdrops that await you should you be fortunate enough to turn down the right dirt road.

If you’re looking to take a trip to the wild side of Costa Rican culture, there is no funkier town and beach than Montezuma.  Having earned the reputation of the most U.F.O. sightings per capita, Montezuma is an odd dropout for many seeking an escape from society in general.  One attractor here are the incredible waterfalls and miles of pristine beach to comb. There are nearby wildlife reserves and amazing natural wonders to explore.  Getting to the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula can be achieved by car, bus, or ferry from Puntarenas.

While in the area of Montezuma, you may wish to visit the region of Malpaís.  Meaning “bad country”, this little treasure of the peninsula was named as such to keep foreigners away.  Though the secret has not been well-kept, this area is by contrast very foreigner-friendly and has miles of deserted beach and world-class surfing that attracts the rock group, Red Hot Chili Peppers every season.  With great cabins to rent and incredible sand and surf, Malpaís is a great choice for a few days away.

One of the easiest beaches to get to and by far the most popular destination is Manuel Antonio.  With the national park a few paces away, this white sand crescent is the picturesque Costa Rican beach.  Having the towns of Manuel Antonio and Quepos nearby, there are lots of amenities, accommodations, modern roads and, of course, great beaches.  Though thousands flock to this area to take in the sun and surf you will rarely feel crowded on this clean, wide stretch of sand.

The Caribbean is a world unto itself and a great destination for those looking for a different flavor.  A 3-4hr drive over the mountains and through the national park of Braulio Carrillo will land travelers in the port town of Limon.  The town of Limon certainly does lack curb appeal, but your destination lies due south of this quick stop-through.  Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo are simply to die for.  The warm waters of the Caribbean sea and the completely undeveloped shoreline make for a natural beaches that makes one feel as if they’ve stepped in to a time machine and are visiting the coast of some tropical country before man even existed.  Hearing howler monkeys deep in the jungle, watching blue crabs scurry across the footpaths, and having the gentle waves lap your toes take visitors to these beaches to another world, light-years away from the hustle and bustle of home.

These are only a handful of the more than 100 beaches to be found in Costa Rica.  With many of them having a Blue Flag status as awarded by a global organization that recognizes beaches for sustainable development and strict environmental criteria, Costa Rican beaches are among the cleanest and most beautiful in the world.  No matter what your style, bouncing in a 4×4 down a sketchy road to chance an entire coast line to yourself, or laying out a mat and sampling the ceviche a few short steps from your hotel or cabin, Costa Rica and its beaches await you.