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Costa Rica’s top ten beaches
Tucked between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica has a diverse range of beaches to suit all tastes. From palm-fringed golden sands and lively resorts to rocky coves and unspoilt shorelines, many of the beaches are backed by lush rainforest with plenty of activities to enjoy. Here are our top ten…
1. Santa Teresa and Malpais
Located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Santa Teresa and Malpais coastline offers a string of sandy beaches and rocky tidal pools. Off the main tourist trail, these are some of the area’s least visited and most unspoilt beaches, popular with surfers and those interested in wellness activities such as yoga and meditation. The beaches around Santa Teresa are slightly livelier than the relaxed and sleepy vibe of Malpais.
2. Nacascolo Beach, Papagayo Peninsula
If you can only choose one beach to visit in the Papagayo Peninsula, it should be Nacascolo Beach. This hidden gem is simply stunning. The water is crystal clear with no waves, making it perfect for snorkelling. The sand itself is soft - perfect for making sand castles! - and there are plenty of trees if you feel you need a break from the sunshine.
3. Nosara Beach
The Nosara coastline offers a series of distinct beaches. While the consistent waves of Guiones Beach makes it popular with surfers, the small and rocky beach of Pelada is more suitable for swimming, and the black volcanic sands of Ostional Beach are most celebrated for the annual arribada, when the olive ridley sea turtles arrive to nest during the months of July to October. For those who enjoy a bohemian vibe, Nosara’s beachfront bars are the place to head.
4. Tamarindo Beach
Tamarindo offers visitors vibrant beach life, protected wildlife and lively nightlife. This is a fun beach destination with a great range of restaurants and bars, a Saturday market, beginners’ surf and dreamy sunsets. Surrounded by Las Baulas National Park, visitors can witness the wonderful natural phenomenon of loggerhead sea turtles nesting from October to February. Tamarindo is well-located and makes an excellent central base for exploring Guanacaste and the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula.
5. Manuel Antonio Beach
Part of Manuel Antonio National Park, Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the country’s most popular beaches, especially with families. The beach is located west of the rocky headland of Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point), which shelters the beach from the pounding Pacific waves. While not snorkelling the coral seascape or relaxing on the beach, visitors can venture inland, where sloths, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins can be readily spotted.
6. Puerto Viejo
With stunning beaches, swaying palms, coral-rich seas and a laid-back vibe, Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has a seductive charm. This is a great place to swing in a hammock, linger in beach cafes and relax into the languid reggae beat. The food is excellent, with stylish eateries serving up accomplished global fusion cuisine; the rainforest is alive with squawking green macaws and swinging monkeys; and if you can tear yourself away from the beach, the Jaguar Rescue Centre and Sloth Sanctuary are both close by.
7. Corcovado National Park
This is a hidden gem in Costa Rica. Adjacent to the Osa Peninsula, it is the only tropical fiord in the Americas and enclosed by wild and rugged beaches where biodiversity is intensified. Not so known for its sunbathing, the beaches here are perfect for nature lovers wanting to explore the rugged coastline and simply relax under a palm tree and soak up the magnificent setting.
The laid-back town of Samara is known for its pristine beaches and palpable ease. The sea here is calm and the beaches are revered for being the safest in the country making it ideal for a family getaway. With stunning coral reefs and calm-clear waters, there are a wealth of water activities to be enjoyed, including snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding and sport fishing.
9. Conchal Beach
Widely regarded as one of the finest beaches in Costa Rica, Conchal Beach gets its name due to the billions of tiny crushed shells that have washed up on shore and have formed into gleaming sand. With its clear, calm and warm waters Conchal beach is a great place for swimming or simply soaking up the sun. The waters are home to a fantastic array of tropical fish and so snorkelling here is some of the best along the pacific coast.
10. Hermosa Beach
Translating into Beautiful beach, Hermosa Beach lives true to its name. Its long clean stretch of sand is sprinkled with coconut palms and oozes a laid-back atmosphere. Located south of the Gulf of Papagayo, it is much less developed and retains are more pristine feel. Rich in exotic and diverse marine life, it offers some of the best scuba diving in the country as well as other adventure activities including fishing, sailing and snorkelling.