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Top 5 Beaches in Costa Rica

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Amongst many things of immense value found throughout Costa Rica, its amazing beaches are one of the most prominent. If you haven’t personally visited and seen for yourself, then you likely know someone who has. Costa Rica is an amazingly easy place to visit and attracts tourists from all over the globe for a variety of reasons. It’s not too far and surprisingly cheap to visit if coming from the states and has warm, tropical weather year-round. Whether it's sightseeing, sport fishing, diving, or yoga retreats.. there’s something for everyone to experience.

I compiled the following list of beaches based on how well-rounded they are, and on my own personal experience in the country over the last 17 years. As you'll find, some beaches are amazing for surfing, however, dangerous for swimming.. while others are amazing for swimming but often overcrowded. There are always 'pros and cons.' The beaches on this list have something for everyone, regardless of age or interest, and are personally some of my most favorite beaches in the world. I hope you have the opportunity to explore each of them, in addition to the many others located throughout Costa Rica. Pura vida!


SJO = San Jose International Airport, San Jose Province

LIR = Liberia International Airport, Guanacaste Province

#5 Playa Dominicalito

(196 km from SJO)

This beach, as well as the area surrounding it, is the place to be when looking for a medium-sized beach with a complete and total ‘surfer vibe’. Unlike towns like Jaco or Tamarindo, also well-known for their surfing beaches, Dominicalito is tucked away in a small community that doesn’t have the same tourist-y feel that you find in larger, more populated areas. There is virtually zero solicitation on/around the beach itself, and the overall vibe is safe and welcoming.

Dominicalito is also an amazing beach to swim and enjoy at low tide, while high tide offers great waves for all level of surfer.. from beginning to expert. If visiting for the day, pack an umbrella or plan on creating some shade because parts of this beach can be extremely open with very little shade. Surfing lessons are available and generally easy to find on-site, with most of the instructors local and very familiar with the tide schedules. Nearby towns of Dominical and Uvita offer plenty of lodging options via Airbnb, which allows you to stay and visit all the nearby beaches (Ex. Bahia/Ballena, ‘Whale’s Tail’, Playa Dominical, Playa Chaman, Playa Tortuga), which you will definitely want to invest time into visiting.

#4 Playa Potrero

(51 km from LIR)

It takes just over an hour to drive from the LIR airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, to Playa Potrero. Just north of Playa Flamingo, Potrero still has a very low-key vibe, with amazing options for fishing and diving at the nearby Catalina Islands. From Flamingo to Brasalito, you’ll find plenty of options for lodging and dining.. from commercial spots like Maragaritaville to local restaurants (known as ‘sodas’) offering some of the best gallo pinto and arroz con pollo in the country.

The thing that sets Playa Potrero apart from the surrounding beaches.. also world-class.. is the quiet environment and consistent tide.. created by a series of natural sandbars not far from shore. The entire bay is generally silent, with the frequent splash of birds diving for fish. Swimming is amazing here! Although, I would preach caution and recommend only strong swimmers enter the ocean. The waves can grow large and often seem to come out of nowhere.. which can be great for body-boards! In addition to the beach, there is world-class diving (that I can personally attest to!) and offshore fishing (seasonal) nearby.

#3 Manuel Antonio

(156 km from SJO)

Despite its rapid and consistent growth over the last 15 years, Manuel Antonio (from the national park all the way to the beach) remains one of the most desirable beaches in all of Costa Rica. I first visited the area in 2005, to attend Spanish language-school, and have been returning to the region ever since. The Manuel Antonio National Park offers amazing tours for all ability levels, and the beach itself is one of the largest, most pristine that Costa Rica has to offer.

Make sure to visit at low tide if intending to lay out or spend significant time in the sun. High tide brings the sea level all the way to the tree line, which can make for a long walk back if not paying attention! There are plenty of beach activities available, ranging from zip-lines, to banana boats, to para-sailing.. as well as vendors offering a wide variety of ice cream, snacks and drinks. This area has become increasingly ‘tourist-y’ lately, although the vibe is still generally safe. It’s not as isolated as it once was, but the overall quality and natural beauty make this beach a must for everyone!

#2 Playa Chaman

(214 km from SJO)

If you keep traveling south past Manuel Antonio.. and past Dominicalito.. you’ll discover Playa Chaman tucked between the national parks of Playa Bahia and Playa Ballena. This area in Uvita is known as the ‘Whale’s Tail’ due to the natural, geographic formation extending from the shoreline in the shape of a whale’s tail. There are a number of world-class beaches in close proximity to one another and it’s often hard to distinguish which beach is actually which.

Playa Chaman is the stretch of sand located directly between the 2 national parks of Bahia and Ballena. There are 3 entrance options to reach Chaman. You can either pay the park entrance fees at the official park entrances, located at Ballena and again further south at Bahia.. or you can walk onto the beach in Uvita, directly in front of Playa Chaman. This beach is unbeatable at sunrise and sunset and is perfectly located near the tropical tree line for shade (Tip: don’t sit or park under the coconut trees). You can spend the entire day here, rotating between the shade and the ocean, and enjoy nearby local restaraunts and hostels for food and drink. This beach is amazing for swimmers of all ages and beach vendors are at a minimum, so arrive prepared!

#1 Playa Blanca

(90 km from LIR)

It isn’t an easy task to rank any beach in Costa Rica #1.. however, Playa Blanca has too much good to ignore! This small beach, located at the end of a long, dirt roads in the Guanacaste Province, is located nearest to the town of Junquillal. Nearby lodging can be difficult to find at certain times of year.. even on Airbnb.. due to location and lack of availability. However, once you finally reach Playa Blanca, you’ll carefully walk down a long, steep stairway build of sand and brick, to the soft sand. At low tide.. and depending on time of day.. you have the entire beach to yourself, with unbeatable views across the rocks and cliffs. Snorkeling is world class and best at high tide, when you can more easily access the rocks and reef to experience exotic sea life including: Puffer fish, flute fish, clown fish, and much more. Not interested in swimming or snorkeling? No worries! Playa Blanca offers plenty of trees and shade to relax in!

There are no vendors or stores nearby, so pack a cooler, a radio, blankets, water.. and whatever else you might want for the day. This beach is small and rarely crowded, although weekends tend to see a surge in tourism. If possible, visit during a weekday and preferably early morning or late afternoon, as this beach can get super hot during the daytime! Horseback riding is available nearby and is highly suggested for this location as well! One of the last, remote beaches in Guanacaste, and well worth a visit.

All across Costa Rica, you’ll find many beaches.. each with something unique to offer. Volcanic sand, bioluminescence, crystal clear waters… regardless of the element that attracts you to that particular stretch of sand, I hope you take time to explore them all! Just like people, no one beach is exactly like another. Start exploring for the beach that fits you best! Have a question about the country? Interested in coordinating a trip? Check out Espacio Sin Nombre for trip options and to answer all your travel questions and concerns!

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