20 Incredible Beaches to Visit in Costa Rica

With pristine, secluded hideaways and palm-fringed resort strands of sand, beaches are one of the top reasons to go to Costa Rica, but do you know which ones to visit? Don't worry—we're here to help. From pulverized volcanic rock and steady waves to soft white sand and idyllic settings, all of the beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula’s coast have their own distinct merits. Elsewhere, Playa Tam­arindo has a restaurant so close to the ocean the surf spray salts your food; Hermosa and Sámara are family-friendly spots with swimmable waters; and playas Langosta and Pelada are made for contemplative walks. Keep reading to discover 20 beautiful beaches in Costa Rica—and decide which ones are right for you.

Some quick things to note: Tamarindo, Nosara, and Sámara are good for begin­ning surfers. Playas Grande, Avellanas, and Negra are best left to those with expe­rience; other surfing waters are somewhere in between. Meanwhile, Tamarindo, Nosara, Sámara, and Tambor are beaches with air service to San José. Wherever you decide to go, keep in mind that riptides are seriously dangerous and hardly any Costa Rican beaches have lifeguards; get information from your hotel about where to swim safely before you hit the beach.

Eqroy8 | Dreamstime.com

Papagayo Peninsula

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Popular luxury resorts line the beaches of the Papagayo Peninsula.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Playa Hermosa

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Playa Hermosa is one of the few Costa Rican beaches with calm, crystal-clear waters.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Malgorzata Drewniak / Shutterstock

Playas del Coco

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Diving and fishing are the name of the game at Playas del Coco and its lively beach town.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Colin D. Young / Shutterstock

Playa Ocotal

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Playa Ocotal is a quiet black-sand beach with great views, diving, and good snorkeling.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Nantela | Dreamstime.com

Playa Pan de Azúcar

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Playa Pan de Azúcar is practically deserted once you get there.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Conchasdiver | Dreamstime.com

Playa Potrero

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Playa Potrero is the jumping-off point for diving trips to the Catalina Islands.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Playa Flamingo

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Busy white-sand Playa Flamingo is ideal for swim­ming and sunning.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Lightphoto | Dreamstime.com

Playa Conchal

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Shells sprinkle the sand at chilled-out Playa Conchal, near a small fishing village.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Antonio Jorge Nunes / Shutterstock

Tamarindo

WHERE: Guanacaste Pacific Coast

Lively Tamarindo is a hyped-up surfing and water-sports beach with wild nightlife.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Playa Langosta

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Playa Langosta is great for walks up its estuary and watching dramatic sunsets.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Playa Avellanas

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Playa Avellanas is a perfect spot to relax with a cold drink between surf sessions.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Negra by François Bianco [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Playa Negra

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Playa Negra has some of Costa Rica’s best surfing waves.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Goofyfoottaka | Dreamstime.com

Playa Junquillal

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Peaceful and difficult to reach, Playa Junquillal is all about relaxation.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Lightphoto | Dreamstime.com

Playa Pelada

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Hemmed in by rocks, Playa Pelada is staked out by territorial Tico surfers.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Lightphoto | Dreamstime.com

Playa Guiones

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Long, clean Playa Guiones is backed by dense jungle.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Mariogyss | Dreamstime.com

Samara

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Sámara’s gentle waters make it perfect for kayakers, swimmers, and novice surfers.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Sam Chadwick / Shutterstock

Playa Carrillo

WHERE: Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya Peninsula

Perhaps the most beauti­ful beach in the country, Playa Carrillo fronts an idyllic half-moon bay.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Tamifreed | Dreamstime.com

Playa Tambor

WHERE: Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Crescent-shaped, shallow Playa Tambor is flanked by an all-inclusive resort and a fishing village.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

JeninVA / Shutterstock

Malpaís

WHERE: Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Some of the largest surf­ing waves in Costa Rica are at Malpaís.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide

Sam Chadwick / Shutterstock

Montezuma

WHERE: Southern Nicoya Peninsula

Montezuma’s off-beat town is as much a draw as its bayside beach.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica Guide