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.