With over 600 miles of Pacific coastline and 100+ miles of Caribbean coastline, Costa Rica has a range of beautiful beaches that offer everything from crystal-clear, calm waters to world-famous surf spots. This is a country with high eco-standards and a sense of adventure. Families can expect Costa Rica beaches include plenty of recreation and educational opportunities ranging from beach hikes, snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing. Several beaches in Costa Rica are designated as national parks. Many of them sit directly adjacent to dense rainforests.
Hit the surf with our recommendations for the best beaches in Costa Rica for families. If you’d prefer to travel with a guide, our recommended Costa Rica family vacation expert is Costa Rica Family Holidays. They can help you with everything from transportation to building a tailor-made itinerary with hands-on educational activities and rich immersive experiences.
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Best Beaches in Costa Rica – Pacific Coast
North Guanacaste Region
Guanacaste is where you’ll find large resorts as well as the amazing Costa Rica beaches they sit adjacent to. Families can find everything from surfing hot spots to calm waters here, and from this home base, can plan day trips to Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, Palo Verde National Park, and Las Pumas Rescue Center.
Located on Punta Uvita in Marino Ballena National Park on the South Pacific coast, Playa Hermosa is another one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for wildlife lovers. It’s where humpback whales return to breach annually from August through October and December through April. Sea turtles also come to the park to nest from May to November. Playa Hermosa is the place to book that whale watching tour! Families can also easily rent snorkel gear here to explore the expansive coral reef. Those who prefer to remain mostly out of the ocean can ply the calm waters in kayaks or on stand-up paddle boards. Families looking to stay in Playa Hermosa will love the beachfront Golden Palms Papagayo hotel. Amenities include a gorgeous pool and the grounds are shared with wild howler monkeys.
Naranjo and Nancite Beaches
Located in Santa Rosa National Park, these two beaches are important sea turtle nesting sites. At Nancite, families can see Pacific Ridley Sea Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
This hidden beach is located on the small and narrow Papagayo Peninsula. There are two resorts nearby; the Four Seasons as well as the Andaz. You can get to Nacascolo from either property via kayak. Once at Nacascolo Beach, you might just have the sand to yourself. Families can expect calm waters for swimming and snorkeling here.
Playa Azucar or Sugar Beach
For something different, check out Sugar Beach, which does not live up to its name! It is very rocky, making it fun for kids to explore on foot. It is not a beach that’s ideal for toddlers and babies, nor is it a body surfing beach. Still, the scenery is stunning and it’s rarely crowded. Families looking for a secluded vacation can book a stay at Hotel Sugar Beach. This eco-friendly property sits on 24-acres of tropical gardens and has an infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
Looking to add more adventure into your Costa Rica vacation? Make sure to check out these 20 Unforgettable Costa Rica Family Vacation Experiences.
Best Costa Rica Beaches in Nicoya Peninsula Region
The Nicoya Peninsula is an area that is accessed by a ferry boat or domestic flights. It’s known as a wellness retreat and surfing haven. From here, families can take a ferry to Isla Tortuga to explore what will feel like their own private island and the mangrove swamps and wildlife of Curu Private Reserve.
A surf and wellness destination on the Nicoya Peninsula, the town of Nosara is home to three beaches which merge together: Garza Beach, Guiones Beach, and Pelada Beach. Nosara offers a variety of accommodations including the family-friendly Gilded Iguana which is located only a mile from Guiones Beach. A popular surf beach among locals and tourists alike Guiones Beach offers consistent surf throughout the year. Further north, Pelada Beach is a small, rocky swimming beach with little surf.
Located within Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula, Ostional’s black sand is one draw, but the other is definitely the turtles! Families seeking wildlife experiences need to have this beach on their list. Particularly to watch the olive ridley sea turtles annual nesting between July and October. The arribada, or mass annual sea turtle nesting, happens anywhere between 4 and 10 times a year. The timing can be relatively unpredictable. Families looking to learn more about sea turtles can book a stay at the Cabinas Arribadas hostel. Guest staying at the hostel are offered access to the hostel’s sea turtle ecological project throughout their stay.
Yes, it’s very popular, but for good reason. This surfing beach is great for beginning surfers as well as drawing experts. Families can find a variety of lessons, surf camps, and surf-focused accommodations here like the Surf Ranch Tamarindo. Our pick for lessons is family-owned Iguana Surf. The neighboring white sand beach of Langosta is also worth a visit if you’re looking to swim and escape the crowds of Tamarindo.
Certainly one of the most beautiful beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Playa Conchal is well known. It houses some of the best all-inclusive Costa Rica resorts, including the Westin Playa Conchal Resort. A popular snorkeling beach, Conchal offers up coral and other underwater wildlife, and its white sand is definitely photo-worthy. If you want to explore further, Flamingo Beach sits to the north, getting its name from its pinkish sand. This shaded beach is the perfect place for families to splash in the gentle waves or just relax on the sand. Stay at Margaritaville Beach Resort for easy beach access and family-friendly accommodations.
A day trip from Conchal Beach, Playa Danta is known for its hiking trails and mountain biking opportunities. You can rent gear on-site, as well as paddle boards and kayaks. Families will find a plethora of casual beachfront dining options and the family-friendly Santarena Hotel.
If you’re looking to explore beyond the Nicoya Peninsula, check out this guide to visiting the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna.
Best Costa Rica Beaches in Central Pacific Region
Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region offers the closest beaches from San Jose, with plenty of hotel options in Punta Leona or Jaco. While in the area, do a wildlife tour at Carara National Park or Tarcoles, where mangroves are havens for crocodiles and many bird species. Well-known Manuel Antonio National Park is located here, worthy of at least one entire day.
Punta Leona Reserve Beaches
This private nature reserve mostly consists of lush primary and secondary forests, where bird and mammal research is ongoing. There are 330 migratory and native bird species, and the beach is white sand.
Manuel Antonio National Park
This national park may be one of the most popular along the coast of Costa Rica, but it’s also one of our favorites. Playa Espadilla Sur Beach and Playa Manuel Antonio are situated on opposite ends of Manuel Antonio National park. In actuality, the beaches are located only a matter of yards away from one another (north and south) making it easy to explore both sides.
Manuel Antonio has a well-earned reputation for animal spotting. Families can expect regular sightings of capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, sloths, white-tailed deer, raccoons, and coatis. Bird sightings include macaws and more types of birds than you’ll be able to name. In addition to beaches, Manuel Antonio is home to jungle hikes and wildlife viewing platforms. Because this national park is so popular, it has a daily cap of visitors, which helps with the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Families looking for a unique experience can book a stay at the Manual Antonio Park House. Guests stay in villas within Manual Antonio National Park surrounded by lush jungles and in close proximity to the parks’ resident wildlife.
Jaco Beach is the first beach in all of Central America to be fully accessible. The municipality installed a 63-meter long ramp made out of recycled plastic that provides access to the water. In addition, the municipality ensured that there are reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities, adapted bathrooms and showers, and amphibious wheelchairs and flotation devices. Jaco Beach is home to many hotels and all-inclusive Costa Rica resorts like the Best Western Jaco Beach.
Remote Central Pacific Beaches on a Costa Rica Cruise
Costa Rican families absolutely love beaches! If you really want to get away from the crowds and swim in the most pristine waters and remote beaches, take a Costa Rica cruise with Uncruise Adventures. Check out Trekaroo founder LiLing Pang’s trip report. The cruise began in the Nicoya Peninsula and sailed along the Central Pacifica coast, and through the Osa Peninsula.
Best Beaches in Costa Rica – Caribbean Coast
Costa Rica’s Amazons are accessed by boat or air only. Tortuguero National Park is the draw here, and while its beaches are not swimming or surfing beaches, the wildlife viewing is incredible. Try to come during turtle nesting season! Families looking to stay close to the action should check out the Tortuguero Beachfront hotel located steps from Tortuguero National Park.
Tortuguero means ‘turtle hunter’ but this beach is now a national park committed to conservation. Families can spot nesting sea turtles here, but also glimpse baby sea turtles emerging from the sand to run into the sea. You can also kayak or canoe in this national park along the protected waterways and channels.
South Caribbean Region
The South Caribbean region is where the rainforest touches the water. There are no big resorts. Instead, accommodations are lodge-style and laid back like the Selva Bananito Lodge. Be sure to visit Cahuita National Park for the coral reef formations.
This quieter beach is known for its calm and protected water, so bring the snorkel gear! Kids and toddlers can definitely swim here. The beach is only about five miles from Puerto Viejo, giving families access to lodging, dining, and shopping. Most of this region is located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, so you can also expect to spot monkeys and sloths!
Located in Puerta Limon, Playa Bonita is indeed among the prettiest. Though it’s near a bustling port, the beach is wide and long and feels a million miles away from the commercialized areas. Surfing is popular here, as is general beach combing and lounging.
Costa Rica Beaches: Finding the Best Beaches in Costa Rica for Families
Wherever you head in Costa Rica, take advantage of the guided opportunities that abound, as this is a country with a commitment to sustainability and eco-tourism.
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