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Best Costa Rica Beaches

With coastlines on two different oceans, it's not surprisingthat Costa Rica beaches are some of the most beautiful in theworld. Up and down both the Pacific and Caribbeanyou can find wonderful beaches to fulfill your idea ofparadise.

Deciding amongst different Costa Rica beaches can be overwhelmingthough, so I've compiled a list of the best and most beautifulbeaches in the country. Of course, there are more beaches than Ican possibly list, but this will give you a place to start from -they are listed by region. Driving your rentalcar up and down the coasts is another fun way to discover otherbeautiful Costa Rica beaches.


Guanacaste& Nicoya Peninsula Beaches

Santa Rosa National Park - If paradise and seclusion go handin hand for you, then Santa Rosa National Park will not disappoint.As remote as it is beautiful, this was the first national park inCosta Rica and features some gorgeous, unpopulated beaches. Thefacilities here are Spartan at best, and there's an 8mi (13km)drive from the main Park Ranger station that requiresfour-wheel-drive or a hardy hike if you're up for it. When you doget there you will be blown away by the untouched wilderness,abundant wildlife, and spectacular wave action at Playa Naranjowhere you will see the famed Witch's Rock surfsite. The same place where I first went surfing in Costa Rica anddiscovered that one of my fellow surfers was a 7ft long crocodile!Another reptile frequents this Park, when in October thousands ofRidley Olive sea turtles arrive to lay their eggs; a spectaculardisplay of nature to behold at a Park that boasts a collection ofthe best Costa Rica beaches.

Playa Flamingo / Playa Blanca - Just south ofPortrero, this magnificent beach has white sands and calmwaters perfect for sunbathing and swimming. The original name wasPlaya Blanca, but the beach is now more commonly referred to asPlaya Flamingo for the Flamingo Hotel located here, which was oneof the original luxury hotels of Costa Rica. There is not much of atown here, and development is limited to a few hotels and expensiveprivate houses as the area is popular among wealthy Ticos andGringos. The area has many private coves that the rich now callhome and where they've built their vacation villas. There is also amajor fishingtournament held here in May and June, the InternationalSportfishing Tournament. Many sportfishing boats, both private andfor hire, are moored at the Playa Flamingo marina.

Playa Conchal - Named for the many conchas (shells) that arefound here, Playa Conchal is a pristine beach located about 2kmsouth of Brasilito. With turquoise waters, somewhat rare for CostaRica beaches on the Pacific side, Playa Conchal offers clear waterfor snorkeling and fantastic white sand.

Playa Grande - Just to the north of Tamarindo, PlayaGrande is a long, beautiful stretch of sand located within theParque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. Not just nice beach to look at,the park is a nesting site for the massive, magnificent, andendangered leatherback turtles. Turtle-watching tours areavailable here from October 20 to February 15 and it's a good ideato make reservations in advance if you plan on visiting during highseason. Playa Gande is also known as one of the best Costa Ricabeaches for surfing.The waves are consistent and both left and right breaking waves.Playa Grande's mix of ecological significance, beauty, surfing, andproximity to hotels in Tamarindo makes it a great addition to youritinerary.

Playa Guiones - Near Playa Nosara, this pretty beachis near quite a few other nice beaches along the NicoyaPeninsula including Playa Pelada. From December to April,Guiones is a very popular surfingbeach, and when there aren't many waves the beach offers some greatsnorkeling.

Playa Samara and surrounding beaches - A pretty, white tolight-gray sand beach that is perfect for swimming, Playa Samara isa great destination that is still relatively undiscovered. Evennicer though are the beaches nearby including PlayaCarrillo, Playa Barrigona, and PlayaBuena Vista, which are all relatively deserted. Popularwith the locals, Playa Samara and surrounding areas are still justgaining popularity with travelers. The town of Samara is quieterthan some other places like Tamarindo, yet there are still avariety of things to do, restaurants, and hotels. It's a greatplace to surfor learn how, and there's a dive shop in town in case you'reinterested in scuba (which you should be! But then again, I am adivemaster, so I could be biased :-)

Santa Teresa & Malpais - With Malpais just to the northand Santa Teresa to the south, these two beach villages constitutesome up and comers among the many beautiful Costa Rica beachesalong the Nicoya peninsula. Malpais is a rockierbeach, with lots of tide pools and rock formations to explore,while Santa Teresa features white sands and relativeprivacy. They are both strung out along a contiguous stretch ofcoastline, so I've included them together. Still both basicallyundiscovered, the construction of a small and exclusivefive-star resort in Santa Teresa proves that this beautifularea may soon become a lot more popular.

Montezuma - This is a funky little hamlet at the end of theNicoya peninsula features a fantastic beach, eclectic mix ofinhabitants, and nearby waterfalls to set it apart from other CostaRica beaches. Surferswill enjoy the great breaks here, and with beach stretching formiles in each direction it's quite easy to find your own privatenook for enjoyment. The fact that Montezuma is close to CaboBlanco and Curu wildlife preserves doesn't hurteither.

Central Pacific Costa Rica Beaches

Manuel Antonio - With coastline epitomizing the idea ofparadise in Central America, it's not surprising that thisrelatively small national park is also one of the country's mostpopular. Costa Rica beaches don't come much more beautiful than thefour you'll find in Manuel Antonio National Park. Wildlifeabounds here, including scarlet macaws, white-faced capuchinmonkeys, iguanas, armadillos, coatis, and even the endangeredsquirrel monkey. There are numerous species of lizard and over 350species of bird. Hotel rooms with a view of the park are definitelyworth the extra money. Manuel Antonio is just south of theQuepos, a major fishingdestination especially renown for sailfish.

Parque Nacional Marino Ballena - Whale Marine National Parkfeatures beautiful light brown beaches lined with palm and almondtrees. But as the name implies, the park offers something else thatsets it apart from other Costa Rica beaches; from December to Marchyou might be able to see humpback whales migrating down fromthe waters of Southern California with their newborn babies (I gotto snorkel with a mother and baby humpback in Playas del Coco,where I lived, and it was the thrill of a lifetime!). You couldalso catch them from September through November when they pass backthrough the park. Marino Ballena is also a nesting ground for theOlive ridley and hawksbill turtles, which lay their eggs here fromMay to Novermber - September and October are the busiest months forthe turtles. Coral reefs protected by the park make for goodsnorkeling, and you can sign up for a snorkeling excursion to visitIsla Ballena from the town of Bahia. You may even see some of thedolphins that call this area home.

South Pacific Costa Rica Beaches

Zancudo - With close to 6km of dark-sand beach here,world-class fishing,and fantastic swimming in tranquil waters, Zancudo is a relativelyundiscovered gem compared to some other Costa Rica beaches. Runningalong a narrow spit of land, the beach is backed by a mangrovesystem called the Rio Coto Swamps, where you can find lots ofwaterfowl and if you have a keen eye you might even see monkeys andriver otters playing around, or crocodiles and caimans soaking upsome of the suns rays. Zancudo is just south of Golfito,situated on the coast of the Golfo Dulce.

Caribbean Costa Rica Beaches

Cahuita - This Caribbean town lies north of PuertoViejo and offers a beautiful black sand beach several mileslong aptly named Playa Negra (a favorite turtle nesting site) and a2km long crescent shaped golden-white sand beach to the southcalled Playa Blanca. These beautiful beaches have won Blue Flagawards for environmental quality in 1996. The town itself has afunky, reggae-infused culture and is very laid back. Though therearen't many luxuries here, the gentle ocean and laid-back culturewill lull you into a state of relaxation that you can't always buyat a fancy spa. The fact that the town is right next to beautifulcoral reefs for snorkeling and Cahuita National Park provides for someexcellent wildlife viewing opportunities, both above and below thewater. In the park itself you'll find an assortment of other lovelyCosta Rica beaches.

Manzanillo & the Gandoca-Manzanillo National WildlifeRefuge - This site just south of Puerto Viejo andreachable by car or bike (you can find some really cheap bikerentals) has stunning, picturesque beaches with beautiful rockformations and lovely warm water with some snorkeling around Manzanillo (though be careful of riptides).The village of Manzanillo is sparse but quaint, stretching along anexpanse of white sand beach. The wildlife refuge will offer yousome incredible photo opportunities; just beware of fallingcoconuts while you're walking around. I remember one falling rightnext to me! But my beautiful pictures were worth it all, not tomention the free surfexhibition from a group of locals that I witnessed from a cliff topin the refuge. This place definitely features some of the mostdramatic Costa Rica beaches.

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