Costa Rica is world renown for its gorgeous beaches and warm tropical waters. With the exception of major holidays, beaches are uncrowded and often completely empty. There is no traffic or long lines to find a parking spot. Just pull off the road and park directly next to the beach. In many cases, just walk a few feet and you are ready to relax in the surf and sun.
After being here for awhile, the one thing that surprised me, as compared to what I was used to in Southern California, are the big tidal swings, in the range of 6 to 10 feet. On a shallow beach this often times uncovers rocky points and sand bars making fun to wade far out without being in deep water.
Keep in mind that the beaches are generally uncrowded, if not empty, and stingrays do frequently visit shallow and undisturbed water. This won't be an issue if you shuffle your feet in small movements, but eventually will be a problem if you just run into the water, take big steps and surprise one by stepping on it.
All of the reviews below are from my own visits so there are many beaches that are not on the list yet. However, the list will grow as I explore the country. Subscribe to our RSS feed and automatically receive updates.
The Guanacaste province, located in the Pacific Northwest portion of Costa Rica, is one of the driest and sunniest areas in the entire country. It is also the home of several stunning and beautiful beaches. Combine this with the hot weather, and all year long 80-86F water temperature, turns Guanacaste into a beach lovers paradise.
Playa Conchal is probably one of the most unique and beautiful beaches in the world. About a mile in length and contained between two rocky points dividing Brasilito Beach to the north and Playa Zapotillal to the south, this beach has beautiful white sand and crystal clear, turquoise Caribbean like water.
What makes Playa Conchal unique is that the sand is made up of crushed and smoothly ground conch shells, thus the name Conchal. The northermost portion of the beach, adjacent to the rocky point between Brasilito, has most shells, smallest surf and clearest water. It is my absolute favorite location.
The best access to Playa Conchal is to park in Brasilito Beach and walk about a half mile to the south over the small hill and down into the northern portion of the beach. You will see several yellow road block posts as you get close. These were installed to prevent people from driving onto Playa Conchal. If you are staying at the Westin, the access is very close, just outside of the main pool area.
Just up the road from Playa Conchal is Playa Flamingo, the only true, white sand beach in Costa Rica, It gets its name from when the sunsets with vibrant red, orange and purple colors that casts a pink tint on the sand.
Playa Flamingo is located just north of Brasilito Beach and south of Playa Potrero. The beach is only about a half a mile long and is not as well protected from the surf as some of the surrounding beaches are. However, there are still some many very calm days. This is a great beach to watch the sunset. One of my favorite places to do this is at Coco Loco, a small restaurant with tables right in the sand. Great food, people and views.
Brasilito Beach is about 1 1/2 miles long and is completely different than its neighbors, Conchal to the south and Flamingo to the North. The water is not as clear next to the beach and the sand is surprisingly dark and soft but not sticky, as some sand is. The water gets clearer as you approach the north and Flamingo point due to the smaller surf and protection from a small island. This is a great beach for a long walk.
When visiting, most people park in the middle near the intersection in Brasilito that makes a sharp right turn and goes east. You can also continue north at this intersection on a dirt road for about a quarter mile until it ends in the sand. This will take you right next to the small island and shallow portion of the beach.
Just north of Playa Potrero is Playa Penca, a smaller and more secluded beach that is protected more from waves due to the islands offshore and to the north. Access is easy but somewhat limited to a dirt road on the south end. At the end of the access road on the left, is a nice group of shady trees that are commonly used to sit under and get out of the intense Costa Rica sun.
The shoreline has a gentle slope and the sand is much darker in color than that of neighboring Conchal and Flamingo.
The north side of the beach has more rocks.
Just on the northern side of Catalinas, the road ends. Make a left turn down into a small dirt parking lot and you will find Playa Danta and the smaller, more isolated Playa Dantita.
Continue straight and over a wooden walkway, you will find the larger and closest of the two beaches, Playa Danta. This is a calm, somewhat protected beach with a gentle slope and few people.
Just a little bit offshore is a nice swim platform. The southern portion of the beach is the best for wading and swimming, while the northern portion has more rocks.
Playa Dantita is slightly less than a half of a mile (0.7km) walk from the entrance to Playa Danta.
There are several Playa Hermosa beaches in Costa Rica. This one is located in Guanacaste just north of Playa del Coco. This is one of my favorites because the water is usually very calm due to the offshore islands and two big rocky points that extend out into the Pacific. There is also Aquasport, a great restaurant and bar located right on the beach.
It is also a great beach to relax and view the gorgeous Costa Rica sunsets.
The beach also has several trees that provide shade from the intense Costa Rica sun.