Costa Rica - a country characterized by a distinctive beauty. The natural diversity is unique and it's no surprise that travellers love to visit this peace of land in Central America.
Not only the many rainforests and adventure activities are a reason to visit Costa Rica. There is much more to see and to do like swimming, snorkelling, surfing, or just chilling. And all this you can do on Costa Rica's HEAVENLY BEACHES.
I was so impressed by the many different beaches - one spot more beautiful than the other - that I want to present you the beaches we visited during our stay in Costa Rica. Of course I had my favourites :) At the end you will find my TOP 5 list of the beaches I LOVED the most. This is my personal ranking and there are some more beaches in Costa Rica, where we haven't been to. I am sure everybody can and will find the perfect beach.
I also have to mention that we travelled through the country in mid November. Sometimes we were lucky with the weather. On the Caribbean Coast it was quite dry for the end of the rain season. And the high season was just about to start. A lot of places were less populated by tourists.
But now let's start:
BEACHES ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA
Welcome to Costa Rica's Caribbean coast! It's incredible how many amazing beaches are strung together along this coastline. When BoB and we made our way down south from San José, leaving Puerto Limón behind us, we all thought 'That's Costa Rica's beautiful Caribbean part? This beach looks so boring, very windy and not inviting at all!' But we were too quick with our decision. 60 kilometres further we were surprised :).
The following beaches are very close to each other and can be easily reached by bike. It is fun to drive on the narrow paved road that run parallel to the beach, and that is surrounded by rainforest and colourful houses. You find bike rentals everywhere for 5 to 10 dollars a day.
In Puerto Viejo you enjoy a great laid-back Caribbean atmosphere. Here you find a colourful mixture of everything… people, houses, nature, surf boards. Puerto Viejo is surrounded by lush rainforest that goes down to the sea. Here you find a wide beach with sunny and shady spots for your towel AND the heaviest WAVE in Costa Rica: Salsa Brava! During our time the wind was not that strong so that we did not see the famous big waves. We tried to ride the smaller waves but no chance… for us it was too difficult. And the rapids there are quiet strong. Just surf when you know what you are doing.
The town of Puerto Viejo is great to stroll around. Afro-Caribbean's sell wonderful handcrafted jewellery and works of art along the street and everywhere you see backpackers enjoying this great atmosphere.
Where to eat?
At 'Bread & Chocolate' a delicious breakfast awaits you. Its your choice… fruity salads, sweet milk rice or pancakes, or scrambled egg or or or? Everything is fresh and self-made. The restaurant is so cosy that you drink far too many good coffees.
Lunch and dinner:
You want to eat freshly caught fish? Go to 'Lazlo's Catch of the Day'. We ate one of the best fish we have ever tried and the owners are very funny and friendly. Our plates cost 14 dollars but they were very filling.
You like Middle Eastern Food? At 'Pita Bonita' you are spoilt with fantastic hummus, falafel, pita, and salad. Meals start at 5 dollars.
Where to sleep?
'Pagalú Hostel' offers 4 and 6 bed dorms with shared bathrooms for 12 dollars per person. The rooms and public areas are spacious, bright, and friendly. The public kitchen is well equipped. As they don't take reservations, you can/have to be spontaneous.
A quiet, clean, and very comforatble place to stay is 'Cabinas Coconut Grove'. They offer a communal kitchen and double or triple rooms with shared bathrooms for 16 dollars per person (two people in a double room). The house only consits of six rooms and one apartment. Defitively a good place to get some rest from travelling.
The Cahuita National Park is one of the most popular parks in Costa Rica. And I can totally understand why!
There are two entries to the park, Kelly Creek and Puerto Vargas. We started at Kelly Creek and were welcomed by an amazing view of the beach. But at this point we didn't know that we will see even more beautiful scenery. The trail guides you through rainforest and along the beach. We met monkeys, hundreds of hermit crabs, and butterflies. Unfortunately we didn't see any sloths :(.
To protect the reef snorkelling within the National Park is only permitted with a guide (20 dollars per person). If you just want to enjoy a nice walk or sunbath on the beach, you can enter the park for free.
Punta Uva is INCREDIBLE! I read before that it's one of the best beaches of Costa Rica but it was much better than expected. For my soul it was HEAVEN. We arrived with BOB just after breakfast and the beach was almost empty. I couldn't believe it; I thought I'm standing in front of a post card. The sand is gold coloured and you can lie in the shade of the palm trees. It’s a smaller bay, therefore it feels almost like a private beach when there are hardly any people. It’s a pleasure walking along the beach, taking memorable pictures, and enjoying the beauty of this place.
Punta Uva means 'Grape Point'. It gets this name from a sea grape tree that is located at the point of Punta Uva. If you need a break from sunbathing, you can explore the surroundings by kayak or do some boogie boarding.
Where to eat?
In Punta Uva are very few restaurants and bars but it’s only a short ride by bike or car to go the beach areas nearby.
Our recommendation at Punta Uva is the restaurant ‘Arrecife’. It’s just a few steps from the beach and you get fresh cold drinks and snacks for a few dollars.
Where to sleep?
A very cosy and clean hostel is 'Casa Moabi'. The owners are French and very friendly. It’s one of the best hostels we have ever stayed at. The hostel is small and has a huge kitchen which is equipped with really everything you need. The rooms are spacious and very modern. A double room starts at 30 dollars for two people. The breakfast for 5 dollars is optional. Unfortunately the website is only in French but the owners also speak English. The highlight of the hostel is ‘people’, the dog :). I’m not an expert in dog breeds, I just know that this dog was the biggest I have ever seen. But don’t be afraid, he is also one of the loveliest dogs I have ever met.
Just follow the road from Punta Uva to the south and you will arrive in the next beach town called 'Manzanillo'. As soon as you arrive, you are welcomed by a great view of the beach and water through some palm trees. The black-sanded beach offers a lot of shady places under the palm trees. Along the Caribbean Coast Manzanillo is the best spot for SNORKELLING. Bring your own snorkel gear and jump right into the water. We found out that most of the corals are located close to the place where the fisher boats are, just 50 metres out in the water. You will recognize the darker spots in the water. When I was snorkelling, I saw a lot of small fish but also schools of bigger fish and even a stingray. First I couldn’t believe it cause I didn’t expect it here. But there it was… right under me, floating above the sea ground. What an amazing moment!
Manzanillo is also famous for the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, consisting of rainforest, wetland, and coral reef. A guided tour here will not only spoil your skin with a break from sunshine, you will also learn a lot about the flora and fauna of the tropical forest.
Where to eat?
Along the road you find different places to eat but I can highly recommend 'Cool & Calm Café'. The Caribbean music will already catch your attention when driving into Manzanillo. You can’t miss it. We ordered a big plate with rice, beans, and chicken with fantastic gravy for 6 dollars. And definitively try one of the freshly made shakes or juices. There are the best after a sunny day on the beach.
Where to sleep?
150 metres from the beach you can spend some relaxing days at 'Cabinas Bucus'. It is run by a lovely German-Costa Rican couple and offers bright rooms and apartments, surrounded by coconut trees and tropical forest. They don’t offer dorm rooms but double rooms start at 17.50 dollars per person. Unfortunately the public kitchen for the rooms is very small but it’s good enough for a quick scrambled egg. The apartments are equipped with an own kitchen.
BEACHES ON THE PACIFIC COAST
Not only the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica offers amazing beaches. Along the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula you find one beach next to the other. Unfortunately, the road from Montezuma along the west coast of the peninsula is unpaved. Therefore it takes ages to get to the next town, escpecially during the rainy season. That was the reason why we had to skip that beautiful part. But the beaches of Plaza Grande and Montezuma were impressive enough :).
Playa Grande is THE spot when you want to learn SURFING or when you are a beginner. And there is a reason why it's called Playa Grande... because it is soo long! Before entering the beach, you walk 100 metres under trees and then you can't believe it! Cristal clear blue water and beach, beach, beach. The sand is bright, the sunny sky is deep blue and the best of all: the beach is so long that you have the feeling you are the only one there. It's an amazing place for a beach day at the Pacific Ocean.
Good for surfer beginners: The first metres in the water are not to deep so that you can walk with your board to the good wave spots. I preferred that. I guess, the muscles in my arms also went on holiday... but somewhere else ;).
Where to eat?
The best place to eat is probably the pizzeria 'Cafe del Pueblo'. Sorry, it's no local food but the dishes are fantastic. It all tastes very Italian. Plates start at 10 dollars and the service and atmosphere are delightful. You find 'Cafe del Pueblo' a few kilometres before entering Playa Grande, coming from Huacas.
Where to sleep?
You have to stay here: 'Mi Casa Hostel El Manglar'. Dorm beds start at 15 dollars. The public area is decorated in surfer-style. You can perfectly relax in one of the sun beds at the big pool but it's not necessary… the beach is just few steps away. You will love it! Surf boards can be rented for 10 dollars a day.
At the southern end of the Nicoya Pensinsula is the town of Montezuma located. Restaurants, bars, and small souvenir shops with handcrafted jewelry string together along the roads. Just a few steps further you reach the wide grey-sanded beach and the Gulf of Nicoya. The beach is so wide that even on busy days you have enough space for your towel. It's a good place to watch some surfers or to listen to the sound of the waves.
As soon as we stepped on the sand, we took our shoes off and were surprised how warm the water was. I mean... it's the Pacific Ocean! It's supposed to be cold ;).
Where to eat?
Try one of the few local restaurants. They offer delicious food for a reasonable price. When we arrived we enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican breakfast with rice and beans mixed together (it's called Gallo Pinto and you will find it everywhere), fried or scrambled eggs, fried plantains, and tortillas for 4 dollars. And for 2 dollars we got a fresh banana milk shake. Soo good!
Along the beachfront you find different bars with great views. The prices here are a bit higher but a fantastic view of the ocean is included.
Where to sleep?
The place we can recommend is 'Hotel La Aurora', 150 metres from the beach. It has more a hostel than a hotel atmophere which is nice. It's a quiet spacious place with hammocks to chill out. It has a small public kitchen but unfortunately it's not very well equipped. However it's good enough for cooking pasta ;). Our room for three people cost 45 dollars with ensuite and a big own balcony.
MY TOP 5 BEACHES
Now it´s your turn to find your most HEAVENLY BEACHES!
Thanks for reading!