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8 Best Beaches for Swimming in Costa Rica

Costa Rica beach

Costa Rica is a nation that is principally defined by its location – offering a unique place between the shorelines of the Caribbean and the Pacific Oceans in Central America. Roughly a quarter of the country consists of protected jungle lands that are teeming with wildlife, including quetzal birds – remarkably beautiful birds believed to be the spirit guide for the Mayan culture.

Additionally, Costa Rica is known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse landscapes, including an expansive shoreline that offers unique beaches with various personalities. While Costa Rica is well-known for its world-renowned surfing, the reality is that you can find some of the best beaches for swimming in Costa Rica that are easy to navigate for all members of the family.

Our Methodology for Selecting the Best Beaches

Costa Rica has two stunning coastlines that include the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea – with something fascinating for everyone – from untouched natural shorelines to uber-chic beach resorts. To curate a list of the best beaches for swimming in Costa Rica, we reviewed information and data from various sources, including –

  • The Costa Rican Tourism Board's Website – where we learned that all beaches in Costa Rica are public and they allow dogs.
  • Various well-known travel websites.
  • In-depth blogs and related articles from Costa Rican nationals, ex-pats, and other assorted individuals in the know.

List of Beaches for Swimming in Costa Rica

Based on our research, here is a list of the best beaches for swimming in Costa Rica.

8. Playa Chiquita

Playa Chiquita offers turquoise waters and off-the-beaten-path white sand beaches and is one of the region's less-known beaches — which is the only reason certain people adore it. Since the beach is made up of a few small bays, you can feel like you have it all to yourself.

  • Location - One of the best beaches for swimming in Costa Rica – about 3.7 miles from Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast.
  • Parking - Chiquita Beach has no official parking lot for Chiquita Beach, which is a bit isolated - park alongside the road.
  • Atmosphere - Playa Chiquita offers pebble beaches and crystal-clear waters off the beaten path.  
  • Amenities - Snorkel offshore or hike the nearby refuge at Gandoca-Manzanillo.
  • Things to do- A few corals form protected tide pools that are perfect for lounging.
  • Pet Policy - this beach is considered pet-friendly.

Playa Chiquita has received the Bandera Azul (Blue Flag), a mark of distinction that allows potential visitors to know it is one of the cleanest and healthiest beaches in all of Costa Rica! There are several hotels/motels/rentals that are close to Chiquita Beach, with several right on the beach. There are also a good number of vacation rentals and Airbnb's. Prices vary by location and season; however, a 3-star hotel on the beach off-season will cost less than $100 US per night, while top hotels could cost upwards of $400 US per night.

7. Playa Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo is often thought to be one of the best beaches in Costa Rica as the water is warm year-round, and the sand is sparkling white.

  • Location - Playa Tamarindo is south of Marino las Baulas National Park.
  • Parking - Parking is available for a fee on the beach.
  • Atmosphere - With white sand beaches, pristine waters, and enough cafes and beach shops to meet everyone's needs, Tamarindo is a great choice for tourists and ex-pats with many outdoor activities amid a simple life.
  • Amenities - Most water activities and uber luxury resorts nearby.
  • Things to do - Aside from swimming, the beaches offer the opportunity to scuba dive, snorkel, fish, surf, view surfers, etc.
  • Pet Policy - Tamarindo can get crowded, so it is best to bring your four-legged family member when it is less crowded.  

The town offers a variety of lodging choices – from rental homes, condos, and apartments to varying levels of motels and hotels to suit every budget – as low as $25 US for a room to several hundred per night for higher-priced options.

6. Playa Ocotal

Playa Ocotal is a place that is nestled in a rocky cove and still offers quiet charm.

  • Location - 2.5 kilometers south of the popular beach town of Playas del Coco.
  • Parkin - There is a small parking lot at the end of the beach road.
  • Atmosphere - This beachside community, with tons of shade trees, offers warm water and gentle waves, and at low tide, there are tide pools to swim with small fish.
  • Amenities - Locals offer beachside massages, or you can join the many snorkelers or beach walkers. Check out the small beach restaurants for some authentic grub.
  • Things to do - You can choose to relax in the sun all day or head in the water with some snorkeling gear.
  • Pet Policy - All Costa Rican beaches are public – where dogs are welcome.

The beach, which offers grey sad and the bluest of waters, is surrounded by hills and cliffs, and there are plenty of vacation rentals (apts., villas, etc.) right in the dry forests above the beach. Prices for motels/hotels in and around Playa Ocotal run as low as $60 US – in the off-season but max out for several hundred per night at the larger, more luxurious resorts.

5.  Playa Potrero 

The quiet and serene fishing village of Potrero is one of Guanacaste's best-kept secrets, especially for watching the sunset.

  • Location - On Guanacaste's northwest Pacific coast, Playa Potrero is surrounded by rolling hills, tropical vegetation, and diverse wildlife.
  • Parking - No real designated parking for this beach where time seems to slow down.
  • Atmosphere - Luxurious stretches of dark sand beaches, tranquil surroundings, and crystal-clear water.
  • Amenities - A few eateries at the end of the beach or learn how to pick coconuts.
  • Things to do - A day snorkeling, paddle boarding, scuba diving, sport fishing, or even kayaking.
  • Pet Policy - Bring along your furry friend for a day on this beautiful beach.

Tourist traffic at Playa Potrero is relatively minimal, which means this beach on the bay remains quiet; however, the perfect end may be a sunset catamaran boat ride with unforgettable colors. Off-season prices are available in many hotels for $100 US or less (but also over $200 US) – however, that will change when peak season hits.

4. Playa Flamingo

Another of the best beaches in Costa Rica for swimming is Playa Flamingo – also among the most popular Pacific Coast beaches with its fine white sand and pristine blue waters among secluded lagoons and beach spots.

  • Location - North of Conchal Beach in the Guanacaste region and somewhat near Quiros International Airport.
  • Parking - Is available near the beach – bring along a table and chairs.
  • Atmosphere - The beach gets its name from its fluffy white sand that includes pink undertones.
  • Amenities - Indulge in a sunset catamaran ride or one of the many water sports.
  • Things to do - Playa Flamingo has calm waters and is an excellent spot for swimming, as well as various water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding. Check out some of Costa Rica's golf resorts or Santa Rosa National Park nearby.
  • Pet Policy - All public beaches are dog friendly.

Many Flamingo Beach hotels line the top of the cliffside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean’s bays and inlets including the breathtaking sunsets overlooking the Ocean. Lodging options run the gamut from charming and affordable to modern and chic. Costs, depending on the season can be less than $100 US per night, but rise steeply in season for the resort-style options.

3. Playa Samara 

This hip beach is a popular destination (and a bit under the radar) for families because it is defined by a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.

  • Location - The long beach on the Nicoya Peninsula wraps around a horseshoe bay, about 2.5 hours from Liberia International Airport.
  • Parking - Street parking is available near the beach.
  • Atmosphere - The waves are gentle and warm on this long beach, offering ideal conditions to make it one of the best beaches for swimming in Costa Rica.
  • Amenities - Check out the authentic local eateries offering rich coffee, smoothies, or fresh seafood from nearby waters.
  • Things to do - There are many options - Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sport fishing, as well as horseback riding tours.
  • Pet Policy - All Costa Rican beaches are public – where dogs are welcome.

Samara is known for an active community of ex-pats, who inhabit the area after high season, which runs from December to about April. While there are five-star boutique hotel options ($400 US/night), travelers will also find a variety of Air BnB options and price-friendly hotels that are often less than Nosara's counterparts.

2. Playa Carrillo

Situated on the Nicoya Peninsula, this long crescent-shaped beach is known for its serene turquoise waters and soft sand. It's a hidden gem for swimmers looking for a peaceful environment.

  • Location - In Guanacaste province on the Nicoya Peninsula near the small village on a hillside of Puerto Carrillo on the Bahia Carillo Bay.
  • Parking - There are no dedicated lots, but parking is available on the streets nearby.
  • Atmosphere -  A laid-back vibe with clear blue waters surrounded by palm tree forests and white, fluffy sand beaches.
  • Amenities - All beach town amenities are available, although it can get crowded on weekends.
  • Things to do - Gear rental, surf/yoga tours, dolphin watching, horseback riding, and even off-road ATV tours and more.
  • Pet Policy - This beach is considered pet-friendly.

Playa Carrillo has been given the distinctive award known as the Blue Flag – an international recognition of the efforts to maintain it as one of the cleanest and best beaches in Costa Rica. Lodging options near Playa Carillo are affordable – especially when traveling during the off-season, with some options available for less than $70 US /night.

1. Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach borders Manuel Antonio National Park, a coastal rainforest teeming with wildlife. This national park/beach is among the most popular and best beaches in Costa Rica.  

  • Location - It takes about 30 minutes to hike from the entrance to Manuel Antonio Park to reach its beach.
  • Parking - Private parking is available near the beach entrance 00 or free on-street parking if available.
  • Atmosphere - If you would like to explore the rainforest, the park offers interconnected trails to hike that lead to other beaches within the park.
  • Amenities - Check out the many wildlife at the nearby park – sloths, monkeys, iguanas, etc. or hike/swim in Nauyaca Waterfalls.
  • Things to do - The coral seascape is worth exploring; consider hiking the park or exploring by tour/kayak the Mangrove Estuary on Damas island
  • Pet Policy - This beach is considered pet-friendly.

This coastal gem has no uber-chic or all-inclusive resorts in this beach location, but there are many mid-sized boutique hotels dotted within the Hillside forest location that offer memorable views of lush green surroundings.


Which part of Costa Rica has the best beaches?

Keep in mind that the Pacific Coast generally has calmer waters for swimming compared to the Caribbean Coast, which often has stronger currents. Always check local conditions and heed any warning signs or advice from lifeguards to ensure your safety while swimming in Costa Rica.

Is Tamarindo Beach safe for swimming?

The safest place to swim on Tamarindo Beach is at the far south end, where this soft tan sand beach area is somewhat protected by nearby El Capitan Island. It is also a popular surf location, especially for beginners, so stay alert when swimming near shore.

Is Coco Beach or Tamarindo better?

Tamarindo is a more developed area, while Coco Beach is essentially a fishing village. Both places have great weather with nearly year-round sunny weather and high temperatures. Each beach sits on a bay, and neither has a public restroom, although Coco Beach offers several freshwater showers, whereas Tamarindo Beach offers none.

Is it safe to swim in Guanacaste?

Guanacaste is best known for its spectacular beaches located along the Pacific coast, with more than 125 miles. Many offer the finest in surfing, but many are also incredibly beautiful beaches for swimming.

Is swimming safe at Cocoa Beach?

The waves are fairly gentle and ideal for swimming and younger kids.

Are Costa Rica beaches clothing optional?

Costa Rica has a unique approach to public n*dity – it doesn't officially permit public n*dity, yet there are certain beaches/areas where the practice is tolerated if you respect local customs.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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