The most memorable Costa Rica coast experiences

Costa Rica is a holidaymaker's dream: a peace-loving nation that bucked the regional trend and ditched its armed forces, focusing instead on expanding its now booming tourism industry to become one of the safest and best-developed countries to visit in Latin America. Many flock annually to this diminutive but devastatingly beautiful destination, and whilst the inland forests and mountains here are extraordinary, it's the paradisiacal coast that keeps people lingering longest. There is good reason, too: few places on the planet can boast such an extraordinarily varied and enticing shoreline.

The most memorable Costa Rica coast experiences
The most memorable Costa Rica coast experiences © Rob Francis - Alamy Stock Photo

Costa Rica's coast: the basics

The country has two coasts: a Pacific and a Caribbean (this fact alone catapults it on to the world's elite list, as only six other nations can claim the same). The Pacific is the more developed for classic beach holidays, and more conveniently located for Liberia's international airport in the northwest corner of Costa Rica. The Caribbean coast will lure adventure-seekers, with its serendipitous but very off-piste beach havens requiring more arduous journeys to get there.

The big beach resorts, where the likes of First Choice offers many great value all inclusive breaks* direct from the UK, are found on the Pacific side: Tamarindo at the northern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, is the main beach town and Playa del Coco is another popular beach destination 44km north.

Tamarindo, with its massive 4 mile long beach
Tamarindo, with its massive 4 mile long beach © Olga Gabai -

The best Costa Rica coast resorts

For top-notch beach resorts in Costa Rica, three main regions are of interest. The Riu Guanacaste* and the Riu Palace Costa Rica* form part of a fantastic resort area situated 10km southwest of the boisterous party town of Playa del Coco with nigh-on exclusive access to the idyllic Playa Matapalo beach*. Playa Conchal is another luxury option while Tamarindo offers other upmarket resorts.

The beach at Playa Conchal, Costa Rica
The beach at Playa Conchal, Costa Rica © Hemis - Alamy Stock Photo

Costa Rica coast: the best fishing village

Tucked in the extreme northwest of Guanacaste province, the quirky community of Cuajiniquil is not on many travellers' radars. You gravitate here not for the beach scene but to appreciate the country's varied coastal flora and fauna. Part of the huge protected wilderness zone, the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, the ramshackle little town not only offers a fascinating peek into traditional fishing methods but is incredibly rich in wildlife: sea turtles, herons, several monkeys, dolphins, humpback whales and sharks can be glimpsed in the vicinity.

Costa Rica coast: best place to be cool

Santa Teresa is the end of the road, pretty much, sitting on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and few of its long-term visitors bother looking back. That's because, with local surfers and enlightened visitors, this is the hippest beach hangout in the land. The surfing is stunning and the bars are thrumming.

Santa Teresa, the hippest beach hangout in the land
Santa Teresa, the hippest beach hangout in the land © Rob Francis - Alamy Stock Photo

Costa Rica coast: best surfing spot

A clutch of beachside towns in the surf haven of Costa Rica would contest the statement, but Playa Pavones, a strip of beguiling sand backed by jungle, has the useful USP of possessing a left break yielding one of the world's longest rides. This conspires to win it the coveted title of the country's top surfing destination. The Pacific-facing beach is located in the south near the border with Panama.

Costa Rica coast: best for remoteness

At the languid tip of Costa Rica's second-most famous peninsula, Península de Osa, Puerto Jiménez abuts Central America's most magical expanse of tropical rainforest, Parque Nacional Corcovado. Getting the necessary information in Puerto Jiménez at the park's office beforehand, you can follow the road to where it fizzles out completely at Carate, then walk along a pristine swathe of Pacific coast to the lonely but lovely Playa Llorona beach.

Costa Rica coast: best for local colour

Of the few towns on the Caribbean coast, little-but-lively Puerto Viejo is easily the most inviting: right near the Panamanian border and thus a common stop-off for overland tourists bound for Bocas del Toro, a bunch of divine cays in northern Panama. Puerto Viejo offers more of an insight into how local life ticks by beach-side. North of here stretches some truly sublime, and invariably quiet beaches, like palm tree-fringed Playa Chiquita or the 10km-long dark arc of Playa Negra.

Playa Chiquita on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast
Playa Chiquita on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast © Simon Dannhauer -

Costa Rica coast: best for sea turtles

In Spanish, sea turtle is "tortuguero" and being able to witness these incredible creatures is the dream of many holidaymakers in Costa Rica. Parque Nacional Tortuguero, in the country's northeast, promises exactly what it says on the tin: the chance to see sea turtles, and, indeed, to see them nesting. A remote rainforest for the most part, the park is bordered with a beautiful band of beach where the turtles come to nest in April and May.

Are you tempted to explore Costa Rica's coastal treasures? Check out the latest all inclusive deals from First Choice, which offers holidays direct from London Gatwick. You can also check out the weather in Costa Rica, and see when we think is the best time to go to Costa Rica for fabulous holiday weather.

First Choice: Low deposits & flexible payments on holidays in 2024/2025

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Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson

A novelist and award-winning travel writer specialising in the UK outdoors, Scandinavia and Latin America for over 15 years, Luke Waterson writes for publications including the BBC, The Independent, The Telegraph, Lonely Planet and An avid hiker, runner, ancient history and wilderness-lover, he tries to incorporate his passions into his writing wherever possible.

Posted on Thursday 2nd February 2017 in: Beach Central America Nature Winter sun

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