Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Thu July 02 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | July 2, 2015 5:00 AM ET

    How to Find the Perfect Beach in Costa Rica

    How to Find the Perfect Beach in Costa Rica

    Micki singing a live session amongst the palms on the beautiful Sámara beach

    Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most beautiful (and free!) beaches, surf spots, and coined the term “Pura Vida” which translates to the “pure life.”  No one is in a rush here, a smile will permanently grace your face, and the hardest part of your time in paradise? Choosing the right beach! I KNOW, HARD LIFE.

    Luckily, there are plenty of options, and you are bound to find the perfect beach for you.

    Note: I get a lot of questions asking if it’s possible to travel along the edge of the Pacific coast starting from Del Coco Beach down to the Gulf of Nicoya and southbound. Sadly, it’s not possible by transit and even with a vehicle, some areas are not able to be crossed due to terrain so you will have to do a fair amount of backtracking to San Jose to get to your destination or learn the art of hitchhiking.

    A map of Costa Rica beaches

    Below is a breakdown of Costa Rica’s most well known beaches (by area), surf spots, and a few of my favorites a little off the beaten path.

    North Pacific Coast:

    Most-visited region known for its surf beaches, parties, and touristic pricing. From Liberia/La Fortuna, it’s easy to access the beaches on the north Pacific side of Costa Rica including:

    • Playa Del Coco Beach: Quieter, perfect for relaxing and swimming

    • Playa Grande: Quieter, one of the best overall surf spots, and the north side is good for swimming

    • Playa Negra: Surf beach for experienced surfers

    • Playa Tamarindo: Great surf but VERY expensive and full of stereotypical tourists

    • Playa Avellanas: Just south of Tamarindo, white sand, relaxed, and good for swimming

    The Nicoya Peninsula:

    Although a bit of a hassle to reach, if you go to Costa Rica and don’t visit a few of the following beaches, you’ve missed out on the best hidden treasures the country has to offer.

    • Playa Hermosa: Challenging to get to without a vehicle, but hitchhiking is an option and perfect for surfers.

    • Mai Pais: Party/surf town, waves are good for beginners here and it’s an easy day trip to Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

    • Santa Teresa Beach: Incredible sunsets, a lively party beach known for its surfing.

    • Montezuma: My favorite beach in all of Central America. It’s a tiny, sleepy, hippie haven full of yoga, waterfalls, and four different beaches to explore.

    The best way to start your day: 5 a.m. sunrises in Montezuma before yoga class

    • Playa Sámara: The perfect mix of relaxation and lively with calm waters for swimming. This tiny beach town has everything you could want and has some of the best secluded beaches nearby.

    From San Jose or Santa Elena: Take bus to Puntarenas. Buy a ferry ticket to Paquera and grab food to go. Ferry ride is one hour (last ferry departs at 5 p.m.). Get off quickly to take bus to Montezuma, Santa Teresa, or Mai Pais. (Total cost: $15 one way).

    South Pacific Coast:

    • Jaco: Surf beach, very touristic and overpriced with big partiers

    • Manuel Antonio: Very touristic and overrated. The famous beach is in a national park, which means you will need to pay an entry fee of $16 each time.

    Watching the beautiful sunset as the day came to a close on the main beach in Manuel Antonio 

    • Playa Dominical: Beautiful landscapes and surfing for all levels.

    • Uvita: A non-touristy location also known as the “whale’s tale” with white sands, secluded beaches, and a relaxed vibe.

    Caribbean Coast:

    • Puerto Viejo: Some of Costa Rica’s biggest waves. Dramatic sunrises, less crowds, and is relaxed yet lively at night.

More Costa Rica


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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