Where To Go
Costa Rica is a small country, but it has many little secrets waiting for you...
There are 5 main areas everybody loves to visit, but besides those popular spots, the country offers many more locations, nature parks, hiking places, isolated beaches, colorful towns and rivers for swimming.
I was born in San Jose, my father´s job required him to move to Liberia when I was 5 years old.
The “white city” welcomed us with a big colonial house covered with white dust and a big courtyard in the middle, we lived there for 7 years and my whole childhood was filled with adventures.
One of my happiest memories was waiting at the intersection for the traffic light to change from red to green, it was a free pass to total bliss, the road to the beaches...
Guanacaste is in the north , the hottest place I know, almost like a desert during the dry season, but the location of the most beautiful beaches I have seen, and it is not an exaggeration, I have tried to find better beach spots, only Vieques Island at Puerto Rico and Zanzibar, Tanzania get close.
We are so lucky when we were kids, every weekend, we would head to a new unspoiled spot, all those long white sand beaches and warm waves to play in were our playgrounds and we would sit under tall palm trees to eat the yummy picnic mom had prepared for lunch.
The north coast comprises about 25 well identified beaches from the border with Nicaragua south to where the province of Puntarenas starts.
I will tell you about the most well-known and my favorite ones ...
Right at the border with Nicaragua, this area is still isolated and there is not much development, except for the gorgeous 4-star all-inclusive resort Dream Mareas, they were brave enough to build a luxury complex in a far, far away breathtaking Peninsula in the Golf of Santa Elena...
If you survive the road, you will be rewarded with a beautiful long beach and one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the country, great service, and fancy facilities.
Close to this complex you can also find other beaches with privacy and crystal-clear waters.
This beach is where dry forest, mangrove and the sea meet and create magnificent scenery.
Located in the same gulf, at the entrance to the historic Santa Rosa National Park, where Costa Ricans fought William Walker’s army and managed to beat him with rocks and sticks. You can learn more about this chapter of our history here (Juan Santamaria National Hero) .
Favorite spot for surfers and campers, Roca Bruja waits for you with not much facilities, but natural beauties, if you are an adventure seeker, surfer, love camping, mosquitoes and fighting for your dinner with racoons, please visit this spot.
Following the coastline south, we will find the Golf of Papagayo, very famous for its blue relaxing waters and easy access from Liberia, these beaches are the most popular among the locals because you can find different ranges of accommodation and lots of options for eating.
Only a few kilometers long, but with 2 great places to stay; Casa Conde Del Mar, an all-inclusive resort that I particularly like because is not so big and not so crowded, with very reasonable prices and good food and service.
Next door is The Mangroove, an exclusive 4 start resort, with gorgeous gardens and very popular for weddings.
Luxury at the Peninsula of Papagayo
The amazing views and calm waters have convinced some of most trendy resorts to make this coast their home. The exclusive Four Seasons Resort, popular among movie stars, features awesome white sand beaches, a spectacular 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course and the only grass tennis courts in Costa Rica. Other all-inclusive resorts like Planet Hollywood, Secrets Papagayo, Riu Costa Rica and Andaz Peninsula Papagayo are all located along this peninsula.
These resorts offer first class services, beach front facilities, fun, games, water sports, delicious food, juices, cocktails and desserts, all day and the most comfortable and elegant rooms waiting for you after a beautiful, fun-filled day.
We know many of our customers just want to unwind and be pampered, for those sun and relaxation seekers we have special discounts and offers, please click here if you want to know more.
Playas del Coco
This is one of favorite spots for locals, Ticos like Playas del Coco because there are many bars and discos and young people come here to party.
The beach is nothing special, but the town has little souvenirs shops, restaurants and there is a great aquatic taxi service which can take you on tours of surrounding beaches.
A lovely beach with many little hotels, my choice is always Bosque del Mar, a classic boutique hotel with a romantic beach front setting where the trees invites you to dream. Fun fact; there is another Hermosa beach in the central Pacific, so don’t get mix up!
Playa Hermosa is less touristy than Playas Del Coco and has a nicer beach with more vegetation including plenty of Almendros and Palms trees, which provide shade to visitors.
This beach is very small and well known for scuba diving and snorkeling. It has crystal clear waters and is very safe for swimming. There is plenty of marine life to discover even in shallow depths.
Ocotal is surrounded by hillsides and bluffs which offer breathtaking views of the beach and ocean below. One beach north is the small but spectacular Playa Gringo with access not for the faint hearted due to the narrow and steep hillsides surrounding it. There are restaurants and bars with easy access to the beach, which makes it a nice place to hang out at during the day, if you want to have facilities close at hand.
Danta y Dantita, home of Las Catalinas beach town
The name of this beach is Tapir, may be because a long time ago you could spot those animals wondering around here. The two beaches are next to each other with a walking trail connecting them which is long, but worth doing.
Las Catalinas is a very upscale Mediterranean style beach town with interesting architectural features, cobbled streets, plazas and water fountains. One unique feature being that it is totally open to the public. It is a large complex with hotels, homes, condominiums, shops, restaurants and anything you need for a comfortable beach life. The concept is also very eco-friendly, because there are no cars allowed in the village and the idea is to live in a beach community with all the facilities, but with nature being the protagonist. There are some interesting and challenging mountain bike trails and a water sports rental facility where you can rent mountain bikes, paddle boards, sea kayaks etc.
The beach is very safe for swimming and just offshore there are buoys marking a one-kilometer swim. There is a beach club featuring an exercise room and lap pool and great food is available including the “Limonada” beach front restaurant and the Sentido Norte restaurant located on a bluff with outrageous views of the ocean.
Pan de Azucar or Sugar Beach
Continuing south down the coast I would like to mention this gorgeous place, where the sand is light colored. The only building on the beach is the iconic Sugar Beach Hotel which is surrounded by dry Tropical forest and where you should get to see and hear Howler Monkeys as well as other wildlife. This is a secluded romantic spot with rocks, trees and waves and is picture perfect.
La Penca is a gorgeous white sand beach with calm waters. It backs on to a mangrove and as such has remained pristine with only a handful of homes in the vicinity. Next to it is La Prieta which is also relatively undeveloped and offers very safe swimming and lots of shade trees. Access to La Prieta is via a small unmarked dirt road and so not many tourists visit it. These cozy little corners are perfect to do the Tico thing, get your cooler and your picnic basket and spend the day with your family or friends without a care in the world.
A very popular town, with many hotels, bars and restaurants to choose from including La Forketta which offers authentic and delicious Italian food as well as El Castillo. Another great place to mingle with locals and enjoy a beer while watching the sunset over the Pacific is the Sailing Center. If you want a no frills, but great breakfast popular with the locals, try The Shack.
Dark colored sand and a very long beach. Very calm and safe for swimming, sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, great for walking and fat biking.
This is the location of one of one pretty and popular hotels Bahia de Sol, One of my favorite beach hotels for many reasons...
Not too big, gorgeous green gardens in front of the beach, perfect location for sunset and margaritas, awesome restaurant, super friendly staff and gorgeous comfy rooms.
This location is very popular among couples for weddings.
This is one of the most gorgeous white sand beaches in Costa Rica flanked by two rocky ridges. At the end of the northern ridge there is a beautiful small island called Isla Plata (Silver Island). The central beach area backs on to a mangrove which is a protected area. The beach is safe for swimming albeit on occasions the wave action can pick up and it is a great spot to boogie board or body surf. In between Flamingo and Potrero is the new Flamingo Marina, which is being built right now. Both Flamingo and Potrero are famous for Sports fishing. There are several hotels and condominiums for accommodation, and it is also a very popular location for weddings.
Not a very big town, but it has good restaurants such as the beach front Coco Loco, run by Jean Luc, one of the best chefs in town, he also opened a new venture called Terrazas which is opposite the new Flamingo Marina. Nico´s restaurant serves delicious breakfasts and lunches, they are located on the main road coming into Flamingo from Brasilito and aside from the great food, both Nico and Andrea will make your visit a true pleasure.
This gorgeous white sand and shell beach is almost private, and it has 2 of the best resorts, W Reserva Conchal and Westin. With 2,300 acres of dry tropical forest incorporating an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Junior golf course, a 60,000 ft2 beach club with spa, and several restaurants, Reserva Conchal is one of the most sought-after beach resort locations in Costa Rica.
Both chains have first class service and luxury accommodation including several condominium complexes, they cater for weddings, honeymooners and families.
The beach is not easy to access unless you are staying in the resort, but the clear, blue waters are perfect for snorkeling.
If you spot a local guy selling lobster, go ahead and try it, he carries his own BBQ and may cook it there in front of you, and for a couple of extra dollars, he will add really strong piña coladas o mojitos to go with it!
As its name says this long beach white sand goes on for miles, chosen by surfer’s Playa Grande is also part of Las Baulas Marine National Park which is a protected area due to its importance as a nesting ground for the endangered Leatherback turtle.
There are many hotels and beach front homes for rent but because is protected area, there are also many rules to follow during turtle season.
This laidback surf town is very nice and offers you a variety of accommodation and local food. One beach north is another beautiful white sand crescent shaped beach called Playa Ventanas.
Tamarindo and Langosta
This is one of the most famous beaches, with the biggest development in the area, next to each other, both spots complete a very beautiful and touristic site.
Langosta may be a bit less crowd, with more condos and hotels. Tamarindo is famous for surfing, party, weddings, sunset happy hours, great restaurants and much more...
This is the place to be if you want to meet young people and be in a place with a lot of things happening, easy to walk around to browse the many cozy shops, try pizza, sushi, a hamburger or Italian food, or simple a cocktail at sunset or many more if you take advantage of 2x1 happy hour!!
Despite it always being busy, this location does not always get overwhelming, there is enough greenery, sand and beach for you to have your space.
Peak season may be a bit too much, but many people love to spend New Year’s, spring break and other fun dates here because there is always something to do...
There is also a large range of accommodation available from hostels, bungalows, boutique hotels, resorts and fancy condos.
Enjoy the many cosmopolitan beach front restaurants and bars including the long established Noguis, great pizzas at La Baula pizzeria, superb steaks at the Patagonian Argentinian grill, the Green Papaya taco bar or just have some great coffee and Italian hospitality at Buon Apetito.
Another surfing spot and home of the famous beach front restaurant called Lolas which I have to mention because they not only have the most beautiful and laid-back setting at the beach and yummy food and drinks, but they donated lots of food to the local people in need during the Corona virus emergency.
This long and often semi deserted beach is perfect for the people who want to spend time away from the crowds, there are only a few hotels and villas (including the JW Marriott and La Posada) scattered along the beach. The northern section of the beach borders the 4,500-acre Hacienda Pinilla complex which features a golf course, five miles of beach and beach club, surfing, tennis, horseback riding and the two hotels previously mentioned.
One of the most gorgeous properties here is www.driftawayecolodge.com a perfect place for weddings, relaxation and pampering.
Located next to Avellanas this long beach with dark sand and it is well known for its many rock formations and a great surf point. Because it is off the beaten track, nature is wild and beautiful here and you can put up your tent and camp or stay at one of the beautiful beach front houses ( at Rancho Playa Negra for example) or small hotels which are available.
This hidden gem is only 30 minutes away from Tamarindo and the closest town is called Paraiso, perfect right? Not a very long beach , but the perfect spot for romance, photo shooting or just sun bathing. One of the things I like the most are the many properties available overlooking the ocean with numerous houses and villas dotted along the top of the hill all around Junquillal Beach. There is also a very popular spot for taking in the sunset where tourists park their cars and enjoy the view until dark.
Only accessible by 4x4 this little breath taking paradise is worth the trip, there are not many facilities, but there are two gorgeous luxury resorts, The Azul Ocean Club and Sanctuary Resort and spa, both properties are surrounded by nature and guests can enjoy being pampered, watching wildlife, birdwatching, swimming and fishing. This is a great option for ornithologists looking for privacy or people wanting to detox from civilization.
Named the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica, and they are not wrong! Reaching this pretty spot is challenging, it is about a 6-hour drive from San Jose on gravel roads, 4x4, lots of dust and there it is Paradise! White sand, turquoise blue waters, jungle behind and a corner tail of sand which you can access during low tide is the most beautiful feature. This point gets the ocean from both sides and makes a wonderful picture.
There are no facilities here, for this reason visitors carry chairs, tents, towels, food, coolers, balloons, drinks, inflatables, plates, sun cream, hats, shoes, clothing, glasses, plates… yes, we get a little carried away when it comes to a family day at the beach.
There is a little town with the same name a few kilometers away and you can buy snacks and drinks there too.
Is the most important nesting site for the Olive Ridley sea turtle, or Tortuga Lora in Spanish, the wildlife refuge was created in 1984 and since then, more and more turtles can be seen during the months of September to December, usually before the full moon.
This spectacle is absolutely amazing and I am not kidding , there is no room even to walk with the number of turtles on the beach, thousands of females arrive at the beach and lay their eggs , after that they go back into the water and the nature does the rest.
Witness this miracle as it is an unforgettable experience.
Getting to Ostional is difficult, but worth it, the town itself is a good example of a sustainable community and the area is natural, overwhelming with flora and fauna.
The right name for it, because literally there is nothing there. For miles you can only see a beautiful blue line of waves and sand, however this is what makes this spot very popular for weddings, the restaurant la Luna, a little secret piece of Greece in Costa Rica is the perfect place to enjoy a meal or to celebrate !!
This is one of the longest and hottest beaches that I can remember, a surfers favourite Guiones is also home of the famous town of Nosara. To get here you have to drive about 30 kilometres on a very bad road, after bouncing around in your 4x4 for around 1 hour you reach this surf and yoga paradise.
This is where you will find the famous Nosara Yoga institute, and healthy, vegetarian food, Holistic hotels , and a lot of bare footed, cool people.
Nosara is also home of Satori bubbles, a very popular resort with 4 private glamping style bubbles, one of the most incredible experiences!
Right next to Samara Beach, but very hard to get to, you will be challenged by rivers, mud and very difficult roads during 9 kilometers before you can access it. this beautiful white sand beach is very secluded and has become the refuge of the rich and famous like Mel Gibson, who owns a luxury villa here. It is a gorgeous spot and one of the things that makes it unique is the very fine sand, perfect to lay in it for hours….
There are no facilities here, so , make sure you take at least some water if you are exploring the area and if you happen to see Mel say hello.
With easy access this lively town is a perfect vacation spot because it is more developed, but it retains the nice “tico “ flavor. The drive from Nicoya to Samara is very scenic and you wil pass through numerous small villages.
One of the things I like the most about Samara is that most of the bars and restaurants are on the beach and they all offer happy hour at sunset, then, walking up and down the beach trying piña coladas, mojitos, Bellini´s, and a wide variety of liquors or beers is a very good sport, may not get you fit or skinny at all, but makes you happy!
There are many options in the way of hotels, hostels, houses, with different ranges of prices and facilities, from laid back tropical settings to beautiful condominiums with all the facilities you need.
The next beach south of Samara, a wonderful palm tree lined light sand coloured beach, with less people, but a great place to set your hammock. The beach has picnic tables and BBQ facilities, and local families come on weekends to enjoy the Almendros shade. It is also a great spot to do some nice and easy body surfing or boogie boarding.
Is the name of the small town founded and sponsored by the Punta Islita Resort, a gorgeous luxury hotel.
This local village is very artsy and the people there have created a perfect symbiosis with the resort, they work together on recycling, planting and research, the resort provides jobs, brings visitors and generates business, because they support all the initiatives the local people may have, like small restaurants, souvenirs or anything that they can turn into a sustainable business.
I would really like to see this kind of alliance grow more and happen in other communities.
Peninsula de Nicoya, Puntarenas
Take a left at the Cobano intersection and you will find this buzzing little town, a favorite place for rich and famous, Santa Teresa has beautiful villas and mansions, and you can always find actors, singers, and famous people hanging around the town, enjoying a coffee or a beer.
The beach is long and beautiful and there are always a lot of dogs hanging around, they are free souls, but the local people take care of them, so they are well, fit and healthy. Some of the most beautiful beach front hotels can be found here. Hanging lights, music and lounging at the beach are the perfect place for sunsets.
The boutique hotels have done a great job putting together first-class properties with a relaxed and natural flare.