Costa Rica’s Tropical Coastline
A guide to some of our favourite beaches

While the incredible wildlife and adventure activities are undeniably a major draw for travellers to Costa Rica, most Bushbaby clients are also keen to include some downtime by the beach. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with more than 800 miles of tropical coastline, Costa Rica has no shortage of beautiful beaches to choose from, but where do you start? Here’s a quick guide to some of our favourites:

Playa Manuel Antonio
The beach for wildlife enthusiasts!

Playa Manuel Antonio lies within the National Park flanked by coastal tropical forest which is home to howler, squirrel and white-faced capuchin monkeys, sloths, iguanas and coatis. Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s smallest reserves, but also one of the most popular so it can get very busy, particularly during high season (Nov-Apr). We suggest booking a guided visit early in the morning when the temperatures are cooler and the wildlife at its most active.
To protect the coastline, most hotels are built up high on the headland like Parador Resort & Spa but they offer shuttles down to the beach and National Park. If budget allows, Arenas Del Mar enjoys an unbeatable setting nestled within an 11-acre reserve and boasting direct access to not one but two beautiful beaches!

Playa Santa Teresa
The beach for sunset seekers!

The small town of Santa Teresa, on the tip of the remote Nicoya Peninsula, has a laid-back boho vibe, popular with surfers and yoga lovers alike. Its beautiful expanse of white sand beach is the perfect spot to watch the incredible sunsets and gathering early evening to enjoy a sundowner with friends has become a daily ritual here!
Nantipa is one of the best addresses in Santa Teresa offering barefoot luxury right on the beach. Head to the hotel’s Manzu Restaurant and grab a hammock or bean bag on the beach for prime sunset viewing while sipping on one of the hotel’s signature cocktails!

Playa Islita
The beach for blissful relaxation!

Islita’s pristine beach is set in a small, secluded bay on the Nicoya Peninsula, a short drive from Samara along the winding coast road. Unspoilt and remote, this is the ideal setting to unwind and reconnect. The protected bay is suitable for swimming, although currents can be strong at times.
Built on a hillside, Punta Islita offers spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean, while down on the beach, the hotel’s Aura Beach Club has a restaurant, family pool, loungers and private cabanas for lazy days in the sun. Horse riding on the beach can also be arranged for an additional charge.

Aerial view of Punta Islita beach

Playa Guinoes, Nosara
The beach for keen surfers!

Backed by tropical forest and protected by a ‘Green Zone’, there is no development directly on this beach, just a wide 7km arc of golden sand with a consistent surf break year-round. There is no shortage of surf schools in the little town so whether you’re a pro or a beginner, this is the place to embrace the surf scene and ride the wave!
Away from the surf, Nosara is the ideal destination for nature lovers. Home to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s most important nesting sites for the Olive Ridley Turtles, visitors may be lucky to witness an arribada (mass sea turtle nesting) which take place from July-November, depending on the cycle of moon.
A 5-minute drive from the beach, perched on a hill, Lagarta Lodge undeniably boasts the best views in the area and admiral eco-credentials with its own private nature reserve and magnificent mangroves which guests can explore by foot or electric boat.

Playa Papagayo, Peninsula Papagayo
The beach for water activities!

Situated on the northern Pacific Coast, the Peninsula Papagayo offers 11-miles of coastline with its waters offering the opportunity to enjoy a plethora of activities from stand-up paddle, to kayaking, surfing and jet skiing. Bahía Culebra is a sheltered bay with soft sand and clear blue waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling.

The Peninsula is home to luxury resorts such as the Four Seasons and Andaz which feature exclusive Beach Clubs with pools, dining and a whole host of water sports to keep even the most active family busy.

Please note: Costa Rica is blessed with beautiful beaches but many are wild and remote with strong currents which aren’t suitable for swimming. There are a few popular snorkelling spots off the coast, however you usually have to take a boat trip to reach the reef so more suited to confident swimmers.

About the author

Emily caught the travel bug at an early age so a career in the travel industry was the natural choice. With two girls now in tow, she’s looking forward to new family adventures.

Emily Whitely - Worldwide Travel Consultant

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