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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Costa Rica

A guide to the best beaches of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Guanacaste coastline has so many beautiful stretches, gently curving bays and hidden coves that it's known locally as The Gold Coast. Wherever you go on your holiday, you'll enjoy excellent beaches where you can completely relax and unwind with incredible views of the sea, mountains and tropical forests. Below we've picked out just a few of the best beaches across the popular Guanacaste region.

Sea turtles and plenty of wildlife at Playa Ostional, Ostional
Sea turtles and plenty of wildlife at Playa Ostional, Ostional

The presence of the locally-renowned Ostional Wildlife Refuge and the protected status of Playa Ostional give this beach an incredibly beautiful, natural wildness. It's a favourite spot for sea turtles to lay their eggs, with hundreds of thousands of them making their way here each year.

This beach is popular with visitors hoping to catch sight of the turtles as they come up the beach, so head here to spend some time enjoying the abundance of wildlife around you.

Surf schools and big waves at Playa Tamarindo, Tamarindo
Surf schools and big waves at Playa Tamarindo, Tamarindo

If you're keen to improve your surfing skills while on holiday, Playa Tamarindo is one of the best beaches to head for. This is a hotspot for surfers of all levels - from complete beginners to seasoned experts.

You can take lessons at one of the many surf schools or patiently wait for the perfect wave to arrive and show off your skills. If you're really confident, make your way to the more powerful waves at nearby Witch's Rock or Ollie's Point.

Family fun and a kids' park at Playas del Coco, Playas del Coco
Family fun and a kids' park at Playas del Coco, Playas del Coco

For fun family beach days and a bustling, lively vibe, head for the broad sandy stretch of Playas del Coco. Located on the edge of Playas del Coco town, this beach is a particularly popular spot with locals at the weekends.

There's a park next to the beachfront where you can have a picnic and relax while the kids play. The water here is calm enough for little ones and the beach is large enough so that even when it gets crowded you'll still be able to find a perfect space for the family to stretch out on.

Fantastic snorkelling and relaxed sunbathing at Playa Conchal, Punta Conchal
Fantastic snorkelling and relaxed sunbathing at Playa Conchal, Punta Conchal

Playa Conchal - meaning shell beach - was originally covered in seashells instead of sand. Nowadays most of the shells have been crushed by the waves, but you can still find one or two dotted around if you look. This amazing tree-fringed beach sits in a quiet bay and is regarded as one of the most exotic on the Guanacaste coastline.

It's a wonderful spot for relaxed sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling to see colourful, tropical fish. It's also a popular starting point for fishing excursions and treks into nearby nature reserves.

Quiet and peaceful atmosphere at Playa de Matapalo, Matapalo
Quiet and peaceful atmosphere at Playa de Matapalo, Matapalo

If you're looking for a quiet space where you can really ease into a relaxed holiday mood on sun-soaked, cheap Costa Rica holidays, head to the peaceful beach of Playa de Matapalo. With gentle waves lapping the shoreline and the occasional small boat sailing by, this is the ideal spot for days spent sunbathing, snorkelling and taking a refreshing dip in calm water.

It's particularly ideal for families wanting some relaxed beach time and those who are looking to find a spot away from the crowds.

Beautiful beach and shallow water at Playa Espadilla, Manuel Antonio
Beautiful beach and shallow water at Playa Espadilla, Manuel Antonio

Located close to the centre of Manuel Antonio, is this sandy stretch of over one and a half kilometres long, that's known as Playa Espadilla. Surrounded by lush forest and with fantastic sea views, this is a truly idyllic setting.

A popular yet relaxed tourist spot, you'll find sunbathers snoozing in the sun, kids splashing about in the shallow, ankle-high water at the shore's edge and families happily enjoying their fun beach days.