With so many beautiful beaches to choose from on the Pacific coastline of Costa Rica visitors often have difficulty deciding on which one is best for them.
This page is an attempt to shed some light on the types of holiday that you can expect from the different locations.
We are offering some guidance as to which beaches are very tranquil and relaxed, which are a bit livelier, those that require your own vehicle and that kind of infomation.
We will be adding to it as and when we get additional information on more beaches. All information here is based on those beaches that we ourselves have stayed in and represents our opinion - no more. You may disagree!
Map showing these beaches
Here are some of the top Guanacaste Beaches
Probably one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica and not without reason. It has a pretty and extensive beach renowned for its sunsets. Tamarindo is highly developed (although not literally - there are no high rise buildings), and you will find several top end hotels here. There are also a couple of cheap hostels although you will probably pay amongst the highest prices in Costa Rica for this type of accommodation here.
Tamarindo is basically made up of a road that goes along the beach and one other road that runs perpendicular to it where you will find mid-range accommodation. There are several outlets offering surfing lessons, and other activities. The strip is full of boutique stores, souvenir shops, restaurants and jewelry street sellers.
Tamarindo has been featured on 'Wild On' which gives you some idea of the nightlife. There are several bars to visit, certain of them are dominated by a young American crowd, but these can be avoided by those of more mature years! At Spring Break time it can be full of 18 year olds on their first vacation away from home. We can leave the rest to your imagination.
It can be a good place to base yourself if you get easily bored as there are always lots of people and activity. While at the same time you can get around to other areas. The road is not great, however, a new one is being built. It is well served by public bus and there is also an airstrip.
Popular with the young crowd, lots of surfers and spring breakers, also sociable couples, and families with children of all ages.
Transportation options from Liberia to Tamarindo
Transportation from San Jose to Tamarindo
Samara / Carillo
Playa Samara is one of the prettiest beaches in Costa Rica in our opinion. The beach town of Samara is more relaxed than Tamarindo and at the moment less developed although this may change. But still has a lively restaurant and bar scene. There is a much more local feel to Samara with a good mix of Costa Rican and foreign visitors. It's a good size - not too big, not too small and plenty to do. Something for everyone here.
Playa Carillo is just a couple of kms along the coast road from Samara. The beach is much quieter and all the hotels are at the south end, up a hill from the beach. There is not really a centre like in Samara. The beach itself, has no development on it, a line of palm trees separates the beach from the road. It is a bit of a shame that the road is so close to the beach as it can be rather offputting to be ogled by cars whizzing by while sunbathing! However, the beach itself is small, very pretty and you can often find yourself with the beach pretty much to yourself. A bit quiet for some but a welcome oasis of calm for others and with Samara so close by you can get the best of both worlds.
There is an airstrip at Carillo which serves both it and Samara.
Transportation from Liberia to Samara
Transportation from San Jose to Samara
A white sand beach lined with luxury hotels, condos and villas. A lot of sport fishing outfits are based here and there's a fairly decent social scene, including several restaurants, a lively disco and a couple of casinos. A new marina is in the process of construction. Popular with families, couples and fishing enthusiasts.
Transportation from Liberia to Flamingo
Transportation from San Jose to Flamingo
This is the northernmost beach in Costa Rica. It's surrounded by the National Parks of Santa Rosa to the South and Guanacaste to the East. This is a place to visit if you want to get away from it all as it is remote and tranquil. Excellent for windsurfing and kiteboarding as the wind blows strong all year and particularly between December to March. Also for visits to Bolaños Island which is a Natural Refuge where there are several bird colonies. Not the place to go if you're looking for an active nightlife, but there's lots to do activity-wise. Probably suitable for families with young children, couples, windsurfing, kiteboarding or fishing enthusiasts.
Transportation from Liberia to Bahia Salinas
Transportation from San Jose to Bahia Salinas
Pan de Azucar (Sugar Beach)
Once you've negotiated the bumpy road you will find yourself rewarded by this beautiful beach. A real beach getaway, perfect for relaxing and getting away from it all. Hotel Sugar Beach is the solitary development here with its private beach. Flamingo is close by (about 5 miles) if you feel the need for a bit of nightlife. Great for couples on their honeymoon and those looking for solitude. All the usual activites are available - snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing etc.
Transportation from Liberia to Pan de Azucar
Transportation from San Jose to Pan de Azucar
Playa del Coco
A small Costa Rican fishing village, now developed for tourism, is somewhat similar to Samara in terms of size. The beach is considered to be not as pretty as some others on this coastline, but it makes up for it in the lively bar scene and has close proximity to several other beaches. Many visitors who are staying at Playas Ocotal, Hermosa or Panama come here for the day to shop or at night for a drink or three. Also a short hop from Liberia airport, just 45 minutes, and is served hourly by buses from Liberia.
Transportation from Liberia to Playa del Coco
Transportation from San Jose to Playa del Coco
Just south of Playa del Coco is Playa Ocotal, a prettier and quieter beach. Popular with divers, trips can be arrange through the Ocotal Beach Resort. A more refined beach, but you have the social scene of Playa del Coco nearby.
Still close to Liberia, but there is no bus here, you would need to take a taxi from del Coco.
Transportation from Liberia to Playa Ocotal
Transportation from San Jose to Playa Ocotal
7 km north of Playa del Coco, this is another less developed beach with all the usual activities of the area. Sometimes confused with the Playa Hermosa of the central Pacific beach which is popular with surfers. A peaceful beach which will probably become more developed in the future as a consequence of the Papagayo Project.
There is bus service to Hermosa but not between Hermosa and Coco you would have to take 2 buses. A short drive from Liberia airport - about 45 minutes
Transportation from Liberia to Playa Hermosa
Transportation from San Jose to Playa Hermosa
Panama and Papagayo
Playa Panama signals the southern-most region of the Papagayo Project. Its dark sand beach under ecological protection has been lined with various exclusive resorts. These are the type of resorts where everything is provided for you on site. Many are all-inclusives and have both hotel rooms and privately owned villas.
An infrequent bus service here and you may find that even getting from your resort to the highway is a bit of a trek. To make it just to your resort perimeter alone, supplies are often required!
If you're staying at Hermosa or Panama and want to get about much, it's recommended to have your own rental vehicle, unless you don't mind paying for taxis.
Again, very close and convenient to Liberia Airport.
Transportation from Liberia to Playa Panama
Transportation from San Jose to Playa Panama