While the plethora of sights and adventures in Costa Rica’s rain forest can easily keep anyone busy for a week and more, many of our travelers want to extend on the beach for a few nights and take advantage of the abundant sun and warmth of this beautiful country.
This has been especially true since we launched our 8-day Family Costa Rica tour which in reality is a fun trip for couples, groups of friends, and solo travelers too. Following a 7 or 8 day rain forest tour, we can arrange either a private or a semi-private shared shuttle between San Jose and the beach location. The shared shuttles, which operate every day, are very good value while the private shuttles are a nice option especially for families and small groups. There is also the option to fly back to San Jose, which we can also arrange.
Here are the top 6 beach destinations to add on to any tour in Costa Rica:
#1 Manuel Antonio
This is arguably Costa Rica’s #1 adventure hub on the Pacific Coast, allowing members in your party the maximum freedom to enjoy the activities they want to enjoy. For example, on one of your free afternoons, one person could go on a superman zipline, while the other relaxes on the beach and catches up on their favorite book. Prime activities around the area include excellent wildlife encounters at small Manuel Antonio National Park, sea kayaking in mangroves, mountain bike day trips from 2 hours to full days, horse riding, rafting from May-October (the rainy season), scuba, fishing, and more. Like many beach areas in Costa Rica, many of Manuel Antonio’s hotels are not right on the beach but rather set just off of it as a conservation measure.
# 2 Tamarindo
About a 5 hour drive from San Jose (and about 1 hour from Costa Rica’s other major international airport, Liberia), this is another wonderful beach / adventure hub. Located in the Pacific Northwest, the area is dotted with many beaches, some easier to get too than others, but many offering tranquility and uninterrupted sunshine. Playa Tamarindo, especially on it’s edges, is a classic beach area in Costa Rica, while Sugar Beach is a nice secluded beach haven just about 25 minutes away from the main town of Tamarindo. From October through February, sea turtles begin their nocturnal egg laying on the local black-sand beaches in locations like Marino Las Baulas National Park. Other favorite activities include scuba, swimming, horse riding, rafting on the Tenorio River in the rainy season, visits to Diria National Park, sea kayaking, and more.
# 3 Samara Beach
This might be the best beach area in Costa Rica that you’ve never heard of. Boasting a splendid strand of golden beach, this is one of the safest areas along the Pacific coast to swim (much of the Pacific coast harbors a potentially dangerous undertow to be aware of; when concerned about swimming conditions at any beach, please ask the locals). Besides horse riding on the beach, another favorite activity is to sea kayak to Isla Chora (about a 30 minute kayak from the beach) and swim & snorkel in a secluded locale. Samara is also home to a charming local fishing village that is increasingly “boutique” due to the influx of business-minded ex-pats and Ticos. Samara is also home to a nice variety of well-reviewed mid-range beach hotels. Samara is located about a 4 – 4.5 hour drive from San Jose.
# 4 Punta Islita
Looking for a special luxury hotel on the beach? The Punta Islita Hotel is one of the premier hotels in Costa Rica. Located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, along the open-ocean coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula, this luxury hotel features an exclusive beach club, an infinity pool facing the ocean, horse riding, cultural & conservation projects, a nearby executive 9 hole golf course, a full service Spa, and more. The surrounding rugged landscape and colorful local communities are rich in stunning beaches, mountains, vibrant culture, and charm. For a comprehensive luxury tour, check out our 8-day Luxury Costa Rica tour. Punta islita is about a 5 hour drive from San Jose.
# 5 Jaco Beach
Short on time? This is the closest and most convenient beach area to San Jose, at just 2 hours away. While not a safe place to swim (due to the dangerous undertows), it is an excellent place to walk or horse ride along the beach, surf, or simply enjoy a beach-side cocktail and lazily watch the breaks crashing near shore. There are plenty of places to stay as Jaco as a popular night-life spot as well.
#6 Punta Uva Beach
Looking to get away from it all? Punta Uva Beach, located on the south Caribbean coast just 5 km south from Puerto Viejo, might be just the ticket. Here you’ll find one of the more unique beach lodges in all of Costa Rica, the Tree House Lodge. Situated on 10 private acres, guests enjoy sublime privacy in a completely natural rainforest. The lodge has it’s own beach access to a secluded 300 meter stretch of beach front, so you won’t have to meet anybody else unless you want to, such as for the daily 4 PM volleyball games! Sea Kayaks are for rent here, and you can also snorkel in the protected waters. It’s a great place to swim and the accommodations are one-of-a-kind. We can help arrange a private car all the way from San Jose airport or we can arrange a less expensive shuttle transfer to Puerto Viejo then all you’d need to do is call a taxi (it’s about a 10-15 minute ride away). 3 or 4 nights here would be perfect. It’s located about 4 to 4 ½ hours from San Jose.