Costa Rica boasts glorious beaches. Only a few, however, are of the frost-white variety, restricted to sections of Nicoya, plus Manuel Antonio National Park.
Virtually all are backed by jungly forest; on remote beaches, it’s not unusual to discover paw prints of jaguars drawn by the arrival of marine turtles.
Swimming requires caution, however, as many beaches are known for riptides.
Tortuguero : Stretching into the hazy horizon, this silvery beach backed by lush rainforest is the most important nesting site in the Caribbean for the green turtle.
Playa Blanca, Cahuita National Park : With several beautiful golden-sand beaches broken by rocky headlands, Cahuita is a great place to sunbathe or snorkel amid the offshore coral reef. Playa Blanca adjoins Cahuita village.
Playa Conchal : Although always crowded, this beach of tiny seashells changes from bleach white to gray, depending on tidal and weather conditions. The calm turquoise waters host a coral reef.
Playa Flamingo : Perhaps the most magnificent white-sand beach in the nation, this gently curving scimitar is cusped by rugged headlands.
Playa Grande : This miles-long beach has vast views across the bay toward Tamarindo. It’s also the nation’s prime nesting site for leatherback turtles.
Playa Montezuma : Stretching east from the eponymous village, this palm-shaded coral-colored beach is washed by crashing surf.
Playa Naranjo : Surrounded on two sides by swampy estuaries good for spotting crocodiles, this lovely golden-sand beach provides access to trails that wind through Santa Rosa National Park. Big cats, tamanduas, and scarlet macaws are among the creatures to be seen.
Playa Ostional : Time your visit for an arribada (mass arrival) of olive ridley turtles and you’ll be rewarded with the unique sight of thousands of turtles crawling ashore to lay their eggs.
Playa Güiones, Nosara : Studded with rocky islets and tidepools, this ruler-straight expanse can be 200 meters deep with the tide out.
Playa Santa Teresa : Rugged headlands and isles, tropical moist forest leaning over the beach, and fearsome surf combine to make this one of the most visually dramatic of the nation’s beaches.
Playa Manuel Antonio : Curling around a sheltered bay like a shepherd’s crook, this beach has it all: calm turquoise waters, rocky headlands, rainforest behind, and views toward distant mountains.
Playas Esterillos : Four beaches in one running along some 20 kilometers of shoreline, these gray sands are palm-fringed for their entire length.
Playa Platanares : A short distance east of Puerto Jiménez, Platanares abuts both rainforest and mangrove, is an important nesting site for marine turtles, and offers the potential of viewing whales and dolphins offshore.
Playa Zancudo : Washed by surf and littered with tree trunks, this beach has stupendous views across the Golfo Dulce.