13 Beaches To See On Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast
Find something for every kind of beach day on these spectacular central Pacific Costa Rica beaches
From just north of Jacó, all the way down to Ballena Marine National Park, Costa Rica’s Central Pacific shoreline has some beautiful beaches; no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a visit to at least one. The dramatic mix of rainforest, towering cliffs and crystalline blue water is hard to beat.
Playa Hermosa, south of Jacó, is a competitive surfing beach. It’s 6+ miles of black sand, with strong currents, undertows, and waves up to 13 ft. Unless you are an advanced surfer, don’t paddle out. The strong surf also makes swimming hazardous. The Backyard Surf Series starts at 4 p.m. every Saturday with live music starting at 5:00 pm. You can join the party.
Playa Herradura is another black sand beach, lined with palm trees. The water here is calmer because of its protected horseshoe-shaped bay. It’s perfect for swimming, kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. The beach is about 3.5 miles north of Jacó, at Los Sueños Resort.
With headlands on either side, Playa Manta, accessible via the back road through Punta Leona, is a pretty beach, perfect for swimming and watersports. It’s also a bit isolated and its location next Punta Leona Hotel makes it seem like a private beach, but it isn’t. Ask a local, or someone at the front desk of Croc’s, for directions to the beach.
Playa Blanca, located within Punta Leona, is a place of natural beauty. This small beach (500 meters) of white sand has been a featured advertising beach setting. It’s the perfect place for snorkeling and a day on the beach with a picnic lunch. With luck, you may catch sight of the scarlet macaws that live in the area.
Playa Esterillos is really three beaches: Oeste, Central, and Este. Locals bring their children to play on the beach or in the tidepools at the north end of Esterillos Oeste. There are plenty of birds, iguanas, and other wildlife that live in the rainforest next to the sand. This is another more advanced surfing beach; unless you’re an advanced surfer, be content to swim, except in those spots where you may be taking instruction with a surf coach.
Playa Bejuco is about halfway between Jacó to the north and Manuel Antonio to the south. This unspoiled, quiet beach has some awe-inspiring scenery as a result of its isolation. If you want to capture your Costa Rica vacation on film, this is the place to do it. Several bird species nest here, there are plenty of animals, and the surf is usually calm.
Manuel Antonio National Park is hugely popular with tourists and locals. For good reason—it offers a full day of rainforest, animals, sun, and swimming on 3 beaches: Playa Espadilla Sur, Puerto Escondido, and Manuel Antonio. It also has excellent public facilities.
Playa Dominical, south of Manuel Antonio, is popular with surfers, having consistent, strong waves that break close to shore. Inexperienced surfers should try other beaches. It’s not recommended for swimming because of its riptides and strong currents. Nearby Dominicalito is a better beach for swimming.
Playa Uvita is a stunner about 8 miles south of Dominical in Ballena Marine National Park. It’s a secluded place to swim, snorkel, or dive. It’s noted for the humpback whales that visit between December and April. Olive Ridley turtles show up to nest from May through October.
Ask the hotel staff at Croc’s or a local for directions; most of these great beaches are a short distance from the hotel and great for a day trip. Those further south are a few hours away and may require a bit more planning.