It’s no secret that the number of travelers and expats visiting Costa Rica each year has absolutely exploded over the last decade. As a result, idyllic beaches that were once sleepy surf hangouts have transformed into westernized hubs catering solely to tourists. However, that doesn’t mean you should write off Costa Rica just yet—with an extensive coastline on both the Pacific and Caribbean, there are plenty of authentic beach towns and secluded sandy paradises left to discover.
If you’re looking for off the beaten path beaches to soak up the sun in peace and solitude, try any of these beaches below:
You might miss Playa Grande if you blink too quickly. A quiet and sleepy town, Playa Grande lacks the tourist infrastructure that has come to define the rest of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s just one main road, a long stretch of beach, a handful of restaurants and hotels, and zero ATMs.
There are two main features that make Playa Grande a worthwhile stop: the Leatherback Turtles that nest upon its shores and the legendary waves that attract world-renowned surfers. (The spectacular sunsets are an added bonus.) I highly recommend timing your visit during the Leatherback Turtle nesting season. You’ll have to stay up to the wee hours of the morning, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of a five-foot long mother leatherback turtle lying and burying her eggs—a truly spectacular site.
If you’re really up for an adventure, venture a bit north of Playa Grande to discover the super-secluded Playa Ventanas.
Cabo Matapalo and Playa Tamales
If you want to escape it all, then these beaches on the Osa Peninsula are for you. There might be a playful White Capuchin Monkey or a pair of Red Macaws to distract you from your solitude, but that’s about it.
One of the biggest draws to Cabo Matapalo is its close proximity to Corcovado National Park—an absolute must-visit in Costa Rica. There are also numerous areas to surf along Matapalo, although many of the waves here are quite rough and should only be attempted by experienced surfers.
Playa Tamales is a secluded stretch of sand located just off the Blue Osa Retreat and Spa property. This piece of paradise is surrounded by rainforest and only attracts a few local fishermen. Additionally, there are no rip tides or currents, making it a great place to go for a swim—though don’t expect any snorkeling.
Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is a must-see for anyone on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The hike through the park takes you along an easy trail, with gently crashing waves on one side and thick, wildlife-rich jungle on the other. Monkeys, toucans, sloths, butterflies, lizards and a whole slew of other animals call the Cahuita National Park home, and most are easily spotted.
Along the hike, you’ll find plenty of white sandy beaches, most of them completely deserted. These make the perfect stop for a picnic lunch or a gentle swim in the calm ocean. If you’re not up for the entire hike, there is beach access at the start of the National Park, though keep in mind you’ll be sharing this beach with all the locals.
Base yourself in Puerto Viejo for a great weekend escape, but don’t miss venturing out to Punta Uva, just five miles away. This beautiful beach is one of my favorites in all of Costa Rica. For a full day of adventure, rent a bike in Puerto Viejo and cycle along lush rainforest, sleepy towns, and beautiful strips of sand. Be sure to stop at the Jaguar Rescue Center on your way. Should you prefer to base yourself in Punta Uva, there are a handful of jungle lodges to choose from.
Which beaches in Costa Rica have called out you away from the resort trail?