How to Find Costa Rica’s Most Secluded Beaches
So where can you find the most beautiful, least crowded beaches in Costa Rica? Here are a few tips on where to start looking for your own secluded paradise.
Head to a National Park
Costa Rica has over 25 national parks, many with miles of green coastline. With the exception of turtle nesting sites, the beaches in national parks aren’t necessarily a draw for your average tourist. Mainly, this is due to the fact that they’re far away from the typical well-travelled hotspots, plus entrance fees charged at some parks usually discourage casual beach hoppers—leaving more beach for you.
So where to start looking for your personal slice of heaven? If you’ve got a holiday home in Tamarindo or elsewhere in Guanacaste, try Santa Rosa National Park, the oldest national park in the country and home to Playa Blanca and other quiet secret spots. For an adventure further away, Cabo Blanco National Wildlife Refuge on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula has a number of white sand beaches to choose from, including the beautiful and secluded Playa Cuevas.
Famous for its whale tail peninsula, Marino Ballena National Park hides a gem in plain sight: Playa Arco. The beach is only accessible to the general public through the Ballena Sector Ranger Station, then a one-mile walk down a stony beach till you hit the beautiful Arco sands. It’s a bit of work, but in the end you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall, a cave, and a picturesque beach.
On the Caribbean side, Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge has a gorgeous coastline with plenty of sandy spots tucked away waiting for adventurous idyl-seekers. Some beaches disappear at high tide, so be sure to check the tide chart when planning your day.
Pack Your Hiking Boots
Ok, so maybe you don’t need to bring your trekking boots along, but some shoes sturdy enough for a short jungle hike can be as good as a 4x4 when trying to access some of the best beach paradises.
In Guanacaste, Playa Zapotillal (known as Playa Mina to locals) is a treasure of a beach with calm waters, gorgeous sand, and most importantly, hardly any people. The beach is accessible through a one-mile walk from the nearest road.
In southern Guanacaste is also Playa Barrigona, a beautiful stretch of white sand and calm waters located at the end of a road only traversable by 4x4 or on foot. South of Samara is Playa Caletas, an oft-deserted beach one mile from the main road that is the ideal spot to watch the sunset. Heading east into Puntarenas and onto the Gulf of Nicoya, you’ll find loads of remote, quiet beaches like Playa Los Cedros, Playa Grande, and Playa Cocalito.
While it’s not so easy to find the same remote spots on the Caribbean side, the area around the beautiful Playa Gandoca has many secret beaches that are incredibly picturesque and only accessible by walking along the coast. As with Gandoca Manzanillo, some of these hideaways are only uncovered at low tide, so plan your trip ahead of time!
Hop on a Boat
Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, go for a kayak! Thanks to the often rugged and varied shape of the coastline, many of Costa Rica’s best hidden spots are accessed via the water. Renting or bringing your own kayak can be easy enough, but you can also hire a boat for the day and explore the landscape from the ocean.
There are a number of beautiful beaches in the Gulf of Papagayo that are only accessible by boat. Check out the stretch of coastline between Playa Guacamaya and Playa Matapalito for plenty of secluded sands to find some time alone. Playa Matapalito itself is a gorgeous stretch of beach and jungle that is also best accessed via kayak or boat. Then about a mile further east is Playa Blanca de Matapalo, a golden sand beach accessible on foot only during low tide.
Further up the coast is popular Playa del Coco, and the perfect jumping point to reach the secluded Playa Penca. With a boat or kayak you can also pop by Playa Calzón de Pobre next door for fun.
If you have a boat, head to Tortuguero on the Caribbean side for miles of deserted coastline and lush green jungle. While not off the beaten path, Tortuguero is only accessible by either boat or plane, making it far more serene and less crowded than other areas. With so much space to choose from, it’s like having Costa Rica all to yourself.
Tips for Exploring Secluded Costa Rica
Heading off the beaten path always has its benefits but can also pose a few risks. To ensure your day in paradise stays just that, we recommend that you:
Pack enough water: Some beaches are miles away from civilization, so bring more water than you think you’ll need (and some snacks as well)
Leave your passport and valuables somewhere safe: Costa Rica is a safe country, but when visiting remote areas it’s always better to be safe than sorry
Bring someone along: Especially when spending time in unfamiliar or rough waters, it’s good to have someone else with you, just in case. Who wants to visit paradise without a few friends, anyway?
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While my computer is still running here, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for your help during our stay.
When we first came to your office, we were in dire straights and in desperate need of assistance. Andrea was extremely compassionate, spoke with candor, and had a "can do attitude" that was of immense help.
In addition, Andrea has put us in contact with Steve, with whom we are working, preparing to view a little property that might be just what we are looking for at this particular time.
In addition, having gotten to know Andrea personally as well as professionally has been our great pleasure. I wanted to let you know what a tremendous asset she is to your company. She is a great treasure -- a one in a million.
Laurel and Tony,
The both of you were fantastic with us throughout the property search and purchase process. As we had mentioned, two other attempts to find thorough, attentive, responsive agents to work with in Tamarindo were failures. I expect that we are more work to deal with than many others as we asked a lot of thorough and analytical questions and expected responses to all of them. You two never failed to deliver. The organization and execution of our condo shopping trip in January was excellent and the fact that you two devoted 2 full days to us, around our schedule, to get this deal done was key to our success. The selection of properties that Laurel planned out, including a few places above and below our target zone helped us to refine our interests. We truly appreciated your interest in our success. This could easily have been very stressful for us, and yet, it wasn’t. Thank you very much.
As a side note, when we walked into the Coldwell Banker office randomly with no appointment in November had we not found your office staff patient and accommodating from the start we would have simply walked on to the next agency. Your staff deserves special mention for getting us interested in the agency to begin with.
We will give you some advance notice before we make our first trip down so that we can plan to get together for lunch or dinner. We are tentatively planning on somewhere in the last 2 weeks of May, as soon as our son gets out of school for the summer.
We had so much fun at Buena Vista. Thanks for arranging that with Memo.
I also want to say many thanks for all that you have done. We have enjoyed Costa Rica and I have found you so helpful with everything and a pleasure to deal with that it was a very stress free vacation. When I do come back here hopefully you will still be doing what what you do.
Our last couple of days will be spent enjoying the sunshine and eating at great restaurants. Sincerely,
We are- UNHAPPILY- home safe. Would much rather be back in Tamarindo. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING you did to make our stay a joy ! We look very much forward to seeing you on our next trip to Costa Rica. PURA VIDA !