The 7 Best Guanacaste Beaches

Along with all the other fun things you’re going to do on your Costa Rica vacation, make sure to leave some time to get out and explore the other beaches that are waiting for you here on what we affectionately call Guanacaste’s “Gold Coast.”  These are our top 7 recommendations:


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Tamarindo beach. Photo property of

We know you won’t miss Tamarindo because it’s the home of your Tamarindo vacation rental, but let us tell you why it’s so wonderful so you can get just a little more excited for your trip.  Tamarindo is for sure one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches.  The wide crescent-shaped bay has picturesque hillsides that drop into the sea on either side, and in the middle Captain Island is crowned by white shells, lava rocks, and low bushes.

Tamarindo is exceptional because it shares its bay with the Las Baulas National Marine Park.  All of Playa Grande which encompasses the northern half of Tamarindo Bay and the Las Baula estuary that bisects the beach are national park territory and therefore obey strict preservation codes.  In Baula turtle nesting season, you can take a nighttime beach walking tour in Playa Grande and perhaps have the fortune of witnessing a giant sea turtle laying eggs.  Boat or kayak tours of the estuary are an amazing way to see mother nature’s marine nursery and are available every day.

Surfing is what made Tamarindo famous back in the early 1990s when Robert August and Wingnut released the movie The Endless Summer II.

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Surfing in Tamarindo. Photo courtesy of Leonardo Pinero

Different parts of the beach break better depending on swell direction, but in Tamarindo, there’s always something to ride.  If you’re not a surfer, sign up for Tamarindo surf lessons because Tamarindo is the perfect place to get on a board for the first time.  At the sandy beach break beside the estuary, you’re guaranteed not to meet up with a rock because there aren’t any, and the waves are gentle enough to be perfect for learning.

Non-surfers love Tamarindo as much as surfers do.  It’s a safe beach for swimming, a spectacular place for people-watching, and when the tide is out you can wander endlessly in the sunshine along the water’s edge.


Langosta is Tamarindo’s sister beach to the south.  At low tide, you can get there from Tamarindo by walking around the rocky point and continuing on until you come to Langosta’s San Francisco estuary.  You can’t get back to Tamarindo that way at high tide, so either make sure you don’t linger too long or be prepared to walk back along the road.

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Langosta beach sunset at low tide

Langosta beach is rockier than Tamarindo, and the dropping tide fills hundreds of tide pools that act like mini saltwater swimming pools.  Admire the shells, look for sea urchins, watch little crabs hurry and iridescent blue fish dart around. You can sit in the pools and enjoy the relaxing crash of waves on the rocks without having to navigate their strength.

Surfing is the favorite pastime in Langosta.  Different spots along the beach are better at different tides, and the Langosta estuary is a favorite as well.  On the other side of the estuary in Langosta, the sandy beach stretches all the way to Hacienda Pinilla with plenty of peaks to give you a ride.  Because Langosta is more open to deep water and not in a shallow bay like Tamarindo, the waves are much bigger and stronger in Langosta.  Langosta is much rockier, too, so no beginners, please.  In Langosta, it’s best to paddle out only where you see other people surfing to avoid nasty reef rash and board repair.


If you’ve been researching the beaches in the Tamarindo area, you’ve already heard of Playa Avellanas.  Avellanas is about 30 minutes south of Tamarindo over a road that is partially paved and partially not.  You can get to Avellanas all year long, but how adventurous the ride will depend on the amount of rain that’s fallen recently.


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Avellanas is the perfect place for a low-tide beach walk

Avellanas has got something for everyone.  It’s a surfing beach for sure, with beach breaks, an estuary with a sand bar that holds a swell, and a popular reef break just in front of the beach club at Hacienda Pinilla.  Avellanas is also an excellent place to go to just chill out.  From the main parking lot, you can walk north for miles along the beach.  Miles.  If you decide to do that, take water, because Avellanas is not like Tamarindo–there are a few places to stop for refreshment but mostly there are mangroves and ocean.

Lola’s is a popular restaurant there in Avellanas by the parking area.  It’s named after a famous beach pig who loved the salt water and lived a long happy life there on the property.  Lola’s has food, drinks, shady seating and a few hammocks for customers who make it there on time to get one.

Playa Negra

Down the coast, past Avellanas you’ll come to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra is named after the darker colored sand and is a favorite surf break for intermediate and advanced surfers.  Playa Negra’s point break holds a big swell and the rocks you have to navigate on the way in and out of the water make it a place that beginners should leave to the more experienced.

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Welcome to Playa Negra’s sun and surf

A fun little town has grown up around the break, with bars and restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, craft and souvenir stores and of course hotels and surf shops.  If you’re not a surfer, you can still enjoy a swim in the water at one of Playa Negra’s less rocky spots.  You can have a delicious meal at a beachfront restaurant and then take a leisurely beach walk and soak in the sun and the sounds of the pounding surf.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal is about a half hour north of Tamarindo.  There are two ways to get to Playa Conchal–one of them is through the Reserva Conchal Resort, and the other is by continuing down the road to Playa Brasilito and then walking or driving along the sand to Conchal.  Walking is always a safe bet.  Driving can work, or you can get your rental car stuck in soft sand.  The voice of experience, here, has done both and recommends the hike, but you decide.  Obviously, the resort entrance is the favorite choice, but only guests of the resort are allowed through the gate, so if you’re just exploring, you’ll need to take the scenic route.  But hey.  Isn’t that the idea of exploring?

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Photo by Stacy Epps

Playa Conchal is literally made of small shells.  Historically it was made of shells of all sizes, but the growth of tourism brought about a quick end to variety.  It’s still a beautiful beach, and wonderful for snorkeling, but if you can find it within your heart to leave the pretty shells where they are and take home only pictures, Playa Conchal will thank you for it.  Who knows what factors are at play to make this spot the spot where so many millions of shells were deposited by ocean currents as to form the entire beach without actual sand?  All beaches need their shells, but Playa Conchal especially needs them because, with no shells, it has nothing to be made of.

Bahia de Los Piratas

Bahia de Los Piratas, or Pirate’s Bay, is off the beaten path.  Unpaved country roads through Guanacaste’s back country will take you to this beautiful little cove where swimming, snorkeling, and fishing are the favorite activities.  Colorful fish, rays, turtles, starfish, and sea urchins are some of the things you may discover under the surface at Bahia Los Piratas.

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Sun and shade at Bahia de Los Piratas

Pack a picnic lunch to eat in the sand under the trees at Bahia Los Piratas, or enjoy a simple meal at one of the little restaurants that you’ll find along the way.  This is a great beach for a relaxing day or afternoon at a less commercial spot that locals love to visit.

Sugar Beach

Sugar Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located just a bit further north where the terrain becomes steeper and the hillsides drop almost directly into the water.  The best way to enjoy Sugar Beach is to drive to the Sugar Beach Hotel, park in the hotel parking lot, and be sure to compensate for this service by purchasing something to eat or drink in the hotel’s beautiful ocean view restaurant.

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Overlooking Sugar Beach from the hilltop

Sugar beach is not a surfing beach, but it’s a wonderful place to relax, swim, wander along the water’s edge in the sun, doze off in the shade, and enjoy a fantastic meal at another off-the-beaten-path spot you probably wouldn’t find if we hadn’t told you about it.  You’ll pass lots of other interesting beaches and small towns on the way to and from Sugar Beach, so take your time to explore whatever you see that sparks your curiosity.  Guanacaste is full of surprises to discover!

Email us or call us now with your questions so that we can help you get your Tamarindo vacation rental booked and give more information about the fantastic beaches you might want to visit during your Guanacaste vacation.