Central Pacific Coast

Costa Rica's Best Beach Towns

Central Pacific Coast
Many of Costa Rica’s most popular beach destinations lie between the port city of Puntarenas and the surf mecca Dominical.

It’s easy to see why. In a short distance you’ll find different types of tropical rainforest, pristine beaches you can have all to yourself, some of Costa Rica’s best restaurants, and lodging that runs from hammocks on the beach to five-star resorts. The best part? It’s only an hour from San José.

A generation ago Jacó was a sleepy fishing village that hosted daring surfers, weekend warriors from the

Sunset at Jaco Beach.
Sunset at Jaco Beach.

Central Valley, and little more. Today Jacó is Costa Rica’s premier beach city. The beach is a long, three-kilometer-long crescent that forms the living room to myriad international bakeries, sophisticated restaurants, and boutique shops. There are few things more sublime than watching a flame-orange sunset behind the silhouettes of surfers and swimmers.

Take the new toll road (Ruta 27) from San José and you’ll be there in an hour.

National Park: Carara
Because of this park’s position as a transition area between the tropical wet forests of the south and the tropical dry forests to the north, birdwatchers flock to Carara. If you’re looking for wildlife, you should go at the crack of dawn – with an experienced guide if you’re a novice. Hanging just outside the park at dawn or dusk is a memorable experience, watching the flocks of scarlet macaws head in and out of the park. Ten of Costa Rica’s most famous trees for commercial wood also grow within the park’s borders.

Quepos/Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio.
Manuel Antonio.

Synonymous with tropical relaxation, Manuel Antonio has become Costa Rica’s premier beach destination. White-sand beaches border turquoise waters and lush rainforests, which house an amazing variety of wildlife.

It is around this natural sanctuary that the country’s largest tourist infrastructure grew. One can find accommodations ranging from camping and seaside cabinas to exclusive five-star resorts. A huge range of excellent restaurants satisfy any hunger pangs, and one’s sense of adventure can be quelled by any number of tour operators.

National Park: Manuel Antonio
Hit the park in the morning, since the number of visitors is limited to 600 during the week and 800 on weekends. The park is closed Mondays. Morning is the best time, easy to avoid crowds take advantage of open space and sunny skies.  Hike to the third beach once in the park; it may be the most spectacular beach in Costa Rica, with verdant, coco-lined white-sand beaches.