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Beaches of Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast

As anyone who has visited Costa Rica knows, the country is rich with beaches. This is due to Costa Rica being surrounded by the ocean, with the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the east. In fact, there is 1,290 kilometers (801 miles) of coastline offering a seemingly endless supply of beaches to visit.

During my time in Costa Rica I became acquainted in particular with the beaches of the Southern Pacific Coast, stretching from Manuel Antonio to Coronado. In previous posts I wrote about Manuel Antonio and Dominical, but now I would like to share a few of the beaches we frequented the most often.

Playa Ballena

Part of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, this beach is located next to the Beach Club, a hotel and restaurant. The beach is open to visitors all week, except Tuesday when locals have private access. The Beach Club provides safe and secure parking as well as excellent food for lunch. Everytime I visited the beach it was virtually empty, truly giving the impression that you are at the end of the world, miles from civilization. Coconut trees, almond trees, and other jungle vegetation edge onto the beach where little hermit crabs can be seen scurrying across the sand. You may find a pretty shell, but most likely it is already inhabited. If you are lucky you will be at the beach when a family of local Capuchin monkeys travel on their way through a tree-top road network only known to them.

Playa Ballena Beach Club

Playa Tortuga

This vast expanse of beach gives a rather rugged impression with mangrove trees crowding onto the brown sand. When the tide is low the crashing waves seem to be almost a mile from the beach, with the sand covered in tide pools, waiting for the ocean to rise again. The beach is popular with local fisherman who spend hours standing on rocky outcroppings under the hot sun. There is not much shade on the beach, which becomes uncomfortable after a while. Do not be fooled by the pictures below, when we visited the sun felt like it was pummeling us with its hot rays, overwhelming our senses with heavy hot air.

Perhaps this beach is better left to the turtles that it is named for. Every July through December four different turtle species (including leatherback and hawksbill turtles) arrive during the night, when the moon is full, to lay the next generation of eggs. Reserva Playa Tortuga is a local nonprofit that studies the turtle habitat, maintains land, and provides education to volunteers and locals alike. If you are interested in protecting turtles, they happily accept volunteers year-long.

Playa Tortuga

Playa Tortuga

Playa Uvita

Known as the whale’s tail, this beach is the popular destination of the up and coming town also known as Uvita. The beach extends out into the ocean in the shape of a whale’s tail, which can be seen on a map or from an airplane when the tide is out. Or you can visit the beach at low tide to walk the entire tail which is covered in sand except for the very end which is made of rocks. Out in the open ocean beyond is coral reef popular with snorkelers. Because of the reef, the beach is covered with little pink, purple, and orange shells. We visited at low tide and enjoyed swimming in the ocean with gentle waves. The water is quite warm, but at least it keeps you refreshed from the hot sun and air. Because this beach is part of the national park there is a $5 fee to enter as well as cost for parking. But the sight of the tail is worth it for at least one visit.

Playa Uvita

Playa Ventanas

My absolutely favorite beach, Playa Ventanas, is known for its two caves that open from the beach out to the open ocean. When the tide is low you can walk into the caves, but watch out for the incoming tide. At high tide the ocean crashes through the caves with every swelling of the waves. Water bursts out as it funnels through with a loud rushing sound that brings to your attention the mighty power of the ocean. The beach offers a perfectly shaded area for picnics and bbqs. My favorite part of this beach was swimming out past the waves and floating in the water for as long as possible. The waves are not good for surfing, but perfect for swimming and playing. While floating in the ocean, there is a beautiful view of lush green hills covered in the vegetation of the jungle, usually with large billowing clouds gathering at the precipice.

Playa Ventana

Map of the Beaches


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