Best Beach Destinations for Families in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is renowned for its stunning coastline along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Many visitors are drawn to the country’s tropical beaches, but what they may not realize is the variety of choices available. From surfing beaches with big waves along the central and southern Pacific coast to calm coves on the northern Pacific coast, and the undeveloped beaches of the Caribbean Coast, each beach offers a unique experience. Furthermore, beach towns in Costa Rica have their own distinctive setups and activities to offer.

As residents of Costa Rica with two kids, we have explored numerous family-friendly beaches. In this article, we will share our top recommendations for the best beaches in Costa Rica for families. We will highlight destinations that are safe for swimming with children and provide a range of family-friendly activities.

Samara: A Perfect Beach Destination

Located on the Pacific coast, Samara is a fantastic beach destination for families in Costa Rica. This picturesque beach features light gray sand and a wide cove with gentle waves, making it an ideal spot for swimming. Just a short five-minute drive away, you’ll find Playa Carrillo, another serene beach favored by locals.

Samara is a walkable town with its main center situated along the beach. You’ll find surf shops among rows of tall palm trees, offering lessons for those who want to ride the small waves. Other activities available include horseback riding, boat or kayak tours to spot wildlife, turtle-watching tours, hiking through the tropical dry forest, and visiting a macaw parrot breeding center.

To learn more about the beauty of Samara, check out our separate post: Samara: Guanacaste’s Most Overlooked Destination.

The beautiful Playa Samara

Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste): A Tranquil Escape

While Tamarindo may be Guanacaste’s most well-known destination, families seeking a quiet beach escape will find Playa Hermosa a perfect choice. This beach town on the northern Pacific coast boasts a stunning wide cove with gentle waves, creating a safe environment for young children. From Playa Hermosa, you can easily access other beaches with calmer waters, such as Playa Penca, Playa Panama, and Playa Ocotal.

Apart from enjoying the beach, there are plenty of fun activities for families to engage in at Playa Hermosa. A nearby eco-adventure park offers zip-lining, a well-maintained animal sanctuary, and cultural tours. You can also take a boat tour of Palo Verde National Park to observe monkeys, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species. Catamaran tours are available locally, or you can explore the bay on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

Gently lapping waves at Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste

Playa Conchal: A Hidden Gem

One of our favorite beaches in Guanacaste is Playa Conchal, and it’s easy to see why. The beach stands out with its turquoise-hued water and unique shell-made sand. Snorkeling right off the shore is a major draw, as you can encounter puffer fish, eels, snappers, and an array of colorful fish near the rocks at the northern end of the beach.

Playa Conchal is a more secluded beach that may require some effort to access. If you’re staying at the Westin Playa Conchal or one of the other resorts on the beach, you’ll already be in close proximity. Otherwise, you’ll need to walk approximately 10 minutes along the sand from the town of Brasilito. For up-to-date details on how to get there, read our post: Playa Conchal: The Allure of Shell Beach.

Clear water and snorkeling at Playa Conchal

Manuel Antonio: Beaches and Rainforests

If you’re in search of lush rainforests, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast is the perfect destination. This beach town is not only known for its beautiful beach but also for its dense jungle teeming with wildlife. Visitors can spot three types of monkeys, sloths, deer, lizards, iguanas, toucans, trogons, hummingbirds, and more. Additionally, Manuel Antonio offers an extensive selection of restaurants and a wide range of activities suitable for families.

Although the main beach in town, Playa Espadilla, may have rip tides, it still provides opportunities for wading. For calmer waters, head to Playa Biesanz, a sheltered cove with gentle waves perfect for kids. Calmer beaches can also be found within Manuel Antonio National Park.

For more information on visiting Manuel Antonio, check out our post: Manuel Antonio Trip Planning.

Playa Manuel Antonio, one of the calm beaches in the national park

Jaco: Beach and Family Fun

Jaco, another gem on the central Pacific coast, is an excellent choice for families. While it may have a reputation as a party town, this mainly comes to life at night. During the day, Jaco attracts a diverse mix of people, including families with kids. The town features a main street lined with family-friendly restaurants, some even offering play areas for children. You’ll also find a community playground and occasional activities like painting workshops and puppet shows. As Jaco is only about an hour’s drive from San Jose, it’s a convenient option for those who prefer shorter travel times.

Although the main beach in Jaco may not be the most scenic, the town is within close proximity to some stunning beaches. Playa Blanca to the north is a tranquil cove with clean white sand and aquamarine water. To the south lies Playa Esterillos Oeste, a surfing beach where you can explore incredible tidepools during low tide—an exciting adventure for kids. If you’re looking for a lesser-known beach town, Esterillos Oeste is worth considering.

Jaco offers a plethora of activities suitable for families, including zip-lining, ATV tours, catamaran tours, crocodile river tours, horseback riding, and a wildlife center called NeoFauna.

To plan your visit to Jaco, read our comprehensive post: Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town.

Tidepools at Playa Esterillos Oeste

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: Caribbean Charm

Our final recommendation is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the southern Caribbean coast. This beach town is known for its stunning beaches, featuring clear, calm waters against a backdrop of lush greenery. Puerto Viejo is home to the well-known Jaguar Rescue Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center. Visitors can also enjoy a fantastic chocolate tour, surfing, horseback riding, SUP and kayak tours, and hiking. The area abounds with wildlife, including monkeys and sloths.

While Puerto Viejo is recommended for families, it’s essential to note that the area does have some incidents of crime, which may not suit everyone. Most visitors experience no issues, but if you prefer a more cautious approach when traveling with kids, we recommend considering other destinations. For tips on visiting Puerto Viejo and to learn more about this vibrant coastal town, read our post: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: Caribbean Cool in Costa Rica.

Serene water at Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Over the years, we have had the privilege of exploring numerous beaches in Costa Rica with our children. We understand the importance of finding the ideal destination when traveling with kids, and we hope that our recommendations help narrow down your family’s itinerary.

Have any questions about traveling to Costa Rica with kids? Feel free to ask us in the comments below.

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