7 Best Beaches Close To San Jose Airport Costa Rica

Costa Rica holds a special place in our hearts. My husband, Tim, and I have been coming here for years, drawn by its vibrant culture and stunning beaches. In fact, we love it so much that we chose to get married here in May 2024, surrounded by the natural beauty that first captivated us.

Our frequent trips to Costa Rica have given us the chance to explore its many incredible beaches, each with its own unique charm. One of our absolute favorites is Playa Jaco, located conveniently close to San José (SJO). It’s more than just a beach to us; it’s where we surf, relax, and soak up the lively local atmosphere.

In this blog post, we want to share our love for Costa Rica’s best beaches near SJO with you. From hidden gems to popular hotspots, we’ll guide you through the places that have made our vacations unforgettable. Whether you’re planning your first trip or your tenth, we hope our experiences inspire you to discover the magic of Costa Rica’s coastline.

Key Takeaways From This Article

Most beaches in Costa Rica are open to the public. However, you might have to pay for parking if you have a private vehicle. Fortunately, some beaches are within walking distance of each other. Hence you can park on one beach and walk to the other. Here are my key takeaways on the best beaches near San Jose Airport. 

  • The closest beach to San Jose Airport is Playa Jaco. Near it is Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca. 
  • The best time to visit the beaches near San Jose airport is weekdays. You will find a parking spot if you can reach it by 9.00 AM. Avoid the beach over the weekends, as most ticos (local name for Costa Ricans.) will flock there. 
  • While most beaches have public access, like Playa, Manuel Antonia will have access through the Manuel Antonia National Park. You must access Playa Blanca through the Punta Leona Resort or walk from Playa Mantas in low tide. 
  • By staying in Jaco town, you will be in a position to visit several beaches. Playa Blanca, Playa Mantas, Playa Hermosa, Playa Esterillos, and Playa Herradura are minutes from Jaco. 

7 Best Beaches Close To San Jose Airport

San Jose is not on any of Costa Rica’s coastlines. It’s in the central valley, at the center of Costa Rica. The distance from the beach to San Jose Airport will depend on the location. Most popular beaches, such as Playa Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Manuel Antonia, are 3-5 hours by road. 

However, we managed to find several beaches less than two hours away from San Jose Airport. 

1. Playa Jaco. ( My Absolute Best)

Playa Jaco
A beautiful view of Playa Jaco

 

It’s a great surfing spot 1.5 hours from San Jose. However, most people also visit Playa Jaco due to its vibrant nightlife, great restaurants, and shopping spots. On one side are the blue waters surrounding the beach, and on the other are the rainforests. Playa Jaco has dark sand and is in two separate sections. 

There are some great waves on the beach’s northern end. However, it’s also crowded with a lot more people. You can rent a board at Jaco shopping center and learn to surf in a surf school. But head out to the southern end of Playa Jaco, which has smaller waves, which is ideal for surf learners. 

Direct buses from San Jose to Jaco will take 2-3 hours. It will cost between  $10-15 per person. 

2. Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa beach
A beautiful view of Playa Hermosa beach

It is another excellent two-km beach for surfers, snorkelers, sports anglers, and scuba divers. Playa Hermosa is a great spot to embark on a diving tour to Catalina and the Bat Islands. Alternatively, you can take a walk along its shores, which are lined with palm trees. 

Compared to Playa Jaco, only a few people come to this beach, and you’ll enjoy some quiet time here. Because of its high vantage points, Playa Hermosa offers excellent views of Jaco and Hermosa. It is a winner of the “Blue Flag” award for beaches with exceptional safety facilities and high environmental standards. 

However, Playa Hermosa is unsuitable for swimming due to its dangerous waves and currents. I wouldn’t try them out, even if you’re a strong swimmer. It’s a no-go zone for beginner surfers. Reaching Playa Hermosa by car will take 3 hours and 45 minutes by plane. 

3. Playa Herradura

The driving distance from San Jose airport to Playa Herradura is 83 km, and it will take you 1 hour and 24 minutes to complete the trip. It might not be the most well-known beach, but it is among the most beautiful. Playa Herradura is along the central Pacific Coast against a backdrop of scenic mountains. 

It is slowly becoming a hot tourist attraction with its black sand and glistening aqua-green waters. The planned community of Los Sueños Marina and Resort has made the beach more famous. Playa Herradura has become home to fishing enthusiasts. 

Los Sueños holds two exclusive sports fishing tournaments. Art lovers will also love the beach due to its well-stocked art galleries. Bordering Playa Herradura is the Carara National Park, which has exceptional wildlife and plant life. There is a crocodile bridge where you can see hundreds near river Tarcoles

4. Playa Mantas

Playa Mantas has gray sand and is one of the closest beaches to San Jose Airport, one hour and 45 minutes away. It’s 20 minutes drive from Playa Jaco. Most Costa Ricans living in San Jose flock to this beach on weekends. On the beach is the all-inclusive Punta Leona Resort. 

The waves at Playa Mantas are gentle and ideal for swimming. If you want a quiet spot for your kids to swim, head to the northern side. It is the farthest from the main path and, therefore, tranquil. The place has crabs and other creatures, making exploring fun for your kids. 

Playa Mantas has a lot of vegetation on one side and outcropping rocks on the other. Thus, don’t be surprised to see the following animals as you walk along the beach. 

Wildlife at Playa Mantas
White-faced monkeysPelicans
Scarlet Macaw parrots
Iguanas
Jesus Christ lizards

5. Playa Esterillos 

Due to its heavy waves and ample space, the beach is an excellent destination for surfers. A mermaid statue sits on the rocks facing the ocean. Albino Valverde, a puriscal sculptor made the statue.  

Playa Esterillos is two hours from San Jose Airport and 20 minutes from Jaco. From San Jose, you can use routes 27 and 34. After turning at Oeste, you will see a massive sign of a mermaid on the right-hand side. Playa Esterillos comprises four different beaches. 

  • Esterillos Oeste (West) is the largest and has a large mermaid statute. 
  • Esterillos Centro (Central)
  • Esterillos Este (East)
  • Playa Bejuco

Playa Esterillo Oeste has riptides and stronger waves, which makes it unsuitable for swimming. However, there are tidepools on the beach’s northern end during low tides. Our kids enjoyed looking at the crabs and other fish species in the pool. Other activities we found interesting at Playa Esterillos Oeste are surfing, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. 

6. Playa Blanca

It’s a white sand beach about one hour and twenty minutes from San Jose. On your way to Jaco, you will find an unmarked road after passing the Punta Leone Resort entrance. After passing the rainforest, you will reach Playa Manta’s parking lot. You will not be in a position to proceed with your car. 

Walk a few minutes south of the beach and climb a steep embankment. Alternatively, wait for low tide to walk over the flatter rocks. The beach has soft white, fluffy sand and giant palm trees. You can pay for a day pass at the resort, which costs $30, or access Playa Blanca through Playa Mantas. 

7. Playa Manuel Antonio

Getting to Playa Manuel Antonia takes three hours, but it’s worth the trip. It’s among the few beaches in a national park in Costa Rica. The beach is a 30-minute walk from the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park. The park’s entrance fee is  $18 for adults and $6 for kids. It’s important to note that the park is open from 8 AM to 4 PM daily except on Tuesdays. 

You must observe a few requirements because Playa Manuel Antonio is in a protected reserve. 

  • You should not bring food to the beach. 
  • Bring refillable bottles instead of single-use plastic bags or bottles. 
  • The beach area closes by 3 PM, and everyone should leave the park by 4 PM. 
  • Book in advance, as the park limits the number of visitors daily. If traveling during the peak season (December to April), tickets might sell out weeks in advance. 
  • You cannot carry beach toys and camping equipment inside the park.

Conclusion

My worry that we would not get to visit many beaches near San Jose airport was short-lived. We managed to see all seven beaches within a three-day visit. But what saved us was staying at Jaco, a few minutes from several beaches. 

What was your favorite beach near San Jose airport? Please share your experience. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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