Best Beaches in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

It’s difficult to rank beaches in Puntarenas as the best in a country—Costa Rica—that has many world-class and highly rated beaches in other towns. However, you can still have a decent beach experience in Puntarenas when you visit Playa Tambor, Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Puntarenas. 

Puntarenas is a big area that includes both a province and a town by the same name. Let’s call a spade a spade: The beaches near the city aren’t very pretty, so I don’t suggest going there. 

Jaco is also in Puntarenas, but it’s known for surfing, not swimming, because it’s not very safe. If you want good swimming beaches, you should check out Manuel Antonio or look further south near Uvita.

However, if you absolutely must stay in Puntarenas, there are still a few beach areas that are decent enough for a fantastic waterfront experience. 

In this article, I have reviewed some of the best beach areas in Puntarenas, including how to locate them, the cost of things at each of these beaches, and the fun activities they all offer.

Key Takeaways

  • With the few ideal beach spots in Puntarenas, the most common water activities here are swimming, surfing, and jet skiing. 
  • Jet skiing enthusiasts can enjoy the calm waters of the Puntarenas or Mata Limon Estuaries. 
  • Jacó Beach, famous for parties, attracts tourists, surfers, and locals due to its accessibility from San Jose. 
  • Santa Teresa Beach, Barranca River Mouth, and Playa Tivives are ideal for surfing. 
  • Playa Tambor, nestled in Ballena Bay’s northeast, offers swimming, horseback riding, and coastal hikes, as well as accommodation options.
  • Other favorites include Caldera, Mata de Limon, and Organos beaches, which offer views of the Negritos and Tortugas Islands from Organos.
  • For a truly fantastic beach experience, we wouldn’t recommend Puntarenas, as there are other Costa Rican towns with better options. 

List of the best beaches in Puntarenas

1. Playa Tambor

Tambor Beach, also called Bahia Ballena for its whale sightings, is a hotspot for tourists in Costa Rica. People love it here because it’s super chill and peaceful.

Snorkeling is a big hit among visitors, thanks to the clear water that lets you see all kinds of marine life. Plus, you can try out pilates and yoga on the beach. 

Getting here is accessible by car, and there are plenty of comfy hotels around. It’s an excellent spot for a family vacation.

Playa Tambor provides free parking at the entrance, although spaces are limited. Visitors can also find street parking nearby for easy access to the beach.

Tambor is also famous for top-notch sport fishing. You can hire pros to take you to the best spots in the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Nicoya. If you’re on a budget, consider boarding a “panga,” a small traditional fishing boat that locals use.

However, Playa Tambor is not family-friendly and does not have restrooms, lifeguards, or nearby food.

2. Playa Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Beach is like a surfer’s paradise. It’s one of Costa Rica’s top spots for catching excellent waves. 

To get to Santa Teresa Beach, you have to take a boat from Paquera. The journey takes a little over an hour, bordering the Nicoya Peninsula.

If you’re a more budget-conscious traveler, then you may want to consider traveling to Santa Teresa between June and August, when hotel prices are generally the lowest. 

But even if you’re not into surfing, there’s still lots to do. You can go hiking and explore the Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve in close proximity. 

It’s just 5 kilometers away and has stunning views, perfect for snapping photos. Plus, the fresh air there will help you relax and forget about all your daily stresses.

3. Playa Zancudo

Zancudo Beach sits close to Golfo Dulce and offers a peaceful spot with gentle waves. It’s perfect for watching birds, paddling in kayaks, and just relaxing by the sea.

If you’re driving, there’s free parking near the entrance, but it might fill up quickly. You can also park on the nearby street to get to the beach soon.

Remember, there are no lifeguards at Zancudo Beach, so take care if you’re swimming. For your convenience, you’ll find restrooms right on or near the beach.

4. Playa Blanca

You can only reach Playa Blanca by boat. With its soft white sands and crystal-clear blue waters, it’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and just chilling out in a peaceful setting.

One of the best things about White Beach is that there are shady spots, unlike Jaco! The water is so calm that you can walk to Mantas Beach, and you might even spot some red macaws, spider monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys along the way!

Avoid coming here on weekends—it gets super noisy and crowded. The best time to visit is on a Wednesday. 

Mantas Beach is beautiful, but if you’re driving, be prepared to pay a lot for private gated parking. There’s a cheaper dirt parking lot nearby, but it’s small and fills up quickly.

5. Playa Cocalito 

Cocalito Beach is located in Puntarenas. It’s about 8 kilometers away from Playa Tambor. If you want to visit, it’s best to take the ferry from Paquera because it’s the quickest route.

The beach, located in a coastal area with cliffs that create a beautiful waterfall, has dark, thick sand.

It’s an excellent spot for enjoying the sun, sand, and sea. You can also take some stunning photos there and do some snorkeling.

6. Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa, a stunning beach near Santa Teresa Beach, is perfect for surfing.

The waves didn’t seem as solid and crazy as at Playa Carmen or Santa Teresa. Also, expect to pay the parking lot guy $2.

But, remember, there aren’t many places to stay around the beach, so it’s better to stay in Jaco. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions.

Also, don’t miss out on visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s just 45 minutes away from Playa Hermosa and offers guided tours in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful parks.

7. Playa Puntarenas

One thing I love about Playa Puntarenas is that it’s a big fishing spot and a hub for boats heading to the Panama Canal.

Try walking on suspension bridges here if you’re into thrilling things; the experience will stick with you forever.

If you prefer calm vibes, grab an excellent coffee or juice from one of the stands along the beach or on the Paseo de Los Turistas. You’ll soak up the local culture firsthand.

It’s not the best of all the beaches in town, but it’s worth a try. The spot is widespread and often recommended by locals. 

8. Playa Manuel Antonio

If you want a great beach to swim at, Manuel Antonio is the place to go. It has a beautiful coral reef not far from the shore. 

This beautiful beach is located within the national park, so you’ll need to pay to enter the park to get there. 

Manuel Antonio National Park is very popular in Costa Rica, but they limit the number of visitors and have specific times for entry. 

Make sure to take your time exploring the trails because you can see lots of animals. Don’t bring any food or snacks with you; they’ll take them away when they check your bags at the entrance.

There’s a café and places to change before you get to the beach. Watch out for your belongings; the monkeys still might try to grab them, thinking there’s food inside!

The beach offers private guided tours, which cost $85 (for adults) and $63 (for children).

You can also explore some trails that lead to Manuel Antonio National Park. 

This beach is like a tropical paradise with its soft white sand and clear blue water.

9. Playa Uvita

Uvita Beach, located in the south of Dominical, is one of Costa Rica’s cleanest beaches.

The water here is super clear, and you can see the ocean floor easily because of the gentle waves.

It’s inside Marino Ballena National Park, so you have to enter through the park. You can get a guide to show you around the park if you want. 

There are also fun things to do, like diving or horseback riding. Nearby, you’ll find places to stay and eat.

Take note that when you arrive with your car, they charge $4 for parking plus a $6 per person entrance fee. To even swim, you have to walk about two kilometers.

10. Montezuma Beach

Montezuma Beach is famous for its artsy and laid-back atmosphere. You’ll find rocky pools when the tide is low, peaceful sandy spots, and stunning sunsets to enjoy.

The nearby village is charming too. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of baby turtles being released into the sea around 4 p.m., although it doesn’t happen every day since the turtles don’t always hatch. 

While it’s an excellent place for a stroll or to relax by the ocean, there are other beaches better suited for swimming, like the one on Montezuma’s northeast side. 

12. Esterillos Beaches

Esterillos has a series of beaches, including Esterillos Oeste, Centro, and Este, all of which offer a relaxed vibe for strolls and beach fun.

This coastal stretch includes Esterillos Oeste, which has free access. Playa Esterillos, located near Jacó, spans 7 kilometers of stunning gray sand beaches. 

It’s not just one, but multiple towns. The area has diverse plants and animals, including palm trees, almond trees, and mangroves. 

Despite being well-known for surfing, strong currents make swimming unsafe. It’s a peaceful spot.

13. Playa Cabuya

Cabuya Beach is in the Puntarenas province, about 13 kilometers from Cóbano. It’s a stretch of coastline with rocks and some sections of soft, white sand. 

The beach is about 4 kilometers long and ends at Cabo Blanco. It’s open to the ocean, so the waves are strong, and the water gets deep quickly. 

When the tide is low, be careful because rocks are sticking out. 

The beach is lovely because of all the plants and freshwater spots around. It’s perfect for relaxing, taking pictures, and snorkeling in the sun, sand, and sea.

The bottom line

Playa Puntarenas is the name of Puntarenas town’s main beach. So, when you even ask a local for beach recommendations, expect them to point that out to you. 

Unfortunately, it’s not the most beautiful beach, and many people don’t swim there because it’s a place where fishing boats come and go, so the water isn’t spotless for swimming.

But the sunsets at Puntarenas are stunning, and you can take a stroll along the shore to see birds and small fish.

So, I recommend you skip Playa Puntarenas and focus on the other recommendations in the above article.

Enjoy your stay at Puntarenas.

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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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