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Costa Rican Beaches

It is no coincidence that Costa Rica means Rich Coast in Spanish. Mother Nature has endowed the country with a virtual treasure trove of beaches, each one of which has its own special charms. Those coastal jewels range from sheltered coves where a crescent of white sand separates the verdure of the rainforest from the ocean´s aquamarine waters, to long beaches washed by frothy surf and lined with lanky coconut palms. Within that variety an natural exuberance are the ingredients needed to fulfill every traveler´s tropical fantasy.

Countless stretches of sun-swathed sand await you on Costa Rica´s 762 miles of sinuous coastline, spread between the Pacific and Caribbean. Most of those beaches are backed by forests that contain a myriad of rare flora and fauna, while submerged off some lie such marine wonders as intricate coral formations and kaleidoscopes of brightly colored tropical fish. And in addition to their own attractions, many of those beaches can serve as your base for such varied activities as whiter water river rafting, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, skin diving and other outdoor adventures. The nation´s tradition of hospitality is complemented by a modern transportation system and a cornucopia of coastal accomodations to ensure comfortable beach vacations for all.


No region represents Costa Rica´s coastal opulence better than the Northwestern province of Guanacaste. The driest part of the country, Guanacaste is a popular destination among sun worshippers of all types. Its beaches run the gamut, from pristine coves set deep within the wilderness of a national park, to modern resorts complete with four-star hotels, gourmet restaurants and charter boats equipped for sportfishing and other aquatic adventures. Guanacaste´s wind-swept beaches, separated by rocky bluffs and backed by patches of tropical dry forest, evoke what southern California´s coastline might have looked like a century ago. But unlike California, the forests of Guanacaste are home for troops of howler monkeys and flocks of parrots.

Stretching south from Costa Rica´s boarder with Nicaragua, down the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste´s coast is divided by rocky points into dozens of beaches. Those on the Santa Rosa Peninsula are wild and isolated, visited only by adventurous nature lovers, dedicated surfers, and nesting sea turtles. The Gulf of Papagayo, to the South of that peninsula, features more accesible beaches, many of which slope down into the tranquil waters of Culebra Bay.

The bay´s calm and crystaline waters offer excellent conditions for swimming, skin diving, windsurfing and other aquatic diversions. Some of the country´s newest luxury hotels overlook Culebra Bay from such beaches as Hermosa and Panama. Playa del Coco, the region´s principal port and a colorful little fishing town, is set in a deep cove with a long beach of dark sand and calm waters, while Ocotal, to the south, lies in a similar but considerably smaller bay.

If you follow the coast south from the Gulf fo Papagayo, the beaches become more exposed the Pacific´s whims, which means the sea can resemble a swimming pool one week and raise waves large enough to please expert surfers the next. At such serene spots as beaches Pan de Azucar, Potrero, Brasilito and Conchal, you won´t have to share the beach with crowds of tourists, since relatively few accomodations complement the coastal beauty there. Playa Flamingo´s white sand beach is attractive enough to justify the handful of hotels that overlook it, but the modern fleet of charter boats docked in its marina are as much of a draw for many people. One of Guanacaste´s major sportfishing spots, Flamingo provides anglers access to some of the best sail an marlin fishing in the world, and is consequently the site of an annual sailfish tournament.

Tamarindo, to the south, features a long swath fo fine packed sand backed by the best selection of hotels and restaurants available in the region. A popular spot among surfers, Tamarindo has several equally impressive beaches nearby, such as Playa Grande, an important sea turtle nesting beach, an Junquillal, a long stretch of sand bordered by forest with accommodations of its own. As you head south from there, the roads get rougher and the hotels grow scarcer, but the scenery doesn´t suffer in the least a bit. Nosara is a spectacular spot that combines the charms of long, empty beaches with the wildlife that inhabits patches of rare tropical dry forest. Such beaches as Garza, Carrillo and Islita offer similar combinations of coastal and sylvan beauty, while the pale, hard-packed sand of Sámara is complemented by a wider selection of accommodations, and is a little easier reach.

Turning towards the Gulf of Nicoya you will find laid-back Montezuma and Tambor featuring a variety of hotels for all tastes and budgets.

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