Beaches - South Pacific Region
The pristine beaches of Costa Rica's South Pacific Region are some of the most beautiful on the planet. It almost seems as if the jungle covered mountains run right up to the virgin palm lined shore. The beaches of the south pacific coast have something to offer every traveler. Surf the powerful waves at Playa Dominical or the longest wave in Costa Rica at Pavones. Scuba or snorkel off the shores of Costa Rica's only underwater marine park or in the gentle waters of the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf). Relax on the secluded, palm lined beach at Playa Ventanas or get ready for an wild adventure into the Corcovado National Park at Playa Carate. The recent completion of infrastructure projects through out Costa Rica have finally connected this once hard to access region to the rest of the country and has made driving a breeze. Hopping a regional flight and renting a car, hiring a driver or catching the bus is still an option.
See surf report here.
Playa Hermosa - South of Dominical and just north of Uvita is yet another Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach). This aptly named beach is a over a mile long and is uncrowded most of the year. Ticos flock to this beach the week of Semana Santa and Christmas turning this normally quiet beach into a small town. There are no permanent services at the beach but there is usually a local selling pipas, ceviche and other goodies at the beach during dry season.
Playa Ballena (Whale Beach) is located within the borders of Marino Ballena National Park and is a perfect place to see whales from both hemispheres migrating past Costa Rica's rich shores. The largest coral reef on the Pacific side of Costa Rica lies in these waters making it a great place for scuba or snorkel. Two noticeable rock formations call Isla Ballena (whale island) and Tres Hermanas(three sisters) sit just off shore and make for a majestic scene. The towns of Bahia and Uvita offer hotels and restaurants within driving distance but there are a few small sodas (restaurants) within walking distance.
Playa Pinuela is a small protected bay that sits just south of Uvita. This beach is protected from ocean swell by one of the largest reefs in Costa Rica and sandbars that are formed by coastal currents making this a great swimming beach. You can often see local fishermen launching their boats from these tranquil waters. You can find some great Eco Lodges and a variety of restaurants. Services are available close by but not within walking distance.
Playa Ventana is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Costa Rica. The point on the north side has large caves that are windows from the beach to the ocean, on low tides you can explore the caves. The beach is protected and offers mellow water for swimming and snorkeling. You can find quaint hotels and Eco Lodges in the town of Ojochal.
Playa Tortuga is the closest beach to the small town of Ojochal. Ojochal has some of the best restaurants along the southern coast and some say in all of Costa Rica. This very wide and gorgeous beach is a nesting area for sea turtles and is great for long walks and spotting wildlife.
Isla Garza lies just offshore and is separated from the mainland by the Terraba River. The island is almost uninhabited except for wild pigs and a few locals that live off the land. The powerful waves that reach the shore make this an ideal beach for surfing.
Playa San Josecito this beach is worth the extra effort it takes to reach it and you may be rewarded with a beautiful beach all to yourself for the weekend. The coastal reef protects this beach from ocean swell making it a great place to snorkel and swim. There are very few services in this area so plan on camping or make sure that you have a reservation at one of the local hotels.
Playa Violin sits at the mouth of the Sierpe River on a small island (Isle Violin) that is mostly protected because of the Diquis Indians that used to live there. The beach is uninhabited with large waves great for surfing. You can reach it by boat from the fishing village of Sierpe. There are no services on the island.
Beaches of Corcovado National Park - There are many beautiful beaches along the 25 kilometers of coastline in the park such as Playa Llorona, Playa Corcovado, and Playa Serena. They are great for taking long walks and enjoying the nature that abounds but It is not advised to swim because of the abundance of bull sharks and crocodiles in the area. The park suggest that you use the local guides while visiting the park to point out the scenery and keep you out of trouble in this wildlife sanctuary.
Playa Carate is a great starting point for your adventure into Corcovado National Park. While in Carate you can enjoy the idyllic beach and possibly see a variety of sea turtles, orca whales, and many land animals that spill over the park borders. The town offers has a variety of accommodations and many choices for local fare and seafood.
Cabo Matapalo sits at the mouth of the Golfo Dulce and is a favorite of surfers and nature lovers alike. You are almost guaranteed to see scarlet macaws, monkey and much more of the wildlife that overflows from Corcovado National Park. The small town has all services but reserve a spot as space in this picturesque town is limited. There are three distinct waves for surfers of each skill level and pleasant beaches great for taking a romantic stroll in paradise.
Puerto Jimenez is a booming town with a very tranquil beach great for swimming and family fun. You can walk down the beach at low tide and escape town for more privacy and some larger waves that may be suitable for surfing. The town has service such as hotels and restaurants to make sure your visit is comfortable and fun.
Playa Zancudo is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica and offers something for everyone. You can swim, snorkel or surf in the warm clear waters of the Golfo Dulce or enjoy long walks along the pristine shore. The town has a variety of quaint hotels and restaurants and a very friendly local population.
Playa Pilon is a seldom visited beach with no services but if you want to be alone with good swimming and surf, this is a great place to visit. The beach faces west and offers epic sunsets all year and there are a few fresh water streams that flow into the ocean offering a nice place to swim and rinse off. The waves here are smaller than the surf mecca of Pavones but still very long and fun.
Pavones is an out of the way destination that is world famous for its 2 kilometer long wave and mellow, small town vibe. Nature lovers and surfers flock to this small town to experience Costa Rican surf culture and wildlife. The beach is rugged and natural making it hard to walk but since the full service town runs along the beach so you can park and be start enjoying the beach with little trouble.
Punta Banco is a small town that sits at the end of the road at the southern tip of Costa Rica. This beach is a turtle nesting area so some of the beach is closed to protect them. The beach is great for surfing since it picks up swell that Pavones sometimes misses. Most of the beach has coral bottom but there are a few sand bottom areas for the novice surfer or swimmer. The town has a few restaurants and hotels to service travelers.
Photo Credit: [palm tree over costa rica beach] supplied by [istockphoto] / thinkstock, [girl on a beach] supplied by [istockphoto] / thinkstock, [Tropical Vista] supplied by [istockphoto] / thinkstock