Costa Rica’s under-the-radar beaches

There’s a premium on privacy and seclusion for many travelers right now.  Some aren’t in the mood for big crowds, be it COVID concerns or just wanting a quieter vibe. The call of nature is strong. For sure, the thought of spending time on a beach in Costa Rica sounds downright delightful. Better still, if it’s not where everyone else will be. 

Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s beautiful, remote beaches. They are not too far from popular spots but be ready for a bit of adventure to drive backroads to get to nirvana.

Here’s where to go for an under the radar beach escape in Costa Rica.

Playa Biesanz, Central Pacific

Situated near Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most visited national parks, Playa Biesanz is a “secret,” yet easily accessible white-sand beach covered by lush rainforest, home to almost 200 species of birds and over 100 species of mammals. There is a 10-minute downhill trail to the beach that offers several opportunities to spot wildlife, including Costa Rican like the ever-so-cute three-toed sloth and howler monkey. Playa Biesanz is known for its peaceful tides, making it ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Feast your eyes on more than 80 species of fish. 

Playa Ventanas, South Pacific Coast

On Costa Rica’s South Pacific coast lies Playa Ventanas, whose name refers to the caves on the beach that are reminiscent of little windows, or “ventanas.” This unique black-sand beach is beloved for its caves that you can explore if you dare, and surrounding jungle, teeming with toucans and scarlet macaws. The road to Playa Ventanas is hilly and unpaved, but despite that fact you’ll be able to successfully navigate the terrain with a 4×4 vehicle.  This trip to is really off the grid, be sure to pack food, beverages and anything else you might need for the day. 

Playa San Juanillo, North Guanacaste

If one beach is not enough, San Juanillo in the Guanacaste province gives you a two-fer and is an example of Mother Nature at her best. Located an hour and a half drive from Tamarindo via unpaved and hilly terrain, a 4×4 vehicle is recommended for this exciting, bumpy ride. High tide is the best time to swim in the crystal-clear waters, and water shoes are recommended for exploring the seabed. Towards the end of Playa San Juanillo lies a path that leads to the “Mirador Playa San Juanillo,” where you’ll discover a spectacular view of the point at which the two beaches intersect. You’ll see several signs at Playa San Juanillo about keeping the beach clean, by all means be respectful of this gem. 

Playa Conejera, North Guanacaste

Another beautiful, lesser-known beach in the Guanacaste province is Playa Conejera, which literally translates to “Rabbit Beach.” Getting to Playa Conejera is an adventure in itself. You must trek through the rainforest to access its turquoise waters and a rocky outcrop that almost divides the beach in two. Locals joke that the outcrop is reminiscent of rabbit ears, hence the beach’s name. Natural shade is provided by the many large trees lining the shore, and its calm waters and colorful reefs offer ideal underwater exploration. 

Playa Arrecife, South Caribbean

Just a 20-minute drive from the laidback and culturally diverse beach town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast is Playa Arrecife, a golden-sand beach surrounded by IG-worthy palm trees and bright blue waters. Arrecife means reef and is a nod to its offshore reef, which provides the opportunity for an excellent snorkeling experience. Situated between Punta Uva and Manzanillo, the road in town is paved and framed by jungle and beach, which equals a smooth drive. Consider renting bikes in Puerto Viejo and ride on the dirt-paved roads. Doing so will make it easier to spend the day exploring Playa Arrecife and other nearby beaches such as Playa Cocles, which is known for its top surfing waves. 

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