Costa Rica is home to more than 1200km of coastline running along the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Whilst many visitors to this Central American country come to explore its volcanic national parks and cloud forests, others arrive with the sole intention of enjoying a relaxing beach vacation.
The Pacific side of the country has seen the growth of some major tourist resorts along its coast whilst the Caribbean side has experienced relatively little development. Visitors looking for the all-inclusive holiday experience should certainly head west whilst those looking for more of a local experience should go east where beach bungalows are more the norm.
The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season which runs from the middle of December through until April. Whilst providing idyllic conditions for tourism it is also the most expensive time to visit. September and October tend to be the wettest months but the Caribbean coast escapes most of the rainfall making it an attractive destination for this time of the year.
Vacations on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Located in the province of Guanacaste on Costa Rica’s north-west coast is the privately owned Papagayo Peninsula where the country’s most exclusive resorts have been established. A number of properties such as the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, the Four Seasons and the Planet Hollywood Beach Resort provide 5-star luxury to guests in exquisite surroundings overlooking some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Thanks to the on-site amenities which include watersport activities and some excellent restaurants, many guests at these resorts prefer to never leave the premises during their stay. Those who do like to see something of the country can take excursions to the Guanacaste Conservation Area and a number of volcanic national parks in the region.
Playas del Coco
Holidaymakers who are more interested in tequila than sea turtles can head to the resort of Playas del Coco which lies less than 30km from Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR). This gateway to the Pacific coast attracts plenty flights from North America and private transfers from Liberia Airport can deliver new arrivals to hotels in Playas del Coco in as little as 30 minutes. Over the last decade ‘Coco Beach’ has grown substantially and is now a well-known destination for foreign tourists attracted by its glorious beaches, range of accommodation and lively nightlife.
Originally a laid-back surf town, Tamarindo Beach has grown into one of Costa Rica’s top holiday destinations which attracts many overseas visitors to its glorious beaches. It lies further down the Pacific coast and is easily reached from Liberia Airport. Accommodation is plentiful and the resort has plenty to offer in the way of bars and restaurants. For something a little off the beaten track you could stay at Conchal Beach to the north of town or head south into the Nicoya Peninsula where you’ll find any number of sleepy surf resorts.
This is not the destination for visitors to Costa Rica who are looking for a partytime vacation. Located in one of the country’s most visited national parks and home to some of its most beautiful beaches, this is very much a relaxing retreat in idyllic natural surroundings. The village of Manuel Antonio can be reached in just 2.5 hours by road from San José International Airport. Most local accommodation and chilled nightlife offering can be found just to the north on the road to Quepos. The national park itself is a natural wonder which is inhabited by many species of animals and rare birds.
This is another laid-back destination on the south-central Pacific coast between Dominical and Ojochal. This stretch of unspoilt coastline is an ideal choice for nature lovers who want to combine a beach holiday with the opportunity to see some of Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity. A good choice of accommodation ranging from hammocks on the beach to luxury bungalows is available. Visitors can often spot migrating whales from the beautiful beaches of the Ballena Marine National Park.
Vacations on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica
The east coast of Costa Rica is a whole different experience than the west coast and is not a destination for typical holidaymakers. This Caribbean coast is wetter than the Pacific and its beaches can hardly compare. The northern section of the coast is largely made up of the vast Tortuguero National Park which is a must for nature lovers.
There is little other than dense jungle to the south until you reach the small town of Cahuita which is the gateway to the Cahuita National Park. This is an ideal place to get away from it all and be at one with nature but don’t expect anything in the way of nightlife. For a livelier place to stay you’ll need to continue along the coast to Puerto Viejo which is the Caribbean coast’s only tourist centre.
Whilst this is a top destination for backpackers, it is also home to a number of small hotels and Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel which is the coast’s only luxury accommodation. The town has long been a favourite with the surfing community thanks largely to the infamous Salsa Brava beach. The nightlife in Puerto Viejo is lively and the chilled Caribbean vibe of the place ensures a steady stream of young travellers who stop off for a few nights on their way to Panama. Certainly this is a place to visit if you’re in the right age group but it certainly isn’t the place for visitors who are looking for the package tour experience. Such holidaymakers would certainly be better off booking a vacation on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
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