The Best Beaches in Guanacaste: All 10, within 40 Minutes of CRIA!

Costa Rica beach cleanup with CRIA Academy international school

At CRIA, we are a community part of a larger community: beach families who love and protect our beaches. And we know something (a lot of somethings!) about the best beaches in Guanacaste. 

With so many new families joining CRIA – and a summer full of fun, fast approaching! – we thought we’d share a few of the best beaches in Guanacaste: easy day trips from wherever you call home, and not one more than 40 minutes from CRIA. How’s that for a spectacular place to call your new home?

The 10 Best Beaches in Guanacaste: 

So, without further ado, here are our personal picks for the top 10 best beaches in Guanacaste. From north to south:

Playa Dantas / Playa Dantitas

Playa Danta and its neighboring Playa Dantita (“Little Danta”) belongs on your list, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. While so many of our region’s beaches offer powder-soft white and cinnamon sands, Playa Danta offers up grayer hues, a pebbled beach, and the kind of rocky outcroppings perfect for young hands and legs to scramble over as they look for mollusks.

Here, you can while away the hours searching for sea life, relaxing in solitude, and appreciating the ocean ecosystems of your new home.

Sugar Beach

Known in Spanish as Playa Pan de Azúcar, Sugar Beach is a must-visit for anyone new or seasoned to Guanacaste. Indeed, this powder-puff beach is one of the prettiest (and least touristed) in the region, thanks in part to the natural trails that lead from Playa Prieta to Sugar Beach.

Make an afternoon of it and hike up to the lookout point, known as the Mirador Playa Prieta, and you’ll soon discover what all the fuss is about.

Playa Brasilito

This one can be a little confusing: Both a town and a beach, Brasilito is sandwiched between some of Guanacaste’s biggest resorts. And yet, it has eschewed the glitz and glam in exchange for authentic flavor and approachability. And we love Brasilito for that.

This is the kind of place you have to check off your list, when you call yourself a local. For the purposes of this list, though, we’re referring to Brasilito Beach, home to cinnamon sands, the blue Pacific, and mid-sized waves that are usually welcoming to swimmers. As always, though, check local conditions (read: ask someone) before getting into the water!

Playa Conchal

Any list of the best beaches in Guanacaste will include Playa Conchal, and for very good reason: It is simply one of the best! Named for the tiny, pink seashellsconcha means “shell,” in Spanish – that dot its coastline, Playa Conchal is as strikingly beautiful as it is welcoming.

And it is strikingly beautiful. What Playa Conchal is not: a great swimming beach. Those waves make for excellent white noise and beautiful blue contrasts against shimmering shell-sands, but do not often make a great choice for swimming, especially for families.

Playa Minas

Here’s a fun, in-the-know, you-gotta-be-a-local beach: Playa Minas, which, according to maps, does not exist. It’s true! Officially named Playa Zapotillal (and that’s what you’ll want to look for on your GPS), Playa Minas makes our list for its soft sands and relative seclusion.

That seclusion comes at a slightly bumpy price: Located at the end of a sometimes-rugged dirt road, we recommend taking a 4WD or high-clearance vehicle on this excursion. You also won’t see any signs to point the way, so you have to know you’re heading there. That said, these easy hurdles make Playa Minas one of the least-visited, almost-private, and best beaches in Guanacaste. 

Pirates Bay Beach

Ahoy, families! If you’ve been a part of the CRIA family for any amount of time, you’ll have heard others mention the “pirate” beach. This is it!

There may not be pirates here (unless you know something we don’t), but Pirates Bay Beach, alternately known as Bahía de los Piratas and Playa Real, does promise sheltered swimming waves, tanned sands, and beautiful scenery that extends to rocky outcroppings and scattered coastal islands.

Playa Grande (Tamarindo)

You can’t compile a list of the best beaches in Guanacaste without Playa Grande, one of the world’s most special beaches. We know – it sounds like an exaggeration. And yet here, in our own CRIA backyard, lies a critically important leatherback sea turtle nesting site.

That’s not all Playa Grande has going for it: It’s also home to some of Tamarindo’s best surf, paired with lush coastline and soft, cinnamon sands. It’s the kind of place that the whole family can spend a day and still, no one will want to go home.

Playa Tamarindo

There’s a reason an entire town, tourism industry, and an international community has bloomed around Tamarindo: it’s that kind of place. You know the one – the beach with the soft sand. The waves with the greatest surf (for both beginners and pros). And the destination with the great sunsets.

And so, today, Tamarindo is that perfect, have-it-all beach: host both to gentle waves and great surf – big and little waves, plus a sandy bottom in many spots! – as well as white sand, blue Pacific waters, and plenty of shady palms. And it piles on the love-me-love-me charm with the best selection of oceanfront restaurants and amenities in the area. As we said, there’s a reason everyone gravitates to Tamarindo!

Playa Langosta

If you love the convenience and closeness of Tamarindo but want a break from sharing your beach space, head two kilometers (a little more than a mile) south for the landscapes of Playa Langosta.

For here, amidst wildlife-rich rocky outcroppings and a beloved river mouth that churns out the killer left and right breaks that surfers crave, you’ll find a tranquil beach lined with shade trees and blessed with tranquil tide pools, perfect for even the youngest kids.

Playa Avellanas

A world-renowned surfing beach best known for its Little Hawaii break, Playa Avellanas is a surfer’s dream. Bear in mind, it’s not for the faint of heart, as some waves can eclipse 16 feet (5+ meters), as they bear down hard and fast.

If you have adept but not 16-foot-waves adept surfers in your family, walk a little bit south: Playa Avellanas is home to some estuary surf spots that usually prove a little tamer than the big daddy to the north. Be sure to hang around and catch the sunset, because it’s nearly always stunning!

Interested in learning more about our CRIA family?

We’d love to chat life in Guanacaste, meet your family, and learn about your journey to researching the best international schools in Costa Rica. We’re happy to answer questions, discuss your options, and help you make an informed decision.

Learn more about the CRIA admissions process and get in touch to schedule a campus visit. We look forward to it!