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HomeBeach LivingAre These The 5 Best Black Sand Beaches of Costa Rica?

Are These The 5 Best Black Sand Beaches of Costa Rica?

A tropical paradise of palm tree-lined beaches with soft pale sands as the sun glistens across the water. Costa Rica is a dream like no other, taking your breath away as you step out onto the shores. However, Costa Rica is truly unique in that it also has the contrast of black sand beaches making your decision of where to spend your sunny days a bit more difficult.

What is even more interesting is that they are not centrally located in one area of the country but various destinations throughout. The different colors of the sand come from the originating materials that the sand is created from over thousands of years being broken down through the continuum of waves.  Made up of many different dark rocks, minerals, and volcanic materials, lava deposits and basalt rocks are eroded over time creating the beautiful canvas that the shores display.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa. Photo by Andrés Madrigal.

Just outside of Jaco, is its quiet laid-back neighbor Playa Hermosa with fewer crowds and wide-open space. Several restaurants and beach bars line the shores with live music and DJs, patios, and balconies all with gorgeous views facing the water. However, it is not overdeveloped and still has a relaxed small-town vibe.

Dance on Playa Hermosa’s black sand beach under the tall trees scattered along the shores or sit out on the balcony overlooking the beach. It isn’t all socializing at Playa Hermosa you can easily find solace and a private sanctuary to layout and revel in the beauty of the beach.

Playa Hermosa has to be stunning since the name translates to beautiful beach in Spanish. It does live up to its name as it is perfect for a day out at the water sitting out under the sun or shaded under the tropical trees with a good book. Just remember that black sand beaches can be hot and you will want to have your flip flops as the sand can be quite toasty on one’s feet.

The beach is best known for its surf, attracting the more experienced surfer and not for its swimming. Don’t leave too early as the sunsets are spectacular with the vibrant colors filling up the sky.


Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times

Head out to the elusive Pavones in the southern end of the country to the Osa Peninsula for a remote, unspoiled area of retreat. Being further off the beaten path near the border of Panama it is less populated unless rumors of the swell hitting have been heard.

With an undeveloped feel and rich greenery in the tall lush trees along the shore, it contrasts against the dark sand beach. The raw colors of the Earth of the greens, browns, and blacks come alive. It is a calm, chill, and peaceful vibe. It is far from overpopulated as you don’t just throw a few things together and head on out for a quick beach day.

A day out at Pavones takes a bit of planning with its reclusive destination but it is well worth the effort. You don’t need to be an avid surfer to reap the benefits of Pavones, lay back on the black sands and watch the surfers ride out Pavone’s famous left break. There are several small dark sand beaches nearby if you want even more seclusion just a few miles away or less than an hour away is Playa Zancundo.

Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo

You can’t talk about black sand beaches without mentioning one that is called black beach. On the Caribbean Coast spanning just a little over 10 km is the true dark sand beach of Playa Negra between Puerto Viejo and Cahuita.

With its long stretch, you can spend your time walking the beach and marvel at the contrast of the water against the black shore. The coastline is lush and full of tropical trees free of busy high rises and condominiums. It is nature at its best with more noise coming from the birds and the waves than people as it is one of the less populated beaches.

The beach is suitable for swimming and enjoying time out in the water to cool off. If laying out you will want to double up on your towel for the heat of the sand or bring a hammock or chair to unwind in. The Cahuita National Park is nearby if you get too hot spending your time in the sun and you want to go searching for wildlife in the rainforest.

Playa Negra, Guanacaste

surfing at Playa Negra
(Courtesy Toni Vandewalle)

Partly famous for its moment in the sun appearing the surf movie Endless Summer 2 with Bruce Brown, it put Playa Negra on the tourist map in the mid-1990s by telling the story about the Costa Rica surfculture.

Its the other end of the country on the Northern Pacific coast in the gorgeous Guanacaste region is another beautiful black sand beach most suitably called Playa Negra as well. You will find this Playa Negra nearby the small town of Los Pargos.

One of the big differences is that this Playa Negra is not for swimming as it is rocky and the warm waters are for the seasoned surfers knowing their way around the waves. But sit back, relax and watch them maneuver and master the waters. If the tide is low then head out into the tidepools for your private pool of paradise. 

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times

It is no surprise that one of the beautiful dark sand beaches lies in Guanacaste and is under half an hour from Daniel Oduber International Airport.  It is not as dark as the other beaches mentioned but still gives you a great contrast of colors and a chance to experience something other than the light sands of Costa Rica.

With its popular location, it is a destination for those seeking more of an active scene which in turn comes with more accommodations, restaurants shops, and nightlife. It’s a great variation to see from the other tranquil beaches, giving you a glimpse into a more festive atmosphere.

Next time you step out onto the beach take a moment to look down at your feet and see what lies beneath.  Is it a younger beach covered in coarser sand and pebbles or have the shores been through the ages and are blanketed in fine grains?  It is more than simply just pebbles, sticks, and sand. There is an evolution of time and story to tell in the sand sinking between your toes.

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