How are the NW Guanacaste Pacific Beaches of Costa Rica Different from the Southern Caribbean Beaches?
The Pacific and Caribbean beaches of Costa Rica are Very different, one from the other. The Caribbean Beaches are very rainy and lush. The jungle ecosystem is wild and sparsely populated. We see sloths, monkeys, and colorful toucan seemingly everywhere. . Beaches are lined with palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze. The beaches are beige white and one has to ask the locals the best places to swim and surf. The coral reefs just off shore offer spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving. I will start first by talking more about the Pacific beaches of NW Guanacaste. There is less rainfall here so the ecosystem is more arid. The trees are smaller due to the destruction of the original lowland dry forest to create large Cattle ranches. We see large areas with no trees and fenced pastures with hundreds of head of cattle.
The NW Pacific Guanacaste beaches are probably the most visited tourist beaches in Costa Rica. The Liberia international airport is located about one hour by automobile or bus to the beaches so that makes it easier to simply fly into Liberia, rent a car or take a shuttle bus to your beach hotel. The big draw at the Guanacaste beaches is the weather with sunshine almost year round. Rains much less here . It’s usually sun all day during the dry season of May through November and then in the rainy season its sunny mornings with late afternoon thunder showers. It’s picture perfect for sun worshipers.
This long strip of Guanacaste beach reaches from as far south as Samara Beach and Carrillo Beach all the way north to the border of Nicarauga. These beaches are gorgeous. Some places you find smooth stretches of beige sand that filters through your fingers with deep blue Pacific waters where you can swim and surf. Other places the beach is rocky and you cannot enter the water. Development took hold here starting in the late nineties. The idea was to draw tourist who would ordinarily visit a place like Cancun, Mexico but instead come to Costa Rica’s beaches. Hotels large and small have been built here. In recent years large hotels chains (with the money coming from abroad) have built 200-300 room Resort hotels marketing these properities as all inclusive- pay one price and you get the room and all the food, plus the transfer to and from the Liberia airport . Yes, come and enjoy the sun and blue waters of the Pacific and leave stress and worries at home.
What are the Southern Caribbean beaches like? Here the ecosystem is much more lush and tropical because it rains all year round. So you see thick tropical vegetation, flowers, coconut palms, and banana trees. There is simply more big trees here because development has not hit here as hard as on the Pacific beaches. Since there is more sunshine year round on the Pacific beaches, these beaches became more sought after for big developers. The infrastructure, the roads, are not as good on the Caribbean beaches. Many are dirt and gravel. The main highway south of Limon (highway 36) all the way to Puerto Viejo is pretty good. From Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo the road is dirt and gravel.
The beaches of the Caribbean are beige white sand and lined with coconut palms, very beautiful and tropical. However one needs to inquire with the locals a safe place to swim or surf in the waters because apparently the undertows are strong. Snorkeling and scuba diving are great here, not far off the shoreline. Coral reefs and colorful fish are easy to see. Again, you need to hire a local tour operator to take you in a boat to the best places.
Hotels on the Caribbean beaches are smaller. You don’t see the hugh 200-300 room hotels like you see on the Pacific Beaches. Also this area of Costa Rica does not have a large international airport like Liberia international airport or the San Jose International airport. You have to obtain transportation from San Jose by road or you can fly one of the domestic carriers into a near by small airport such as Limon.
The Southern Caribbean has a an Afro-Caribbean flavor of it’s own. You see this in the food and in the music. Houses are painted bright colors of blue and yellow.
You see more wildlife here on the Caribbean. Sloths, monkeys, iguanas, hundreds of colorful birds such as four different species of toucans. And in certain seasons of the year the green sea turtle nests and lays it’s eggs here. I was there in July and was able to see this spectacular sight!
The northern Caribbean beaches like the ones around Tortuguero and north of there are not usually safe to swim. So you don’t see many people on these beaches, other than just walking along the beach. The currents are very strong and the undertow makes it unsafe.
I can’t say which of these beaches, the Pacific or the Caribbean is the most beautiful. They are very very different. Each with it’s own distinct ecosystem. The waters of the two oceans are very different. The Pacific seems more blue while the Caribbean is blue, but a different hue of blue. The jungle setting of the Caribbean is what makes it REALLY different from the Pacific.
Although, I must add: the south Pacific beaches of Costa Rica are still jungle like because the big destructive developers have not made it that far south-Yet! Infrastructure is hard to get into there. There are very few roads directly into the beach areas. For Example Drake Bay and the Corcovado National park (Osa Peninsula) have to be accessed by domestic air and boat.
The beautiful Cahuita Beach scene was shot by Stephanie Maussett. An excellent photographer!
If you have specific questions about these beaches, please ask me by clicking on comment or click on reply at the end of the post.
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