Costa Rica Beach Weddings: The How, The Where & The When
There is something irresistible about the promise of a wedding on the beach: the warm sun, the soft sand, the tropical flowers, the harmonies of crashing waves… Indeed, Costa Rica beach weddings are the stuff dreams are made of.
So, congratulations! You’ve made it this far. You’re in love. You’re probably engaged. (Congrats, again!) And you’re finally researching your dream wedding. On the beach, in Costa Rica. It’s a wonderful dream.
We’re here to stoke your excitement and fuel your plans. And to make every step of your wedding planning just a bit easier. We’ve hosted many weddings (and wedding parties) in our villas over the years. We’ve worked with many area wedding service providers, from photographers to caterers. And, we’ve welcomed thousands of travelers to Costa Rica. We understand what you and your guests need and want.
Starting with the most basic of all considerations – the legalities of getting married here – and moving on to the where of Costa Rica beach weddings. So, let’s get started!
(Tip: Don’t forget to check out our entire Tamarindo Wedding Guide series, for all the dreaming, planning, and details you need!)
The How: Requirements to Get Married in Costa Rica
You’ll find a lot of purported requirements online. But, if you have a good wedding officiant (email us for recommendations) and you’re not marrying a Costa Rican, then there’s really only one basic requirement: a valid passport.
Your officiant, who by law is also a lawyer, will ask you a few more perfunctory (and requisite) questions – for example: if you’ve ever been divorced, when and where was your divorce finalized? – and you’ll have nothing left to do.
The How: Who Can Officiate your Ceremony?
In Costa Rica, only judges, lawyers and Catholic priests – Catholicism is the official religion of Costa Rica – can legally officiate your marriage ceremony.
So, where does that leave you, if you wish to have a religious, but non-Catholic wedding ceremony? With a few options, actually. The first is to hire a legal officiant (judge or lawyer) who has been ordained to perform marriage ceremonies. If you’re a bit stricter in your religious requirements, your second – and the most common – choice is to double-up: have your religious ceremony and hire a judge or lawyer to be present, and thus validate your marriage.
Alternately, some couples choose to get legally married in a courthouse back home, before they come to Costa Rica. Then, they host their dream wedding ceremony + reception in Costa Rica, without any legal considerations required.
The How: Validating Your Marriage Back Home
After your marriage ceremony, your officiant/lawyer may issue a Notary Certification of your marriage, upon request. But the legality of your marriage comes down to your Certification of Marriage, issued by the National Registry of Costa Rica 8-12 weeks after your ceremony.
Your Costa Rican lawyer/judge will then have your marriage certificate officially translated, apostilled, and notarized in Costa Rica, at which point you may submit it for validation in your home state, province or country.
Note that local laws vary, so please be sure to inquire at your nearest City Hall, Registrar, or equivalent government office regarding any additional requirements for registering a marriage conducted abroad.
The Where: The Top 8 Destinations for Costa Rica Beach Weddings
With over 800 miles of coastline, Costa Rica offers a lot of choice for your beach wedding locale. And that’s putting it mildly.
That said, some beach towns are more popular than others. Why? Not for the reason that immediately springs to mind, if you’re guessing it’s because they’re more beautiful than their neighbors. All of Costa Rica is beautiful, if we’re being honest!
The real reason: these beach wedding “hotspots” have the wedding infrastructure – venues (luxury vacation rentals, hotels, restaurants, and others), caterers, florists, photographers/videographers, and accommodations for all your guests – to make your destination wedding everything you dream it to be.
Here’s a quick rundown of the top 8 choices for Costa Rica beach weddings:
Of course we’re starting on home turf – Tamarindo! Popular for its spectacular sunsets and sheer natural beauty, Tamarindo offers some of the best wedding infrastructure in Costa Rica: expert wedding planners, incredible photographers, a wide variety of catering options and, of course, some incredible wedding venues. We view it as the best of all worlds: the infrastructure of a bigger town, with the opportunity for a completely private and exclusive beach wedding.
Note that, as far as destination weddings go, Tamarindo can be a catch-all designation for Tamarindo and the surrounding area, including Hacienda Pinilla, Playa Langosta, Playa Grande and, sometimes, even Playa Flamingo.
This Central Pacific locale is popular choice for its proximity to the San José airport (under 90 minutes). The beach is usually too crowded for a toes-in-the-sand ceremony, but several Jaco hills locations offer beautiful views of the Pacific. Jaco weddings often fan out into the areas of Punta Leona and Playa Hermosa.
Located about an hour south of Jacó, Manuel Antonio is the Central Pacific’s wilder, more secluded locale. The rocky coastline carves out isolated strips of sand, perfect for exchanging vows – that is, if you don’t mind hiking to them in your wedding threads!
Just south of Manuel Antonio, Dominical is even quieter. If you’re hosting a small or casual destination wedding, this can be an excellent choice: completely secluded, rustic and rural, it’s a lovely setting. Keep in mind, however, that you either won’t have access to wedding vendors, or you’ll have to pay a premium for their travel to Dominical.
The Osa Peninsula
We’ve now dipped south into the most secluded location of all: the Osa Peninsula. One of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, there is no comparison to the quiet and seclusion of the [pricey] Osa Peninsula. That said, seclusion is also the peninsula’s disadvantage: options here are few and basic amenities, like electricity after dark, can be hard to come by. Accommodations for your wedding guests are also very limited.
Playas del Coco
Swinging back to the North Pacific Coast, Playas del Coco and the surrounding towns of Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama, and Ocotal offer cinnamon-sand beaches, beautiful sunsets, and other beach-wedding accouterments. The towns are a bit spread out, so services aren’t quite as prevalent as in Tamarindo or Jaco, but they are available.
Located just north of Playas del Coco, Papagayo was the once-king of Costa Rican weddings and honeymoons. Home to the exclusive Four Seasons and several all-inclusive resorts, Papagayo is a romantic spot for resort-style destination weddings. Be prepared to pay out, though, as Papagayo’s five-star digs are some of the most expensive in the country.
If you’re after a more casual, laid-back wedding vibe, then Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast could be a great fit. The feel here is definitely more chill and options not quite as five-star, but if you’re the type to get married barefoot in the sand, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita offer beautiful beaches to do just that. Be aware that Puerto Viejo is 5-6 hours from the closest airport, so you and your wedding guests should be prepared to travel.
The Where of the Where: Tamarindo Edition
We don’t purport to be experts in all of Costa Rica, but we do know a thing or two about our beloved hometown of Tamarindo (and surrounds). We can help in this arena!
We know that picking a venue can be the most stressful part of planning your destination wedding. Because, even after you’ve chosen the general “where?” (example: Tamarindo!), you’re stuck with the real where: among all the myriad wedding venues in Tamarindo – the luxury vacation homes, the restaurants, the beach clubs, the hotels – which is right for you?
It’s a complicated decision and one that requires a lot of research (and maybe some couple’s soul-searching). In the end, it all comes down to your wedding style: Are you a super-chill couple who dreams of getting married barefoot, your toes buried in the sand? Or, do you wish for something more exclusive, like a private villa where you can exchange your vows with no one but your guests in sight?
What do you envision? While you narrow that down, our guide to the 7 most picture-perfect Tamarindo wedding venues should give some traction to your vision.
The When: When is the Best Season for Costa Rica Beach Weddings?
There are four distinct wedding seasons in Costa Rica – and each has its advantages (and disadvantages). To whit:
High Season (Christmas through Easter; July)
Upside: Costa Rica owes its high season to weather: from mid-December through March, it’s perfect! All-day, everyday sunshine, no rain, no clouds, and unbelievable nightly sunsets make for a perfect vacation – and ideal destination wedding weather.
Downside: Perfect weather comes at a price – literally. Costa Rica’s high season is the most expensive time of year. It’s also incredibly popular, so accommodations, venues, caterers, and other wedding providers book up early. Years early, sometimes.
If you’re planning a beach wedding during this season, book as early as possible and be prepared to pay top dollar; you won’t be able to negotiate a discount during high season.
Mid-Season (Post-Easter through June; November to mid-December)
Upside: Mid-season is our favorite time for Costa Rica beach weddings. Why? Because you’re likely to have incredible weather – mostly sunny, with maybe a few showers to green up the scenery for perfect photos – while you enjoy the superior negotiating power of non-high season travel.
And, it’s not just your accommodations that come cheaper; your venue will, too. During high season, most wedding venues essentially charge you what they lose for reserving their space exclusively for your wedding. In high season, those lost revenues can be quite pricey. But in mid-season, they’re lower, which means you’ll benefit from all-around lower prices. What’s more, it’s easier to book private events, period. And for your guests, mid-season travel is a better value, too. And who doesn’t hope for a bigger party?
Downside: Mid-season is mid-season for a reason: sunshine isn’t guaranteed. When you book a mid-season wedding, you’re assuming the risk that it might rain. (Tip: The earlier into mid-season you book – say, April instead of June – the lower the risk of rain.) Stay on the safe side and book a covered venue or backup tent.
Green Season (August through October)
Upside: The “green” or low season offers huge negotiating power. Or, let’s put it this way: There’s little competition for accommodations, venues, and other wedding services, so you’ll not only have your pick of everything (even if you’re on a tight countdown schedule), but you’ll probably be able to negotiate incredible prices, to boot. And, did we mention? There are no event fees to pay during the green season! Talk about a great deal.
Downside: Weather. It’s called the green season for a reason: It rains. Usually, every day. And we’re not talking drizzle; during the height of the rainy season, you could see thunderstorms and downpours every day.
That said, rain can be quite romantic. (And, did you know? Rain on your wedding day is good luck!) So, be sure to book a wedding planner – an absolute must during the green season – and either book an indoor/covered venue or make provisions for rain, and then sit back and enjoy your fantastic savings (=more funds for your honeymoon!).
Questions? We Have Answers!
Have we tickled your fancy? Then please, get in touch! We have extensive experience in Tamarindo destination wedding planning – and we’re happy to share! From venues to vendors, florists to photographers, we have all the recommendations and advice you need to plan your wedding in paradise.