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Boasting a hippie and spirited vibe, the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is showered with attractive beaches, sublime nature reserves, Bohemian fusion of Tico and Afro-Caribbean culture and plenty of adventurous options. Limon, the capital of Caribbean coast, is a gateway to this side of the country. It has six counties which are Pococí, Guácimo, Siquirres, Matina, Puerto Limón, and Talamanca. Puerto Limon is a popular tourist attraction known for its quirky outdoor markets, alluring olden architecture, a distinguished city hall and a many fascinating museums. There are many beautiful places on the Caribbean coast. Talamanca Mountain Range begins at the southern end of Puerto Limon and goes towards the coast casting its impressive shadows on the beaches. Cahuita National Park is found in this area. It is a waterfront nature reserve hosting a sweeping range of beaches, surfing and snorkeling platform, colorful coral reef network and panoramic views. The Caribbean Coast is renowned for its surf spots. Puerto Viejo, Limon, Cahuita and Uvita are some of the most beckoning surf spots in the country.
Puerto Limon is the capital city and main port of Limon and its county. It was founded in 1870 and houses the largest population of the region of approximately 85,000 people. The city is home to several ethnic groups including Afro-Caribbean, Italian, Jamaican and Chinese people. Limon is quite easy to access. People can drive via a highway from San Jose that leads right to the coast of Limon. It is about two and half hour long if you traveling in your own car. Limon is the main hub from where ships sail to and from Panama Canal. Even though, the city is not touristy, it does have a whimsical air to it that appeals to many people. There are many old buildings, monuments, olden streets, markets and lovely sightseeing points. Limon is situated on a rocky headland and doesn’t own a genuine beach. However, Playa Bonita, a beautiful beach, is found four kilometers away from the town perfect for all kinds of fun activities.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a coastal city, is found south of Limon Province. It is a famous tourist destination popular among backpackers, surfers and nature lovers. The small town is renowned for its crystal clear sea, swaying coconut and palm trees, luscious rain forests and casual atmosphere that put many travelers at ease. Salsa Brava is probably its most famous adventure spot. The demanding surf point lures numerous seasoned surfers with a promise of challenging waves. Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, two gorgeous nature reserves, are found on the north and south sides of the town respectively. Their cluster of grey and white sand beaches, sparkling shorelines, dense underwater wildlife and verdant scenery are talked about by countless people all over the world. Just south to Puerto Viejo, a string of beaches like Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra and Punta Uva are found with many sport opportunities such as surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. The well known Jaguar Rescue Center is located nearby the town as well. For a unique combination of fishing, surfing, sea kayaking and snorkeling, Manzanillo, a beach town present adjacent to Puerto Viejo, is a place to go.
Tortuguero, the popular Land of Turtles, is a beachfront village north to the province of Limon. It can be accessed only by boats and planes. It is standing over a sand bar island bordering the Caribbean sea and is separated from the shoreline by the River Tortuguero that flows into the jungle. The river host innumerable channels and watercourses due to which the rain forest is often called as Central America’s Amazon. The turtle land is a beautiful place with spectacular greenery, lagoons, rich wildlife and beaches.
Surf Spots in the Caribbean Region of Costa Rica
Salsa Brava, the ‘angry sauce’, is one of the most famous and challenging surf points in the world. Located in Puerto Viejo, the rip-roaring surf spot beckons numerous surf enthusiasts from all over the globe. Salsa Brava features a heavy right-hand reef break with powerful, Hawaiian style barrels and juicy waves. It breaks over a sharp reef bottom with a long right. Best swells are received from the east teaming up with the wind from the south. The swells start to build up at 5 feet and can hold up to more than 16 feet. Salsa Brava is recommended to only professional surfers. Moreover, helmets should be worn for protection from head injuries. Although good to go throughout the year, the spot is best ridden between the months of March and December. Salsa Brava has a number of obstacles. The break is difficult to reach due to unpaved roads of Puerto Viejo, the spot is ultra crowded and there many rocks, undertows and rips.
Playa Bonita is a pretty beach found north of Puerto Limon. The beach is a favorite holiday spot among locals and tourists alike. It hosts two spots; a great beach break and an exposed reef break. The beach break is known to get really large before it closes out and is best surfed at a high tide. It is inconsistent and only works when the swells are big. The reef break is famous for its fast, hollow and shallow waves that are best surfed at a mid tide when the wind blows from south and southwest. The best time to surf is during the dry season. Drawbacks of Playa Bonita include crowding, rip current, jellyfishes and sharp coral.
Los Tumbos is a surf point found south of Playa Bonita. It features a world class surf point with fast, tubular and hollow waves that peel to the right over a sandy bottom. The waves are rather consistent and exceptionally strong riding up to 300 meters. The swells can hold up to 10 feet at times. Advanced surfers are recommended to ride the waves. Los Tumbos is usually packed with local surfers and body boarders.
Isla Uvita, or the Island of Grapes, is a remote island surrounded by reef. Surfers can access the point via a boat ride from Limon which is about 40 minutes long. The secluded isle boasts a powerful reef break with fast, hollow and barrel waves. The waves break to the left over shallow but sharp reef bottom. The waves ride up to 150 meters and often get triple overhead without closing out. When the swells are received from Southeast, East and Northeast direction, the waves can get even bigger in size. Windswells are much more common than groundswells. As the waves are powerful with many sharp rocks, beginners are advised not to surf here until they gain more experience. Isla Uvita is usually devoid of crowds except on some weekends. Watch out for rip currents, jelly fishes and sharp coral.
Playa Westfalia is a beach break on the the southern part of Limon. The waves are weak and tend to close out when the swells get larger. Moreover, the water is very dirty and crocodiles and sharks have been seen in the water.
Playa Negra is a black sand beach located in Cahuita just north of Puerto Viejo. It features a beach break with rather sloppy but consistent waves breaking in both directions over a sandy bottom. The surf point is a great platform for novices who can practice to ride the waves without hurting themselves. The break is consistent all year round and is best surfed at a high tide. The best conditions are offered when nice swells are picked up from east and northeast and wind blows from southwest and west direction. The waves are short with an average length of 50 meters. The beach break of Playa Negra is superb for starters, intermediates and surfers looking for an easy and fun ride.
Barco Quebrado is a sublime beach settled in a coastal inlet surrounded by tall cliffs, rocks and scenic rain forests. The beach is in Limon Province just north to Barrigona. It has a rivermouth at Rio del Banano with regular, short waves that ride up to 50 meters. The spot is fairly consistent and breaks to both direction over a sandy bottom. Ideal swell direction is from northeast, east and southeast. Windswells prevail that can hold up to 6 feet. Potential dangers include rip currents, undertows and jellyfishes.
Punta Uva is a coastal town found south of Puerto Viejo. It offers an exposed reef break with multiple peaks found throughout the beach. The surf point is about 100 meters off the beach and can be accessed by paddling out into the water. The reef break has extremely fast, powerful and hollow waves that favor rights. The break is somewhat challenging but rather fun to surf. Most of the times, the waves go up to 150 meters but on some days, they often reach the height of 300 meters. When swells rise from the north and wind comes from south and southwest, Punta Uva becomes ideal to surf. The reef break is recommended to all levels of surfers.
Playa Cocles is a beautiful beach situated a short distance away from Puerto Viejo. It is one of the few beaches in Costa Rica to have lifeguard services. Cocles has a laid back, tourist oriented environment with plenty of things to offer. It has a beach break with waves idyllic for veterans and intermediates. The beach break peel to both directions over a sandy bottom with long waves that ride up to 300 meters. However, the break is inconsistent and closes out when waves become hollow. Early morning is the best time to surf Playa Cocles.
Playa Manzanillo is mainly geared toward snorkelers but it does have some good reef breaks for novices. The waves are excellent, super consistent and break to the right over a sharp reef bottom.
Cocaine Point is an exposed reef rocky break located across the water in Limon. It was created after an earthquake that occurred in 1991. The spot is fairly consistent all year round and breaks to the right over a reef bottom. It features a regular, strong and fast set of waves that ride up to 300 meters. The break need lots of swells from the north and northeast direction to work. Windswells are much more common than groundswells. Cocaine Point is suitable for all levels of surfers.
Popular Surf Camps
Hostel Crocodile Surf Camp
Hostel Crocodile Surf Camp and Cabins is a budget friendly surf camp located in Puerto Viejo. Established in 2008, the camp was founded with backpackers, students and budget minded travelers in mind. The camps offers clean and comfortable accommodations, quick access to the beach, sublime vistas of the Caribbean Sea and awesome surf classes conducted by professional instructors.
Nomad Surfers Surf Camp is a very popular surf organization with many branches all over the globe including Costa Rica, Newquay, Hossegor, Bundoran, Lisbon, North Spain, Sydney, Fij and many more. It allows customers to tailor their own journey according to their tastes and budgets. Once you have joined Nomad, you don’t have to worry about the single thing. Be it surf classes, accommodations, meals, other activities or transport, the company will take care of everything.
Surf For Life
Surf For Life is a surf center located in Puerto Viejo. The school provides surf classes to all levels of surfers and offers a chance to do some community service, help out social services, volunteer in renovation of schools, bridges and other things. The camp takes place only once a year and those who are interested to join should sign up immediately through their website. Surf For Life is a wonderful opportunity to surf in amazing places, gain experience followed by a nice, fuzzy feeling that only comes after helping someone.
Totem Surf School and Tours
Totem is surf school located in Puerto Viejo. It organizes surf tours, paddle boarding trips and various more aquatic adventurers in the Caribbean region. The school has its own equipment center loaded with excellent quality surfboards of RPD, Banzaii and Premiere. Besides classes, the camp offers accommodations and transport service. A newbie or a veteran, young or old, whoever wishes to surf can join the camp.
There are many surf camps, schools and shops in the Caribbean. Some of the surf shops in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica are described below.
Caribbean Surf Shop is situated in Puerto Viejo between Tex Mex and La Casa del Pan. The purple colored shop not only runs a successful surf store, they also have a surf school that offers classes and arranges surf expeditions. The shop’s inventory is packed with an excellent range of surf equipment that include surfboards, surf gear and beach accessories. You can either rent a board for few days or buy it in very reasonable rates. Both new and used boards are found. For more information, visit Caribbean Surf Website.
Swells Surf Shop is located in Puerto Viejo nearby the beach. They have a huge variety of surfboard and other accessories such as ankle leash, wax, ding repair kits, wet suits, shorts and rash guards in amazing prices. The shop also sell clothes, pretty bikinis hats, jewelry, sunglasses and footwear. For further details, email them at email@example.com and check out their website.
On the Caribbean region, Cahuita is a main hub for cruises sailing adventures. People can join one of the many charters that offer sailing tours . Many tour companies even include other aquatic adventures such as fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving and whale and dolphin watching. During the trip, travelers get to witness a spectacular sunset, breathtaking views of the seashores, sun kissed beaches, rolling hills and underwater wildlife such as whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, giant manta rays, sting rays, deep sea fishes and marine birds.
Sportfishing is a popular sport in the Caribbean. There are many companies that offer sportfishing charters in Limon, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Barra del Colorado and Parismina. Many places are under protection and don’t allow fishing but in some parts, deep sea fishing is allowed under catch and release policy. Popular fish species include mackerel, barracuda, jack crevalle, marlin, sailfish, types of tuna, Atlantic snook and tarpons.
A Trip to Tortuguero National Park
Situated within the Tortuguero Conservation Area, Tortuguero National Park is a protected nature reserve. It boasts a tranquil ambiance, verdurous scenery, diverse wildlife and numerous activities making it one of the best tourist destination of the country. There are multifarious tropical birds for bird watchers, impressive sea creatures for snorkelers and divers, sun drenched beaches for sunbathing and picnicking and what not! Travelers can observe wildlife and tropical nature by taking a ride on motor boats and canoes through the canals. At Tortuguero National Park, you can enjoy sea turtle and bird watching expeditions, hiking, canoeing, sea kayaking, hiking, eco walks, and zip lining.
For further information, please visit:
Caribbean Costa Rica – an article on wikitravel.org
Surf Spots on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica – Learn about Caribbean Coast’s surf spots on costaricasurfing.org
Puerto Viejo – Know all about Puerto Viejo on costaricajourneys.com