Surfing in Costa Rica is a must for anyone who wants the best breaks, highest waves and perfect lefts and rights. This country has become a world-class destination for all surfers, even holding annual international surfing competitions in different locations.
If you’re planning a surfing trip here any time soon, this guide has everything you need to know about surfing in Costa Rica, from the best places to surf, best time to catch good waves, and tips and tricks that’ll be more than helpful once you’re in the country.
Best Time & Conditions
Before you book a flight and bring your board over to Costa Rica, you should consider two of the most important factors: the crowds and the weather.
There are 2 seasons in the country. Summer is from December to April and this is the time where tourists flock the country for a sunny vacation.
The rainy season otherwise called as the “green” season starts from May until the end of November. The in-between months of May, June, July & August is still fairly hot but there are less sunny skies and there are late afternoon drizzles. There are fewer crowds during this season.
Top 5 Surf Spots in Costa Rica
Surfing in Costa Rica entails over 50 epic surf areas of infinite wave-riding. If you want non-stop world-class surfing action, the top 5 surfing spots in the country are: Playa Hermosa, Witch’s Rock, Playa Grande, Pavones and Salsa Brava. Majority of the breaks here are beach bottom except for Salsa Brava.
There are other major surfing areas in Costa Rica which you’ll be seeing here in the guide as you go along, others as private as lading on you board without anyone on the shore. Other beaches are crowded with beach bums but still flocked by surfers the year round.
North Pacific Coast Surfing
1. Playa Avellanas- This beach is located near Tamarindo Beach and offers satisfactory breaks plus hollow rights and lefts.
2. Playa Grande- This beach is known to be one of the world’s best and is one of the most consistent surf spots in the country. The beaches here have sandy bottoms and perfect waves great for surfing. There are a lot of breaks in this beach, making it a top surf spot in the world.
3. Portrero Grande- It is located 270km from San Jose and is only accessible by boat from Playas del Coco. It has the right breaks and very hollow waves.
4. Witch’s Rock- This is a very popular spot but ironically, not crowded because it is pretty difficult to reach. 50-150 meter waves can be experienced in this area, even reaching up to 300 meters in a really good day. During high tides, the best waves can be experienced in this world-famous surf spot.
5. Playa Tamarindo- There are two main points that have made this beach a favorite of surfers: Pico Pequeño which is a rocky point in front of the hotel Tamarind an El Estero–an awesome river mouth break.
6. Playa Nosara- This is about a 5-hr drive to get here from the Nicoya Peninsula but the wait is worth it because of the good breaks producing great lefts and rights.
7. Playa Negra- This beach is known for fast waves and strong breaks. This is near Playa Avellana and about 350km off San Jose.
8. Langosta- There are left and right point breaks that curl from the mouth of a river.
Surfing the Central Pacific Coast
1. Puerto Caldera- This spot boasts of spectacular lefts and located in Puntarenas, just 3km south of Boca Barranca.
2. Boca Barranca- Located 100km from San Jose and easily accessible considering the polished roads, this rivermouth has very good lefts also and offers some of the best waves in the country. There are a lot of places to stay here since this area is very much commercialized.
3. Playa Jaco- The breaks are good in this beach but the surfing is just average since the waves are not always dependable. This beach’s tourism is booming because it has gone beyond being a surf spot but also, beach party and night club scenes have emerged here.
4. Playa Hermosa- Compared to Playa Jaco, this beach has far better breaks and surfing experience. Get the best surf here when the tide is high because you’ll be getting the best waves of your life.
5. Playa Tivives- This beach offers good lefts and rights and different wave conditions.
6. Playa Escondida- There are excellent point breaks that make great lefts and surfable rights in this beach. This beach is accessible by boat from Playa Jaco.
7. Roca Loca- This is located 1.5km south of Playa Jaco and has a rocky point with rights breaking from immersed rocks.
8-9-10-11. Esterillos Este, Esterillos Oeste, Bejuco, Boca Damas- The waves in this area is just the same as Playa Hermosa as they are very near to each other. Great accommodations can be found here and is very accessible as well.
Surf the Southern Nicoya Peninsula
1. Malpais- Malpais and Santa Teresa are right next door. Malpais is mainly a rocky area with many hidden sandy coves and phenomenal point breaks such as Mar Azul and Sunset Reef. For more details, visit: malpais surfing.
2. Santa Teresa- Is an epic set of beaches including Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa, and Playa Hermosa. It has dozens of surf schools, surf camps, surf hostels, as well as luxurious 5-star resorts filled with rich surfers and their families. Santa Teresa has frequently been cited as the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica, and in 2011 won a people’s choice award on Trip Advisor as the favorite beach destination of all of Central and South America.
3. Montezuma-Despite being on the west side of the peninsula, there are some great spots, including Los Cedros and Playa Grande, which is a 30-minute walk to an undeveloped beach. It’s ideal for beginners since the waves are small, yet consistent, with no rocks and no crowds. The local surf schools take their students there. On epic big wave days, the locals surf the point at the bay in Montezuma itself.
4. Cabuya- Cabuya has several epic spots including the Rio Lajas, Cabuya Island, and Los Cedros, but because it’s located on the western side of the peninsula, it only works when there’s a good south swell.
5-6. Playa Coyote and Manzanillo- these neighboring beaches boast consistent waves and very good lefts and rights. You can also enjoy riding a 4×4 to get to these spots.
South Pacific Coast Surfing
1. Pavones- This is known to produce some of the longest waves in the world that offers excellent left point breaks. Waves here are great in shape and very fast and if you’re willing to take a half-hour boat ride from the main islands, you’ll be experiencing a lot more right point breaks.
2. Quepos- There are small left points that originate from rivermouths in this area. This is friendly for beginners.
3. Drake’s Bay- This is a remote surf spot which offers powerful waves and long breaks. This is only accessible by boat but well worth the travel.
4. Matapalo- There are perfect waves that can be ridden here since it is close to Pavones as well as excellent right point breaks.
5. Playita Manuel Antonio- This place needs bigger swelling to produce good waves. The lefts and rights are in good shape on this beach.
6. Playa Dominical- This beach is known for powerful breaks and a beautiful view of the tropical landscapes.
7. Playa El Rey- There are lefts and rights peaking in this area. It’s best reached when you’re coming from Playa Dominical.
1. Isla Uvita- This island can be reached by a 20-minute boat ride from Limon. There are a lot of good lefts here.
2. Puerto Viejo- This place is world-renowned also for its thick, big and tubular waves because of the waters that come from a very shallow reef.
3. Manzanillo- This is 20km off Puerto Viejo and offers very fast beach breaks good for those who want a real thrilling surfing ride.
4. Portete- There’s a right that comes from the southern point of this area and offer satisfying waves as well.
5. Playa Bonita- Portete is near this beach. Surfers are drawn to come here because of its powerful, thick and dangerous lefts.
6. Westfalia- This is located by the entire stretch from Limon to Cahuita and is home to lefts and rights that close out where the swells are very huge.
7. Black Beach- This beach is not really well-known but it offers very, very good breaks.
There are multitudes of surf camps all over the country, all welcoming different levels of surfers the whole year round. The following are just some of the many camps famous in Costa Rica:
1. Green Iguana Surf Camp in Playa Dominical
2. Safari Surf School in Playa Nosara
3. Witch’s Rock Surf Camp near the Witch’s Rock
4. Una Ola in Pavones
5. Costa Rica Surf Camp X in Mal Pais
6. Del Mar Surf Camp in both Playa Hermosa and Playa Nosara
7. Anamaya Resort Yoga and Surfing Resort in Montezuma
A Few Surf Tips
Surfing in Costa Rica is best experienced when you’re fully prepared for the trip. It’s highly suggested to not bring too many boards since it will be harder for you to move around the country to catch the best waves.
If you break your board, don’t worry because there are many surf shops and repair shops especially in the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica.
There’s not much crime in Costa Rica but petty theft is fairly common here, so it’s advisable to keep your things locked in your hotel when you’re about to hit the beach. Don’t leave things of value inside a locked car which are visible through the window. This rule applies everywhere from remote beaches to crowded areas like Jaco.
So forget Hawaii, forget Sydney and California. Whether you’re a rookie or a champion surfer, the hottest spot to satisfy your wave hunger is Costa Rica. So grab your board and drag some surf buddies along and prepare for the ride of your life.