Are you looking for THE wave? Famous for its surf breaks and all-season waves, Costa Rica is a world-class destination for beginners and advanced surfers. The country offers excellent surfing conditions on both coasts (point breaks and beach breaks, lefts and rights, reefs and river mouths), 30-degree water and a wide variety of sites. In fact, one of the longest left breaks in the world is located here! Many isolated beaches and breaks along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are accessible as well as more popular and crowded spots. If you're a beginner, don't worry, you'll find surf schools everywhere.
Surf spots in Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula
Tamarindo is one of the most famous surf spots in Costa Rica. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced surfer, you'll find what you're looking for, whether it's here or on the other beaches around.
If you want to improve your skills and take lessons, you will easily find surf schools along the main street (Witch's Rock being one of the best known). For your convenience, there are even some free showers, especially at El Vaquero Beach Bar! Most schools offer group and individual lessons. This is the perfect place to introduce your children to this emblematic water sport of the country.
2. Playa Grande
For the more experienced, we advise you to go to Playa Grande where the waves are bigger. You will just have to take a small boat at 1USD to cross the estuary of Tamarindo to get there. The crossing takes less than 5 minutes and is well worth it. Keep your eyes open, you might see a crocodile! Otherwise, from San Jose, Playa Grande is a 45 minute drive from Liberia airport and only 15 minutes from Tamarindo by road.
The beach is actually located in the Las Baulas National Park, which was created to protect the leatherback turtles that nest there. This turtle is one of the wild animals of Costa Rica that you want to see when you come on vacation in the right season, between July and October. In general, Playa Grande is not crowded, very pleasant. A few surf stores offer lessons or board rentals.
3. Playa Avellanas
Playa Avellanas is one of the least visited beaches in Costa Rica, which makes it a very preserved place and gives it an air of Paradise. It is one of the best beaches for surfing on big waves but shhh, it is still a secret.
Here, no hotels on the beach or village but mangroves and trees. Lola's Beach Bar is the only restaurant you will find on site. It is famous for its huge tamed sow, named Lola.
Nosara is a small town with a hipster surfer vibe... Pretty relaxed. It is located inland and gave its name to the region. To surf in the area, you have to go to Playa Guiones which is the most famous beach (even if there are others). It is a long beach that offers beautiful waves at shoulder height or overhead almost every day. You'll have everything you need in terms of equipment rentals or surf lessons. Note that surfing remains an affordable activity in Costa Rica, accessible to all budgets! Enjoy yourself ;-)
5. Mal Pais and Santa Teresa
Getting there is worth it: the road is in bad shape, you have to cross by ferry if you take your rental car, but it is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. There are four main beaches: Malpaís, Playa del Carmen, Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa.
Santa Teresa beach has the biggest and fastest waves in the area. It is ideal for experienced surfers and offers point breaks, beach breaks and big swells. The surfing is best at low tide, when the waves are faster. Playa Hermosa offers perfect waves for beginners. Playa Carmen is located between Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. The waves are best for beginners, with a left and right break on the sand.
There is no shortage of surf stores in Santa Teresa, both for lessons and rentals.
The Central and South Pacific
Although very popular and touristy, Jaco is an excellent surfing destination if you are looking for medium to high waves near San Jose (1h30 drive). High tide is best for experienced surfers, while low tide is best for beginners. There are several peaks on the three kilometer long beach. To be avoided on weekends due to the crowds, because of the proximity to the capital.
7. Playa Hermosa de Jaco
In addition to being one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica to spend the day with the family until sunset, Playa Hermosa has some of the biggest waves in Costa Rica, which can range from one head to two heads high. There are several good spots on the beach, which can get crowded on weekends. There is no shortage of surf stores in the small beachside village, so you should be able to find what you need.
If you prefer it when there are few people in the water, you should go on weekdays. Since it is also very close to the capital, the beach is crowded on weekends.
Small surfing village, Dominical is much less popular than Jaco. Its waves are however perfect for experienced surfers. It is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica, while still being preserved from the world.
Everything in this village is made for surfers. And that's a good thing! Surfing is a must in Costa Rica and these small villages know how to attract and develop tourism in their area.
9. Matapalo & Playa Pavones
Matapalo is located at the southern end of Osa, near Puerto Jimenez. The waves are not too high here, which makes it an ideal destination for beginner surfers. Playa Pavones, on the other side of the Golfo Dulce, on the other hand, is a must-see place because it has one of the longest left-handed surf breaks in the world! (the first one is in Australia). You will have the pleasure to stay more than 1 minute on your board! However, the access is difficult because of the distance and the state of the roads (tracks). It is necessary to stay several days to wait for the optimal conditions to surf THE wave.
Surf spots on the Caribbean Coast
10. Playa Negra, Cahuita
Cahuita is a beach for beginners and intermediates. The waves are not too high. You will find mostly locals on the waves. Anyway, the Caribbean coast is generally less popular with tourists. So if you have chosen to go to Costa Rica during the high season but are still looking for some peace and quiet, head west.
11. Bonus- Playa Cocles
Yes, we couldn't limit ourselves to only 10 spots, because there are so many wonderful surf spots in Costa Rica, so we give you an 11th one!
Located just south of Puerto Viejo, Playa Cocles is an excellent beach for beginners and intermediate surfers. The waves have breaks to the left and right. The best surf is in the morning, before the afternoon breeze blows it away. Beware, the beach can be quite crowded on weekends.
In summary, in Costa Rica you have waves all year round on a regular basis, there are beaches more suitable for beginners (Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Nosara) and others reserved for experts (Pavones, Dominical, Hermosa de Jaco). Either way, you're going to have fun in Costa Rica and become the master of the waves! So, take your board and your rental car and... to the water!