When you imagine a Costa Rica surfing vacation, what do you picture? Beautiful jungles, amazing wildlife, delicious food, crazy adventure activities, perfect weather, pristine beaches… and incredible waves!
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If you’re looking for the perfect place to relax, unwind, and ride the waves, look no further than Costa Rica. For other activities, there may be a ‘best time’ to visit Costa Rica, but for surfing, Costa Rica is considered one of the best year-round surf destinations.
There is no definitive Costa Rica surf season, but there are definitely peak seasons that provide more consistent swells (waves that are generated from weather systems as opposed to local wind) and great surfing conditions for all skill levels.
Of course, just saying ‘Costa Rica’ doesn’t really narrow things down, so you’re probably still looking for a Costa Rica surf guide. We have some suggestions to help you narrow the field.
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The Best Places to Surf in Costa Rica Depend on the Season
The South Pacific swell season is from June to September and provides the west coast with great surf. Meanwhile, the North Pacific swell season is from November to April and provides even better waves than the South Pacific season!
Hurricane season will also bring larger waves, but this is dependent on tropical storms forming around Mexico and pushing weather systems down toward Costa Rica.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a curious newbie, you’ll have no problem finding a place to dive into the warm ocean water and catch the waves! It all depends on the beach you choose to head out from – some are best for a more advanced surfer, while others are learner-friendly.
We’ve broken down the beaches that provide the best surfing in Costa Rica by region:
Tamarindo is one of the most popular Costa Rica surf spots – and with good reason. The waves are consistent and there are swells for every skill level, depending on which part of the beach you set out from.
Tamarindo is also the getaway to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, two well-known surf spots – renowned for having some of the best waves in the entire country.
While it does have one of the best surf beaches, Tamarindo is also one of the most well-known surfing towns in Costa Rica. It’s tourist-friendly and generally has its fair amount of visitors, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a quieter, more isolated destination.
But don’t be too cautious about crowds. When it comes to Costa Rica surf spots, Tamarindo Beach has something to please everyone, so even if you’re a wallflower, you’ll find yourself having a good time.
Easily accessible and just south of Tamarindo, Playa Negra is another favourite among surfers – both local and visiting.
The waves are consistent and clean, and there are many rental shops along the beach for anyone in need aboard. This beach is best for intermediate and experienced surfers, though beginners won’t feel excluded on a smaller day.
The waters are pristine, and the area is comparatively remote, so you won’t need to worry about crashing into someone else’s surfboard while you’re on the water. And when you’re not on the waves, you can look forward to a friendly, laidback attitude and plenty of opportunities to find food right on the beach or just a kilometre inland.
This beach is known for having both incredible offshore waves and huge swells. It’s hardly ever crowded, and though it’s best for surfers with some experience, beginners will also enjoy the waves here.
With as many as eight different surf breaks, Playa Avellanas really is one of the best places in Costa Rica to surf, though that also means that swimming tends not to be the best idea if you don’t want to get swept out to sea. Though the locals sometimes call it ‘Little Hawaii,’ surfing isn’t all it has going for it. Compared to Tamarindo, Avellanas is downright tranquil enough to take a nap on the beach.
This beach on the Guanacaste coast, again, has pretty consistent swells, but it’s best during the South Pacific swell season. It can be enjoyed by surfers of all skill levels.
Along with having some of the best surfing in Costa Rica, it’s also been an important part of Marino Las Baulas National Park since 1990. Even more important than being one of the best spots to surf in Costa Rica, Playa Grande is also instrumental in the conservation and nesting of leatherback turtles. You’ll have to be cautious – the area is very well protected! – but if you get a chance to see the turtles, it’s an opportunity worth taking advantage of.
This 7-km (4 miles) long sandy beach is great for all skill levels and has beach breaks all up and down the beach.
Surfing aside, the beach is beautiful, looking more like it’s made of sugar than sand. A few hundred metres of the beach also got awarded a Blue Flag for being eco-friendly, pristine, and well-maintained. Guiones Beach is a beach you can visit guiltlessly. Even once you’re all surfed out for the day, its reasonably low level of traffic means it’s great for just relaxing and winding down.
Playa Santa Teresa
Depending on where you head out from the beach, all skill levels can enjoy this area for a Costa Rica surfing vacation. Suck Rock is the most famous surfing hot spot in Santa Teresa.
Playa Santa Teresa has come into its own, blossoming into its own community courtesy of surfers and beach bums that flock to it, despite it being fairly small. Even when you’re not surfing, you can relax, explore the canopy, or see what the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve has to offer; you’ll find something to keep you happy.
One of the less developed of the beaches mentioned, you can visit here for a more authentic, quiet experience. This beach is best for intermediate to advanced surfers, as the waves on average, are close to 10 feet tall!
If you happen to find anyone camping out on the beach while you’re there, don’t worry about them. Playa Dominical is renowned enough for its waves that surfers pretty frequently decide to camp out on the beach rather than miss out on a minute of surfing. As exciting as that sounds, it would still be best to give Playa Dominical a pass if you’re just a beginner, as the surf can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Another great choice for intermediate and advanced surfers. The waves at Hermosa Beach are fast, hollow, and last for up to 150 meters.
Playa Hermosa is relaxed and beautiful, surrounded by forests and volcanic rock. It’s even won the Blue Flag for environmental standards and safety. It’s generally pretty quiet and laid-back, and the weather stays ideal all year long. If you’re looking for some of the best surfing in Costa Rica but aren’t a fan of crowds, Playa Hermosa will probably scratch that itch for you.
Playa Jaco has the largest number of surf shops and surf camps in Costa Rica. It’s the perfect place for beginners – you’ll have lots of help available to you at a range of prices – as well as more seasoned surfers.
And when you’ve finished surfing for the day, you can take advantage of Playa Jaco’s nightlife. It’s a community that likes a good party, and it has an atmosphere to match. Whether you’re alone or in a group, looking for adventure or in the mood for something more down-to-earth, Jaco Beach will keep you busy long after you’ve put your board away for the night.
Playa Jaco, Puntarenas
This is a great place for surfers ready for a challenge. The waves are fast and demanding and sometimes last for up to 300 meters. It’s advised that you watch out for exposed rock, coral reefs, and jellyfish!
It’s one of the few beaches you’re going to find with a coral reef within swimming distance. Combined with the community’s laid-back attitude, Punta Uva has much more to offer than just being a great destination for a Costa Rica surfing vacation. It’s well-known for its scenery and wildlife, both in the forest and under the sea.
Known to be one of the most challenging (and sometimes dangerous) surf spots in the entire world, you definitely should NOT attempt to surf here as a novice!
But if you’ve got a bunch of experience under your belt, this spot’s a must-visit. The name of the beach roughly translates to “angry sauce” – because it’s one of the most powerful beach breaks in the world.
It attracts expert surfers in the thousands every year, eager to experience the Hawaiian-style barrels, with March and December typically offering the biggest waves.
Given the number of reefs in the area, it’s typically recommended that even expert surfers wear helmets. If you’re new to the sport, maybe just admire the waves and the surfers from the shore and enjoy the nearby town of Puerto Viejo rather than accidentally meeting the ocean floor at high tide.
Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica, has three beaches over a five-mile stretch, with some challenging waves that could be great for confident surfers. These beaches are pristine and beautiful thanks to sustainability and ecological initiatives given high priority on the Osa Peninsula. The surf breaks are incredible, and for experienced surfers, they can be the perfect surf spots–especially for anyone looking for a secluded beach.
The beaches of Cabo Matapalo are Playa Matapalo, Backwater, and Pan Dulce. Pan Dulce has the smallest surf breaks and is the most well-known of the three, with long swells and often long tubes. Playa Matapalo’s waves don’t offer the most consistent surf, but they are typically large. Backwater often has steep surfing waves that make it one of the best surf beaches for longboarding, particularly at low tide or mid-tide. The swell direction comes from the right for all of them.
Instructors, guides, rental places, and repair equipment can be found, but these beaches are pretty remote when compared to more well-known beaches. Considering that, it’s for the best to have all of your necessities with you. For many experienced surfers, this remote nature is one of the draws of Cabo Matapalo. However, for beginner surfers or less independent surfers, a more forgiving, more populated beach will be a better fit.
Best Surf Schools & Camps in Costa Rica
Now that you know all of the best spots in Costa Rica to catch waves –it’s time to get out there! When it comes to finding the best surf camp, Costa Rica is the best place to look, year-round.
If you’re inexperienced and in need of some guidance, pretty much every beach that you come across has shops that offer surf lessons.
Costa Rica’s also known for its abundance of surf camps – an immersive experience that teaches you how to surf in a “retreat” style environment. Here are a few that we recommend that didn’t make that list:
- Del Soul Surf School: Located on Playa Santa Teresa off of the Pacific Ocean, Del Soul hosts daily lessons for beginner and intermediate surfers. All of their classes are taught in groups, with one instructor for every two students, so no one will get neglected. They also have a surf shop that is open for rentals every day, including surfboards and all other accessories and equipment.
- Iguana Surf: Whether you’re an experienced surfer just looking to hone your skills or a beginner looking to get on a board for the first time, Iguana Surf offers surfing lessons for everyone. Located on Tamarindo Beach on the Northern Pacific Coast, a lesson will last for two hours, with an expert instructor at your side the entire time.
- Salty Sols Surf School: The owner of this surf camp PROMISES that you’ll stand up on your board before the end of your first lesson – how exciting!
- Surf Simply: This camp focuses on more than just standing up – it isolates all of the skills and mechanics needed for surfing, and deep dives on how to perfect them. In their words, “We don’t teach you how to surf. We teach you how to teach yourself how to surf.”
- Tico Surf Lessons: Though they offer a variety of packages, Tico Surf Lessons in Jaco specializes in private surfing lessons. Many couples and families appreciate their services especially, and they’re one of the top-rated schools in Jaco.
- Dominical Surf School: Dominical Surf School (on Playa Dominical, of course) is staffed by a team of enthusiastic, adaptable surfing instructors who can make a teenager feel cool just as easily as they can make a child feel confident. They offer group lessons, private lessons, or surfing camps, and they can tailor lessons to all experience levels or age ranges.
- Surfing Amigas: This one is a ladies-only option – sorry guys! It’s an awesome, supportive Costa Rica surf camp for women looking to learn how to surf—located in Golfito (with other locations available internationally!).
- Surf the Jungle: Located in Puerto Viejo, Surf the Jungle is a tour company as well as a surf school. Staffed by locals, they can make any Costa Rica surf trip into an informative, educational, and exciting experience.
- Pollo Surf School: This Costa Rica surf school is at Playa Pan Dulce at Cabo Matapalo, as the point break there means it’s well suited for intermediate and beginner surfers. The owner was born and raised in the area, and he’s been teaching surf lessons since 2002. The crew he works with are all locals, and they know the beach break of Pan Dulce well.
It’s pretty much impossible to avoid beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. No matter where you are on either coast, there are going to be amazing options at your disposal year-round. During your next visit to find the best surf spots in Costa Rica, take advantage of the pristine waters!