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Costa Rica Surf Spots: Your Guide to the Best Surfing in Costa Rica

By lee webstick on Jan 10, 2020

Famous for coffee, gorgeous green jungles, and astonishing wildlife, Costa Rica also happens to be a world-class destination for surfers. This beautiful Central American nation boasts more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline on its Pacific side and another 200+ kilometers of coastline on its Caribbean shore, much of which is great for surfing.

  • 1. About Costa Rica: Why It’s the Perfect Destination for Your Next Surf Trip
  • 2. The Weather in Costa Rica
  • 3. Best Beaches & Surf Towns in Costa Rica
  • 4. Surf Tamarindo Year-Round
  • 5. Surf Santa Teresa for Beautiful Scenery
  • 6. Surf Jaco for Reliable Sets
  • 7. Surf Maneul Antonio for a Laid-Back Experience
  • 8. More Amazing Costa Rica Surf Spots
  • 9. FAQs: The Best Time to Surf Costa Rica & More

There are tons of excellent surf spots to choose from all along both of Costa Rica’s coasts, and a few of these locations definitely stand out. In this guide, we’re offering our take on some specific areas that have a reputation for offering the best surfing in Costa Rica including Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Jaco, and Manuel Antonio.

We’ll dive into the surf scene shortly, but first, let’s have a look at why Costa Rica ought to be on your surf + travel bucket list.

 

About Costa Rica: Why It’s the Perfect Destination for Your Next Surf Trip

Quality waves and beautiful weather make Costa Rica surf heaven. With friendly towns complete with accommodations tailored to meet the needs of adventurers, this destination has a reputation as one of the happiest places in the world – and one of the best places to surf!

Many Costa Rica surf beaches have surprisingly short lineups, although a few of the most popular beaches can be crowded at times – think top Australian, Hawaiian, and Californian surf spots. Should you feel like getting off the beaten path, you’ll find that there are plenty of less popular beaches with great waves. Plus, many local surf guides are happy to show you exactly where to go for an authentic, less congested experience.

If you’re a beginner just building confidence, you’ll find lots of beaches with fun bumps to ride. Experts will appreciate the world-class breaks at famous destinations including Ollie’s Point, Pavones, and Witches Rock.

Everyone enjoys Costa Rica’s amazing food and its chilled-out atmosphere. As world-class vacation destinations go, this also happens to be among the more affordable choices. Last, but not least, there are plenty of hotels and all-inclusive surf camps in Costa Rica, as well as luxury villas, self-catering apartments, and more. Whether you’re in for a short visit or a longer stay, there’s no shortage of places waiting to be your home away from home.

 

The Weather in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers a tropical climate with two main seasons: Dry and wet. Temperatures are warm all year-round and even many rainy days offer several hours of sunshine or cooler overcast weather that’s ideal for hitting the beach.

The Caribbean coast is hot and humid with a good chance of rain year-round, although drier conditions prevail during September and October.

In general, The Pacific coast dry season typically lasts from December through April, with shoulder months on either side. If increased potential for rain doesn’t bother you and you’d like to take advantage of the off season, you’ll find that the northern region between Malpais and Tamarindo offers the most consistent surf conditions throughout the entire year.

Check out our guide to the best time to visit Costa Rica for additional details about Costa Rica’s climate.

 

Best Beaches & Surf Towns in Costa Rica

Since Costa Rica boasts more than 300 beaches, just about everyone has a different set of favorites. Still, there are quite a few destinations that stand out from the rest. Check out our short list of the best surf towns in Costa Rica, along with a quick guide to favorite surf spots at each destination.

The main surf areas in Costa Rica are:

  • Tamarindo
  • Santa Teresa
  • Jaco
  • Manuel Antonio

 

Surf Tamarindo Year-Round

Tamarindo surf is some of the best in Guanacaste, and this area holds claim to fame as one of the best places to surf in Costa Rica altogether. Check out some (or all) of the following spots if this is your chosen destination.

Tamarindo Surf for Beginners:

Tamarindo beach

Casitas

Playa Grande

Pico Grande

Pico Pequeño

Tamarindo Surf for Intermediate:

Tamarindo beach

El Estero

Casitas

Playa Langosta

Playa Grande

Pico Grande

Pico Pequeño

urf for Experts:

Tamarindo beach

El Estero

Casitas

Playa Langosta

Playa Grande

Pico Grande

Pico Pequeño

The Tamarindo beach break is often ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers, but it can be a lot of fun for those with more experience on days when the waves are bigger.

Type of break: Beach
Type of ocean floor: Sand

El Estero is a river mouth break with a strong rip current depending on tides, so it’s definitely not for beginners. It’s a fast break and it can get pretty crowded when conditions are good. You’ll find El Estero to the right of the main Tamarindo beach break.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Casitas is another good Tamarindo surf spot. This break is situated to the north of the mouth of the Tamarindo river, and it’s best accessed with some help from one of the little ferry boats, which charge about a dollar to get you safely across. In case you’re considering paddling across the river mouth on your own, think twice as there are crocodiles in the river.

Type of break: Rivermouth break & Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Playa Langosta is another great spot for intermediate and experienced surfers, plus, a local guide can help you find your way here from the road that leaves Tamarindo. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see two main breaks. Racetrack breaks to the right and gets its name from the need to “race” past a cluster of jagged rocks. The main rivermouth peak break is to the left. It’s safer as there aren’t rocks but it’s still a fun, challenging ride. This spot is out of the way, but it can be busy at times.

Type of break: Beach break & Rock break
Type of ocean floor: Sand and rocks

Check out Playa Grande for excellent multi-level waves to suit beginners through experts.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Pico Grande and Pico Pequeño are two more great surf spots near Tamarindo, with plenty of good breaks for surfers with some experience. Newer surfers can usually pick up some smaller breaks along the edges, particularly at Pico Pequeño.

Type of break: Beach break / Reef break
Type of ocean floor: Sand, Rock, and Reef

Average conditions: Most Tamarindo Costa Rica surf spots are at their best between mid and high tide. Breaks come in different sizes and most days, it’s possible to find waves to suit your level.

 What to expect: Tamarindo surf spots are famous for clean breaks, regular sets, and waves that range from small and easygoing to large and powerful. Most spots are at their best during incoming mid to high tide.

There’s something for everyone here. Whether you’re an expert or just considering surf lessons Tamarindo is a fantastic place for a getaway. Surf schools, board rentals, and lots of great side adventures make Tamarindo a paradise for surfers of all levels.

Where to stay: There are excellent surfer-centered accommodations in Tamarindo within easy reach of all the best surf spots, but Selina in Tamarindo is the ideal place to stay for all things ocean. Besides surf camp and a surf school, it’s perfect for other adventures including diving, snorkeling, catamaran trips, and more.

 

Surf Santa Teresa for Beautiful Scenery

One of the best surf towns in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa offers white sandy beaches with gorgeous blue water that’s always warm. With the jungle as your backdrop, you’ll feel as if you’ve slipped away to paradise. Try these Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf spots if this is your destination.

Santa Teresa Surf for Beginners:

La Lora

Playa Hermosa

Playa Carmen

Santa Teresa Surf for Intermediate:

La Lora

Playa Hermosa

Playa Carmen

Malpais

Santa Teresa Surf for Experts:

Suck Rock

La Lora

Playa hermosa

Playa Carmen

Malpais

Suck Rock is a famous beach with some massive breaks rumored to reach up to 20 feet at times. You’ll want to see this for yourself even if you’re not experienced enough to actually ride these waves. Hands down, this is one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica, with some rides covering 100 meters or more.

Type of break: Reef break & Point break
Type of ocean floor: Rocky reef

La Lora is near Suck Rock, and it’s the ideal spot for taking long, dreamy rides on waves well-suited for every skill level. Stunning surroundings make this a great hangout for non-surfing members of your group, too. It’s a big, beautiful stretch of sand that easily qualifies among the best places to surf in Costa Rica – in fact, there are often surf competitions here.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Playa Hermosa has a point break and a nice wide beach break, so you have your choice of where to ride. Although there are some rocks, the rip current isn’t normally bad. This spot isn’t as popular as some others. If you’d rather not wait in the lineup, you might want to give this one a try.

Type of break: Beach break & Point break
Type of ocean floor: Sand and a few rocks

Playa Carmen is also known as Playa El Carmen. You’ll want to be on the lookout for some rocky spots and rip tides but with help from an instructor, even novices can easily enjoy some nice breaks here. Those with experience will have fun, too. The beach scene here is a ton of fun, with food, businesses, and other diversions to enjoy between breaks.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand and a few rocks

Malpais is technically separate from Santa Teresa as it’s further south, but it’s definitely a great place to go if you’re looking for point breaks. It’s not well-suited to beginners, but can be an experienced surfer’s dream when conditions are just right.

Type of break: Beach break, Reef breaks, Point breaks
Type of ocean floor: Sand and Reef

Average conditions: Santa Teresa surf is at its best during the hours surrounding low tides, as the breaks are often faster and more fun to ride.

What to expect: Santa Teresa surfing is mostly about riding fast waves and catching world-class breaks. While there are definitely some fun spots for beginners here, this area is among the best for experts. There are quite a few surf spots in Santa Teresa, but not all of them have well-known names. Hook up with a local guide or take a guided trip to experience the very best surf Santa Teresa has to offer.

Where to stay: Choose accommodations closer to the north side of Santa Teresa if Playa Hermosa and Suck Rock are your chosen spots. Opt for south Santa Teresa accommodations for faster access to Playa Carmen, Malpais, and all points between.

 

Surf Jaco for Reliable Sets

Jaco Costa Rica surf is varied, with more than just a little something to suit every level. In fact, it’s got some of the best surfing in Costa Rica, which attracts waveriders from all over the world. Check out these Jaco surf spots while you’re there.

Jaco Surf for Beginners:

Playa Esterillos

Esterillo Oeste

Playa Agujas

Playa Jaco

Playa Hermosa

Jaco Surf for Intermediate:

Playa Esterillos

Esterillo Este

Esterillo Oeste

Playa Agujas

Playa Jaco

Playa Herradura

Playa Hermosa

Jaco Surf for Experts:

Playa Esterillos

Esterillo Este

Esterillo Oeste

Esterillo Centro

Playa Escondida

Playa Agujas

Playa Jaco

Playa Herradura

Playa Hermosa

Playa Esterillos is a gorgeous golden beach that’s divided into three distinct zones. Its length alone makes it one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica. Don’t forget to stay on the lookout for stingrays and crocodiles!

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand with a few rocks

Esterillos Este has fast, strong waves and a sandy bottom that produces nice breaks when the tide is on its way in. It’s often uncrowded.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand with a few rocks

Esterillos Oeste is a favorite with beginners for its easy going waves. Come at mid-tide for the best experience.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand with a few rocks

 

Esterillos Centro is great for experienced surfers, with breaks to the left and right, and good long rides that average 50 to 150 meters (they can be up to 300 meters long when conditions are just right!). Mid-tide is the best time to ride here.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand with a few rocks

Playa Escondida features a coral reef that produces fast, powerful waves which are often described as being world class. The bottom is sharp, the breaks are big, and the spot is best left to veteran surfers. This spot is only accessible by boat but it gets crowded fast when the waves are right.

Type of break: Peak & Submerged reef
Type of ocean floor: Sand, uneven reef, and sharp rocks

Playa Agujas isn’t as busy as some other surf spots around Jaco, making it the perfect getaway for anyone who wants a break from crowded beaches. This is a nice point break that’s at its best from mid- to high tide.

Type of break: Beach break & Point break
Type of ocean floor: Sand and rock

Playa Jaco has a sandy bottom and it’s well-known for producing consistent breaks year-round. Low tide produces nice whitewater for beginning surfers, while the best waves for more seasoned individuals arrive around two hours before high tide.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Playa Herradura has fantastic swells for intermediate surfers and experts alike, but it’s not exactly beginner-friendly. A favorite spot with locals, it’s accessed via boat, or by paddling out to the small island where the breaks begin. There are tons of rocks here, so extreme caution is advised. You may be best off with a local guide, even if you’ve been surfing forever.

Type of break: Reef break
Type of ocean floor: Rocky reef

Playa Hermosa offers world-class waves as well as beginner-friendly sets. It’s a very popular place for visitors to enjoy surf lessons in Jaco. The beach here is about 8 kilometers long, with lots of sandbars that produce a variety of excellent breaks.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Average conditions: You’ll find a nice variety of conditions here with plenty of opportunities to enjoy long, fun rides.

What to expect: The waves at Jaco range from exposed breaks with offshore winds to shallow, low-tide sets that are nice for beginners. Experts looking for faster action and thundering lefts and rights should plan to surf at high tide.

There’s a great mix of surf beaches at Jaco, so ask a local guide or your surf instructor what they’d recommend based on your personal wants. The named breaks are just the tip of the iceberg here; there are tons of places to hop in the water and ride to your heart’s content.

Where to stay: Choose surfer-friendly accommodations in Jaco. You’ll have your pick of suites, standard rooms, group-friendly community rooms, and more.

 

Surf Maneul Antonio for a Laid-Back Experience

If you’re coming to Manuel Antonio surfing is a must. Here are a few named spots to try.

Manuel Antonio Surf for Beginners:

Playitas

Playa el Rey

Playa Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio Surf for Intermediate:

Playitas

Playa el Rey

Playa Manuel Antonio

Mar Y Sombre

Caldera

Manuel Antonio Surf for Experts:

Playitas

Playa el Rey

Playa Manuel Antonio

Mar Y Sombre

Caldera

Playitas: This is a great spot for everyone. Although seasoned surfers will find few challenges, beginners will have plenty of fun riding easygoing waves, particularly between March and October. Do watch for crocodiles here!

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Rocks and sand

Playa el Rey: Big swells with breaks left and right make this a fantastic place for nearly any surfer to spend the day. Come at mid to high tide for the best waves.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Rocks and sand

Playa Manuel Antonio: Gentle waves make this one of the best Costa Rica surf spots for beginners and intermediate surfers. Experts can pick up fun rides too, when the surf forecast calls for larger waves.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Rocks and sand

Mar y Sombra: If you’re looking for a fantastic ride, come to Mar Y Sombra. Although it’s often crowded, this spot is among the best for intermediate to advanced surfers who long for tubular waves and strong swells. Mid to high tide is the best time to come.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Rocks and sand

Caldera: Don’t mind getting dirty? Looking for some fantastic wedging barrels? Caldera is usually crowded, but it’s a fun place to challenge yourself. The pounding closeouts stir up the bottom, so the water is often sandy and dirty. Beginners will enjoy watching more experienced riders catch these waves.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Rocks, dirt, and sand

Average conditions: Warm water, fairly small lineups, and a variety of waves, including some of the best beginner surfing Costa Rica has to offer. Intermediate surfers and experts enjoy themselves here, too. May-November is the best time to surf Costa Rica when Manuel Antonio is your destination.

What to expect: Much of the surfing at Playa Manuel Antonio takes place off beautiful, sun-kissed beaches with easygoing waves and clean breaks that appeal to beginners, intermediate surfers, and experts who don’t mind enjoying a more relaxed ride.

Two exceptions are Boca Damas and Boca Quepos, where veteran surfers can often find fast breaks and hollow waves. As with many other Costa Rica surf spots, you’ll want to be on the lookout for crocodiles.

Where to stay: There are quite a few options including Manuel Antonio accommodations that cater to surfers and adventurers of every stripe. Lush jungle surroundings make this an amazing place for the ultimate getaway. Be sure to tour Manuel Antonio national park while you’re here.

 

More Amazing Costa Rica Surf Spots

Looking for more incredible places to try your luck? Here are a few more sites that made it onto our list of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. They’re located near other popular Costa Rica surf spots, but take a bit more effort to access. Most of them can only be reached only by boat so local surf guides and surf schools are your best bet for getting to these world-class spots.

Witch’s Rock: Located at Guanacaste’s Santa Rosa National Park, Witches Rock surfing is usually excellent. The break gets its name from Roca Bruja, a massive volcanic rock named after a legend that says the rock was cursed by a witch. This is one spell you’ll probably be happy to live with, so long as you’re an experienced surfer.

Type of break: Beach break
Type of ocean floor: Sand

Ollie’s Point: Fast and furious! Hollow waves and fun rides are the main draw here. While the rides themselves aren’t terribly difficult, the rocky bottom makes this spot suitable for experienced surfers only. It’s located in Santa Rosa National Park, and is accessible only by boat.

Type of break: Point break
Type of ocean floor: Rocky

Pavones: Nicknamed the “world’s second-longest left hand wave,” Pavones offers rides that last up to a minute. This point break has a seabed of boulders and sand beneath, and is best for intermediate and advanced surfers. Come between March and November. These months are often mentioned as the best time to surf Costa Rica in general, and this period is ideal for surfing Pavones.

Type of break: Point break
Type of ocean floor: Boulders and sand

Salsa Brava: Been surfing for a while? Want to experience Costa Rica surf Caribbean-style? Head to Puerto Viejo, Limon, for a thrilling right-hand barrel wave that rises up off a sharp coral reef. This is one of the best Costa Rica surf spots for experts who are looking for a little something different.

Type of break: Reef break
Type of ocean floor: Reef and coral

Boca Damas: If you’re planning to surf Manuel Antonio, consider a side trip to Boca Damas. Located at Playa Isla Damas and accessible only via boat, this is one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica for those who want something totally unique. Powerful waves, hollow rights, and consistent, reliable conditions make this an incredible destination. Look out for crocodiles, rips, and powerful currents.

Type of break: Beach break with good peaks
Type of ocean floor: Sand

FAQs: The Best Time to Surf Costa Rica & More

Q: Is Costa Rica known for surfing?

A: Yes – in fact, Costa Rica has some world-class breaks and there are some pretty intense surf competitions held here. There are plenty of waves for new and intermediate surfers, too, and outstanding surf camps where you’ll feel right at home.

Q: Where are the best waves in Costa Rica?

A: It depends on the season, but in general, you’ll find excellent waves around Santa Teresa, Tamarindo, and Jaco. Check out our Costa Rica surf guide for complete details.

Q: What’s the best time of year to surf in Costa Rica?

A: You can find good breaks all year here, but May to September is the best time to surf in Costa Rica.

Q: What surf levels are Costa Rica breaks best for?

A: Whether you’re advanced, intermediate or a complete beginner surfing Costa Rica is for you. Certain spots such as Witch’s Rock at Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste are best left to experienced surfers, while Tamarindo’s Playa Grande and Playa Tamarindo are two of the best Costa Rica surfing beaches for beginners as well as those who’ve spent years catching breaks.

Q: Are there sharks in Costa Rica?

A: Yes, there are sharks in Costa Rica. Black tip sharks, white tip reef sharks, hammerheads, bull sharks, and nurse sharks are common here just as they are at most other world-class surf destinations.

Q: What is the best beach town in Costa Rica?

A: It depends on what you’re looking for! Jaco, Tamarindo, and Quepos (the gateway to Manuel Antonio national park) are a few of the best places to hit the beach in Costa Rica.

Q: Do you need a wetsuit in Costa Rica?

A: It’s up to you! The water is warm year-round, so many surfers opt to hit the waves without a wetsuit. If you’re going to spend much time around Witch’s Rock where the water is a little cooler, you might want a spring suit or a vest. If you’re planning to surf Costa Rica between December and April, bring a wetsuit in case of upwelling, which can drop water temps down into the low 60sF. Last but not least, a wetsuit can make those dawn patrol sessions a lot more comfortable.

Q: What are the best conditions for surfing?

A: The best conditions for surfing depend on your skill level and they type of breaks you prefer, as well as whether you’d rather surf in the sun or stay a little cooler during the rainy season. In general, Costa Rica surf conditions vary depending on whether you head for the Pacific coast or the Caribbean coast. Be sure to check out our complete guide for all the details.

Q: Where can I surf in Tamarindo?

A: There are plenty of great surf spots in Tamarindo including the Tamarindo Beach Break, El Estero, Casitas, Playa Langosta, Playa Grande, and more. Check out our guide for details on Tamarindo surf spots for beginners and experts alike.

Q: What is the most populated city in Costa Rica?

A: San Jose is the largest, most populated city in Costa Rica, as well as the nation’s capital.

Q: How many airports are in San Jose Costa Rica?

A: There are two international airports in San Jose – Juan Santamaria International Airport and Tobias Bolanos International Airport.

Q: What’s the average cost of surf trips in Costa Rica?

A: It all depends on where you’d like to go, how long you’d like to stay, and whether you need lessons and/or a board rental. There are a few short stays available for under $100, many great multi-day packages for under $500, several more between $500 and $1,000, and quite a few that come in at over $1,000. Whatever your budget and desired destination, it’s possible to experience the legendary Costa Rica surf!

Q: Where can I surf in Costa Rica for beginners?

A: We all have to start somewhere! You’ll find beginner-friendly surf lessons Costa Rica wide. You can take just a few lessons and learn the basics or you can extend your stay and continue learning. In case it’s been a while and you want to brush up on your skills, you can easily find the instruction you need. As for specific surf spots, you’ll find beginner-friendly waves at Santa Teresa, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and Tamarindo, to name just a few.

Q: Is there anything special I should put on my packing list?

A: We recommend plenty of reef-safe sunscreen, plenty of surf-friendly swimwear & a few rash guards, and of course, your favorite board and accessories like extra leashes and wax, unless you’re good with skipping the baggage worries and going for a rental. Costa Rica surf towns are friendly, warm, and casual, so bring comfy clothes you feel good about relaxing in.

If you’re thinking about planning the ultimate Costa Rica surf trip, let Selina help. We’re as serious about surfing as you are – and if you’re new to the sport or need a refresher, we’re dedicated to helping you learn. We offer surf club locations near some of the best Costa Rica surf spots, and our guides are eager to show you where to catch the best waves. If you need to rent a surfboard or if you’d like to try stand up paddle boarding, you’ll find plenty of great equipment available in our Costa Rica surfboard rental locations. Traveling outside Costa Rica? Be sure to check in with Selina. We offer surf packages, rentals, lessons, and more at many of our 60+ locations around the globe.

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