Last Updated: Feb 02, 2013
Costa Rica’s soothing sunshine, tropical climate, warm waters (average 80°F) and countless surf breaks attract more and more surfers every year. The 800 miles of shoreline divided between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts offer excellent waves for both beginner and seasoned surfers. Beach and point breaks, reefs and river mouth runs – there's always fabulous surf somewhere in Costa Rica. Many beaches are located just a few hours drive from San Jose, making it easy to plunge your board into the water the same day you arrive. Wet suits are unnecessary, and boards and other surfing gear are widely available to rent or buy.
Start your surf adventure in the north Pacific province of Guanacaste, along a stretch of beaches known as the Gold Coast. Look for Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Playas Negra or Avellanas, all hot north Pacific surf breaks. For the advanced, don’t miss a surf tour to Ollie’s Point or Witch’s Rock. Ollie’s Point at Portrero Grande offers a right point break, with very fast and hollow waves.
There is no road access, so surfers must depart by rented boat or surf tour from Playa del Coco or Playa Ocotal. The right point break in Santa Rosa National Park is only accessible by boat from Playa del Coco. Witch’s Rock at Playa Naranjo, the surf spot forever immortalized by the film Endless Summer 2, is home to some of the best breaks in Costa Rica. You must depart from Playa del Coco by rented boat or with a surf tour.
Farther down the Nicoya Peninsula, the coastal towns of Samara and Nosara are also popular surf destinations. Waves are ideal in this region from December to April (the dry season) when offshore winds combine with intense Atlantic swells to form perfect conditions.
Legendary surf breaks and broad stretches of rugged coastline have made Mal Pais one of the country’s most coveted surfing destinations. Located on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, these beach towns offer both seasoned and novice surfers consistent left and right breaks. A variety of surf schools give private and group lessons, all taught by skilled surfers. Multi-day surf camps include meals, transportation, daily classes, and upscale lodging.
Just of an hour drive from San Jose, Jaco is renowned for its year-round swells and happening party scene. The beach town is packed with surf schools and is a great spot for both novice and seasoned surfers. A few miles south of Jaco, Playa Hermosa offers a longer break, bigger waves and a more tranquil atmosphere.
There are often good waves along the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio. Waves break to the left and right and are ideal for beginners. A rivermouth break in Quepos can be good when the surf gets big. The small beach town of Dominical lures boarders with consistent breaks. It is less developed than Jaco or Tamarindo and has a laid-back vibe.
The tiny village of Pavones, located on the Golfo Dulce, is known around the globe as having one of the longest left point breaks in the world. The break has been recorded to last up to three minutes on a slow, south swell. The biggest waves are from April through October, the rainy season in Pavones.
Huge waves can be found on the isolated beaches of Cabo Matapalo, situated on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula. Facilities are minimal in this undeveloped area, so surfers should bring their own boards. Playa Zancudo and Drake Bay also have some nice beach breaks. The south Pacific beaches are best from May to November.
Things are a bit quieter on the Caribbean coast, with the exception of Puerto Viejo's famed reef break, Salsa Brava. Salsa is for experts only and is usually good from January through April. A little farther south, the beach break at Playa Cocles offers gentle waves that are perfect for beginners. Playa Negra in Cahuita has decent waves, and the funky town is worth a visit even for non-surfers. Just off the Caribbean port of Limon lies Isla Uvita, an isolated island with adrenaline-pumping reef breaks. The Caribbean surf typically peaks from November through March.