Surfing is not merely a sport; it embodies a lifestyle, a deep connection between the surfer and the sea.
The essence of surfing lies not only in the act of riding the waves but also in the harmony between body and mind. It builds a relationship with the ocean which goes beyond the physical and fosters a deeper connection with the ocean and the natural world – some might describe it as being spiritual. With its roots in Polynesia, this ancient practice is complemented by another incredible well. Yoga doesn’t just strengthen muscles and increase flexibility; it fosters mental clarity and mindfulness, enhancing a surfer’s overall performance in the water.
With pristine waves peeling along two coastlines and beginner-friendly breaks dotting the landscape, Costa Rica has cemented itself as one of the world’s top surf destinations.
This Central American gem offers superb conditions for surfers of all levels – from first-timers looking to pop-up to seasoned rippers looking for pointbreaks and slabs.
Surfing in Costa Rica has it all!
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about surfing in Costa Rica, from the best surf spots to where to stay and essential travel tips.
Whether you’re planning a purely surf-focused trip or just looking to catch some waves on vacation, you’ll find all the information needed to score epic sessions in the warm Central American waters.
With 300+ named surf breaks along two coastlines, Costa Rica is considered one of the world’s premier surf destinations.
This guide covers everything from the top surf spots to when to visit to surf camps and essential travel tips for an epic surf trip to Costa Rica.
Quick Costa Rica Surfing Basics
Surfers have been flocking to Costa Rica’s shores since the 70s when the first travellers discovered its amazing waves. The country now attracts surf addicts from across the globe with its 300+ named surf breaks and two coastlines that offer very different surf experiences.
With an average of 6 hours of sunshine each day I’m pretty sure you will be out and about surfing and exploring the sites this great country has to offer – it’s not just a surf destination!
On the Pacific side, you can score powerful beach breaks and point breaks, especially around Tamarindo, Nosara and Santa Teresa. The Caribbean side sees fewer surfers but delivers warm water and fun, if smaller, mellower waves.
You’ll find rideable waves year-round, though the peak surf season aligns with Costa Rica’s dry season from December to April. The ‘Winter’ in Costa Rica, generally runs from May to November and while the waves are still great, rain is more common.
And after a hard day burning those calories in the surf, the evenings in Costa Rica are magical. Unwind with a fresh juice, cocktail or ice cold beer and gaze at the sunset.
Top Surf Spots & Breaks in Costa Rica
With so much coastline, it can be tricky to narrow down the top surf spots in Costa Rica. From hidden beach breaks to heavy reef breaks, there are endless setups and different waves to explore.
The West Coast
– Playa Guiones (Nosara) – One of the most popular Costa Rican surf spots, Guiones offers a mix of hollow and sloping waves perfect for all levels in a stunning setting.
– Playa Grande – With three separate beach breaks, this spot near Tamarindo has consistent, fun waves for beginners and intermediates.
– Witch’s Rock/Ollie’s Point – These rocky points near Tamarindo provide hollow, heavy waves for experienced surfers when conditions align.
The South Pacific Coast
– Dominical – The surf town of Dominical has epic sunsets, good waves and a lively tourist scene with surf schools and board rentals.
– Pavones – Home to one of the world’s longest left-hand point breaks, Pavones draws advanced surfers when this epic wave starts working. I remember staying there once back in the day (before Surfline) and the village started to fill up with surfers from all over the place – the next day, the waves were absolutely pumping!
The Caribbean Coast
– Playa Negra – Black sand beach breaks offer smaller but fun waves with warmer water temps compared to the Pacific side.
– Puerto Viejo – The main surf town on the Caribbean side, Puerto Viejo’s Salsa Brava break can offer steep, hollow waves for confident surfers.
– Cahuita – Relaxed vibes, white sand beaches and mellow waves make this spot ideal for beginner surfers.
Surf Camps & Lessons
One of the best ways to sharpen your surf skills fast is by enrolling in one of our multi-day surf retreats.
We have options to suit a variety of travellers, and surf lessons that cater for all ability levels.
Some of the our most popular places to stay are:
If you just want to try surfing or brush up on the basics, you can also book private or group lessons with us – just pop us a message to learn more.
When to Go Surfing in Costa Rica
With rideable waves year round, it’s largely a matter of what type of conditions you want to score. Here’s a quick breakdown:
November – August: The dry season which aligns with peak surf season. Expect the biggest swells and best conditions, along with a lively tourist high season from December – April.
May – October: The green season still sees fun waves, just with more rain and variable winds that may close out some spots at times. Surf with fewer crowds and lower costs for hotels.
March – April: Many surfers flock here in March/April for the big swells and offshore winds that create epic surf conditions.
September/October: Experienced, adventurous surfers can score some thunderous waves during the prime big wave season.
Surf Trip Essentials & Travel Tips
To make the most of your surf trip to Costa Rica, keep these key tips in mind:
– Pack plenty of swimsuits/boardshorts as the heat means you’ll be frequently taking dips
– Of course you don’t need a 4/3 wetsuit, but a neoprene top is useful for cooler days
– Bring reef booties and surf leg ropes for rocky bottom surf spots
– Prepare for wet weather with rain jackets, umbrellas, waterproof bags
– Don’t forget sun protection – the tropical sun is intense
– Travel in the off-season to avoid crowds and score cheaper rates
– Consider renting a car or 4×4 for easier access to remote surf spots
– Check wave/weather resources like Surfline before you go
– Be mindful of rip currents, and surf within your limits
Whether you’re a seasoned pro shredding the long walls at Pavones or just looking to learn to surf on the mellow Caribbean waves, Costa Rica offers one of the world’s premier surfing destinations.
And out of the water, with a thriving culture, friendly locals (called Ticos) and stunning beach vibes, it’s no wonder this Central American hotspot remains a bucket list surf trip for wave riders across the globe.
What are you waiting for?!
Surfing in Costa Rica Q and A
Q: Can beginners surf in Costa Rica?
A: Yes, Costa Rica is an excellent place for beginners to learn to surf. Many surf spots like Playa Grande, Cahuita and Dominical have gentle waves perfect for beginners. There are also numerous surf schools that offer lessons for all levels.
Q: What months can you surf in Costa Rica?
A: Thanks to its tropical location, you can surf excellent waves in Costa Rica year-round. Peak season with the biggest swells runs from November to April. May to October sees stormier “green season” weather but can still offer fun surf with fewer crowds.
Q: Do I need a wetsuit to surf in Costa Rica?
A: Most surfers opt to surf without a wetsuit in Costa Rica. Water temperatures average in the high 70s or low 80s year-round. Only on the rare cooler rainy day would a light spring suit be necessary, mostly for warmth while out of the water.
Written by: Matt Hapgood