costa rica surfing

Costa Rica Surfing – Top Spots & Tips

Costa Rica is a great place to visit for tons of different adventure activities, and that includes surfing. Surfing in Costa Rica is possible on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts for all skill levels. If you are a more experienced surfer, have no fear, Costa Rica has several world-class surfing beaches. If you are an absolute beginner, we know great places for you to take your first lessons and get hooked on the shredding life.

Caribbean Coast Surf Spots

surfer tamarindo

Most people head to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for traveling in general, however, the Caribbean coast is also a great place to visit. As far as surfing goes, there are a few awesome surfing spots.

Playa Cocles

PLAYA COCLES

Playa Cocles is located on the southeast tip of the country near the Panama border. This area has a completely relaxed feel and there typically aren’t tons of tourists.

Level: All levels can surf here, but we especially recommend it for beginner surfers.

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Reef and sand

Playa Puerto Viejo

puerto viejo

Puerto Viejo is a great town for really enjoying the surfing vibe. There are tons of surf shops, great restaurants, and nightlife.

This area is also home to the Salsa Brava reef break. Here you can expect some of the biggest waves in the country.

Level: This area is best for more advanced surfers. If you are not as experienced, head just south of Puerto Viejo to Playa Cocles (mentioned above).

Type of Break: Reef Break

Ocean Floor: Reef/ Coral

Northern Pacific Surf Spots

nosara surfers

The Northern Pacific part of Costa Rica is easily accessible from the Liberia International Airport. This area is popular for a variety of water sports (besides surfing) including diving and snorkeling.

Tamarindo

tamarindo beach

Tamarindo is the quintessential Costa Rica surfing town. In fact, I would say it is the most popular surfing destination in Costa Rica. There are waves for all levels, multiple surfing schools, and surf camps. Plus, it is easy to get here within 1.5 hours if flying into Liberia International Airport.

Level: All levels

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Sand

Playa Avellanas

playa avellenas

Playa Avellanas is located down a quiet dirt road about thirty minutes south of Tamarindo. It is almost always quiet here. plus it is home to one of our favorite beach bars, Lola’s.

Level: All levels can enjoy surfing here

Type of Break: Reef Break

Ocean Floor: Reef and Sand

Playa Grande

playa grande

Playa Grande is located just north of Tamarindo. It is also home to a turtle nesting area.

Level: Begginners and intermediate level surfers will enjoy this beach.

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Sand

Playa Nosara

nosara

Nosara is a small remote beach town that is popular with surfers and yoga enthusiasts. If you are interested in seeing turtles laying their eggs, the nearby Playa Ostional is a great place to experience that.

Level: Intemediate to advanced surfers

Type of Break: Beach / Reef Break

Ocean Floor: Sand and Reef

Playa Santa Teresa

santa teresa

Santa Teresa is a remote, but popular surfing town. This town is always filled with relaxed backpackers lining the dirt road and enjoying the surf.

Level: Intemediate / Advanced

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Sand

Central & Southern Pacific Surf Spots

surfing costa rica

The Central Pacific area of Costa Rica tends to be the most popular area for tourists in the country due to its proximity to the San Jose International Airport. This area is filled with amazing beaches and fun activities that will please everyone.

Playa Hermosa

playa hermosa

Playa Hermosa is the beach just south of Jaco. It is a super small town, but we like it because you can easily drive to Jaco to experience the craziness there, but can also enjoy the peaceful vibe of Hermosa.

Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Sand

Playa Dominical

dominical

Dominical is small beach town with a few hotels and great restaurants. The surfing is best here near the mouth of the river.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Type of Break: Beach Break

Ocean Floor: Sand

Playa Pavones

This is the home to the second longest left break in the world. This is a super popular surf destination with advanced borders.

Level: Intermediate to more advanced surfers

Type of Break: Point Break

Ocean Floor: Rocks and Sand

Surf Camps

surf lessons

Spending a few days, a week, or multiple weeks at a surf camp is a great way to really immerse yourself in the surfing experience. There are camps in Costa Rica for all surfing levels and are sometimes combined with yoga or other fun activities.

Typically the price of a surf camp includes room and board as well as daily surf lessons and unlimited use of boards.

Best Time of Year for Costa Rica Surfing

Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific coast is known for year-round, long distance, SW swells. However, the best SW swells in this region typically occur between May and October (rainy season).

In the Northern Pacific region of Costa Rica (Guanacaste Province), the best surf is typically during the dry season between November and March when NW swells are picked up. 

In Pavones (the most southern pacific point of Costa Rica) it is more difficult to predict when the perfect S-SW will hit to produce the epic lefts in the region.

On the Caribbean coast, the best waves are typically found between December and April. Note that this is also the rainy season on the Caribbean coast.

Sometimes big swells can be found between June and November during hurricane season, but I wouldn’t depend on them.

Our Costa Rica Surfing Tips

costa rica surfing santa teresa
  • In recent years there have been some issues with crocodiles entering the ocean through river mouths. This is especially something to be cautious about if surfing in Tamarindo as there have been cases of surfers being attacked there. Please ask someone at the surf shop before getting out into the water anywhere. They can tell you which areas to avoid.
  • It is possible to rent a board for the day, or even weekly rentals, in almost every beach town. These daily board rentals are usually about $10 to $20 a day depending on which town you are in.
  • Costa Rica does have lots of rip currents. Some areas are worse than others, but if you are a beginner surfer and not used to that, plaese ask when you rent your board for areas you should watch out for.
  • Almost all surf shops offer lessons. It is possible to book these lessons online in most locations before you visit Costa Rica. However, most often it is possible to book a lesson one day before once you are already in Costa Rica. Don’t stress too much if you haven’t booked something ahead of time.
  • We suggest renting a board instead of bringing your board from home. It is often cheaper and less complicated that planning your transportation around your board.
  • Petty theft does happen in Costa Rica. Never leave your stuff on the beach while surfing. Most surf shops have lockers or a place you can safely store your stuff.

If you have any questions about surfing in Costa Rica, please leave them in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out in whatever way we can. Also, if you have any tips for fellow Costa Rican travelers we would love to hear those as well!

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We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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