Surfing in Costa Rica – Dream waves, good vibes
If you’d rather be cruising the surf than peering under it, you could most definitely do worse than Costa Rica. There is a lot of really excellent surfing in Costa Rica but you do have to a bit research as the surf can be inconsistent in some locations. The best time of year to go on a surfing holiday is from December to April as these months promise the best quality waves.
The Pacific coast has the upper hand over the Caribbean when it comes to surfing in Costa Rica. Most of the hotspots are located on the Northern and Central Pacific coasts with a few on the southern coast near Panama and some others on the Caribbean coast.
The following annotated list of common surfing destinations will help you start your research.
The Northern Pacific Coast
TAMARINDO is a gigantic surfing mecca. The area is quite built up and provides a way to find lots of different surf in short period of time. There is plenty of accommodation and positively hopping night scene. Tamarindo is 4½ hours from San Jose via paved road.
NOSARA is somewhat unique amongst Costa Rican surf spots in that it offers world class surf all year long. It is the perfect middle ground between Tamarindo and Avanelles/Negra in terms of accommodation, amenities and nightlife.
AVANELLES/NEGRA is perfect for those that want a slower pace than Tarmarindo or Nosara. The hotels are adequate and nightlife is virtually non-existent. This area is accessed via dirt road from Tamarindo.
MEL PAIS is a haven for intermediate surfers and occasionally offers swells large enough to challenge more advanced surfers. The area has an incredibly green backdrop, adequate accommodation and no real nightlife. It is, therefore, the perfect destination for a relaxed surfing in Costa Rica experience.
The Central Pacific Coast
PLAYA HERMOSA/JACO is one of the easiest spots to get to from San Jose. It is only 2 hours from airport and caters to the intermediate to expert surfer. There is plenty of accommodation for all budgets and loads of nightlife.
MANUEL ANTONIO caters beautifully to beginners and those traveling with non-surfing partners. It is 3 hours from San Jose by car and the area offers plenty non-surfing activities.
DOMEICAL is and excellent choice for serious surfers who wish to avoid the crowds in favour of a more relaxed atmosphere than Jaco without compromising the quality of the surf.
Southern Pacific Coast
MATAPALO features uncrowded, pristine beach in an extremely remote location. Everything in the local area operates on solar power so there is very little chance of staying in self-catering accommodation. It can be quite expensive as all meals are included in the price.
PAVONNES is also extremely remote and quite difficult to get to. The surf is very inconsistent surf but if you happen to be there at the right time, it is well worth the hassle of traveling there. On a good day, you can catch rides of up to three minutes.
PUERTO VIEJO is the home of the famous Salsa Brava and is for experts only. There is some accommodation in the town proper but most of the nightlife is a little further south in Cocles. The town is three hours from San Jose by car almost all on paved roads.
There is very little to worry about when surfing in Costa Rica. The country is relatively free of crime so your possession will be safe unless you are quite careless. In regards to the water, most of the breaks, Salsa Brave being a notable exception, are beach-bottom. One small concern, particularly when surfing on the Caribbean side is crocodiles. If there have been heavy rains, there may be more than usual around river mouths.