Surfing in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the most famous surf destination in Central America. The country has an amazing scenery with everything you can imagine: two coasts, big volcanos, lots of national parks and tropical waterfalls. The most legendary surf breaks are Pavones, Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock. The last two are featured in the classic surf movie Endless Summer 2 by Bruce Brown. Costa Rica is a very safe country to travel around in. The country is famous for having a friendly population that has an easy going lifestyle known as “pura vida” (which means pure life or simple life). Travelling around in the country may be a bit hard since the roads are often crossed by rivers, but the country has two airports that helps the tourists to move around quickly and efficiently.
Climate in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is located deep in the tropics area, with the Pacific ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. This area is characterized by humidity and warm weather. There are only two seasons in Costa Rica: dry season (high season) from November to April and wet season (green season) from May to November. The months that rain the most are usually September and October. Save for the occasional heavy rains in the afternoons, the weather conditions in Costa Rica are usually mild and very enjoyable.
The Pacific side has waves all over the year but the best time to visit is from December to April. That’s when the swells are more consistent and the offshore winds prevail. It’s usually offshore in the morning and light to moderate onshore in the afternoons. Try not to miss the glassy dawn patrol sessions.
The major swell season at the Atlantic side is from December to April. During these months the hurricane season at the Gulf of Mexico produces powerful long period swells that spread over the Caribbean Sea.
Best surf spots in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has hundreds of surf spots on both sides of the country and many of them are considered world class waves. The most famous surf spots are located on the Pacific side. Here are some of the most famous surf spots on the pacific coast:
Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock, Playa Grande, Tamarindo Bay, Playa Langosta, Playa Avellanas,Playa Negra, Playa Nosara, Playa Guiones, Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa, Boca Barranca, Jacó, Dominical and Pavones.
The Caribbean side is way less consistent but when firing is comparable to the perfect waves of Indonesia. Warm water and perfect barrels with stunning backgrounds are what you will find there. Here are some of the best surf spots on the Caribbean coast:
Playa Bonita, Isla Uvita, Playa Westfalia, Playa Negra and Salsa Brava.
Best time to go
Surfing in the Pacific Side of Costa Rica
The Pacific side has waves all over the year but the best time to visit is from December to April. That’s when the swells are more consistent and the offshore winds prevails. It’s usually offshore in the morning and light to moderate onshore in the afternoons. Try not to miss the glassy dawn patrol sessions.
Surfing in the Caribbean Side of Costa Rica
The major swell season at the Atlantic side is from December to April. During this months the hurricane season at the Gulf of Mexico is producing powerful long period swells that spread over the Caribbean Sea.
Main Surfing areas in Costa Rica
Ollie’s Point: This is the best right hander in Central America. The northern corner of Playa Portrero combines sand banks and cobblestones to produce a real world class point break. When the wind is offshore there are long barrels and when the afternoon wind kicks in the waves become perfect for airs. Better on low to mid tide.
Witch’s Rock: This is the wave every surfer has ever dreamed of. Located at a 2 ½ mile beach called Praya Naranjo, there are a-frames breaking all over the place. The river mouth in front of the rock can hold larger swells lining up longer walls and working as a point break to the left.
Playa Grande: This beach is located up north from Tamarindo and is known for having perfect barrels for both sides. The best tide to surf this spot is from mid to high.
Tamarindo: There are many breaks in Tamarindo Bay. The river mouth is perfect for all levels of surfers. Long fun waves break on a sandy bottom. The outside reef at Isla Capitan is more challenging and only for advanced surfers. Pico Grande and Pico Pequeno are two reef breaks in front of Diria hotel. If you are not used to surf reef maybe you should stay at the river mouth.
Langosta: These spot is just 30 min walking down south from Tamarindo. There are many breaks in this area. The river mouth has a left and a right hander breaking on top of reef and sand. Watch out for crocs. 5 min down south of the river mouth you will find a hollow wave called Octavo. You will know you are there when you see a wooden post with a 8 written on it.
Avellanas: The best spot in this area is called Little Hawaii, because it’s a powerful wave that can handle lots of swell. This break is located at the northern corner of the beach. Down south you will find El Palo, a powerful beachbreak better surfed at high tide with a medium swell. In front of the parking lot you will find a mellow break called El Parque. The waves there are fun and less powerful than Little Hawaii and El Palo. When the swell is massive there is a one more option called El Estero. This wave breaks for both sides over a rocky bottom.
Playa Negra: This wave breaks on top of a rocky reef. Can be surfed on all tides but it gets really shallow and hollow on the low tide (perfect for tuberiders).
Playa Nosara: The best break at this beach is in front of the river mouth.
Playa Guiones: There are many surf spots at this beach. At high tide is very mellow and good for beginners. When the tide drops it gets powerful and hollow.
Playa Hermosa: This beach is up north from Santa Teresa and it’s really uncrowded. There are beach breaks and reef breaks peaking all over the beach.
Santa Teresa: Located at the southern tip of the Peninsula Nicoya. This beach has clean smooth waves that are better surfed at lower tides. The bottom is sandy but there are a few rocks.
Boca Barranca: This is one of the longest left handers in the world. It’s really good for longboarders but on the right tide can be barreling. Located on a river mouth so always beware for crocodiles.
Jacó Beach: This beach is located at a busy city so it can get crowded. There are lots of peaks along the beach so it’s easy to find a wave for yourself. The south corner of the beach is better for the beginners. The waves start to work when the tide starts to rise. Watch out for strong currents if you want to go swimming.
Dominical: This beach has some really powerful waves and when the sandbanks align properly it can get extremely perfect. On high tide the waves are easier to surf. As the tide drops the wave gets more intense and hollow. Watch out for the occasional huge sets.
Pavones: Located in the southern part of the country, Pavones is the second longest left handers in the world. The wave works better with a solid 6-8 ft swell to connect all the sections, but it’s also fun with head high size.
Playa Bonita: This surf spots is located on the north of Limon. It break on top of reef.
Isla Uvita: This uninhabited island has a reef that produce some powerful waves on the right swells. The wave breaks to the left and to get to the spot you have to get a boat.
Playa Westfalia: This surf spot is not very popular. The waves work better with a smaller swell. When it gets to big it starts to close out.
Playa Negra: This black sand beach has friendly waves breaking for both sides. Very good for beginners.
Salsa Brava: This is probably the most famous wave on the Caribbean Side. This powerful and hollow wave breaks for both sides on top of a shallow reef. The right hander is longer and some surfist wear a helmet here for protection. .Only for experienced surfers.
What is you traveling style?
Luxury Accommodations in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has amazing accommodations options all over the country. You can find luxury hotels in harmony with the stunning nature, where you can relax and surf amazing waves. The eco resort at Santa Teresa feels like an oasis in the middle of the jungle and you can have a romantic getaway in a caribbean bungalow at Puerto Viejo. Costa Rica has a friendly populations that makes you feel at home but a wild scenery that still feels adventurous.
Price at the Eco Resort at Santa Teresa 80 - 130 USD
Puerto Viejo Bungalows 70 - 130 USD
Surf boat Charters in Costa Rica
If you always dreamed to surf the perfect waves that you watched at the classic surf movie Endless Summer 2 when you were young you have to get yourself a Surf Charter. The legendaries waves of Ollie’s Point and Witch's Rock are better accessed by boat. You can stay in land at Tamarindo and get a daily boat to surf the best and most uncrowded waves in the area. You can also stay at a Surf Charter and live the dream to wake up everyday morning in front of perfect waves.
Price per night at a Surf Charter 133 USD
Budget Surfing in Costa Rica
Every region in Costa Rica has a lot to offer. If you have plenty of time and want to explore the whole country on a low budget you will find cheap accommodations and several ways to move around all the amazing areas of Costa Rica. If it’s your first time visiting the country we recommend you staying on the northern region were there are many accommodation options and lots of surf spots nearby. By travelling to the airport of Liberia you won’t have to take any long road trips to get to your final destination optimizing your time and your money. But it’s hard not to feel tempted to explore the southern part of the country and score perfect waves while camping in the middle of the jungle.
Price per day on a hostel at Tamarindo 15 - 30 USD per night
Price per day camping in Pavones 10 -15 USD per night
Kids and Teen Surf Camps
Costa Rica is known by the friendly beach breaks and the long waves. This scenario makes it perfect to learn how to surf in the most safe conditions as possible. There are many Surf Camps in the pacific side especially at Santa Teresa and Tamarindo. At Jaco you will find many surf schools and a lively beach party scene for those who want to have some fun as well. No matter where you go there will always be rentals at the beaches for those who want to give it a try.
Price for Surf Camp at Santa Teresa 95 - 170 USD per day.
Price for Surf Camp at Tamarindo 100 -206 USD per day.
Groups Surf Trips
Gather your best friends and go on an amazing surf trip in search of legendaries waves. You can stay in a surf charter that takes up to 6 people and be the first one in the water at classic surf spots like Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock. Or you can join up to 50 people for the most exciting road trip of your life in search of secret spots around South America.
Price Road Trip South America 85 USD per night.
Price Surf Charter Northern Beaches 133 per night.
Meal price range
A Sandwich or kebab costs around $4 USD. Midrange meals in restaurants range from $11-26 USD with beers. Dining & drinking at high-end restaurants can cost anywhere from $30-80 USD.
There are many board rental shops all over the coast, especially at Tamarindo, Santa Teresa and Jaco. Board rentals cost anywhere from 10 - 20 USD.
Prepaid SIM cards
Sim Card: 8-12 USD per week (depending on your plan).
Costa Rica has good public transportation. On any given day you can find a departure time for your destination. The disadvantages are the frequent stops and the long time traveling. If you are not in a hurry it will definitely be cheaper, you will be able to enjoy the amazing scenery of the country and have a more intense social experience with the “Ticos” (Costa Rican).
San José - Tamarindo (11 - 16 USD per person) Pacific SIde
San José - Limon (6 - 17 USD per person) Caribbean Side
San José - Santa Teresa (17 USD per person) Pacific Side
Another option is to use Shuttles companies. This service is very useful if you are travelling with a large group visiting just a couple of destinations.
San José - Tamarindo (76 USD per person)
San José - Puerto Viejo (55 USD per person)
San José - Santa Teresa (95 USD per person)
San José - Jaco (50 USD per person)
Bike rental: 5 USD/day
Car rental: 50 - 100 USD (depending if 4wd). Most famous car rental companies in Costa Rica are Avis, Europca, Apex, Alamo, Green Motor and Budget. You can get your car delivered at the airport and then return it to a different location if that suits you better.
Gas in Costa Rica costs around 1 USD per liter ( 1 liter is ¼ of a gallon).
Types of risks
Surfing Costa Rica is very safe. Most of the surf spots are friendly beach breaks, easier and less dangerous to surf than the sharp reef breaks. There are many kinds of sharks in Costa Rica, but attacks are extremely rare. Beware of crocodiles when surfing near river mouths. Besides small encounters with the wildlife, occasional thunderstorm floods and small earthquakes, Costa Rica doesn't have any major natural disasters that you should be worried about.
How to prepare
Brazilians, Americans, Europeans and Australians do not need a visa to go to Costa Rica. If you are from one of these countries you will easily get a tourist visa on arrival. You will need to provide a valid passport with at least one day left on its validity, and a ticket proving that you will leave the country. The tourist visa usually grants 90 days. If you are not from one of these countries, please click here to find out how to get a visa to Costa Rica.
The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for Costa Rica: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.
Things to know
Language & Currency
Costa Rica's official and most spoken language is the Spanish. If your Spanish still needs a lot of practice, don’t worry, it's easy to communicate in english in touristic areas along both coasts and mostly in the capital area of San Jose. US Dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica but it’s always good to change some money to the local currency which is the Colon (USD 1 = CRC 600).
Best time to go
The Pacific side has waves all over the year but the best time to visit is from December to April. The major swell season at the Atlantic side is from December to April.
Checking Surf forecast
Checking the forecast about a week before your trip is always a good idea. Understanding what the waves will be like and knowing what gear to pack is essential. You can check the forecast for the waves here.
Do I need pack a pharmacy kit
You should bring a basic kit. Including ear drops, eye drops, bandaids, imodium- for rehydrating Bali belly, ear plugs to avoid ear infections, gaze, alcohol, mosquito repellent and broad spectrum antibiotic ointment.
World Nomads has great travel insurance packages that are not super expensive and they cover surfing.
It’s always good to be ready for any case scenario. If any emergency happens Costa Rica has excellent medical facilities all over the country. The only exception would be in the south jungles where the access is more limited and the roads tend to be worse. Besides these remote locations you will find good hospitals that will take perfectly care of you during your vacations. If by any chance you get food poisoned or had a fin chop these are some facilities that could help you:
Clinica Biblica Hospital
San José, Costa Rica
Open 24 hours · +506 2522 1000
Hospital Cima San José
San José Province, San Rafael de Escazú, Costa Rica
Open ⋅ Closes 11:30PM· +506 2208 1000
Hospital La Católica
Open 24 hours · +506 2246 3000
Thomas Hospital Casas Casajús
Carr. Pacífica Fernández Oreamuno
Open 24 hours · +506 2786 8148
Golfito Hospital Manuel Mora Valverde
Puntarenas Province, Golfito, Costa Rica
Open 24 hours · +506 2775 7800
Hospital Ciudad Neily
Puntarenas Province, Corredor District, Costa Rica
Open 24 hours · +506 2783 4111
Hospital Ciudad Neily
Puntarenas Province, Corredor District, Costa Rica · In Hospital Ciudad Neily
Open 24 hours · +506 2785 9600
Bastimentos Island, Panama
Open 24 hours
Check surf pictures of Costa Rica at #surfcostarica.