Costa Rica is the most famous surf destination in Central America. The country has amazing scenery with everything you can imagine: two coasts, big volcanos, lots of national parks and tropical waterfalls. The most legendaries 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). Traveling around in the country may be a little bit hard since the roads are often crossed by rivers, but the country has two airports that help the tourists to move around quickly and efficiently.
Why surf in Costa Rica?
With many kinds of surf breaks scattered all over both coasts, anyone can surf the fun beach breaks of Costa Rica. The Pacific Side is known by consistent swells all year round with long, mellow sand breaks. The Caribbean Side has more powerful swells produced from tropical storms coming from the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of offshore days, glassy mornings to be enjoyed and lots of spots to be discovered. The ones who adventure themselves in this country could be rewarded with a surf trip of a lifetime.
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.
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 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.
Surfing in the Caribbean Side of Costa Rica
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.
Main Surfing areas in Costa Rica
This is considered as the best right-hander in Central America. The northern corner of Playa Portrero combines sandbanks 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.
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.
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.
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 the Diria hotel. If you are not used to surf reef maybe you should stay at the river mouth.
This 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 the 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 an 8 written on it.
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 beach break 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 one more option called El Estero. This wave breaks for both sides over a rocky bottom.
This wave breaks on top of a rocky reef. It can be surfed on all tides but it gets really shallow and hollow on the low tide (perfect for tube riders).
This beach is known for having almost no crowd. There is a beach break and a reef break. The beach break has barreling waves breaking on top of sand while the reef break has shallow waves that peel to the left for a 50-100m.
There are many surf spots spread out at this beach. At high tide can be very mellow and good for beginners. When the tide drops it gets powerful and hollow.
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.
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.
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.
This beach is located in 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 beginners. The waves start to work when the tide starts to rise. Watch out for strong currents if you want to go swimming.
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.
Located in the southern part of the country, Pavones is the second-longest left-hander 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.
This beach is located in the north of Limon. This surf spot needs a big swell to start to work. There is a reef break that works better on mid-tide and a beach break that needs more water and has to be surfed on high tide.
This uninhabited island has a reef that produces 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.
This surf spot is not very popular. The waves work better with a smaller swell. When it gets too big it starts to close out.
This black sand beach has friendly waves breaking for both sides. Very good for beginners.
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 surfers wear a helmet here for protection. Only for experienced surfers.
Surfing in Costa Rica: what is your traveling style?
Luxury / Nice / Upscale Surfing 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 population 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 inland 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 stay in the northern region where there are many accommodation options and lots of surf spots nearby. By traveling 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 for its friendly beach breaks and long waves. This scenario makes it perfect to learn how to surf in the safest conditions as possible. There are many Surf Camps on 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.
Costa Rica Travelling Guide
Packing and equipment: what should I pack for a surf holiday in Costa Rica
If you are going on a big surf trip around the country you should travel light. There will be a lot of road trips and the lighter you pack the easier it will be. Bring only the essentials and pack lots of shorts or bikinis, you will only need light clothes in this warm weather country. Snickers are always a good idea if you like to go for a run or hike up a hill.
Costa Rica adopts the same electrical plug standards as the US. If you are not from North America you will need an adaptor to charge your electronic devices.
You can get a sim card from Kolbi ICE at a booth at the airport. The average price per week is 8 -12 USD but there are many plans to choose depending on how long you will stay in the country.
Basic Info for Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s official and most spoken language is 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).
Before Going to Costa Rica
Visa / Documents
- 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 check the list on the link below to find out how to get a visa to Costa Rica.
Vaccines / Health
- 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.
Getting to Costa Rica
There are two main airports in Costa Rica. One in the capital San Jose and the other in the northern part of the country in Liberia. San Jose usually is the most common gateway to the country.
Los Angeles – San Jose 400-600 USD
New York – San Jose 350 – 500 USD
Miami – San Jose 270 – 400 USD
Europe – San Jose 880 – 1000 USD
Sydney – San Jose 1100 – 1500 USD
You can also get to Costa Rica coming from the south or from the north by car. Central America has the perfect set up for adventurous road trips going up or down the coast.
Moving Around Costa Rica
Moving around the country can be quick if you take a plane. If you choose public transportation you should be prepared for longer journeys. If you only have a few days to spend in Costa Rica the best thing to do is to choose an area and stay there. In the Tamarindo region, there are many spots easily accessed by car or even walking. In Puerto Viejo, the best way to cruise to the surf spots is on a rented bike. Some dirt roads can be very good during the dry season and extremely muddy during the wet season. We recommend you to rent a 4×4 if you choose to go to Costa Rica during the rainy periods.
There are many board rental shops all over the coast, especially at Tamarindo, Santa Teresa and Jaco. Board rental: 10 – 20 USD
Bike rental: 5 USD/day
Sim Card: 8-12 USD per week (depending on your plan)
Car rental: 50 – 100 USD (depending if 4wd). Most famous car rental companies in Costa Rica are Avis, Europcar, 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.
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 a 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 traveling 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)
Gas in Costa Rica costs around 1 USD per liter ( 1 liter is ¼ of a gallon).
Other things to do while Surfing in Costa Rica
Eat local and discover Costa Rica’s famous national dishes
As in most Central American countries, rice and beans are a must in every meal, even for breakfast. Pork and beef are the most popular meats. Gallo Pinto is the most traditional dish in the country. It’s usually eaten for breakfast and consists of rice mixed with black beans, sour cream (Natilla), scrambled eggs and fried plantain.
For vegans and vegetarians, there is a large abundance of vegetables that can substitute meat in the many flavourful dishes you will find in Costa Rica.
Sightseeing – Culture in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a bliss of natural attractions. The country has everything to offer: tropical beaches, huge volcanoes, rain forests, and unique wildlife.
The most popular volcano in Costa Rica is Arenal. The volcano is located in the middle of a national park, 1,633 meters above the sea level at the Cordillera de TIlarán. This chain of mountains has one of the best viewing spots in the country. The crate of the active volcano always has ash columns going up to the sky making the scenario breathtaking.
There is plenty of wildlife in Costa Rica. Tourists are always impressed to see monkeys and exotic birds in the middle of the cities. If you want to see unique animals you can go explore the forest to spot spider monkeys, toucans, and other native fauna.
Besides the natural wonders, Costa Rica also has many cultural activities. The capital of San José is home to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum that has one of the largest collection of golden coins, old stamps, and delightful Costa Rican art.
Type of Risks
Surfing in 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
Surf trips require a lot of your body. Most surfers are not ready to stay in the water for long hours. For that reason, it is always a good idea to get paddle fit before a surf trip. This is the best way to prevent muscle injuries and to make the most of your vacation. Always make a good research on the area you are going to make sure you are familiarized with the surf spots and the best conditions for each break.
One week before your trip you can already check the forecast for the destination where you are going. That helps to get prepared for the surf conditions you will face ahead and choose your equipment more accurately.
These are a few websites that you can check the waves in Costa Rica::
When you are going on vacation it’s always good to think about getting insurance, just in case. Here are a few insurance companies that will provide their services if you are going to Panama:
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 southern jungles where their access is more limited and the roads tend to be worse. Besides these remote locations, you will find good hospitals that will take perfect 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:
Country Plaza, Local 22, San Jose, San Rafael, 10203, Costa Rica
Open now: Open 24 hours
Huacas, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
+506 2653 9911
Playa Guiones, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
+506 2682 0942
Open now: 8am–5pm