Costa Rica Quick Facts
Location: Central America
Nationality: Costa Ricans (Spanish: Costarricenses)
Language: Spanish (though English is also common)
Currency: Costa Rican Colones (USD is also accepted)
Capital: San Jose and it is also the largest
Surf Costa Rica
With gorgeous natural settings, consistent waves with both left and right-hand breaks, abundant sunshine, warm temperatures year-round, and plenty of uncrowded beaches to choose from, it’s no wonder that surfing in Costa Rica is so popular. Whether you’re an experienced pro or want to try surfing for the first time, Costa Rica is your ideal destination.
Calculating the costs of a surfing adventure in Costa Rica depends on what time of year you visit, how you travel, and the type of accommodations that you prefer. Many surfers prefer to include complimentary activities like kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, yoga on the beach, bird watching, wildlife spotting, hiking, canoeing, and white water rafting to enjoy the full Costa Rica experience on their vacation.
4 Coasts of Unbelievable Surf in Costa Rica
The eastern part of the country may be less famous as a surf mecca than the western coast, but quality surfing is available on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. The surfing season is usually quite short compared to other areas, and the majority of the waves are the result of tropical storms that start further north in Mexico. Nonetheless, the storm-produced waves are often the biggest ones available in Costa Rica and are popular with experienced surfers.
The surfing focus on the Caribbean coast lies around Puerto Viejo (sometimes known as Salsa Brava). A small but resilient coral reef causes breaks large enough to carry up to two dozen surfers. Situated in Limon Province, Puerto Viejo is a small town with excellent surfing opportunities immediately offshore. Nearby is the town of Westfalia that also enjoys plenty of good breaks but can sometimes become treacherous thanks to riptides and jellyfish infestations.
North Pacific Coast
Centered around Guanacaste Province, the North Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is a mecca for tourists, both the surfing and non-surfing variety drawn to the region for its bio-diversity and natural beauty.
Perhaps the most popular surfing spot in the area is Playa Naranjo (literally “Orange Beach”), known by locals as “Witch’s Rock,” which enjoys strong winds and big breaks between December and March. Not a developed area with resorts and hotels, the Witch’s Rock area is home to several surf schools.
Other nearby hotspots for surfing include Playa Grande (“Big Beach”) and Playa Tamarindo with waters suitable for swimming and quiet beaches perfect for relaxing in the sun. Swells are fairly consistent if not world record-breakers in this area. The most thrilling spot is found in nearby Playa Negra (“Black Beach”) that enjoys a right-hand break that produces reliably powerful waves. Two additional solid and popular surf spots are Nosara and Mal Pais/Santa Teresa
Central Pacific Coast
Popular thanks to its easy access from the national capital of San Jose, the Central Pacific Coast region of Costa Rica is a great place to combine surfing with other vacation attractions.
Boca Barranca (literally “Barranca Mouth”) is a beach in this region that enjoys a reliable left-hand break at the river mouth that produces wives over half a mile long. Popular with long board enthusiasts, the nearby beach is quite popular so surfers are encouraged to arrive early to avoid the crowds of sunbathers and fellow surfers.
Another top spot for surfing in this area is Playa Escondida (literally “Hidden Beach”). The beach is private property belonging to a local beach club, so, if you’re not a member, you’ll have to rent a boat or catch a ride to get out to the deeper waters where the best waves are breaking. This beach is ideal when surfing at high tide, so be sure to consult a time table before heading out.
Hermosa Beach (literally “Beautiful Beach”) is a longer finger of land jutting out into the ocean, a unique landmass that produces regular swells. The beach is several miles long, so crowding is usually not an issue. The best breaks occur immediately adjacent to a sandbar with a big tree known locally as the “Almendro,” so be sure to ask a local to help you find it because it is definitely worth attempting. Surf contests are held weekly at this beach and it is generally recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers.
South Pacific Coast
In contrast to the more well-developed tourist areas, the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica is one of its most pristine natural areas with huge tracts of rainforest. Transportation is available via a 2.5 to 3 hour drive on paved roads or by small plane and surfing enthusiasts will be well-rewarded for their efforts.
Playa Dominical and a number of nearby areas just beyond the Manuel Antonio National Forest, including Playa Espadilla, the Quepos Rivermouth, Playa del Rey and Isla Damas, enjoy some of the most picturesque backdrops of any surf spot in the country. The variety of surf spots provide plenty of exciting surf action for surfers of all abilities and, as a part of the country where two global currents meet, these beaches enjoy very consistent swells suitable for world-class surfing. The beaches of Dominical, Playa del Rey and Isla Damas are less well known and therefore less crowded.
Farther South, almost at the border of Panama, is Pavones, a popular left-hand break point that provides world-record long rides. Popular with backpackers and campers due to a lack of tourism infrastructure, Pavones regularly produces rides lasting up to a mile in length. Be aware, however, that surfing in this area is unpredictable and generally only produced during a swell. Bigger and more consistent waves can usually be found between April and November.
Cabo Patapalo is the counterpoint to Pavones, located just across the bay. Enjoying the same access to ocean swells, Matapolo takes a bit more work to get to, so it is far less crowded. Ideal for beginners wanting space to practice their surfing skills, Cabo Matapalo is worth the long trip overland.
The Cost of Surfing in Costa Rica
Costa Rica essentially has two seasons: a long period of sunshine and warm weather (the high season) followed by a time of occasional morning or afternoon showers (the low season). Peak season is from December to April when cold and snow affect other areas of the world. Other popular times to visit include major holidays like Christmas and Easter.
As with any destination, you can save substantially by visiting during off-peak periods. Many airlines offer considerable discounts and it’s usually easier to find accommodations and organized tours during the low season.
Low Season – May to November
Referred to as “winter” by locals, temperatures stay nice and warm even as rainfall becomes more commonplace, especially during the early morning hours and the hottest part of the afternoon. If you don’t mind dodging the occasional raindrop, some of the best surfing can be found on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica during this period. The most rainy month is generally October but one can also find the largest swells.
Shoulder – May to July and November
This is sort of an in-between season in Costa Rica. It is marked by both mild weather and a lull in tourist numbers that allow intrepid surfers to take advantage of discounts on airfare, transportation, and lodging. This shoulder season also generally experiences a less rain during the day but tidal patterns ensure there are plenty of tasty waves for surfers to enjoy.
High Season – December to April
Just as you’d expect, the high season is when beaches and popular destinations are more crowded. Top resorts and hotels are often booked well in advance, especially during major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter (a week-long festival in Costa Rica). On the plus side, this season sees very little rain, giving surfers long days of golden sunshine and consistent waves to enjoy on their Costa Rica vacation. Surfing in Costa Rica during this period can be done on the Caribbean coast but bi-annual tidal patterns ensure that the Pacific Coast side has plenty of consistently big swells to choose from.
Costa Rica Surfing Pros
Various break types – beach breaks, point, breaks and reef breaks.
Breaks available for all surf levels from beginner to advanced.
Warm temperatures, sunshine and warm water make the experience all the more enjoyable. (No wet suits!)
Less crowds than some of the more popular surf places in the world.
Costa Rica Surf Cons
Non-paved roads in the North.
Where We Surf in Costa Rica
Dominical– This beautiful place, where the jungle meets the ocean, is a premiere surfing beach in Costa Rica and one of our favorites in the country. If you are looking to build yourself as great surfer this is an excellent option. Dominical is one of the most consistent beach breaks that a surfer can find and as one of the best-kept secrets of Costa Rica, is still uncrowded. The various beach breaks of this town offer a full assortment of wave riding options from gentle, predictable and slow-rolling swells to large barrels as well as long both left and right waves. This makes Dominical the perfect destination for all surfers from beginners looking to learn this fun sport, intermediate surfers looking to build their skills and advanced surfers looking for some fun and guaranteed waves.
Secret “Jurassic” Beach- This spectacular and private beach break is a hidden gem between the African palm and rice plantations. This break may very well be the brother break to the main Dominical beach break and therefore also provides consistent waves at high tide with both left and right breaking waves.
Isla Damas – This is our exclusive surf spot. It is a completely secluded beach break and perhaps one of the most beautiful places to learn how to surf without anything else in sight, only the peace of nature. This too, is a very consistent year-round wave – if you cannot find a wave anywhere else, you can always find a wave here. Waves break left and right and you will often see beautiful barrels. All surf generations from the area have surfed here before. This is an unparalleled experience and the opportunity to experience true Costa Rica at its finest.
Quepos Rivermouth – This is our favorite point break. This is a long left wave and one of the most perfect waves on the Pacific coast, though it only hits when there is a swell. This point break is great to surf in low tide. This is great spot for all levels.
Manuel Antonio Beach – Beautiful bay with a nice view of some islands. This is a beach break that is perfect for beginners. This is a shorter wave that breaks both left and right. When big swells hit the coast we will see big waves here as well.
What to Pack For Your Costa Rica Surfing Trip
Once you’ve booked your Costa Rica surfing trip, it’s really easy to get excited. But before you rush out the door with passport and ticket in hand, take a moment to make sure that you’ve got everything you need to enjoy a fabulous surfing vacation in Costa Rica.
To make sure you don’t miss anything, here’s everything you’ll need:
- Surfboard – Of course, you’ll need a surfboard. Yes, it’s possible to rent one, but it’s always best to have your own. Even better, bring two or more boards with you so that you’ll be able to choose exactly the right one for the various surf conditions that you’ll encounter. (Note, the Manuel Antonio Surf School has many surfboards of all shapes and sizes available to those who surf with us.)
- Wax – You’ll definitely need this. Bring along plenty and you’ll have extra to share with new friends whom you’ll meet that didn’t read this list.
- Repair stuff – A big ding in your surfboard can ruin your entire vacation. Bring along a kit and you’ll never have to worry about making repairs on the spot. Be aware that some chemicals in ding kits may be prohibited on aircraft, even in the cargo hold, so definitely check in with your airline before packing.
- Spare fins – These can be hard to replace in a pinch, and they’re small and easy to pack.
- Leash – You definitely need to bring at least one of these.
- Swim/Surfwear – Costa Rica is warm but you need to plan ahead. Also, if you’re surfing around coral, you’ll need some booties to protect your feet. Bring two swimsuits outfits so you’ll always have a dry one ready to go.
- Visa – Most travelers to Costa Rica don’t need a visa ahead of time, but this is definitely something you want to research ahead of time. Laws and regulations change all the time, so be sure to spend a few minutes online to avoid a really unpleasant surprise.
- Medical/First Aid Kit – You never know when you’ll get a cut or scrape. Always good to have in an emergency, even if it’s to help out a fellow surfer.
- Money – Surf, sun, wind, and waves may be free but not much else is!
- Sunscreen – The sun is powerful in Costa Rica, so be sure to have what you need to avoid a painful burn.
- Passport – Most countries require you to have at least six months left on your passport before it expires. Take a moment to check that your passport is in order and that you’re all good to go.
- Tickets and Paperwork – You can’t get on the plane without your ticket, of course, but also be sure to keep a written copy of any reservations, email information, and phone numbers for places you’ll be staying or visiting.
The Manuel Antonio Surf School and Camp (MASS)is the premier surf school in the region. MASS and their team of experienced local coaches help teach surfers of all abilities and experience how to make the most of the world-class surfing opportunities in Costa Rica. Fully licensed water safety experts, the coaches of MASS use advanced video capture and wave motion techniques to assist surfers from around the world improve on and learn to enjoy one of the world’s oldest sports. MASS offers both daily surf lessons as well as an all-inclusive surf camp. MASS also organized adventure tours in the area, including horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canoeing, hiking, and bird watching.
For reservations or any inquiries please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to answer you as quickly as possible.
CR Phone: +506 8555 3470
US Phone: 603 801 0600