Surf’s Up in Costa Rica – Best Beaches to Hang Ten
Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s no shortage of stellar choices when it comes to surfing in Costa Rica. Straddled by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the country has over 800 miles of gorgeous shoreline, and a slew of surf spots where you can test your mettle on epic point breaks, or learn the basics amid gentle waves. Leave your wet suit at home – the water temps hover around 80 degrees – and get ready for some serious fun and adventure while hanging ten in the land of Pura Vida.
Planning your vacation: surf seasons
If you’re wondering which months are best for surfing certain beaches, here’s a general summary:
- Central and Southern Pacific beaches (Jaco, Playa Hermosa, Esterillos, Bejuco, Manuel Antonio, Dominical and Pavones) peak between May and November, which coincides with the country’s rainy season.
- Caribbean Coast (Puerto Viejo and Playa Cocles) enjoys its biggest swells from November through the end of March
- Northern Pacific & Nicoya Peninsula including Nosara, Tamarindo, Playa del Coco, Avellanas, Playa Grande, and Santa Teresa/Mal Pais have the most consistent waves, but December through April are considered the best
Best beach for novice surfers
For tame waves, breathtaking scenery and a ton of experienced surf instructors, you can’t go wrong in the booming beach town of Tamarindo – Costa Rica’s original surf Mecca. Surf camps are literally everywhere and instructors offer both one-on-one instruction and group classes. This north Pacific beach is renowned for its steady yet gentle surf, where you can practice your balancing skills before taking on the bigger waves of nearby Playa Avellanas and Playa Grande.
A little something for everyone
Head to the southern Nicoya Peninsula for one of the coolest surf spots: the sister beaches of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. Arguably one of the country’s most stunning stretches of coastline, these rugged beaches offer a medley of breaks to choose from, and when the southwestern swell comes in, the action gets hot. The area has a decidedly bohemian vibe with tons of funky shops, surf camps and plenty of long and short boards that you can rent by the hour, day or week.
Larger-than-life waves for veteran surfers
Less than two hours from the capital of San Jose, Playa Hermosa (Spanish for beautiful beach) lures boarders with challenging waves and a more tranquil scene than the neighboring party town of Jaco. Hermosa hosts both regional and international surf competitions, and has been rated the second best surf spot in all of Costa Rica. The small community of residents is dedicated to the sport, and you’ll find plenty of wave riders showing off their skills on the beach’s wild tubular hollows.
Ride one of the globe’s longest left breaks
For a thrilling two-to-three minute ride on one of the world’s longest left breaks, Pavones is your ticket to the unbridled waters of the Southern Pacific. This legendary left point break draws surfers from the world over, and when the swell is big, this powerhouse can deliver a two-mile ride. This surfer hideout is somewhat off the tourist trail, thanks to its remote location on the interior side of the Golfo Dulce. The waves really pick up during the green season months of May through November, when every hotel and beach vacation rental books up in the tiny surf haven.