With year-round warm water and monster waves, Costa Rica has become one of the world’s top travel destinations for surf vacations. Nearly every beach has great breaks and something special to offer those wanting to surf Costa Rica. The best time for surfing in Costa Rica is from December to April; however, this is also peak travel season in Costa Rica. At the more popular beach vacation destinations, this can make a simple surfing trip difficult as you navigate through the crowds of beachcombers. From May to November, Costa Rica experiences winter, or more commonly referred to as rainy season. The mornings are usually warm and clear with sporadic rains moving in during the afternoon.
While many beaches in Costa Rica are well known for having consistent waves throughout the year, each beach has its own best and worst times for surfing. It is important to take these things into account when planning a Costa Rica surf trip.
Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific Coast in Guanacaste offers amazing surf from December to April. The winds and swells combined create gnarly breaks in this popular surf destination. Beaches offering excellent Costa Rica surf in Guanacaste include Playa Grande, Playa Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas, Playa Langosta and Playa Negra.
The Central and South Pacific Coasts offer the best surf breaks from May through November. For advanced surfers, Playa Jaco and Playa Hermosa are the best surf spots for monster waves. Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Dominical are ideal for intermediate and beginner surfers on vacation in Costa Rica. The Caribbean Coast is best surfed from November to March on Playa Cahuita, Playa Cocles and Punta Uva.
Tamarindo Surfing on Costa Rica’s Northern Gold Coast
Tamarindo has long been known as one of the best surf spots in all of Costa Rica. With a multitude of beaches and break levels varying from beginner to more advanced, Playa Tamarindo is a haven for anyone looking to learn to surf, hone their surfing skills, or even challenge their already-gnarly abilities and surf Costa Rica. The best times for surfing in Tamarindo are during the rainy season. Quite a few Costa Rica surf schools and surf camps have sprouted up in Playa Tamarindo, and those tourists intent on learning to surf in Costa Rica will want to make use of these surf camps or the by-the-hour surf lessons available on the beach. The most popular beach for beginners is the main Playa Tamarindo; more advanced surfers will probably want to head to one of the following beaches in Guanacaste.
- Playa Avellanas: This popular surfing beach in Tamarindo Costa Rica received acclaim for being featured in the classic surf movie The Endless Summer II. Playa Avellanas boasts some of the most consistent waves in the Tamarindo area, and this pristine beach is relatively secluded since getting there requires 4-wheel drive.
- Playa Negra: Just a few kilometers south of Playa Avellanas is Playa Negra, with darker sand and a somewhat rockier beach. Playa Negra has an incredible right that barrels with a good offshore breeze.
- Witches Rock: This surf spot in Costa Rica is a well-known and well-loved beach for advanced surfers. With fast rights and smaller lefts, Witches Rock is an ideal surfing spot in Costa Rica. It isn’t always possible to get to Witches Rock by car (especially during rainy season when the surfing in this area is at its best). You can take a boat or water taxi and enjoy the amazing breaks at Witches Rock in Tamarindo.
Jaco Surfing on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast
Playa Jaco Costa Rica is fortunate to have incredible breaks all year long. Playa Jaco is gorgeous, sandy, and the waves are consistent, creating a great atmosphere for beginner to intermediate surfers in Costa Rica. Jaco is also a great beach destination to buy and sell surf boards, so if you’re looking to visit Costa Rica and buy your board here, this is the spot to do so. There are also some excellent Costa Rica surf camps in Jaco, including the well-known Vista Guapa Surf Camp.
Playa Hermosa Costa Rica: Located just 10 minutes outside of Playa Jaco, Playa Hermosa is one of the most famous places to surf Costa Rica. The waves here are monstrous and the rip tides are quite dangerous. Beginners would do better to try their luck at Playa Jaco and leave this Playa Hermosa to the more advanced surfers. Those planning to visit Costa Rica in August should stop by Playa Hermosa regardless of their surfing prowess, as this is when the annual Playa Hermosa Costa Rica surf contest is held. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to watch the pro surfers shredding on the amazing waves out in Playa Hermosa.
Surfing Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast
Puerto Viejo is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Like most of the towns on the Caribbean, Puerto Viejo offers a different flavor of life than the rest of Costa Rica, where the population and culture is heavily influenced by Jamaican descendants. The towns here are less developed for tourism, although Puerto Viejo is more commercialized than most. Crashing along the coast here is the Salsa Brava, sometimes referred to as the best wave in Costa Rica. This is not a wave for beginners. In fact, the reef in this area is shallow, so if you fall you could do some serious damage to your board and yourself.
If you’re visiting this Caribbean vacation destination of Costa Rica but not feeling up to test the Salsa Brava, then the nearby beach of Playa Cocles is a great alternative. There are a multitude of surf camps and surf schools in the Puerto Viejo area of Costa Rica, although the Caribbean may not be the best spot for brand new surfers. The breaks and swells in this area are perfect for more advanced surfers, especially those looking for a true Costa Rican adventure.