Surfing In Costa Rica: A Complete Guide

Surfing in Costa Rica is like riding an exhilarating wave of adventure surrounded by natural bliss! It’s where the majestic Pacific meets tropical shores, creating a paradise for wave riders worldwide. Breathtaking surf spots, and year-round swells, beckons both beginners and seasoned to take the boards and get gnarly. So, what’s there to know about surfing the waves in Costa Rica?

Among the most popular spots to surf in Costa Rica include Tamarindo, Witches Rock, and Pavones. Sharing the coasts with the lively surfing culture, you will find that the Pacific Coast offers ideal waves from May to October, while the Caribbean Coast gets more action from November to April.

Surfers here know that each spot has its own personality and rhythm. And Costa Rica’s coasts boast an abundance of incredible surf spots waiting to be explored. The country is blessed with two coasts that offer tons of great surf spots to choose from, and this guide will provide you with insider tips to ride awesome waves and make your experience unforgettable.

Where To Surf In Costa Rica

Being a surfer’s dream, Costa Rica boasts over 800 miles of coastline and countless waves to choose from. So, if you’re looking for a mellow beach break, a hollow reef break, or a long point break, you’ll find it somewhere in this tropical paradise. Here are some awesome tips and recommendations to help you plan your epic surf trip.

Surfing in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Surf Map: Top Surf Spots

To get a bird’s eye view of the best spots to surf in Costa Rica, check out this handy surf map (Surfline) showing the location and data of the country’s most famous and popular waves. That aside, note that Costa Rica has two main coasts: the Pacific and the Caribbean.

The Pacific coast has more surf spots and more consistent waves throughout the year, while the Caribbean coast has fewer spots and more seasonal waves that depend on storms and hurricanes.

With the Pacific as the most popular, its coasts can be divided into four regions: North & South Guanacaste, Central Pacific, and South Pacific. Each section has its own vibe, climate, and surf conditions. Here are some of the need-to-know highlights of each area:

  • North Guanacaste: This is where you’ll find some of the most iconic surf sites in Costa Rica, such as Witches Rock, Ollie’s Point, Playa Grande, and Tamarindo. This region is known for its offshore winds, dry weather, and world-class waves ranging from beginner-friendly to expert-only. It’s also a popular tourist destination with many amenities, nightlife, and activities.


  • South Guanacaste: The south is where you’ll find some of the most attractive and secluded beaches, such as Avellanas, Playa Negra, Marbella, and Mal Pais. This region is known for its laid-back atmosphere, lush vegetation, and uncrowded waves that can be fun for all levels, with a consistent spread that could accommodate a whole army of wave riders.


  • Central Pacific: This is where you’ll find some of the most accessible and diverse surf spots, such as Playa Jaco, Hermosa (north), Esterillos, and Manuel Antonio. This region is known for its warm water, rainy weather, and consistent waves ranging from small and playful to big and powerful. It’s also a convenient place to stay, with plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, shops, and attractions.


  • South Pacific: Just south is where you’ll find some of the most remote and adventurous surf spots in Costa Rica, such as Dominical, Uvita, Matapalo, and Pavones. This region is known for its tropical rainforest, abundant wildlife, and epic waves that can be long and perfect. It’s also a challenging place to travel to, with limited infrastructure, services, and crowds.

Best Surfing Spots For Beginners In Costa Rica

For those eager to hang ten and ride the waves in a safe and stoked atmosphere, Costa Rica’s got your back with a rad lineup of beginner-friendly spots. You’ll be looking for gentle, playful waves that break over a sandy bottom, making them easy to catch and ride.

Moreover, you would also find nearby surf schools, camps, shops, and instructors around the area to help you learn the basics or up your surfing game. Check out these epic waves where beginner surfers can paddle out and catch their first epic vibe in Costa Rica:


  • Tamarindo: Known to be among the most popular surf towns in Costa Rica and a great place to learn how to surf, the main beach has several peaks that offer small and friendly waves for beginners. Also, take a boat trip to nearby spots like Witches Rock or Ollie’s Point if you want to challenge yourself with bigger waves.


  • Playa Cocles: This is one of the best surf spots on the Caribbean coast and an excellent place to learn how to surf when the swell is small. The beach has a wide sandbar that creates soft waves perfect for beginners. You can also relish the laid-back vibe of the town and the area’s spicy beauty.


  • Nosara: Among some of the most beautiful surf towns in Costa Rica, it’s a great place to learn how to surf. The main beach, Guiones, has a long stretch of sand that offers multiple peaks that suit different levels of surfers. The waves here are usually smooth and well-formed, thanks to the offshore winds.


  • Manuel Antonio: This place is stunning and a total hotspot in Costa Rica, making it a terrific choice to kickstart your surfing journey and catch some epic waves surrounded by jaw-dropping beauty. The main beach has a wide and flat sandbar that creates gentle waves ideal for beginners.

Surfing in Costa Rica

Little Hawaii: Costa Rica’s World-Class Surfing Destination

Prepare for an adrenaline-pumping challenge at Little Hawaii, a world-class reef break in Playa Avellanas. This secluded gem in South Guanacaste demands skill and courage, with long paddles, strong currents, and waves reaching up to 18 feet. But the reward? Unforgettable rides on powerful right-handers.

Surrounded by sm epic scenery—think green hills, palm trees, and crystal-clear water—you can stay at nearby accommodations like Little Hawaii Avellanas or venture from towns like Tamarindo or Nosara for a radical day trip.

Costa Rica Surf Report: When To Go Surfing

Catch the waves year-round in Costa Rica, a surfer’s paradise with warm waters and consistent swells. To optimize your surfing experience, consider the following guidelines:


  • For bigger and more powerful waves, hit the waves during the green season (May – December), when south swells grace the Pacific coast. The Caribbean coast also delivers from November to April, with storms and hurricanes generating impressive swells.
  • Smaller, gentles waves (for beginners) are best chosen toward the dry season (January – April) when north swells grace the Pacific coast. The trade winds create favorable conditions on the Caribbean coast from December to March.
  • For variety and fewer crowds, opt for the shoulder seasons (April – May and November – December), offering unpredictable swells and the chance to explore different wave types on both coasts. Plus, you’ll enjoy lower prices and fewer tourists!

Regardless of when you choose to surf in Costa Rica, prepare for an incredible experience embracing this amazing country’s waves, nature, and surfing culture. Respect the locals, surf with etiquette, and, most importantly, have a blast!

Planning Your Costa Rica Surfing Trip

So you’ve decided to go surfing in Costa Rica but are unsure how to plan your trip. As you know by now, you can surf in Costa Rica all year round, and keep your preferences and abilities in mind to help you pick the best spot! And when it comes to planning, we’ve got you covered with some tips and recommendations to help you plan your ultimate Costa Rica surfing trip.

  1. Set your budget and duration: Determine how long you want to stay over and how much you will spend. Keep in mind that costs can vary across different regions and seasons.


  1. Choose your surf region and spots: Costa Rica offers four central surf regions with distinct vibes and conditions. Select the area(s) that align with your preferences and abilities, and consider factors like wave type, crowd level, accessibility, and scenery when choosing specific surf spots. Online sites like com come in particularly handy for this.


  1. Book accommodation and transportation: Explore a range of accommodation choices, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly hostels. Look for surf-friendly locations like beachfront or jungle settings. Plan your conveyance, whether it’s flying, driving, taking a bus or shuttle, or renting a car or bike.


  1. Plan activities and extras: While surfing is the highlight, Costa Rica offers a plethora of other activities and experiences. If the waves are stressing you out, take a yoga class (not really, it helps), go hiking, visit wildlife sanctuaries, try zip-lining or rafting, and indulge in sunset views or whale watching. Costa Rica is just full of possibilities!


  1. Pack your essentials and extras: Remember Costa Rica’s tropical climate as you pack. So keep their weather reports in mind! And with that, essential items obviously include your surfboard, or renting one, as well as:
  • Leash
  • Board bag
  • Fins
  • Wax
  • Rash guard
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Beach towel
  • Water bottle
  • First aid kit

Extras like a wetsuit top, booties, earplugs, and a surf guidebook (or a surfer buddy who knows the place) can boost your experience.!

Costa Rica Surf Camps: Learn To Surf In Paradise

For the newbies out there, Costa Rica has a plethora of surf camps that cater to all budgets and preferences. Whether you’re dreaming of riding waves in a fancy luxury resort, chilling in an eco-lodge with Mother Nature as your neighbor, embracing the laid-back vibes of a hostel, or even roughing it out at a camping site like a true ‘surf-venturer,’ Costa Rica has a surf haven for you!

That said, here are three excellent examples:

  1. Selina Surf Camp in Nosara: This camp, nestled between Playa Pelada and Playa Guiones, offers a killer combo of accommodation, surf lessons, equipment, yoga sessions, co-working space, and more. With a stunning villa featuring swimming pools and jungle views, it’s a true paradise for surf enthusiasts.
  2. House of Somos in Santa Teresa: If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, this camp in Santa Teresa has you covered. With cozy shared dorms or private rooms, surf lessons, equipment, yoga sessions, and a communal kitchen, it’s the perfect spot to embrace the surf lifestyle without breaking the bank.
  3. Kalon Surf Resort in Dominicalito: For those seeking a touch of luxury, this high-end resort in Dominicalito offers spacious suites with ocean views. Alongside surf lessons and equipment, you’ll enjoy top-notch amenities, including yoga sessions, delicious cuisine, and a truly exclusive experience.

You can really squeeze out some of the most rad experiences that the surf-senseis in the area can offer, where you’ll ride the waves, laugh, wipe out (gracefully, of course), and carve out unforgettable memories.

Surfing Safety In Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a haven for wave riders, offering warm waters, consistent swells, and jaw-dropping scenery. But before you wax up and paddle out, let’s make sure you’re prepared to ride the stoke responsibly. Here are some wave-savvy tips to maximize your surf odyssey in Costa Rica while riding those good vibes like a pro:


  1. Respect the Rules: While there aren’t specific surfing laws, following general beach guidelines is crucial. Don’t surf in designated swimming areas, keep the beach clean, avoid drinking alcohol on the sand, and leave nature untouched. Also, embrace the local surf culture and practice good etiquette—show respect, share waves, and apologize if you accidentally drop in on someone’s ride.


  1. Hazards and Safety Tips: Costa Rica’s diverse surf breaks come with their own challenges. Stay aware of riptides by spotting signs like gaps in the waves or discolored water. If you’re caught in a rip, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore.


  • Also, avoid crocodile encounters by seeking advice on safe areas from locals and steering clear of river mouths. So be careful on the spot you choose!
  • Protect yourself from rocky encounters by wearing a wetsuit or rash guard, checking tide charts to avoid low tide, and scoping out the break before paddling out. Also, keep one eye open on the weather forecast to steer clear of lightning storms.


  1. Choose a Certified Surf Instructor: If you’re looking to catch your first waves or refine your skills, enlisting a certified surf instructor is wise. Look for instructors certified by reputable organizations like ISA, ASI, or NSSIA, ensuring they have undergone training in surfing skills, teaching methods, safety procedures, and first aid.


Seek experienced instructors with a solid reputation, positive reviews, and a friendly personality that matches your vibe. The camps mentioned before are top-notch choices, but if you are looking for additional surf-senseis, here are two excellent school choices:


  1. Tortuga Surf School: Ride radically at Jaco Beach’s oldest and most reputable surf school. Offering semi-private/private group lessons for all levels and ages, their ISA and ASI-certified instructors will have you carving like a pro. They provide all the necessary equipment, transportation, and extra fresh fruit snacks – they even capture epic photos of your session!


  1. Tico Surf Lessons: Make the wave your slave with the experienced Tico team in Jaco Beach. Their ISA and NSSIAcertified instructors bring over a decade of surfing experience, offering private lessons tailored to beginners and advanced surfers of all ages. With top-notch equipment, transportation, fresh coconut water, and video analysis of your session, they ensure an unforgettable experience!

Now that you’re armed with essential safety tips and some awesome surf school options, it’s time to live the pura vida and chase those Costa Rican waves! Get ready for a stoked surfing adventure of a lifetime. Pura Vida, baby! – (Pura Vida [Poo-rah Vee-dah] is a common saying in Costa Rica, which means optimism, happiness, and living life to the fullest!)

Costa Rica Surfing Culture And Lifestyle

Costa Rica isn’t just a surfer’s Pura Vida; it’s a place where surfing runs deep in the veins of the culture and lifestyle. And before you wrestle the waves, here’s a taste of what you need to know, with a touch of an exciting blast from the past.

Surfing In Costa Rica: A Brief History And Culture

In 1952, a couple of wave-riding warriors, fresh out of World War II, dropped into the Tico beaches and introduced Costa Rica to the magic of surfing. While flying warplanes from Pearl Harbor to Europe, the two surfing forefathers, an American and a Hawaiian, couldn’t help but notice Costa Rica’s epic waves. And thanks to picking up the sport from native Hawaiians, the Costa Rican surf scene was born!

From then on, the stoke grew stronger, attracting visitors and locals alike to the shores of Costa Rica. In the swinging ’60s and ’70s, fellas like Robert August and Bruce Brown put Costa Rica’s waves on the map with their iconic films, “The Endless Summer II” and “The Endless Summer 1.”

They showcased legendary spots like Tamarindo, Ollie’s Point, and Witches Rock, making them must-ride waves for any surfer seeking the ride of a lifetime.

As time rolled on into the ’80s and ’90s, surfing in Costa Rica got seriously pro. The Costa Rican Surf Federation was born, and our local rippers started making a splash in international events. Carlos Muñoz, Noe Mar McGonagle, Leilani McGonagle, and Brisa Hennessy became household names in the surfing world, reppin’ Costa Rica and taking it to the next level.

But let me tell you, surfing in Costa Rica is so much more than a sport—it’s a full-blown way of life. It’s ingrained in our national identity, culture, and tourism. Many Costa Ricans are proud of their waves and surfers and share their passion with a friendly and laid-back attitude. They call it “pura vida,” and it’s the secret sauce that keeps our stoke levels at an all-time high!

Surfing Events And Competitions in Costa Rica

Get ready for the gnarliest surfing action in Costa Rica! A lineup of extraordinary events and competitions throughout the year will have you hyped. Check out some of the hottest ones:

  1. The National Surf Circuit: This is the big kahuna of surfing competitions in Costa Rica. Organized by the Costa Rican Surf Federation, it’s a wild ride with eight dates in different spots across the country.


Surfers go head-to-head in categories like open, junior, women’s, longboard, and adaptive. Winning this wave fest qualifies you for the national team, representing Costa Rica in international events.


  1. The Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro: Hang ten at this annual event, part of the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS). It’s where the world’s best wave warriors gather at Jaco Beach to ride the waves and score points and prizes. And hey, it’s not just for the big shots; it’s a chance for local shredders to showcase their skills and get some serious exposure.


  1. The Guanacaste Classic Pro: Get ready to charge the breaks at Playa Avellanas, one of the most consistent and stunning surf spots in Costa Rica. This annual event is part of the WSL QS and features both men’s and women’s divisions. But it’s not all about catching waves—there’s live music, art, culture, and good vibes in the mix too.


  1. The Cosmic Children Festival: This rad gathering goes down at Playa Hermosa de Cobano, near Santa Teresa, and it’s all about embracing the retro vibes. Expect retro surfboards, vintage cars, sick tunes, yoga, workshops, and more. It’s a groovy and creative way to soak up the little ones’ surfing scene in Costa Rica.


Costa Rica Surf Clubs And Communities

Surfing is all about sharing the stoke with like-minded wave riders. In Costa Rica, you can join or connect with these awesome surf clubs and communities:


  • The Jaco Surf Club: These local legends in Jaco know their stuff when it comes to making waves. Founded in 2001, they’re dedicated to improving Jaco’s surfing conditions and environment. Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned surfer, they’ve got you covered with lessons, rentals, tours, camps, and coaching.
  • The Nosara Surf Club: Making waves for positive change, this newer club has been carving its way since 2017. Born from the passion of local surfers, they’re all about positively impacting the community through surfing. Join them for free surf lessons for kids, beach clean-ups, supporting local businesses, and awesome events.
  • The Women’s Surf Club: Calling all wahines! This special surf club is all about empowering women through the art of surfing. Founded in 2018 by two awesome female surf instructors, they’ve created a space for women to connect and ride the waves together. Boost your skills with lessons, join epic trips and retreats, and dive into empowering workshops.


Surfing in Costa Rica offers a thrilling adventure in a traditional pura vida spirit. Vast coastlines await from the popular spots of Tamarindo and Witches Rock to the remote gems of Pavones and Dominical, Costa Rica’s coasts provide an unforgettable experience for wave riders. So, snag your board, wax your ride, and embrace the surf culture!


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