COSTA RICA SURF OVERVIEW
Costa Rica has a good mix of breaks with a lot of beach breaks that break best on a southwest swell. Long point waves and wide stretches of clean, crisp beach break (with hollow sections on the right tide) characterize most of the country. The Caribbean side is more treacherous, with coral reefs, but it also has the best and biggest surf in the country. The Pacific side is usually off shore in the mornings, which is the best time to surf because it’s the least crowded and not as hot. Surf is reasonably consistent year-round, perhaps larger in the rainy season (especially Puntarenas/Boca Baranca), but many of the best surf spots are inaccessible during the rainy season because the dirt roads become impassable. The dry season is preferred because offshores are more frequent, roads are better and there are good swells on the Caribbean side and the northern part of the country. Sharks are present and numerous, but no attacks have been recorded in the last 10 years. Best times of year to surf Costa Rica: North Pacific Coast (Guanacaste), November to March (offshores during dry season only). Central Pacific (Puntarenas, Jaco, Quepos), May to October (rainy season). Caribbean Coast, December to February. South Coast (Osa Peninsula, Pavones), May to October.
Surf in Tamarindo and Northern Pacific Coast:
Tamarindo is a surfing hot-spot which anchors the surf community of the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Consistent swells and offshore winds provide good surf conditions throughout the year.
Right off Tamarindo the left and right beach breaks are also suited for beginners to learn on. Surf in Tamarindo is best during high tide and towards the north of the beach, at the estuary, where the long rights are especially popular with long boarders.
Across from the Tamarindo estuary the great surf beach of Playa Grande. With your surf board you can paddle across the river to get to the surf spot "La Casita" with its fast beach break. Walking further north you find another set of left and right beach breaks. The surf on Playa Grande is very consistent, even during low tide.
1 km south of Tamarindo is Playa Langosta where a right and left point break comes up fast and curls off the estuary of the Rio San Francisco. For a fun beach break, you may want to surf Playa Langosta. The beauty of staying in Playa Langosta is you can walk down the beach to other breaks and from Playa Langosta or Tamarindo, you can get in the car and drive to nearby Playa Avellanas or Nosara or north to Playa Grande.
The next good surf spot south is Avellanas, also nicknamed "Little Hawaii". Surf is good low and high tide with beach breaks featuring very hollow rights and lefts. To reach Avellanas you can also drive 16 km from Tamarindo via Villarreal and Pinilla.
Another 5 km south of Avellanas comes Playa Negra, reputedly one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. It's a right point break with very fast waves best to be surfed during transition of the tides. Only for experts.
Surf and Hotel Map of the Tamarindo Area:
To reach the famous, remote surf spots in the north, like Ollie's Point and Witch's Rock you can arrange a surf tour with a local surf shop.
Call or email for a quick price quote and more information.
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Surfing in NosaraFurther south of Avellanas and Playa Negra is Nosara. Most surfers visiting Nosara head straight for Playa Guiones, which is, hands down, one of the most consistent breaks in Costa Rica. Playa Guiones is a swell magnet and Punta Guiones (at the South end of the beach) juts farther out into the Pacific than many other points in Costa Rica. This is also why fishing is so good, because we are so close to the continental shelf. As a result of this, Playa Guiones picks up both North and South facing swells brining surfable waves here over 300 days a year.
Though the days of completely empty line-ups are gone, we still have plenty of waves for everybody of all skill levels from beginner to expert. Playa Guiones is a beach break with peaks up and down the bay. So, it is easy to find a spot without too many people surfing. Beginners are urged to go towards the South end of the beach (near the cemetery). The busiest months in the water correspond with the busiest times of our high season (November - April).
Offshore winds blow most every morning during dry season, from mid November until the end of April, making for great surf conditions. During December and January there will be some days where the offshores blow almost all day long, otherwise the wind usually switches onshore by 10am. Most surfers are in the water between 7am - 10am and return for a sunset session around 4pm if the ocean cleans up. In rainy season, the waves are often bigger, but expect less consistent wind and slightly choppier and disorganized conditions.
The break at Guiones is sometimes called a "beginner" or "longboard" wave, but don't let that description fool you. True, it is a sandy bottom beach break, and when the waves are small it can be the perfect spot to learn. Typically, when the waves are smaller or the tide is high, longboards and fishes dominate the line-up. However, when bigger swells come in, waves here can be quite big and powerful. When it is big, the surf here in the Nosara area should be taken with extreme caution and only experienced surfers should paddle out. There can be many rip currents and lots of water moving around, making for potentially dangerous conditions for those that are unprepared and/or out of their comfort zone.
There are a handful of other good surf breaks and beaches within an hour or so drive North and South of Playa Guiones, but you'll have to ask the locals how to find those...
Check out the daily Nosara Surf Report, and see how the waves are right now on the Nosara Live Cam. Surfing Nosara also provides a detailed, long and short range Nosara Surf Forecast.
Surf in the Central Pacific Region of Costa Rica
Puntarenas, about an hour and a half from the San Jose airport, above Puerto Caldera.
Boca Barranca is one of the longest lefts in the world. It needs a good double overhead Southwest swell to get up in the Gulf of Nicoya and make it work. The walk over the crusty cobblestones and paddling through San Jose's runoff is irritating, but worth it when it is big. It can be packed with locals, longboarders, and day trippers from Jaco. Or if you catch it early when the swell is not too massive, the drift will spread 10-20 people out nicely. Major drift factor, waves can break all the way to the pier, and then you walk back. You can stay right on the break in an All-Inclusive Resort where all your food, cocktails and entertainment are included for usually around $100 per person per night.
Playa Escondida is a true A-frame with a short barreling right and a longer left that also throws out when it is big. There is only 2 peaks, inside and outside, so it can be crowded with six people on it. The rock shelf sticks out at lower tides, so be careful. Only access is by boat or through Los Suenos Resort. Los Suenos is a high end property with a Marriott and Rental Condos and Houses with their own beach club included. Great for families or groups of friends! Ask us about it.
Playa Jaco is a beachbreak that breaks smaller during southern swells since it is sheltered in a more west facing bay. Best size is chest high to a foot overhead, any bigger and it closes out. Best tides are two hours before high tide. There are a lot of peaks along the 3 kilometer beach, but a few better ones get crowded with tourists and locals on the weekend. The low tide whitewater reform is a great place for beginners to learn and lessons are usually given here. Lodging ranges from quaint eco-lodges to luxury hotels. There are only a few hotels right on the beach; an Apart-otel that can sleep a family and an All-Inclusive resort at a good price that includes your meals, cocktails and entertainment.
Roca Loca (Crazy Rock) is a right that breaks off a big rock at the far south end of Jaco bay, and just north of Playa Hermosa. It starts working at overhead and will hold surf up to triple overhead, but often closes out at that size. Lots of theft so leave nothing in your car, and the hike down from the parking area to the narrow take off spot is tricky. It is rarely crowded and works best at midtide.
There is a nice, chill hotel that sits right in front of this beachbreak at the north end of Playa Hermosa and some individual Beach Bungalows for families or groups of freinds. It works best 1-2 hours before high tide, at dead high breaks right on the shore (good for skimboarding) There are a couple of rocks that boil up at lower tides and provide a nice takeoff spot. Waves break both left and right. Crowds can be bad, but other peaks are located farther south that break the same.
The Tree is a massive almond tree that sits on the dirt road running parallel to the beach in Playa Hermosa, about 400 meters south of the Backyard Hotel. Even though it is notorious for theft, many people park here and surf right out back where the drift tends to spread apart the crowds. Best best from head high to double overhead. Bigger surf closes out and at low tide it closes out. So get there between midtide and high tide. If you keep driving south down the dirt road, you may find other empty peaks
Playa Esterillos, south of Hermosa
Esterillos has three beaches, Oeste (West), Central, and Este (East). This one is the most popular with surfers since besides the beachbreak there is a rock shelf that extends several hundred meters off the beach. There is a big mermaid statue that sits above the water, marking where the shelf lies. At lower tides the waves can break waaaay far out, with big mushy walls for longboarders and funshapes. The inside wave is more hollow, offering a few barrels at the higher tides. Surfers arrive in mass from Jaco and Hermosa from June to August, and from January to March.
A 2 km. stretch of beachbreaks, with a rivermouth at both ends. It breaks best at higher tides with a South southwest swell to give it some angle. Best size is chest high to a foot overhead, when it is bigger it will close out.
This beach is the farthest east in Esterillos, and the most remote. Surfers rarely come here, since the beachbreak only works towards high tide and then others spots will break better. Works best from chest to overhead and a south southwest swell. There is a luxury Resort and Spa located here as well as nice surf hotels.
Bejuco is a dark sand south facing beachbreak like most others, but for some reason breaks a little harder and more hollow than other beaches. A rivermouth at the eastern end may be building up the sandbars, so come here if you empty lineups and the chance to get barreled. Be wary of the strong rips and no lifeguards on duty. There is a hotel right on the break.
Call us to book your lodging at any of these surf breaks.