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Costa Rica Surfing

Costa Rica surfing is world-class, and is in itself one of the country's major tourist draws accounting for around 10% of all visitors annually. With point breaks, beach breaks, reef breaks, river mouths, relatively big waves, and one of the world's longest lefts at Pavones (try standing up for 2-3 minutes on a kilometer long wave!), surfing Costa Rica is both diverse and rewarding.


Costa Rica Surfing Rental board selection and lessons are available in some of the bigger and more popular beach towns like Tamarindo, Jaco, Quepos, and Puerto Viejo, though in my experience rental selections in Puerto Viejo are fairly poor. It's also possible to rent equipment from one of the surf shops in and around San Jose. I happened to learn at Tamarindo, which is a great wave for beginners, but can be quite crowded on weekends and in high season (generally around winter time for those of us living in the northern hemisphere).

If a Costa Rica surfing safari is what you're mainly interested in though, my recommendation is to rent a 4x4 with a roof rack and bring your own board. The majority of airlines will consider a properly bagged surfboard as one of your checked luggage pieces. And it's easy to throw some extra clothes and maybe a snorkel set into your board bag.

As for domestic flights, one of the companies doesn't accept surfboards and the other will charge you extra. This makes having your own SUV much more convenient, besides it allows you the freedom to find your own secluded Costa Rica surf spots. Apart from the main beach breaks at Tamarindo and Jaco, you will find one of the nice things about surfing Costa Rica is the lack of crowds. When your trip comes to a close it's quite easy to sell your board.

There are well over 40 known breaks to choose from when you're surfing Costa Rica, and many more that are yet to be discovered. And while the never-ending left at Pavones certainly has its fans, others surfers in the know are quite loyal to the breaks at Olly's Point, Witch's Rock (Roca Bruja), Playa Grande, Playa Negra, Malpais, Matapalo, and Salsa Brava on the Caribbean. Witch's Rock and Olly's Point, made famous in Endless Summer II, are both reached by charter boat out of Playas del Coco (though Witch's can be reached by the gnarly roads of Santa Rosa National Park).

I surfed Witch's once, and had the heart-racing pleasure of discovering one of my fellow surfers was a 7ft long crocodile. Costa Rica surfing is a non-stop adventure!

While great wave sets can happen any time of year as a result of climatic occurrences and swell directions, the best waves tend to come in particular seasons and are worth considering before embarking on your Costa Rica surfing trip.

December through April is usually best for the Northwest Coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste canton. Along the central and southern Pacific coasts, the season producing the best waves is from April to November. Large waves roll into the Caribbean coast from December to the end of March, lighting up such legendary sites as the reef break at Salsa Brava -- a notorious board breaker and rewarding challenge for the skilled surfer.

If you were looking for a weeklong Costa Rica surfing trip, you'd probably have the best luck renting a 4x4 and concentrating on exploring the many sites along the Northwest coast of Guanacaste and heading down the Nicoya Peninsula. There are plenty of places to surf and some fun beach towns like Tamarindo to keep you occupied at night.

Before you plan your trip, it also doesn't hurt to look up the swell reports and check out some of the webcams that are available so you know where to concentrate your efforts. Big or small though, Costa Rica is guaranteed to be a great time. Pura vida!

Go back to Costa Rica Travel from Costa Rica Surfing


Looking for another great Central American surf zone? Check out some El Salvador Surf spots. I've surfed El Sunzal and it's a sweet wave.

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