Costa Rica: a Central American nation blessed by perfect waves

Costa Rica is one of the safest social environments in Central America. As a result, tourism boosted, and the country's economy thrived.

Although you'll find a few crowded surf breaks, in a way similar to what you get in Southern California, Australian, and Western Europe, it is safe to say that Costa Rica offers a balanced menu of quality waves and riding opportunities.

The Republic of Costa Rica is a small country with less than 350,000 inhabitants, and it has been under the surfers' radar since the 1960s. Today, surf tourism is an established reality with room to grow.

Why? Because the Spanish-speaking nation has 1,016 kilometers of coastline on the Pacific Ocean side and 212 kilometers of beaches on the Caribbean coast.

The surf in Costa Rica is surprisingly consistent, but the prime months are definitely from May to September. Do not expect a cheap country - eating out and staying in luxury hotels can be a bit expensive.

Costa Rica: one of the safest surfing nations in Latin America | Photo: Shutterstock

The number of foreign surfers that visit Costa Rica every year exceeds the number of inhabitants in the Central American country, generating over $350 million in revenues.

Costa Rica has relatively steady climate with temperatures ranging between 78°F and 80°F (26°C-27°C). Rainfalls are intense, yet rare and come in short bursts.

The three main surfing provinces in Costa Rica are Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Let's take a look at the best surf breaks the country has to offer.

1. Playa Naranjo/Witch's Rock

Playa Naranjo/Witch's Rock: an intense surf break | Photo: Shutterstock

Located in a natural sanctuary, Witch's Rock is one of the most well-known surf spots in Costa Rica, but it rarely gets crowded. It breaks in front of Roca Bruja, a giant volcano rock cursed by a witch, and offers intense surfing experiences. This world-class wave is not for the faint of heart.

Location: Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 10.793383, -85.676521
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: W
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: Mid-to-High
Months: April/October

 

2. Playa Grande


Located north of Tamarindo, this is a surf break for all experience levels, and sea turtles, too. It can get crowded and is profoundly influenced by sudden tide changes. Watch out for occasional crocodile attacks.

Location: Tamarindo, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 10.323635, -85.841880
Level: Beginner, Intermediate
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: SW/NW
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: Mid-to-High
Months: March-November

 

3. Playa Tamarindo


A popular, laid-back surf spot located in a wide bay with a river mouth. Tamarindo delivers consistent waves all year-round, and a long stretch of white sand. It is considered one of the best waves in Costa Rica.

Location: Tamarindo, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 10.304308, -85.839798
Level: Beginner, Intermediate
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: SW/NW
Wind Direction: E
Tide: Mid-to-High
Months: March-November

 

4. Playa Avellanas


A beautiful surf spot located ten kilometers south of Tamarindo that handles XXL swells extremely well. With its five wave peaks - Little Hawaii, River Mouth, Palo Seco, Lola's and La Purruja - it offers perfect conditions for all levels of surfing.

Location: Tamarindo, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 10.227528, -85.837565
Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Reef Break
Ocean Floor: Reef and Sand
Swell Direction: W
Wind Direction: E
Tide: Mid-to-High
Months: May-November

 

5. Playa Negra

Playa Negra: a surf beach featured in The Endless Summer II | Photo: Shutterstock

A typical right-hand reef break with a channel that was featured in "The Endless Summer II" movie. A consistent and fast barreling wave for surfers who seek pure adrenaline moments in warm waters.

Location: Los Pargos, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 10.194993, -85.830497
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Reef Break
Ocean Floor: Reef and Sand
Swell Direction: W
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: Mid
Months: April/October

 

6. Playa Guiones

Playa Guiones: a seven-kilometer long surfing beach located in Nosara | Photo: Shutterstock

Known for its stunning sunsets, and multiple peaks, Guiones is also one of the busiest waves in the Guanacaste Province. However, with its seven-kilometer stretch of beach, it will always entertain any surfer.

Location: Nosara, Guanacaste
Coordinates: 9.931553, -85.663655
Level: Intermediate
Type of Break: Beach/Reef Break
Ocean Floor: Sand and Reef
Swell Direction: S/NW
Wind Direction: E
Tide: All Tides
Months: March-November

 

7. Playa Manzanillo


Located in the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Manzanillo is a secluded beach with waves for all experience levels.

Location: Manzanillo, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.690249, -85.203041
Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand and Reef
Swell Direction: S/NW
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: All Tides
Months: May-September

 

8. Playa Santa Teresa

Playa Santa Teresa:

A white sand, tropical beach with consistent and hollow waves. The place offers multiple peaks and it is not too crowded.

Location: Cóbano, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.642826, -85.169465
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: S/NW
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: All Tides
Months: March-November

 

9. Mal Pais

Mal Pais: a region with stunning surf beaches | Photo: Creative Commons

A diversified break with stunning beaches, and consistent waves. It is not of easy access, but you'll find plenty of accommodation and rentals in the nearby areas.

Location: Cóbano, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.599859, -85.142424
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach/Reef Break
Ocean Floor: Reef and Sand
Swell Direction: NW/W/SW
Wind Direction: E
Tide: Low
Months: April-October

 

10. Boca Barranca


The second longest left-hand wave in Costa Rica offers an endless surfing experience. Despite the water pollution, this dreamy point break gets irresistible in classic conditions. Worshipped by longboarders and bodyboarders, too.

Location: Boca Barranca, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.962606, -84.738187
Level: Intermediate
Type of Break: River Mouth Break
Ocean Floor: Reef and Sand
Swell Direction: S/SW
Wind Direction: E
Tide: Low-to-Mid
Months: May-September

 

11. Playa Jacó

Playa Jacó: one of the best surf spots for beginners in Costa Rica | Photo: Shutterstock

One of the best surf spots for beginners in Costa Rica. The break offers left and right-hand waves, and it is often crowded. Jacó can get interesting for advanced surfers when large swells hit this exquisite surf town.

Location: Jacó, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.611577, -84.628661
Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: S/SW
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: All Tides
Months: May-November

 

12. Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa: a surf haven with plenty of barrels and punchy lips | Photo: Shutterstock

Located ten kilometers south of Jacó, Playa Hermosa is a consistent surf haven for intermediate and advanced surfers. Here, waves can reach 13 feet, and there're always plenty of barrels and punchy lips.

Location: Jacó, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.560973, -84.585686
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: SW/W
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: High
Months: April-November

 

13. Playa Dominical

Playa Dominical: watch out for the closeout waves | Photo: Shutterstock

A popular, fast, and hollow wave that breaks near a river mouth, and a surf village. You can get barreled, but its closeout can also cause injuries and damages in surfboards.

Location: Dominical, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 9.254199, -83.868816
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Beach Break
Ocean Floor: Sand
Swell Direction: S/W
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: All Tides
Months: March-November

 

14. Pavones


Welcome to the second longest left-hand wave in the world. Here, you'll be able to stay on top of your surfboard for more than a minute. This three-section wave is often crowded, especially when the swell hits the six-to-eight-foot range. Prepare your arms for long paddling sessions.

Location: Pavones, Puntarenas
Coordinates: 8.391952, -83.139101
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Point Break
Ocean Floor: Boulders and Sand
Swell Direction: S/SW
Wind Direction: NE
Tide: All Tides
Months: March-November

 

15. Salsa Brava


It's arguably the best Costa Rican surf spot on the Caribbean coastline, but it is also a dangerous wave for inexperienced wave riders. The fast right-hand barreling wave gets hollow and powerful at the blink of an eye, and the use of helmets are always a wise pick.

Location: Puerto Viejo, Limón
Coordinates: 9.660461, -82.753824
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type of Break: Reef Break
Ocean Floor: Reef/Coral
Swell Direction: NE/SE
Wind Direction: S
Tide: All Tides
Months: December-February

Dimitri Maramenides, the founder and owner of Epic Kites, rode his kite a few hours before Hurricane Florence hit the East Coast of the United States.

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