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Five of the Best Surf Spots in Costa Rica

Last updated on September 27, 2023

Hey there folks, it’s your favorite expat! So, you’re thinking of planning a trip down here to catch some warm water waves, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right spot 

Let’s talk surf here, because Costa Rica is a surfer’s paradise. The waves here are so good, even Kelly Slater would give up a World Championship for a chance to ride one! The waters warm down here, so let’s jump right in with…

The Best Surf Spots in Costa Rica

There are breaks like Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock (which you might remember from the movie Endless Summer 2), Salsa Brava (where they hold national surf contests), and Little Hawaii, which is like a mini version of the real thing.

Before you hit the water, make sure you do your homework, people! Analyze the beach, know the tide schedule, and ask the locals for tips. And don’t worry about packing a wetsuit, the water in Costa Rica is warm all year long! The temperature stays in the mid-80s F to mid-90s F year-round, making it the perfect place to shred some waves, soak up the sun and local surf culture, and live the “pura vida” lifestyle.

There’s something for everyone when it comes to surfing in Costa Rica. Whether you’re a kid or a retiree, you can take a lesson and catch some waves. There are surf schools with experienced instructors all over the place, and you can rent or buy shortboards, longboards, SUP, and boogie boards. You can even join a Facebook group and ask for recommendations. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like being out in nature, feeling the power of the waves and the beauty of the world around you.

To get started, let’s talk about the best surf towns in Costa Rica, shall we? First on the list of breaks is…

Playa Jacó, Costa Rica… a Lively Party Town with Decent Waves

Next, we have Playa Jacó, a central Pacific beach town that’s only 90 minutes away from Dominical by car. It’s the closest major beach destination to San José and has condos and hotels overlooking the sand. Known as a party hotspot, with a lively nightlife and lots of ways to get in trouble… it’s a bit more family-friendly now. The waves here are consistent year-round and perfect for beginners to practice on. 

And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a surf trip to nearby Playa Hermosa or Playa Esterillos. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Playa Dominical, a Surfers Haven (One of the Best Surf Spots in Costa Rica)

Next we have Dominical, a funky little beach town with open-air eateries and handicraft vendors. It’s off the beaten path, but it’s a surfer’s paradise with powerful waves that are best left to experienced surfers.

The main surf break is just south of the rivermouth, right in front of the big lifeguard tower. The closer you are to the Baru rivermouth, the better the wave’s quality (just watch our for saltwater crocs). 

And if that’s got too many people n the lineup, you’ve got lots of options because there are these peaks running up and down the coast, just begging for you to ride ’em.

The good news is, it’s a big beach, so at time sit can be pretty empty and feel like your own slice of paradise. Just you and a few others riding those clean A-frames. 

When the tides are all high you’ve got yourself a playful wave show – think of it like nature’s waterpark. 

There’s a local saying that says “Playa Dominical barrels every low tide.” And it might just be true, because when the tide rolls out, things get serious. We’re talking heavier waves that pitch and barrels. 

The Best Time of Year to Surf Dominical

In February, the waves are usually a cool 2-4 feet, making them fun for everyone. 

Fast forward to April, and it’s like the ocean cranked the volume way up. We’re talking 4-6 feet of pure stormy drama. Waves got bigger that week, and we went on a mini road trip southward, chasing tamer swells.

This place has its moods, and if you catch it during the dry season, when the big swells are on vacation, you’re in for a surprisingly rad time.

Picture this: it’s high noon, the tide’s just perfect, and you’ve got these A-frames popping up like they’re in a hurry to say hi. You’re out there with your buddies, splitting peaks and trading waves like you’re divvying up the last slice of pizza. And let’s not forget the view: no high-rises, just trees, sand, and the ocean – it’s like you’re in a Corona commercial.

When Dominical goes all Hulk mode with the waves, hop on down to its little bro, Playa Dominicalito. It’s like Dominical’s tamer sibling – same family, just less wild. Sheltered cove means smaller waves. And those surf schools know what’s up; they send rookies here when the big waves are throwing a party at Dominical.

Listen, if you’re looking to catch some gnarly swells, point your compass south or southwest – that’s Dominical’s jam. And don’t forget, just like the seasons in your favorite sitcom, Dominical’s got its own vibe. Dry season (December to April) means sunny days and milder waves. Rainy season? Well, that’s when the waves turn up the volume, the crowds chill a bit, and prices take a dip.

Oh, and rookies, listen up. If the waves are feeling mellow, you’re in luck. You can ride those training wheelsall day long. But once those waves grow into big kahunas, well, it’s a pros-only show, my friends. We’re talking some serious stuff that might need a permission slip from Poseidon himself. And when the big guns are out, this sleepy town wakes up like it’s had one too many espressos.

 How big do the waves get? Well, it’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. Could be these playful 2-3 foot rollers in the dry season, or colossal, double overhead walls of water. Time to catch some waves, my amigos! 

In fact, some call this break “Little Pipeline” and say it’s the most consistent surf spot in the country! 

And if Dominical’s feeling a bit too heavy for you, head south a few minutes to Dominicalito or you can scout out other newbie-friendly spots nearby.

Don’t book your ticket yet… because I’m here to tell you about the next spot to check out waves – Tamarindo, baby!

Tamarindo Costa Rica is a Surfers Paradise 

Now listen, this place has it all – several breaks along a long, curving beach, gentle waves for beginners to the south, and more powerful waves near the river’s mouth. Plus, it’s a bay, so it’s protected, making it the perfect place to learn to surf. And trust me, I should know, it’s where I learned to surf!

But it’s not just about the waves, folks. Tamarindo has got beach bars, restaurants, music festivals, boutiques, and spas. And the healthcare services are top-notch, so you can take a gnarly wipeout and get patched up in no time.

Now, if you’re looking for a surf school, I highly recommend Tuanis Surf School. They’ve got a local slang name that represents a good sense of well-being, and they’re all about empowering women in the surfing community. How cool is that?

And if you’re feeling fancy, you can stay at the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, which is basically a one-stop-shop for all things surf – hotel, restaurant, beach bar, microbrewery, surf school, surf shop, and tour company. These guys even offer excursions to the famous breaks of Ollie’s Point and Witch’s Rock. Just make sure you bring your sea legs because you’ll be traveling by a small open boat with an outboard motor, also known as a panga.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But Don Mango, what about real estate?” Well, let me tell you, Playa Grande is booming, and there’s so much construction going on in the area. You can get a 1.29-acre ocean-view lot close to the surf for $136,000. Or if you’re feeling a little more jungle-y, you can get a 0.24-acre mixed lot in Playa Negra for $39,000, meaning you can build as many buildings as you want. Just make sure you have enough space for your boards, bro.

So there you have it, folks. Tamarindo and the surrounding areas have everything a surfer could want – waves, beach bars, good healthcare, and even real estate. So grab your board, hit the waves, and maybe I’ll see you out there. But don’t worry, I won’t steal your wave… maybe.

After a few days in Tamagringo, you can head down to the Nicoya Peninsula to check out the surf scene in Nosara. 

Visit the Surf Mecca of Nosara, Costa Rica

This place has been a surfer’s paradise for years, but that’s not all it’s known for. It’s also a hub for yoga, alternative healing practices, and healthy living. So, if you’re looking to get in touch with your chakras while catching some waves, this is the spot for you.

Now, when you get to Nosara, you’ll notice that things are a little spread out. The homes, shops, and restaurants are scattered throughout the forest along the coast, with sandy roads snaking between the trees. It’s like a real-life version of an Indiana Jones movie, but instead of searching for treasure, you’re just trying to find a good place to eat.

But let’s get to the real reason we’re here: the surf. The main beach, Playa Guiones, is where all the action is. It’s got a beach break that’s surfable at all tides, with multiple line-ups. Plus, it’s virtually undeveloped thanks to a wildlife refuge that protects nesting sea turtles. So, you can catch some gnarly waves while also doing your part to save the planet. That’s what I call a win-win.

And speaking of waves, Playa Guiones offers a consistent right and left beach break with 4.3 miles of long white sand. But don’t let its beauty fool you; these waves can get up to 10 feet high depending on the swell. So, make sure you know what you’re doing out there, or you might end up like a turtle on its back.

Now, if you’re looking for something a little more low-key than Nosara, head on down to Samara, about 20 miles south. 

Samara Costa Rica is Great for Beginners

It’s a little bay with smaller, rounder, gentler waves. Perfect for those of us who are just starting out or who don’t want to get tossed around like a ragdoll.

And if you’re thinking about sticking around for a while, there are plenty of property managers in Nosara and Samara who can help you find a two to three-bedroom condo or house for anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 a month. But hurry up, folks, because this area is gaining popularity, and the prices are rising faster than the tide on a full moon.

In the mood for something a bit less touristy? 

Well, hop in your 4×4 and head on down to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. 

Discover Surf Spots on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast in Puerto Viejo

Let me tell ya, this place is the real deal – none of those big fancy resorts or gated communities cluttering up the jungle and beach. Nope, it’s just small villages, open-air restaurants, and yoga studios, my friends.

And let me tell you, this place is a surfer’s paradise. You can catch some gnarly waves at Cocles, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo, but be warned – it’s not for the faint of heart. The waves come in closer together on the Caribbean side, so you’ll be doing a lot of duck diving and paddling out is no easy feat. And watch out for those rip currents, folks.

Now, if you’re feeling a little peckish, head on over to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca for some delicious local cuisine. They’ve got rice and beans made with coconut milk that’ll make your taste buds dance with that Caribbean flair, baby.

But hey, if surfing’s not your thing, there’s still plenty to do. There’s a whole cluster of restaurants and small hotels in Cocles, with one of the best surf spots in the country. And because of the Jamaican immigrants from back in the day, English is widely spoken and reggae music is bumpin’.

Now, real estate is a bit limited in this area, but there are still some options available. You can get yourself a simple wooden mountain-view home in Cocles for $110,000, or check out this property in Puerto Viejo with three bungalows walking distance from the beach for $235,000. Rent out one or two of those bad boys and make some extra cash, baby.

So there you have it, folks – Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It’s got that bohemian vibe and plenty of adventure for those who dare to take on those waves.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your ticket to Costa Rica and get ready to hit these five great surf spots in Costa Rica!