Surfers walking back after session at Santa Teresa
Surfers walking back after session at Santa Teresa

What kind of surfer are you? Have you been surfing for years? Are your looking for a new challenge? Maybe you’ve developed a little skill on the beaches near your home. You could be a complete novice. Perhaps you’ve never even thought about surfing before. Regardless of your skill or interest level, the Costa Rica surf scene has the beach for you. The hundreds of miles of coast line along two oceans provide enthusiasts with a paradise of options. Here are the places to go to ride your perfect Costa Rica waves.

Newbies, Tourists, and Sporting Enthusiasts

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • You’ve never tried surfing before.
  • You’ve only ridden small waves.
  • Walking to the beach from your hotel is nice.
  • You are looking for guidance.
  • Crowds and exciting spectacles don’t bother you.

Check out these two great spots to get your trip started:

Fun Surf at Tamarindo Beach
Fun Surf at Tamarindo Beach

Tamarindo


Tamarindo is famous, and it is also the most Americanized beach. You are probably already familiar with it. Most of the travel brochures you have read feature color photos of this popular spot. The white sandy beaches are clean and they stretch on for miles. Shops line the edges of the sand, and there are plenty of amenities if you need them.

The waves hit regularly, and swell size varies. Lessons are available, and beginners can get some experience to build up confidence here. If you haven’t been on the waves for a season or two, take the opportunity to shake off the jitters before tackling more challenging spots. The area is also a good place to find equipment you may have forgotten at home.

Wave at Playa Hermosa in Puntarenas
Wave at Playa Hermosa in Puntarenas

Playa Hermosa


Playa Hermosa is a beach and resort town that specifically caters to the surfer tourists. It is located along the Pacific side of the nation in the northern province of Puntarenas. You will find shops, rentals, and guides to help you. Resorts offer lodging that puts you within walking distance of some of the best waves in the country.

The beach is the surfer’s paradise. Swells are constant and reliable. The strong southwestern current produces waves as high as 13 feet, and barrels are common. The beaches themselves are clean and free from hazards. If you like watching professionals, the International Surf Championships host competitions at this beach every year.



Intermediate Surfers, Wannabes, and Showoffs

You’ve developed some skill and have some stories to tell already.

  • You own your own gear.
  • You give advice but don’t mind helpful pointers.
  • You need a crowd to see your performance.
  • You are willing to travel for the best waves.
  • Suring is about photo ops and unique experiences

Here is are the beaches you are looking for:

Surfers walking at Pavones
Surfers walking at Pavones

Pavones


Pavones is located along the southern shores of the Pacific. You can reach your destination with a respectable seven-hour car ride from the international airport in San Jose. Once you arrive, you will find plenty of Costa Rica surf hotels and resorts to meet your needs. When the ocean is cooperating, the waves in Pavones are world famous. The left-hand break can carry you for up to a kilometer. It is the largest break in the world, and experienced surfers can stand up on it for a full two minutes or more. Expect crowds on days that the waves are performing. Surfers travel here from all over the world to see how long their ride can take them.

Awesome Surfing at Backwash in Matapalo
Awesome Surfing at Backwash in Matapalo

Matapalo


If things are too slow at Pavones drive around the Pavon Bay to Matapalo. This popular spot is just off the tip of the Osa Peninsula. The terrain getting up to the beach is undeveloped. You will see plenty of wild life, but pack everything you will need. Services are limited. Three strong right breaks hit consistently enough throughout the year to ensure action on the waves. In the right conditions, the beach produces some barrels. The faster waves should only be attempted by more experienced surfers, but the smaller swells are still suitable for novices. Rocks can appear near the shore, so watch out for them at low tide.

Advanced, Professionals, and Adventurers

For you, this vacation is all about the surfing. You didn’t travel all the way to Costa Rica to sit in the sand. The waves need to hit, or you are moving on.

  • You love natural and secluded places.
  • You are willing to travel to remote locations for the best ride.
  • You know the difference between bravery and foolishness.
  • Barrels are fun and not at all scary.

Find the fastest waves and quietest beaches:

Surfer catching a wave at Witches Rock
Surfer catching a wave at Witches Rock

Witch’s Rock


The witch’s rock is a massive cube shaped boulder in the Gulf of Papagayo along the Playa Naranjo. The beach itself is located inside the Santa Rosa National Park at the very northern end of the country. There are no developments allowed within the boundaries of the park. You can camp in the park, but many surfers choose to arrive at the beach by boat.

Swells form out of the southwest, and surfers can take advantage of both right and left breaks. A unique A-frame wave forms in the middle. Most of the waves are strong and reliable, but this beach is not as popular due to its remote location. It is a quieter area to visit when other beaches are swarming with tourists.

Ollies Point Head High Surf
Ollies Point Head High Surf

Ollie’s Point


Ollie’s Point is a little farther north in the same Santa Rosa National Park. Like the Witch’s Rock, this beach is undeveloped. You will find little else here besides waves, sand, and jungle. It is impossible to access by any means other than a boat ride, and timing is critical.

Hide tide produces the best waves, and they are strong enough to carry you all the way back to shore. Theses waves barrel often, and only experienced surfers should attempt them. Low tide can be disappointing. When the swells die down, waves become flat and uninspiring. Even though this location is remote, it is very popular. You may find that there are too many surfers and too little space.

Getting Your Costa Rica Surf Vacation Started

Surfing Costa Rica is addicting. You will fall in love with this tropical paradise and need to come back for more. Plan well in advance to get the most out of your time. Check our listings for Costa Rica surf hotels and look over our guide for preparing for your surf vacation.

Surf adventure on the way to the remote Playa Coyote
Surf adventure on the way to the remote Playa Coyote