Head to Mal Pais for some of the best surfing in Costa Rica

Surfing at Playa Carmen
Surfing at Playa Carmen

Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for a surfing vacation. With crystal-clear waters, a temperate year-round climate and stunning natural landscapes, there's no better place to hit the waves and surf.

With coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a place to surf, but if you're looking for peace, quiet and some of the best waves in the world, head to Mal Pais.

Focus on the Waves

Unlike some other popular surf spots, Mal Pais is a small and relatively underdeveloped community, meaning you can enjoy the pristine beaches and great waves with few distractions. Mal Pais is located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and can be easily reached by ferry from Puntarenas. This beach is known for the diversity of its waves, offering an ideal combination of easier breaks and more challenging spots.

Playa Carmen

This beach break is very heavy, and paddling out can be difficult, as it's the most popular spot to surf in Mal Pais. Playa Carmen is characterized by its long rights and shorter lefts, which crash gradually on the sloping sand banks beneath the waves. During strong swells, the surf breaks pretty far on the outside, but watch out for the rocky outcroppings during low tide. In ideal conditions, the waves here can be double overhead, making for some huge carves as the waves don't tend to barrel on the outside sets. The surf at Playa Carmen is best at mid to high tide, and this popular spot is easily accessible just one block from Frank's Place and some of the newer hotels.

Punta Barrigona

The other two main breaks at Mal Pais are not recommended for beginners. The first, Punta Barrigona, is a reef break defined by a long left that curves around the point, creating a great hot dog wave. Even if you're an experienced surfer, exercise caution when riding Punta Barrigona, as the rocks can be dangerous. This break is best surfed during strong swells and mid to high tide.

Sunset Reef

For experienced surfers, this area is a major draw. Sunset Reef is another left hand reef break offering great barrels. If you're up for a challenge, this break is best surfed during strong swells with major offshore winds. Again, be careful when tackling this break, as the shallow reef can be a threat to even the most experienced surfer.

Mal Pais offers a combination of great waves and peaceful surroundings. While this spot is popular with local surfers, most tourists tend to head to places like Tamarindo or nearby Santa Teresa to surf, making it one of the quieter places to catch some waves.