Get barreled in Matapalo

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

Costa Rica is one of the world's premiere destinations for surfing, drawing scores of adventurous surfers to the Central American paradise every year. As such, many of the country's most popular beaches can at times get crowded both with traveling surfers and local Ticos hoping to hit the waves. Fortunately, Costa Rica's dual coastlines boast a number of fantastic hidden gems for those vacationers hoping to surf in solitude. Found at the tip of the Osa Peninsula, just across the gulf from the more popular Pavones, the beaches of Matapalo in South Puntarenas are an excellent destination for surfing in Costa Rica.

The Approach

One of the best parts about surfing Matapalo is the area surrounding the coast. As one of the best-preserved regions in Costa Rica, Matapalo is home to dense jungles, tons of endemic wildlife and not much else. The area is largely undeveloped and rather remote, so visitors should be certain they have what they need before heading to the beach. Though the roadways heading toward Matapalo are safe, some stretches are unpaved, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

The Waves

There are three major surf spots in Matapalo and all boast strong right breaks that produce the kind of consistently strong waves that surfers dream about. The smallest of these breaks is Pan Dulce, Spanish for 'sweet bread,' which boasts a mellow right break that is better suited for beginning and moderately-skilled surfers looking to hit the waves - especially during good swells, when the waves really fire.

A slower, but no less fun, ride awaits at the nearby beach known as Backwash Bay. Defined by both a large and rocky reef and a steep beach, Backwash Bay is a longboarder's dream. These slow and steep waves provide lengthy rides for surfers who hit the water during mid- and even low-tide.

More skilled surfers will find plenty of challenge at Playa Matapalo, a powerful and rocky right break that offers a very fast ride at mid-tide. Due to its unique position facing the ocean, the beach tends to attract western and southwestern swells, which makes for strong waves and excellent rides for surfers fortunate enough to paddle into these conditions. Surfers have plenty of chances to get barred at Playa Matapalo, as the beach has been known to boast some stellar barrels under the right conditions.

The Area

While surfing is undeniably the main attraction in the area, Matapalos also boasts a number of interesting features that are worth exploring, including nature tours and wildlife watching.