Most plans for a Costa Rican vacation include a little R&R at the beach. For the surfer there are several choices from the beginner to the competitive level. In addition there are many super interesting beach activities, so let us paddle out and catch a wave on a surf board for a closer look together.
Surfing enthusiasts all know that the Pacific shoreline has an excellent reputation for offering unbeatable waves. In fact, due to the constantly available number of great breaking waves the beaches along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are the training grounds for many world record holders, many of whom now make Costa Rica their home.
The legend, as told by native Ticos (Costa Ricans), describes surfing as having begun in Costa Rica in the 1970’s when expatriates traveling through, decided to move here, bringing the first surfboards with them. Not long after that, local Ticos caught the thrill of the sport and were competing at international levels. Over the years, many more expatriates settled along the beaches for the regularity of good waves and beautiful pristine beaches. As interest in the sport grew ‘surf shops’ began popping-up, along with surfing schools and craftsmen who build top-class surfboards. In 1994, Bruce Brown directed the filming of ‘Endless Summer II’, a sequel to Endless Summer the surfing documentary filmed earlier. It traced the evolution of surfing over the years and in various regions. Footage was shot here in Costa Rica, France, Australia, Java, Bali, and Alaska. The film publicized the existence of the wonderful ‘breaks’ along the coast, that pound with consistent regularity and were under-surfed. That film placed Costa Rica high on the “Surfers World Map”, as one of the best places to ride a wave.
Both the Caribbean Sea and the water’s of the Pacific Ocean are warm all year-round, scarcely ever dropping below the 80F mark (26.67C). That provides residents and visitors with year-round comfort to skip across the waves that froth along the over 700 miles of beaches.
Here are the best surfing locations by best times of year:
North Pacific Coast
Central Pacific Coast
South Pacific Coast
December to March
November to March
May to November
May to November
Although dedicated surfers usually bring their own boards on their trips, lugging a board along may not be ideal for the average traveler. Do not worry; great boards are available for rent and purchase. Nearly every beach has a Surf Shop, willingly supplying everything a surfer could want from board waxes, sun-block, and petroleum jelly (rash guard for preventing minor skin discomfort).
There are several ‘Surf Camps’ or hotels which cater to surfers, providing Surf Instructors to guide and train even first-time amateurs. They too will offer packages with boards, guides, transportation, and accommodations. Search out the location that interests you most on the internet and then check out listings for rental equipment; this is usually cheaper than the ‘packaged deals’, do this before letting your credit-card do any surfing. Select a location that best matches your surfing-skill level, check accommodation rates, and then read what local experts advise on where and when.
National Geographic recently described, Nosara Costa Rica, as one of the “World’s 20 Best Surf Towns”. The town’s Playa Nosara, Playa Guiones, Playa Pelada, and Playa Ostional, line the North Pacific Coast along the community of Nosara. An easy going atmosphere prevails, with the largest number of hotels, restaurants, and foreign owned properties. Nosara is considered ‘The Surfers Disney World’.
The Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste Region, makes travel to the Pacific Coastal region easy for overseas guests. The airport is a short journey to both the beach and the Blue River Resort and Hot Springs.
Some surf-breaks are remotely located and getting there will require a four-wheel-drive vehicle, access by boats only, or the help of a local guide. Our recommended Costa Rican surf site is www.crsurf.com, both provide details on the level of competence required for each break, how to access the location, best times of the year, and other helpful tips to use in your planning.
A great travel tip for surfers is to take a side trip or base yourself out of Blue River Resort & Hot Springs. The resort is in Guanacaste, convenient to Liberia airport and to Witches Rock, one of the best surfing beaches. Most of all, Blue River Resort & Hot Springs is a wonderful change of scenery and offers a completely different opportunities for fun and adventure. Most of all, it is in the cooler lush rainforest.
Here is a list of the best surfing breaks by region:
A couple notes to help with an understanding:
- Many names of breaks are duplicated on the Caribbean side; those I omitted to avert mass confusion.
- A 'break' is the wave' action created as it approaches a beach and is opposed by a reef, rocks or other obstruction in the water; this causes it to break left or break right, that makes a difference to a surfer!
NORTH PACIFIC COAST BREAKS
Witches Rock (Playa Naranjo) Boat access only
Ollies Point (Potrero Grande) Boat access only
CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST BREAKS
Playa Santa Teresa
The Tree 400 m. south of the Backyard Hotel
Playa el Rey
SOUTH PACIFIC COAST BREAKS
CARIBBEAN COAST BREAKS
Well it is time to ‘get stoked’, hop a flight, grab a board, and start ‘ripping’ in Costa Rica.
Isla Uvita- Island off Limon (25 minute boat ride)