Planning your trip? Looking for the best Costa Rica surf spots? Well, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced surfer (or a group of mixed-level surfers traveling together), we have the details on some of the best breaks, barrels, and rides that Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast has to offer.
So, we’ll get right to it – to seven of the best Costa Rica surf spots, designed to test your skill and challenge your mettle. Surf’s up!
Costa Rica Surf Spots #1: Hacienda Pinilla
Hacienda Pinilla may not be billed as a surfing community, but surfing is definitely a part of this community. Home to some of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica – and, possibly, the world, while we’re at it – this exclusive community offers plenty of crashing surf and reasons to get out your board, whether you’re a seasoned pro or it’s your first time on a board.
When it comes to Costa Rica surf spots, Hacienda Pinilla offers a few of your sure-to-be favorites:
Little Hawaii Surf Break
The famed Little Hawaii break is, quite possibly, the reason for Hacienda Pinilla’s surf reputation. Located at the northernmost point of Avellanas Beach, just across from the river mouth, delivers a consistent (and consistently exhilarating) right point break for experts only. Indeed, the waves can reach a towering 18 feet and the ocean bottom is rocky, so only the most confident and skilled surfers should tackle this challenge.
Playa Avellanas River Mouth
Rather than start with Playa Avellanas itself, we’ll start with the reason most surfers visit this beach: the Avellanas River Mouth, aka El Estero de Avellanas, Widely regarded as one of the best Costa Rica surf spots. Here, where river meets ocean, left and right brakes crash onto sandy ocean floor and reefs alike, cresting into dream-worthy, A-frame, arcing waves that challenge even the best surfers.
Note that, for safety purposes, this break is best surfed during low or incoming tide.
Lest you worry that Hacienda Pinilla surfing is reserved only for experts, we introduce you to Playa Avellanas, a beach that offers challenges appropriate both for beginners and experts alike. Because, with consistent year-round surf conditions and swells that roll in both from the north and south, this beach is as close as Mother Nature gets to a guarantee.
Beginners, you may start your engines at El Parqueo, Located just in front of the beach’s parking lot. Here, smooth waves offer a consistent but somewhat tamer challenge for newbies, from the greenest beginners to the newly initiated looking to gain confidence. Once you’ve conquered El Parqueo, graduate to El Palo, a break named for the falling mangrove that marks the spot. You’ll be challenged by left and right breaks that form small, but not unmanageable barrels – the perfect, leveled-up challenge for intermediate surfers.
Finally, test your mettle (and your balance) at La Purruja, offering a left-hand reef break that, while not known for its consistency, can offer a good challenge during the rainier months (from about May through November).
Costa Rica Surf Spots #2: Tamarindo
We’ll begin with a proviso: The challenge when discussing the best Costa Rica surf spots, and especially Tamarindo surfing, is rooted in your definition of Tamarindo. For many, Tamarindo is a catchall term for a general region of northwestern Costa Rica; For the purposes of this post, we’ll be a little more precise and stick to the geographical boundaries of Tamarindo town itself.
With that said, there’s still plenty – and by plenty, we mean a whole lot – to love about surfing in Tamarindo. This mile-long stretch of white-sand beach offers a fair number of breaks, ideal for beginners, intermediate, and advanced surfers alike. So, grab your board and let’s go:
Pico Grande and Pico Pequeño
If you stand with your back to the Diria Resort, look right and seek out the rocky outcroppings: You’re staring right at these two famous breaks! Pico Grand is on the left (southern) side, while Pico Pequeño is just to the right (north).
These are two of the most advanced surf breaks in Tamarindo proper, so be sure you’re prepared. Pico Grande, true to its name (big peak, in Spanish), can get huge on the right day. Time it right and catch the perfect swell, and you could crest a building – and ride right into Pico Pequeño to the north. (Bear in mind, however, that Pico Pequeño’s waves are not so pequeño; they’re easily shoulder-high, even on a calmer day. Be very careful surfing these breaks, though, because the water is frothing and the ocean bottom rocky.
Please, PLEASE NOTE that this is decidedly advanced-riders only. Pico Grande and Pico Pequeõ are both Do Not Ride during low tide, even for the most seasoned pros.
Isla Capitán (Captain Island)
If you feel like you’ve been there, done that, then you’ll enjoy surfing Isla Capitán – the closest Tamarindo gets to a best-kept surfing secret. The island is located directly in front of the beach and offers an exposed reef break that few riders are confident enough to tackle.
In part, the island’s “secret” nature is due to its remoteness – to get there, you’ll have to paddle about 40 minutes or pay for the boat ride – but, the rocky reef bottom is also an excellent deterrent for all but the most daring. Only the most advanced surfers should tackle this one – and even they, only at low tide.
Perhaps the most famous spot on today’s list, Witch’s Rock is one of the world’s most famous surf spots. Widely regarded for its incredible – and incredibly challenging – left, this break challenges even the most advanced surfers!
This one really isn’t for the faint of heart. Many surf competitions are held here, as testament to the locale’s quality and also as proof of its difficulty. In summary, the waves are huge. They are also consistent, so don’t rise to the challenge until you’re ready. Think you are? Then aim for exciting barrels at low tide, or all-around excitement at mid- or high-tide.
Costa Rica Surf Spots #3: Santa Teresa & Mal Pais
Santa Teresa (and its sister town, Mal Pais), located on the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of Costa Rica’s most wild and rugged surf destinations. And that can be a great thing if you love to surf but don’t always love sharing your waves with hundreds of your nearest and dearest fellow surfers.
Playa Santa Teresa
We’ll start with the town’s eponymous beach and original claim to fame, Which best serves intermediate and advanced surfers. While you can surf this beach at any tide, and in any swell direction, you’ll have the most fun on a southwest swell at low- or mid-tide.
The beach’s powerful waves are known to break both right and left and, thanks to the steep incline on a sandy ocean floor, can curl into deep barrels, given the right conditions.
North of town, just in front of Rocarmar restaurant, Suck Rock Offered some of the best surf breaks in the area. It begins with the truly massive swell, which then breaks right, especially during peak conditions at low tide.
If you’re not up for the area’s toughest surf, then the nearby La Lora Beach offers beautiful surroundings and consistent conditions, albeit not quite as challenging as other locales.
Spanish for “gorgeous beach,” Playa Hermosa is a little more secluded and, therefore, a little less crowded, even at peak travel times. Additionally, as the riptide is less here, Playa Hermosa makes for a great confident beginner or intermediate break: the left and right swells are best enjoyed during mid- to high-tide.
Beginners, unite! located South of town, play a Carmen is as beginner-friendly as Playa Hermosa, although you’ll have to do a little bit of scouting before you select your day’s spot. As the coast is speckled with rocky outcroppings, the swimming isn’t safe and neither are the crash landings, so choose wisely.
Even farther south, past Playa Carmen, Mar Azul it is one of the most treasured surf spots in the area. Famed for its left-point break, flat reef bottom, and deep channel in its ocean floor, this idyllic spot churns out long south and southwest swells.
Despite its fame, Mar Azul is not as crowded as you might expect, in part due to its inconsistency. Still, though, if you’re looking for the next great wave, and you’re in town, you owe yourself a visit to this (possibly) epic surf spot.
Stay Here: La Mexicana
Santa Teresa | 5 Beds | 4 Baths | 10 Guests
A private, beachfront home located on 3.5 acres and some of the country’s most beautiful sands, this is where Pura Vida meets luxury – and where you have a front-row seat to the northern edge of Santa Teresa and one of the best Costa Rica surf spots.
You’ll love the home’s outdoor pavilion, private pool, and lush landscaping. You’ll revel in the sliding glass doors that blur the line between outdoor and indoor living. And you’ll spend much of your time on the breezy hammocks that dot the property. That is, when you’re not out enjoying the waves that crash on the beach just outside your door.
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Costa Rica Surf Spots #4: Langosta
Playa Langosta, less than a mile south of Tamarindo, offers its own aquatic challenges, primarily at two spots:
Langosta River Mouth
The Langosta Estuary spills into the Pacific right at the river mouth, a popular surf spot that turns out left- and right- point breaks that curl towards land. Be aware that this spot is known for its fast currents, big waves, and challenging surf, so it’s best tackled by confident surfers who have the skill and aren’t afraid of rocky ocean bottoms.
Be especially careful at the river mouth, where conditions are harder and, sometimes, the crocs swim out.
Located just on the other side of the river mouth, El Sapo is best tackled during mid- or low-tide, when it spits up smaller, but still challenging waves, usually no bigger than five feet.
Stay Here: Soul House
Playa Langosta | 4 Beds | 4 Baths | 14 Guests
A Balinese-inspired villa just steps from the sand, Soul House is a special place – and just a two-minute walk to Langosta’s famed waves, one of the best Costa Rica surf spots!
When you’re not out enjoying the waves, you’ll be here, surrounded by lush gardens and a privacy wall. Here, in a relaxing Zen atmosphere infused with Balinese-style accents and artwork. Here, enjoying your gorgeous courtyard and private pool. Here, living in the lap of luxury.
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Costa Rica Surf Spots #5: Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula can be a very difficult region to quantify, in part because it’s so incredibly remote: While no two beaches or towns are very far apart, as the scarlet macaw flies, it can take many, many hours to get from 1 to the other period so, for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on one specific area (the southern tip, Cabo Matapalo, near Puerto Jiménez) – the most popular destination, as far as Osa Peninsula surf spots are concerned:
Matapalo is the most remote surf spot on the peninsula. It’s also home to three of the best breaks, including Cabo Matapalo: Matapalo Point, where are huge boulders rise from the ocean and craggy ledges jut out into the sea. When the swell is good, waves can crest up to triple overhead and then, dash and break for an incredible 300-meter run.
The best time to ride is at low- to mid-tide, as conditions decline during high tide. Keep in mind that, while this is one of the most remote regions in Costa Rica, if not the world, it’s also one of the country’s most popular surf destinations. Unless you’re extraordinarily lucky, you’ll probably have to share the waves.
Ah, what’s in a name? If you’re surfing Backwash, then it’s a promise. Located at the tip of the peninsula, marked by a giant rock sticking out of the water, this incredible surf spot kicks up some truly impressive tides. (In fact, the waves need to be a head high or taller, if you’re planning to surf. Shoot for low- to mid-tide.)
Luckily, backwash is incredibly remote and, therefore, usually uncrowded. That said, you’ll need a 4WD and about 90 minutes to get here from town.
Pan Dulce (Matapalo)
The third and final Matapalo break, Pan Dulce Is one of those finicky spots that requires just the right conditions. But, when those conditions hit, you are in for one of the Ocean’s greatest treats: huge southern swells and a right break that can ride for more than 300 meters.
Rides at Pan Dulce are best just before or following low tide, as it mushes out at high tide and is 2 rocky at the lowest tide. Boat access from Pavones is recommended.
Costa Rica Surf Spots #6: Playa Grande
Located just north of Tamarindo, across the estuary, Playa Grande is both great for beginners and well suited to advanced surfers. That’s because this long and protected stretch of beach is broken up into various surf patches: beginners will enjoy the gentler spots, which you can usually identify with the naked eye, while intermediate and advanced surfers make a day of the barrels, peaks, fast rides, and quick haven breaking lefts and rights.
If you’re in it for the harder waves, be sure to visit at mid- or high-tide.
Costa Rica Surf Spots #7: Dominical
Playa Dominical, located on the South-Central Pacific Coast just south of Manuel Antonio, is one of those places where in-the-know surfers go, when they don’t want to battle for wave space. Here you’ll enjoy a laid-back vibe and great surf, primarily on the town’s main beach.
Stretching just over a mile, Playa Dominical stretches from its northern river mouth to a southern rocky cliff. In between, you’ll find mostly sandy beach bottom and some of the most consistent surf in this part of Costa Rica: when the swell is good, the waves can crest well overhead. Even better, waves are consistent year-round, although you’ll usually see a peak between June and September.
Stay Here: Villa Capuchin
Dominical | 6 Beds | 6 Baths | 16 Guests
An incredible, luxurious home located within a private nature reserve, Villa Capuchin welcomes you to Pacific Ocean views and mountain vistas.
Named in homage to the white-faced monkeys that are residents of the reserve (and possibly, your terrace), this vacation home offers 270- degree vistas and an invitation to indulge in Dominical surfing, any time you please. It’s also a short ride to Costa Rica’s famed “whale’s tail” beach – a perfect photo op to memorialize your trip!
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