Surfing the Net to Find Answers for the Next C.R. Trip
Written in 2005, check the links page for updates.
Hola - Before you read further, just remember that all this is just is the tip of the iceberg. The best way to find new breaks is to find them yourself using a 4x4. I just want to help you feel secure that when you make your first trip, or your 31st, you will have the best chance of scoring the size and type of waves you were searching for.
To fill you in on where I'm coming from, I've lost count the number of times I've been to Costa Rica and I lived there for a year in the1990's. Living in Dominical on the Pacific side, I started a national weekly surf report which is still going strong today. And I'm still hearing about new breaks that I have never seen nor surfed. I won't give out any info about secret spots, otherwise they wouldn't be secret. But, if you want to know what the surf will be like on Christmas Day at the Tamarindo Rivermouth - I'll tell you the best hour of the day to paddle out! To gain some experience check these websites out, they are grouped by categories:
Surf Break Descriptions
Tico Travel was one of the first to put a map of Costa Rica on the web with descriptions of surf breaks that you can print out and take with you. (the owner surfs there) It gives brief details of 37 spots, although a couple of misplaced (to throw off the first-timer) This site is a one-stop source for planning a trip to C.R., and has links to hotels, flight information, and now even tide tables. They could be listed under surf camps since they also have one based at Best Western Resort in Playa Jaco.
This site has info about surf spots in the central part of Costa Rica. The descriptions are brief, but they also have some pictures of a few of the locations. The site includes info about hotels and travel in the country as well. They also host the Loma del Mar surfcamp, great for all generations, but specializing in adult supervised trips for kids with video recorded surf trips.
This site has very detailed descriptions of 25 major surf breaks in the country. It includes information such as "where to surf, best season, best tide, nearby food and lodging, and warnings".
Latinsurf.com is in both English and Spanish and gives some overall details to 38 major surf breaks in Costa Rica. A lot of the information is taken from Tico Travel and Incostarica.net, but they also include some great pictures and is a good site for surf information about any Central or South American country.
At first this site was hard to find since it is being re-created, but it has a good general description of surf spots and a chart depicting the best times of year to go to a certain area. For example, it gives the Guanacaste area a higher score during the months of February and March, when winds blow offshore and swells arrive from the WNW. It also contains a chart that measures distances from one surf break to another and a good links section.
This page gives a very brief description of breaks in the Puntarenas area. It mentions one or two spots that other websites overlook. On the index page it has lots of helpful information if you are planning to stay in the Puntarenas area.
I am going to talk about this site a lot because they have a tremendous amount of info about surfing in Costa Rica. In one new page the site describes 56 beaches. It explains if it is a beachbreak, point, or reef and at what size and tide is best for waves. The daily surf report they put out could also classify them for the next section as well.
I am pretty sure everyone has seen the Loma del Mar Rovercam at least once. They receive over 15,000 visits a day from surf-starved web-riders that need to have a glimpse of what it's doing in Playa Hermosa. It gives a clear picture of what they're missing as well as weather conditions and it is updated daily. The website could also be mentioned for links to wave models and photos.
When Tommy at Hotel Fuego del Sol sends in a report, you know a swell has come through the area and he wants to tell you about it. He will even take some pics to show you how good it was. The website could also be listed under the surf camps since the hotel also is a camp for surfers and has a nice pool bar and restaurant. Sometimes the reports are outdated, and then you KNOW there's surf because he is out riding it. There is also a new surfcam on the surf report page that shows the waves in Esterillos (15 minutes by car to the south of Playa Hermosa)
This website is fairly new, but has a lot of different links to wave models from the NOAA and NCEP, organizations that create models on future wave size and swell direction. They also have a message board where reports are posted from around the world and the moon phases.
Sur4 is a very well organized site that has lots of useful info. on Central America. Not only does it have links to about seven wave models (one which is animated - showing the swell coming right at you) but it has links to surf reports, photos, and helpful travel information.
This website is really impressive, having very useful links to wave models and a layout that is easy to navigate. The models also seem to load faster when accessing them through this site. And they have a feature where they compare many models, buoys, and other factors to create a more accurate model for the region.
Tides / Weather / Moon Phases
There is sure to be hundreds of websites that cover the weather, but this one has detailed information without needing a college degree to find it. You can type in Limon, San Jose, or Puntarenas and get daily weather conditions and a forecast. The website also does a great job when there is a hurricane around by providing prediction maps, ocean temps., and buoy reports from nearby.
The Weather Channel in the United States is the favorite channel for east coast surfers when a hurricane is around. The infrared pics of the giant storms are hypnotizing and the 48 hour forecasts are pretty accurate. Their website offers the same great satellite pics for the Atlantic and Pacific, and have good weather reports for the major cities in Costa Rica.
Hotels, Surf Camps, and Tours - (I kept this general, but visit the CRSURF.com website to see my favorites)
Lists all of the hotels registered with Costa Rica's board of Tourism
This site has links to hundreds of hotels, listed by region, and is easy to navigate.
Costaricasur.com cover the southern region of Costa Rica, especially the Osa Peninsula (i.e. Golfito and Puerto Jimenez) They have good links to hotels and tours in the area, as well as a link to CRSURF.com for detailed surf information.
Todd Cutter and Chad Fisher at Alacran, based in Manuel Antonio, create custom tours for surfers at all skill levels. They have connections with hotels in all parts of Costa Rica and have access to the CR Surf Report so they know where to send you on your trip for the best conditions. They even can put you on a 44 foot yacht, complete with all amenities, for the best surf trip imaginable.
A new tour company that helped sponsor the 2000 Quiksilver Contest in Hermosa, this site has at least ten surf tour packages to choose from. The tours cover the entire country, from the Caribbean to Witches Rock to their namesake.
The surf delphi SurfPati sets up trips in the Guanacaste region. She knows how it's breaking from Playa Negra to Ollie's Point and will point out the best spots to check each morning. Her shop is located at the Best Western in Tamarindo, where she rents out boards and has every surfing necessity - including boards shaped by Robert August.
This site is the electronic version of their printed mag, but 8 times better (since it has more than one ESM girl to be viewed) Seriously, they have an incredible array of professional photographs of the major surf breaks in Costa Rica ridden by some of the world's best surfers. The site is well laid out and the graphics are sharp and quick loading.
Not only will you find links to each of the relatively "live" wave cams in Costa Rica, Wavecam.com also highlights photographers and their best shots of surfing the world. Just search for Costa Rica.
I did not want to forget about my own site - CRSURF.com, since it brings all of these resources together, and adds a personal touch since I have surfed most of these spots and some not mentioned. There are links to forecasting tools, a monthly tide chart, lots of photos of Tico and visiting surfers, and the original Costa Rica Weekly Surf Report - sent in from spots around the country. Before you check the other spots mentioned, visit this website to "get your feet wet".