Costa Rica Travel FAQs

A lot of times travelers share their advice while meeting on the beach or at a restaurant. Below are some examples of questions travelers commonly ask before making plans to come to Costa Rica.

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SAMPLE QUESTIONS ASKED

Related to Travel


What are your recommendations regarding traveling with surfboards?

Answer - 1) Use removable Fins and put 3-4 boards in a bag, perhaps sharing with your friend. Often the airlines charge per bag as opposed to per board necessarily. Keep the total weight of the board bag under 50 lbs as anything over this is conspicuous and subject to extra fees. 2) Don't check in too early. Often, as it gets closer to the flight and more hectic at the check-in counter, the airline agent is more likely to either forget to charge you the excess baggage fees or decide not to charge you because she or he doesn't have time to do the extra paperwork involved. Obviously don't do this at the risk of not making your flight. 3) Always be super friendly. Initiate friendly conversation with the check-in agent and be cool. If the agent mentions the surfboard charge, first ask politely if there is any way she or he can waive it. If you are a frequent flyer and loyal customer of their airline mention this. If they will not waive the fee, do not argue with the agent or disrespect them - just show some class and pay. Otherwise you leave a bad impression for the surfers that come after you and make it harder for them.


Related to - "When to go"

Sorry to bother you but wanted to head to Costa Rica in July/August for surfing when things are less crowded and less expensive. Are they good waves then and how is the weather? I know it is the rainy season and really want to go but can't afford it any other time. Any information would be much appreciated. ..Anna

Actually that time of year has great waves from swells starting under Australia. The rain does not really come down until Sept. and October, and it is still great surf weather. (offshore in the mornings) A lot of surfers from Florida and California head down at this time because it is smaller for them at that time of year and it is before school starts.


Related to Surfbreaks

I was wondering if there is a wave that breaks out in front of Playas del Coco or is it flat all the time. I've heard two conflicting stories and was wondering if you could clear things up for me. ..george

I think you are refering to the Coco up in the Nicoya, close to Liberia. I have been there 3 times. All three were to take a boat trip to Witches Rock. The biggest wave I have seen there was one that maybe broke about thigh high, and it was shore break. Boats park there in the bay that do offshore fishing tours. It would take a huge West swell for it to break any bigger. Also check witchesrocksurfcamp.com for another opinion since they run their tours out of a hotel right there on the beach.


Got a question about Nosara. I have surfed there a couple times in august -once it was really big and just not lined up very good not to mention a hell of a paddle out. The other time it was more controlled but just not that great of a wave. i was told this is a great longboard wave for a beachbreak but I have my doubts. I did check the beach just to the north of Guiones called Pelada and it looks to have a big left point that could work. What can you tell me about this area of surf. I love the vibe in Nosara so I want o go back but I want to catch great waves also. .. Tim

Answer- I have surfed this spot 8 or 9 times, and the best spot is right in front of the big palm tree that sticks out on the beach. The place I stayed at was Villa Taype, which is about 200 m. inland from that tree. The spot seems to work best when its head high to 1-2 overhead at midtide coming in. I have seen a couple of point breaks north, but it would be hard to imagine them breaking except when it's huge, which means that it might get a little hairy. If you want the best, go to Playa Negra. Of course it is crowded after 7 a.m., but it is a perfect right that barrels and breaks from low tide to an hour before high tide. Get there at 5:20 when it's light out, and it can be perfect. Another spot is Tamarindo, all the way at the rivermouth, that has a great right, a long ride. You just have to catch these spots early. And Marbella (a few km. south of Negra) is an empty left that breaks pretty far out. I live down south in Dominical, a very consistent beachbreak with a rivermouth spreading out the sand. The cool thing about C.R. is the variety of breaks, you should check them all out.


I am coming to Costa Rica for the first time ever Dec 3 for two weeks and wish to travel as well as stay put for at least ha;lf the trip in a good spot for surfing. I am an intermediate level surfer and ride a 7' '8". I have only 30 + days in Santa Cruz CA under my belt but I have been learning fast. I am intimidated though! Can you recommend areas of medium swell (I do not need or want double overhead monster waves or expert only stuff) and I wish to avoid being an "outsider" in a spot that only "locals" have the control over if you get my drift. Please help!

Answer - A good spot to stay put at would be around Tamarindo. There are a couple of spots right out back that are good, but not that big. Then you can cross the estuary and find other more secluded spots. And when you are ready, you can drive 25 minutes north or south to find other breaks that you might like.


I plan on going to costa rica in July. I am not interested in riding big heavy waves so I wan wondering if you could tell me where would be a good place to surf smaller mellower waves. I have been to Jaco but I would like some place different. Any advice is greatly appreciated. ..Neil

Tamarindo generally has smaller surf, since it's in a bay. Also south of Dominical, there is a bay where the waves are smaller. Also you can try the Caribbean side, like Cahuita and Playa Cocles. It mostly depends on the swell.

Related to Surfboards & Shops

Hello, my name is Ben. I live in Wilmington, North Carolina, and will be traveling to Costa Rica this Christmas for a week of surfing, and also will be living for the month of May in Panama, at a surf camp. I was wondering if you had any information about what the best type of board to purchase would be for the larger waves in Costa Rica and Panama. I already own a small fish and a 6'1" thruster for the small waves here, and plan to bring them along, but in case it actualy gets close to double overhead or bigger, what is the best size and board type to use, Generally? Squashtail? Pintail? Thickness?

Answer - As for a board, something in the 6.6 to 6.8 range seems to work fine in most conditions. I had a 7.4 mini gun, but only used it 3 times in a year. I would say a square tail or pin tail would be good and a thickness somewhere around 2.5 inches.


I will be coming to CR at the end of september to stay through xmas and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to pick up a board down there rather than risk shipping mine. Are there any shops that sell new or used boards rather than just rent them. Thanks for your time.

Answer - Yes, you can find boards. The best ones are at Walking on Water Surf shop in Jaco and Mariesas and Hightide Surf shop in Tamarindo. Southwave Surfshop and Green Iguana rent boards in Dominical. Most all beach towns have at least one surf shop. In Jaco, Carton can shape you a custom board for you to be waiting when you get to town. Email him here. Good idea to get one here - those airlines are robbing people who want to travel with their boards, charging up to $100 a board!

MOST COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED

1Top five surfing destinations in Costa Rica?
These are the most popular - 1. Playa Hermosa, 2. Playa Grande, 3. Pavones, 4. Witchs Rock/Ollies Point, 5. Salsa Brava

2Explain the difference between a point break, beach break or rock/coral reef break?

A beach break is made up of sand and the waves break when they hit the sand bar. If the bar is very long the wave "close out" or break all at once when the swell hits it. However, if the sand bar is broken up or is angled parallel to the swell, it can break in sections and offer a nice ride. Sand bars change frequently with heavy rains or if there is a rivermouth nearby. Witchs Rock, Playa Hermosa, Playa Grande, Playa Cocles, and Dominical are good beach breaks.

Point breaks are where the bottom is rocky and therefore does not change. The waves are cleaner and at times smaller because when a set of waves hit the point, the shape of the point bends the waves wrapping them farther apart and giving them a longer ride, but slower. Good point breaks are Ollies Point, Pavones and Boca Barranca.

Reef breaks are rock or coral shelves that sit a lot closer to the surface than the rest of the ocean floor, and that causes the waves to fold over on itself faster, causes tubes or barrels. The ride is often shorter, since once the shelf ends, the deep bottom causes the wave to dissapate. The best reef breaks are Playa Negra and Salsa Brava.

3How does Costa Rica rate as a surfing center versus other popular surf destinations (California, part of Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, etc.)?
Costa Rica is nice because it is still relatively inexpensive to stay and eat, plus safe to surf with medical clinics fairly close. It has good roads to get to the breaks, and there are over 100 surfing beaches to choose from. The locals are very friendly. There are also things for the rest of the family to do and see, either on land or in the water.

4What do you think will the surfer find in Costa Rica he/she won't find anywhere else in terms of waves and atmosphere?
There are many more choices in places to surf that offer different vistas and difficulty levels, that all can be reached in less than one day's driving.

5Compared to other popular surf destinations, is Costa Rica still remains largely uncrowded, or is it changing as the area becomes increasingly popular and the sport of surfing becomes more popular as well?
The crowd level is relative, but as more American surfers move to Costa Rica, the local and visiting surfer will find the more accessible breaks overcrowded.

6What environmental issues do surfers face in CR?

Surfrider focuses on these issues - Education, Water Quality, Beach Access, and Conservation.

Education - In Costa Rica, the government is trying to teach about recycling and pollution, but this has started within the last ten years, while before it was encouraged to "throw trash out of the bus to keep the bus clean" A lot of trash on the beach comes from a few ignorant visitors from San Jose who leave the trash on the beach, and from commercial fishing boats that dump their trash overboard.

Water quality - MINAE checks ocean water quality at every major beach four times a year and also promotes the Bandera Azul, an award program for clean beaches. However, pig and cow farms located next to rivers contaminate the watershed which leads to the ocean. Also, many homeowners near the river and beach either do not have septic systems or have open systems which leech directly into the watershed. Mangroves, which are natural water filters, have been cleared for shrimp farms and development (including the infamous Barcelo Resort in Langosta). And with increased beachfront development, the water quality problem will get worse.

Beach Access - Costa Rica law states that every beach is public, and it is hoped that the ICT will continue to improve access to the beaches and not let big development projects close off the beach to the public. National Parks should be an exception, as constant human interaction may disrupt a delicate coastal ecosystem in areas like Manuel Antonio, Santa Rosa, the Tamarindo Estuary, and Corcovado.

Conservation - The population on the coast is growing quickly, with a lot of money being put into foreign developments right next to the beach. Increased lights will cause sea turtles to stop nesting on the coast, sea walls and jetties made to protect investments will cause beach erosion and waves to stop breaking, and the beauty of sitting out in the lineup and looking back on a tropical landscape will be marred by houses, hotels, and restaurants. Also, the trees removed to build these structures will cause increased flooding along the lower lying areas.

7 If a surfer can only go to one place while in Costa Rica, which place should it be?

If you don't know how the waves are going to be, then go to Dominical. It is never too crowded, has mountains and rainforest right off the beach, friendly locals, fun adventure tours nearby, it's all there. And if you know it's going to be big, go to Pavones (and take a boat over to Matapalo). It's a four hour drive south of Dominical.

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