Costa Rica Surf Report: September 2011

By Greg Gordon


Caribbean Coast: As it gets further into the hurricane season, the chances of scoring overhead swell get higher. The first week of August looks quiet with waves only knee- to waist-high. The crystalline waters are perfect for SUP, snorkeling, and scuba. And the sandy beach breaks of Cocles, Playa Negra, and Westfalia will be great for beginners taking lessons.

Pacific Coast: August begins with a dropping SSW swell, from a foot overhead down to chest-high for most of the coast for the first week. By the 8th, another south swell begins filling in with more overhead surf, but the next bigger SW arrives around the 15th. Overall, the month doesn’t look to have any giant swells. Full moon: August 13 New moon: August 28 Get all the tide charts for 2012 now on the website:


I just got back from a two-week trip. Since my wife was with me, it wasn’t just to surf but to find some nice beaches to walk on and some time for romance. Our first stop was Playa Guiones where we stayed at the Buena Vista Villas, run by Brevard expat Jay Quisenberry. He was a great host, and the room was comfortable with an amazing view from our private patio. We arrived right as a tropical depression was forming to the north, which made for 2- to 3-foot overhead storm surf and windy, rainy afternoons. Since I didn’t bring a board, I went by Coconut Harry’s Surf Shop to find an almost new 6’6″ Channel Islands thruster to use.

We dined mostly at Olga’s, cheap and tasty Tico food, and right out back I got in one fun session at Playa Pelada (a rocky right) with only a few others out. After a few days there we drove down to the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, pulling into Santa Teresa at sunset. We had reservations at Surf Vista Villas, a four-room palace with a mountaintop view of the surf from Mal Pais up to Playa Hermosa. The swell was maxing at double overhead-plus with storm clouds stacked on the horizon, so I waited one more day to paddle out. The owner let me borrow a sweet 6’4″ Ricky Carroll quad, but during the next afternoon’s session I was the only guy out, the rip was fierce, the drops super-steep, and rather than possibly drowning I only caught two waves before it was too dark to see the incoming sets.

That weekend also saw the Quiksilver Pro, presented by Olympus, at the Luz de Vida Resort. Fifty surfers from around the country competed with a dozen international pros (including phenom Clay Marzo) for $20,000 in prizes and a TACA plane ticket for the best wave of each day. Waves were still coming in at 1 to 2 feet overhead, and for the first two days the conditions were sunny and offshore. Between watching heats I paddled out at Playa Carmen, catching a couple of dozen flawless waves with only a minimal crowd. Then, Sunday, the skies opened up, pouring on the crowds in town to see the final heats.

We left to catch the last ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas, lucking out with a short line and no rain, and enjoyed a smooth ride back to San Jose and crashing at the Adventure Inn. We had to meet two friends who were non-surfers and Costa Rica newbies who were flying in from Denver the next morning. After the first week of tropical storms, the second week was all sunshine. We drove our friends through Jaco, picking up a 6’5″ thruster from Carton Surfboards along the way, and arrived at Costa Paraiso located just south of Dominical.

The five-room beachside resort was going to be serving a gourmet dinner created by its manager, Bryce, but we instead chose some fresh seafood from La Macha, a local fish market and my favorite place for ceviche. Highlights of this part of the trip were a low-tide visit to the Uvita’s Whale’s Tail Beach, a morning zipline tour at Hacienda Baru, a full-day horseback ride to the Nuayaca Waterfalls, and surf sessions at Dominical, Dominicalito, and Playa Ventanas. (The last one got its name from the two caves right off the beach that one can walk through at low tide.)

Our last two days were spent in Quepos at La Sirena Hotel and we drove each morning over the hill to Manuel Antonio to hike and hang out. I got in one more great solo surf session at Playitas at the north end of the beach, and on the last morning at the beach we rented a longboard to teach my friends how to stand up. Overall it was a perfect vacation. The only trivial annoyance was the blown stereo speakers in the first Bego rental. After the first week I was able to switch out the SUV for another one, but I forgot to check the CD player and discovered it didn’t work either. Amazingly, EuropCar sent a driver with a third Bego from San Jose to switch out with ours, and so we jammed out all the way back to San Jose. Talk about some great service!

If you’re looking for a romantic vacation, a surf adventure, or just some time to chill out on a beautiful empty beach, I know how to make it happen. And after writing 600 surf reports over the last 13 years, I can help you find just the right-size wave for your skill level. Just send an email to, or call me at 877-SURF-007 (877-787-3007).

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CR Surf Travel Company is a member of the Surfrider Foundation and 1% for the Planet, donating one percent of their proceeds to environmental causes.

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