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Playa Pinuelas

Playa Pinuelas

1. Playa Negra, Guanacaste

I have caught the best right tube of my life at this break. There were about 15-20 people out, 10 foot faces with bigger sets. I was the farthest outside (the best spot in that lineup) - sharing it with some Venezuelan locals who ripped. The ideal situation is to shell out the $55 clams a night and sit on it. (Or camping is cool) Get up at dawn and surf a couple of hours before the first ten 4x4s from Tamarindo shows up with 4 surfers each. You'll be rewarded with a fast makeable drop (on occasion) that sets up a perfect right tube over deep enough water and rocky reef in crystal blue water with no civilization in sight except for the hotel bungalows right back where you parked. There are other points to the north and south, but this one sets up best with most any swell. After the tube, you can do 2 or 3 big-ole gouges before it closes out on the far inside. A little channel helps to slip you out between meatier sets.

Playa Negra, Guanacaste

Playa Negra, Guanacaste

2. Matapalo

When you’re at Pavones and you’re staring at the peninsula across Golfito Bay, that’s where Matapalo is. It has three breaks, two of which are right points and the other a beachbreak. They get big and can pick up a West swell nicely with 200+ yard rights. What keeps the crowds down is the 30 minute barely travelable road to it (in rainy season forget ‘bout it!) And around the holidays, it’s attacked by locals vacationing from San Jose. BUT, if you want to surf with red parrots and monkeys flying through the trees, this is the most beautiful spot in the country.

Cabo Matapalo, Osa Peninsula

Cabo Matapalo, Osa Peninsula

3. Tamarindo (Nicoya Peninsula)

Tamarindo Bay looks beautiful from a balcony at the Best Western Vista VIllas, but it also looked small. The rivermouth was waist high with 5 longboarders and 30 other friends and fiends, so I took the short paddle across the Tam. rivermouth and walked about a mile into the "park" or yet undeveloped quiet white sand beach. I sat for about 40 minutes with my board under a tree, reading a book, when I looked up and said - "DAMN !!!" The dropping tide made the wave hit the sandbars perfectly, left and right fast mini-barrels in the head high range. You can see the bottom 10 feet down it's so clear. No one was within 200 yards as I snatched a left, then a right, then a left - using a piece of driftwood on the beach to line up the sweet spot. Too big, and it closes out.

Tamarindo Bay, Nicoya Peninsula

Tamarindo Bay, Nicoya Peninsula

4. Ollie's Point, Playa Avellanas (Nicoya Peninsula)

This right point break was first publicized in the movie - Endless Summer. Robert August still paddles out in the area, most often this break will be empty or maybe have one or two boatloads of surfers around (from Australia to Israel to Argentina) It is located in a small bay that looks perfect for burying treasure. There is no civilization for almost 100 miles and no passable roads to get there. It works with most any swell direction but will go off with a strong NW during the dry season. Offshore winds make it peel perfectly over cobblestones from a small rivermouth. Boats can be chartered from Playa de Cocoa or Tamarindo (Best Western Vista Villas).

Ollie's Point in Playa Avellanas

Ollie's Point in Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste.

5. Boca Barranca

If you were to continue west from San Jose (instead of turning south to Jaco or North to Tamarindo) you will end up at the port of Puntarenas that has a ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula and Mal Pais. You're such in a rush to get to the ferry early that 2 km. after Caldera you cross this bridge and might see some tiny long lines at the rivermouth. It's only if you had stopped and walked out the 500 yard + sandbar and saw the surf was head to overhead and peeling forever. The Locals know it, and 20 surfers and 30 longboarders will be on it by 8 a.m. The Jaco surf crew knows it, too, so they're there by 7 a.m. But if you hit it at 6 a.m. (and a lower tide is better with a nice South swell) you will have the longest left in your lifetime. The left spreads out the peak, there is sometimes weird stuff floating in the water, and mid-morning onshore breezes scare away some of the crowd. It is also a good break to learn on when it's smaller so expect 10 longboarders out just about everyday!

Boca Barranca

Boca Barranca

6. Pavones

The break is everything you've heard, 2/3 of a mile rides - crazy crowds. It starts at a point, then crosses a rivermouth, then hits another left point, and then goes into a 500 yard bay. When it's big, you need to be careful that you don't end up at the sharp rocks at the far end of the bay. It works best with a South swell, so usually between April and October it's can be firing OR it can be flat... (for up to 9 days in a row).

Pavones Long Ride

Pavones Long Ride



Flat at Pavones

Flat at Pavones

7. Tulin Rivermouth

Everyone who has been to Costa Rica has been to Jaco. And just about all surfers have also surfed around Hermosa. The waves are chest high when it's small and up to 18 foot faces when it's 'on'. The problem lies in the fact that it's shore-dump, there is not a lot of room before you hit the coffee-brown beach. So --- what if you drove south past the tree? What will you find? Maybe a rivermouth that breaks at least 1 to 3 feet bigger all year. Where it breaks much further on the outside and doesn't close out (that bad) even at low tide. Where I've seen surfers carried off with their shinbone protruding because they dropped in a little too late. This break can be lethal so bring your lungs and your cahones (but leave nothing in your 4x4 rental).

Tulin Rivermouth

Tulin Rivermouth

8. Dominical

This beachbreak is about 1.5 miles long, with surf this big about 15 days out of each month. One week it could be bigger and might close out or another it could be head high and fun. Midtide going in is the best call, but when the tide is dropping some nice barrels can be found as well. At the north end is the Baru River, where the current is stronger and waves a foot bigger. North of the river is the Hacienda Baru Park with MILES of unridden surf. South is Dominicalito Bay, where it is smaller and better for first timers (watch out for rocks at lower tides) It might have 40 surfers on it, but still not seem "crowded", with some of the country's best locals surfing there. Other days it is an empty lineup, especially early morning after a night at the discoteque.

Dominical Beach

Dominical Beach

9. Playitas (Manuel Antonio)

As you walk north from the park at Manuel Antonio you will come across some small beachbreaks. Then as you continue, you'll pass a tiny island with a couple of trees, and this is where Playitas starts. It is generally a good right that breaks off of rocks out in the deeper water next to the point (see above) However, the lefts can also get good. Most of the time though, both are working and you have lots of close-outs. The wave is fast and the crowd favors the locals. It breaks best at a higher tide when the swell approaches from the South-southwest. Watch out for the smaller rocks (2-3 feet) that jut out from the sand at lower tides. And as for directions on how to get there from the main road, it's all downhill from there - drive carefully.

Playitas - Manuel Antonio

Playitas - Manuel Antonio

10. Playa Escondida

This break is one of the best reasons to base yourself in the Jaco/Hermosa area. Tony will take you by boat to the break for $10 a person. To access it by land you need to own property in the development right on the beach (or know someone who does) By 8 a.m. there could be 20-30 locals and turistas on the single shifty peak and then the wind turns onshore by 9:30 a.m.. The best tides to surf it are midtide going out or low coming in when it's shallower and can throw a nice barrel. It works on most swell directions, but a good SW makes it A-frame off a shallow rock. Swells from the south can make the lefts go for 100+ yards.

Playa Escondida (Jaco Area)

Playa Escondida (Jaco Area)

11. Salsa Brava

On the Caribbean coast, this wave is world class. The pictures don't do it justice since it can get to be 3x overhead with a good easterly swell generated from January to April. The surfer Gabriel Araya had grown up in Puerto Viejo, so he had no fear when going left on a predominantly rights-only wave. The wave shuts down in shallow water with live reef underneath. The paddle out is a challenge, through a pass in the reef and if you can't find the way back in you need to paddle in to the bay. One barrel makes it worth it, but give the locals the respect they deserve. Don't try for every wave ~ take in the scenery and relax ~ mon. You will probably break your board on the next drop-in and the only guy in town to fix it is in the lineup.

Salsa Brava
Salsa Brava

12. Playa Pinuelas

This quiet beach is Playa Pinuelas, located about 30 minutes south of Dominical. You can kayak to the islands offshore or just play in the shorebreak. A great place to bring the family and right next to Marina Ballena national park, at low tide the beach looks like a whale´s tale.Not everywhere in Costa Rica has crashing surf.

Playa Pinuelas

Playa Pinuelas

13. Playa Grande

Just a 25 minute drive or walk north of Tamarindo.. This beach is usually 1-2 foot bigger and has a lot better form. It usually breaks best at incoming tide 2-3 hours before high tide. Usually it has about 20-30 people grouped together on the two main peaks in front of Las Tortugas (the hotel with the white roof right by the beach access) by 7 a.m.. And usually the wind blows offshore all day, especially from December to April.

You can see I have said usually a lot, and that is because this break can be fickle. Sometimes it´s a big close out, other times perfect barrels. When the tide is too high it has a mean backwash, you think you caught the wave - then nada. And lately it has been good at lower tides as well.

Playa Grande

Playa Grande

14. Witch's Rock

To surf Witches Rock, you will need to have a sturdy off road vehicle or shell out colones for a boat to take you. The boat should have four stroke engines to protect the marine life in the Santa Rosa National Park. The trip from the anchorage in Playa del Coco costs from $240-300 for up to 6 people, takes about 50 minutes, and can get bumpy coming home in radical weather. The beach is a few miles wide, completely lacking any development save a minimal campground/outpost. The waves break along the whole stretch, yet it seems to line up better in front of the rock, and just east of the rivermouth. A great feature of the wave is that during the dry season, the Papagayo winds blow offshore all day, providing some big barrels if there's swell. At other times of the year you need to get there early before the wind switches. You can catch it empty in September to early November, but expect 8 to 9 other boats there in the high season.

Witch's Rock

Witch's Rock

15. Mal Pais / Playa Carmen / Santa Teresa

In Mal Pais, the beach break has a lot of rocks sticking out, especially at low tide, which makes it a little sketchy on some of the drops, but also a hollower wave. There are also a couple of left points at the south end of town. Playa Carmen is a long and wide stretch of open beach where most of the surfers go since it breaks a little bigger there than other spots. There is a powerful shorebreak and when the swell is big can break very far on the outside. It can handle well over double overhead surf, but will mostly closeout on the sets. Farther north in Santa Teresa and some smaller beaches has a series of rocky reefs that break left and break. The reefs need waves overhead or better to work..

Playa Santa Teresa

Playa Santa Teresa

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