Surfing Costa Rica: The Essential Guide

Discover key tips for planning your next adventure surfing, Costa Rica.

We first went to Costa Rica in 2015. Our goal of surfing Costa Rica started with a few days in Tamarindo.

Then renting a jeep to drive south to Manuel Antonia National Park. Stopping along the way to check out some of the key longboarding spots we hear about.

You can plan on surfing in Costa Rica at any time of the year. No matter when you plan your surf trip, Costa Rica offers a safe, family-friendly vibe. Where you can learn to surf, explore the jungles, see wildlife, and relax.

While there are surf breaks all around Costa Rica. The most consistent surf breaks are on the northern Pacific side of Costa Rica. Conditions vary a little from month to month.

Essentially, Costa Rica has been a surf destination since the 1960s. Today, surf tourism is an established reality with room to grow.

Costa Rica Surf Seasons

Costa Rica Surf Season

As with any destination, there’s a high and low season. The price gap and weather between the two can vary considerably. As you're planning your Costa Rica surf vacation, understand the high season in Costa Rica is December to April. The busiest times are Christmas and Easter. The low season is the rainy season, between May to November.

Costa Rica has a relatively steady climate with temperatures ranging between 78°F and 80°F (26°C-27°C). Rainfalls are intense, yet rare and come in short bursts.

Here is a calendar to help you get a better idea of what to expect in each month of Costa Rica.

High Season | Dry Season (December + January + March + April)

As with all high seasons, prices are higher. Attractions are more crowded. Accommodations should be booked a month or two ahead of time. The busiest holidays in Costa Rica are Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. Which are celebrated for several days. During the Holy Week (the week of Easter) many local families celebrate by visiting the beaches.

  • December
    Costa Rica completes it’s transition to the dry season and you can expect all-day sunny skies. Waves are waist to overhead range.
  • January + February 
    You probably won't see any rain. Generally, waves are in the waist to head range. With bigger surf sneaking in occasionally.
  • March
    Expect no rain and sunny skies. In March, Costa Rica is starting to get bigger waves. March is a great time for a surf trip because of the ideal weather and wind conditions. Waves are waist to head range.
  • April
    Expect mostly sunny skies with some clouds. Only a very small chance of rain during April. Waves are consistently in the chest to overhead range.

Low Season | Rainy Season (May + June + July + August + October + November)

The low season is the rainiest time of year in Costa Rica.

While the waves are still good, rural dirt roads may become inaccessible due to flooding. Depending on the year, it can rain for weeks at a time. However, most of the time it just rains in the afternoon.

On the plus side, if you plan your surf trip for this time of year you'll get reduced rates on your accommodations. There are also way fewer tourists.

Don't let the label of “rainy season” fool you. It just means it downpours for an hour or so in the afternoons. Most often at night when you're sleeping.

  • May
    Surfing Costa Rica in May, you'll experience the beginning of the low season. Expect blue skies in the morning and tropical rain in the afternoons. Just because there's rain, doesn't mean it's cold. The waves will consistently be in the chest to overhead range. May is a great time to come visit because waves are consistent. Generally, there aren't too many people in the water.
  • June
    In June, Costa Rica is in its green season. Clear blue skies in the morning. Chances of rain in the afternoons. Waves are chest to overhead high. You'll find small, beginner waves out front.
  • July
    Costa Rica enters its Veranillo (mini-summer) month. It's at this time the rain takes slows down. Most of your days will have no clouds. More advanced surfers will still enjoy chest to overhead waves. Beginners can still find smaller waves closer to shore. July in Costa Rica offers consistent waves and tropical green surroundings.
  • August
    Costa Rica is still experiencing it is Veranillo (mini-summer). In the early part of August, the rain slows down and clouds disappear. Waves are still in the chest to overhead height.
  • September
    Costa Rica is transitioning back into the rainy season. But here in Guanacaste, the rainy season isn’t too bad. Generally, there are blue skies in the morning. With rain coming and going around lunchtime. Some days are sunnier than others. Wave heights are in the chest to overhead range.
  • October
    Costa Rica is in the rainy season. Still, expect blue skies in the morning with sporadic showers starting in the afternoon. High swells and big surf with enough small waves for beginners out front.
  • November
    Costa Rica is transitioning back into the dry season. During the beginning of the month, you can expect some afternoon rain. Towards the end of the month, expect clear skies. The waves will be medium-sized in the waist to head range. November is an ideal time to visit Costa Rica with vibrant green surroundings and mostly clear skies.

What are the best longboarding surf spots in Costa Rica?

Tamarindo Costa Rica Surf

The three main surfing provinces in Costa Rica are Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Which are mostly in the North. Another reason why you'll probably end up surfing Costa Rica in the northern part.

Let's take a look at the best surf breaks the country has to offer:

  1. Playa Nosara
    Recognized internationally as one of the best surfing beaches in the world. Its wide, light brown, soft, sandy beach is bordered by rainforest-covered hills. The town is laid-back. The beachfront is tropical because they have a law not allowing construction within 200 yards of the beach. There are bigger swells that come through. After the wave breaks on the outside, the resulting wave has less power. A great place to learn.
  2. Playa Naranjo/Witch's Rock
    Located in a natural sanctuary, Witch's Rock is one of the most popular surf spots in Costa Rica, but it rarely gets crowded. It breaks in front of Roca Bruja. A volcanic rock once cursed by a witch. Providing intense surfing experiences. This wave is for experienced surfers.
  3. Playa Grande
    Located north of Tamarindo, this is a surf break for all surfing levels. You'll see sea turtles, too. It can get crowded and is effected by sudden tide changes. Watch out for crocodiles near the river mouths.
  4. Playa Tamarindo
    A popular, laid-back surf spot located in a wide bay with a river mouth. Tamarindo delivers consistent waves all year-round, and a long stretch of white sand. It is considered one of the best waves in Costa Rica.
  5. Playa Avellanas
    A beautiful surf spot located ten kilometers south of Tamarindo that handles XXL swells extremely well. Offering a five-wave peak – Little Hawaii, River Mouth, Palo Seco, Lola's and La Purruja. You'll find perfect conditions for all levels of surfing.
  6. Playa Negra
    A right-hand reef break with a channel that was featured in a popular surf movie. A consistent and fast barreling wave for surfers who seek pure adrenaline.
  7. Playa Guiones
    Known for its sunsets and multiple peaks, Guiones is also one of the busiest waves in the Guanacaste Province.
  8. Playa Manzanillo
    Located in the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Manzanillo is a secluded beach with waves for all experience levels.
  9. Playa Santa Teresa
    White sand, tropical beach with consistent and hollow waves. The place offers multiple peaks and it is not too crowded.
  10. Mal Pais
    A diversified break with amazing beaches and consistent waves. While not easy to access, you'll find plenty of accommodation and rentals nearby.
  11. Boca Barranca
    The second-longest left-hand wave in Costa Rica offers an endless surfing experience. Despite the water pollution, this dreamy point break gets irresistible in classic conditions. Worshipped by longboarders and bodyboarders, too.
  12. Playa Hermosa
    Located ten kilometers south of Jacó, Playa Hermosa offers consistent surfing in Costa Rica for intermediate and advanced surfers. Waves can reach 13 feet. Offering plenty of barrels and punchy lips.
  13. Playa Dominical
    A popular, fast, and hollow wave that breaks near a river mouth, and a surf village. You can get barreled. Warning, its closeout can also cause injuries and broken surfboards.
  14. Pavones
    Pavones is the second-longest left-hand wave in the world. Offering a one minute ride. Often crowded, this three-section wave can hit the six-to-eight-foot range. Expect long paddling sessions.

Crocodiles in Costa Rica

Crocodiles warning sign in Costa Rica

Crocodiles Costa Rica

Yes, there are crocodiles in Costa Rica.

However, you don't have to worry about them snaking your waves our in the break. Typically, you'll find crocodiles lounging in and around river mouths.

Best longboard surfing Costa Rica

If you're a longboarder, you may want to check out Playa Grande. It has consistent surf, is a 20-minute drive from Tamarindo. Plus, there are other surf breaks nearby. Other longboarding spots are Avellanas, near the Tamarindo river mouth, and Playa Negra.

You can also take a boat trip to Witch's Rock/Ollies Point. Which is a dream for longboarders.

Esterillos offers good waves for longboard surfers and it is close to other attractions.

Another great option for longboarders is Playa Hermosa. Jim Hogan (95/96 longboard champion) runs Jim Hogan Surf Camp. Where he helps you get to the best surf spots twice daily. If you have that length of time, get Jim to take you for a half-day at Playa Hermosa and half a day at Playa Pavones. Jim transports your boards and picks you up at San Jose and drops you off.

Learn to surf in a Costa Rica surf camp

Surf Lessons Costa Rica

If you're a beginner or have never surfed before, Costa Rica is perfect for you. Whether you want to take casual lessons on the beach or enroll in a luxury surf camp. Costa Rica has more learning to surf opportunities than anywhere else in the world.

Surf lessons in Costa Rica can be booked through any surf shop you find near a beach. Often they'll guarantee you'll stand up by the end of your hour-long surf lesson.

Surf camps in Costa Rica come in a variety of styles. From family surf camps, luxury surf camps, and all-inclusive surf camps. Most surf camps are offered by established accommodations in Costa Rica.

Accommodations

Accommodations in Costa Rica range from affordable hostels to luxury hotels. From casual surf retreats to all-inclusive surf retreats. Surf retreats in Costa Rica generally last a week or two. Some offering additional goodies such as yoga and meals when you're not in the water.

Check out this collection of beach apps we put together to help you on your next surf trip.