Costa Rica has been considered one of the best places in the world to surf for decades, attracting millions of visitors to the country’s 40 mapped surf beaches. In fact, with year-round warm water temperatures and consistent waves, Costa Rica is every surfer’s dream.
So, if you want to get away to catch some rays and waves, whether for a long weekend or to ride out the whole winter, here are some of the top surf destinations in Costa Rica (in no particular order):
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
While Jacó is Costa Rica’s hotspot for holidays and sunbathers, it also offers great surfing, as it hosted the 2016 International World Surf Championship last August. Just a few kilometers south you’ll find some great waves in Playa Hermosa, home of the 2009 Surf Championship.
Pavones, Costa Rica
Good news travels fast among surfers, and Pavones, located on a small peninsula near the Panamanian border, is now a must-surf destination when you visit Costa Rica, with one of the best left point breaks on the entire planet.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Don’t forget about Costa Rica’s Caribbean side, with amazing surf from December until May in this charming coastal town, including the heaviest waves around.
Ollie’s Point, Costa Rica
Head north along the western Costa Rican coastline and you’ll find Ollie’s Point near the Nicaraguan border, named after the disgraced U.S. military figure Ollie North. You can only get to this epic right point break that runs about 300 yards by boat, but the waves can still get crowded since it’s on every surfer’s Bucket List.
Malpaís & Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Malpaís & Santa Teresa in the southwestern corner of Península de Nicoya are great options to catch some amazing waves alongside some of the best natural beauty in Costa Rica.
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo (or “TamaGringo” because of the hordes of North Americans that vacation and live there) is Costa Rica’s most popular surf destination. It’s managed to hold on to its beachy village vibe (just barely), even as modern resorts, luxury condos, and high-end restaurants pop up. But the long expanse of beach – and great surfing near the estuary and other spots – has never ceased.
There’s plenty of room and smaller waves for beginners to improve their chops, but also a handful of great surf beaches not far out of town like Playa Grande and Playa Langosta that will be virtually empty.
Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica
Speaking of Tamarindo, when you’re there, go check out nearby Playa Avellanas, known as “Little Hawaii,” where the big, hollow, and fast waves create some dream tubes near the river mouth.
Witch’s Rock, Costa Rica
Or take a day trip to the legendary Witch’s Rock, made famous in the iconic surf movie, Endless Summer II, where you can enjoy perfect lefts and rights on either side of the offshore rock formation.
Dominical, Costa Rica
This tiny little beach town south of Manuel Antonio and just north of Playa Uvita is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to its reputation as one of the most consistent spots to catch some big waves in all of Costa Rica.
Matapalo, Costa Rica
Just south of Drake’s Bay in the Osa Peninsula you’ll find Matapalo, a crazy right-hander worth taming.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Beautiful white sand beach with good waves!
Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica
Far less touristy surf spots on the tip of the Osa Peninsula.
Playa Bejuco, Costa Rica
Good waves just north of Manuel Antonio, but with far less tourists.
Playa Negra, Costa Rica
Amazing black sand beach with great right-hand barrels.
Boca Barranca, Costa Rica
Great break in summer and less crowded but not as much natural beauty around.
Maybe you’re heading to Nicaragua or Panama to get your tourist visa renewed, or you just want to expand your surf vacation to Costa Rica’s neighbors?
San Juan del Sur and Popoyo, Nicaragua
Nicaragua is no longer a best-kept secret, with thousands of North American surfers hitting the white sand and thick jungle of Popoyo every winter, usually passing through charming San Juan del Sur its surrounding beaches. You’ll find everything from gentle swells for beginners to a dozen huge breaks a short boat ride away.
According to Johnny G., owner of SanJuanSurf.com, “With friendly locals, offshore 300 days a year, and uncrowded spots all along the coast, your chance of scoring here is much higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.”
Santa Catalina, Panama
Thirty years ago, an intrepid surfer hacked his way through the jungle in search of this pristine and untouched surf beach (or so the legend goes). These days, Santa Catalina is still one of the best places to surf in all of Central America, with consistent right and left breaks for more than 200 yards over lava reef – and it’s a lot easier to get there.
Bocas Del Toro, Panama
This cluster of islands off of Panama’s Caribbean coast includes some of the best reef breaks and hidden beaches in Central America, all accessible by water taxis. “The Mouth of the Bull” is truly a unique and beautiful place for those that make the trek, and when the surf is on, it’s on!
Your friend (and NOT a good surfer),
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