Costa Rica needs no introduction as one of the world’s best surf destinations! The country has been attracting surfers for decades with a perfect combination of factors so sort after by us surfers; pumping waves, consistency, tropical waters, sunshine, and the odd land-based activity thrown in for good measure. Costa Rica has it all in abundance.
However, due to the country’s massive increase in popularity, Costa Rica isn’t as tranquil and affordable as it once was, and with so many epic surf spots, it can be tricky to choose where and when to go. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Here’s everything you need to know about surfing in Costa Rica: where to surf, when to go, how to get around, and where to stay. Let’s get it.
Table of Contents
When to Surf in Costa Rica?
The best time to surf in Costa Rica will depend on the coast. On the Pacific side, the best waves happen in the wet season (April to October), whereas over in the Caribbean, the best time is between January and March, similar to Bocas Del Toro in Panama.
Costa Rica Surf Overview
Costa Rica Surf Spot Map
Best Surf Spots in Costa Rica
There are three main regions where all of Costa Rica’s waves are located. Here’s a rundown of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
A thriving backpacker hub and a fantastic place for surfing digital nomads. Santa Teresa isn’t so much a town as a long street with accommodations, bars, and restaurants dotted along it. Out front, there are several beach breaks with super fun, punchy peaks, serving up something to surf, no matter your ability.
If you’re looking for somewhere forgoing with the potential for the odd head dip on the best days, Santa Teresa is for you. Read the full breakdown on surfing Santa Teresa for more information.
Arguably, the best wave in Costa Rica. Witches Rock drew the eyes of the surfing world after the premier of the classic surf movie, Endless Summer 2, which showcased the wave in all its glory.
While you’ll need a boat to access the spot, any effort you put into scoring the place will pay off. We’re talking perfect A-frame peaks, hollow wedges in blue water breaking under an incredible backdrop of Witch’s Rock itself.
With casinos, large hotels, and American food joints, Jaco is trashy. However, the beach in town is a fantastic place to learn how to surf in Costa Rica. It’s a long sheltered bay with flat sand, meaning the waves are soft and forgiving.
Just down the coast, things are quite the opposite; the black sand beach break, Playa Hermosa, is a thumping beachie with peaks the length of it. CT surfer Carlos Munoz lives here, and you can see why!
A few hours south of Jaco lies the sleepy, backpacker beach town of Dominical. Not much goes on here, but if you’re seeking laid-back vibes, fun waves, and an escape into nature, the town has everything you want. The long open beach is super consistent and provides fun, punchy peaks for all abilities. Read more about surfing in Dominical.
The best left in Costa Rica and one of the best waves in Central America. A super long, peeling left-hander, with sections turn and barrel sections aplenty. When it’s on, Pavones is a wave you can practice anything you want on. While Pavones is somewhat remote compared to many of Costa Rica’s other best breaks, you won’t regret the extra effort getting there! Read my full guide to surfing in Pavones for more info!
Surprisingly, there are some world-class waves on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Yep, we’re talking heavy slabs, one of the country’s best barrels. Salsa Brava, the area’s main draw, is no joke when it’s on and can have serious consequences if you f*ck up a take-off.
But don’t expect to head to Viejo and score Salsa at will; the place only comes to life on the most prominent Caribbean swells. But time it right, and you could be rewarded with the best waves of your life. Watch the stupidly shallow reef, thick lips, rocks, and locals. To learn more about the place, read the full breakdown of surfing in Puerto Viejo.
Best Beginner Surf Spots in Costa Rica
How to get to Costa Rica?
Getting to Costa Rica is easy; fly direct to San Jose from almost anywhere in the world; otherwise, connect through North America. Check out flight prices to Costa Rica here.
You can enter the country via the highway north from Nicaragua or south from Panama. If you’re in Costa Rica, remember that the roads can suddenly turn from relatively smooth tarmac to dirt track in seconds, so prepare for things to take longer than you expect.
How to get Around in Costa Rica?
By Car – For the most flexibility, you’ll want a car in Costa Rica; it gives you maximum flexibility for scoring waves and running on your own time. Just watch for the poor roads and wildlife on the road. We once had to stop for a sloth crossing the highway. Yep, Costa Rica is really like that! Check out Costa Rica rental car options here.
By Bus – If you’re on a budget surf trip to Costa Rica, the bus is your best bet to keep costs down. As long as you don’t mind the odd sweaty, bumpy journey, local buses are, by far, the cheapest way to get around in Costa Rica. While local buses operate as and when check out major routes on BusBud.
By Shuttle – Shuttle buses are common throughout the country and are a great middle ground between affordability and comfort. I used Caribe Shuttle during my 3-week trip and found it pretty reliable. You share a minibus with other travelers; they help you through immigration and make stops for food, which make long trips a little easier.
While not the cheapest option, it’s a great way to get around, meet other travelers/surfers, and reduce the stress of border crossings slightly. You can take routes such as Puerto Veijo to Bocas Del Toro or Puerto Veijo to San Jose.
By Plane – Another excellent option for getting around is by plane. There are many small airports dotted around Costa Rica, and if you need to get back to San Jose for an international journey, these short propeller plane flights can cut hours from your travel time. While not the cheapest option, you can find tickets for between $100 and $400.
Where to Stay When Surfing in Costa Rica?
Due to its massive popularity for surfers and tourists, you’re spoiled for accommodation in Costa Rica. Here’s a rundown of the very best surf accommodation.
Best Budget Surf Accommodation in Costa Rica
Coral Reef Surf Hostel - Tamarindo
If you want to immerse yourself into surfing amid a laid-back beach vibe, then the Coral Reef surf hostel could be for you. Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s best beginner surf destinations, and Coral Reef puts you mere minutes from the sand at Playa Tamarindo. Learn more about the Coral Reef surf hostel here.
Akih Pods Hostel - Santa Teresa
Akih pods hostel is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget surf trip to Costa Rica. While Santa Teresa is a pretty expensive place to visit anyway, Akih Pods hostel makes it somewhat affordable, with dorm ‘pod style’ beds available from $30usd per night. Just a few minutes walk from the waves at Playa Carmen, an excellent place to meet people and get waves.
Adventure Lodge Jaco
Jaco is one of the best places for beginners to surf in Costa Rica, and Adventure lodge puts you only 200 meters from the sand at Playa Jaco. The small pool area and shared living space make Adventure lodge a great place to meet other travelers and improve as a beginner. Dorm rooms start from $25 per night.
Best Mid-range Surf Accommodation in Costa Rica
Selina Santa Teresa North
Selina Santa Teresa North is one of the best hostels in Santa Teresa. Beachfront with co-working, a relaxed vibe, and all the facilities you need for a wicked surf trip to Costa Rica. While one of the more expensive hostels in the area, Selina sure makes up for it in terms of facilities and comfort.
You can also book surf lessons and excursions through the guys at the desk. Selina Also has another property further down the beach, Selina South, in case you weren’t spoiled for choice enough already. Selina is the perfect option for surfing digital nomads.
La Point Santa Teresa
La Point is one of the world’s best surf camps, with beautiful accommodations worldwide, in some of the world’s best surf destinations. La Point Santa Teresa property is no different and provides and beautiful setting and everything you need for a wicked surf trip to Costa Rica.
Best Luxury Surf Accommodation in Costa Rica
Surf Synergy Surf Camp
Just a short drive from Jaco beach, Surf Synergy is one of the best surf camps in Costa Rica. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced surfer, here you’ll be able to sample the area’s best waves (Jaco as a beginner and Playa Hermosa as an advanced surfer) as well as tap into the great food and yoga classes available on-site! Winner!
The Gilded Iguana
The Gilded Igauana is one of the best, most luxurious surf accommodation options in Costa Rica. Playa Guiones is the setting where surfers of all abilities can get their surf fix here in Nosara: a beautiful interior and everything you need for surfing; equipment, yoga, and great food. Learn more about The Gilded Iguana here.
Tips for Surfing in Costa Rica
The heat is extreme in Costa Rica. I mean, it’s never under 28C, and surfing between 11 and 3 is exhausting, so make sure you lather up the sunscreen and zinc or grab a surf hat. You can get away without this in the morning and evening sessions, but the sun is still intense.
The vibe at many of Costa Rica’s best surf spots is mellow and relaxed. However, at the more serious spots, such as Salsa Brava or Witches Rock, you’ll want to respect the locals and be more vigilant of who you paddle around.
Costa Rica is well established as one of the best surf destinations in the world, an incredible country with waves, nature, and weather aplenty. Look no further if you’re after fun waves, consistency, and warmth.
While you might spend more, Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America and a great place to start a multi-nation Latin American surf trip. For more information regarding surfing in Costa Rica or exploring more of Latin America, please share your experience or fire away with your questions below.
Surfing in Costa Rica - FAQs
Yes, Costa rica has some of the world’s best waves. From perfect beginner beach breaks to hollow slabs!
Santa Teresa, Dominical, Playa Hermosa and Witches Rock are some for the best places to surf in Costa Rica.