The Best Surfing Locations in Costa Rica
Want to head south to catch superlative waves atanytime of year? Welcome to Costa Rica! One of the world’s most revered surfing destinations!
Whether you’re a professional with countless years of experience, or a novice who’s not even sure which end of the board is rear, Costa Rica offers an infinite array of fantastic surfing destinations simply ideal for your proficiency (or lack thereof). Add a few blissful days of excellent surfing to your week-long adventure trip with Costa Rica Rios, and you’ll take home a whole new set of skills along with some rather unforgettable memories.
Although seasonal changes do occur, making some destinations better than others at one time or another, you’ll always find several long stretches of fantastic surfing coastline no matter what time of year you visit.
Here are the best surfing spots in the country for beginners, intermediates…and the Kelly Slaters of the world.
Best for Intrepid Beginners: Jacó
To the uninitiated (and uncoordinated!) surfing in Costa Rica may seem a little overwhelming at first. Due to the country’s revered reputation as one of the world’s best surfing destination, many novice paddlers erroneously assume they must channel their inner Kelly Slater to ever set foot in the surf. Not so! Most of the country’s best surfing spots offer comprehensive courses for beginners, led by professional guides who remember what it was like to set off into the crashing waves, board in hand, for the very first time.
One of the most popular spot for beginners is PlayaJacó, home of countless surfing schools offering lessons for different skill levels. Families and solo travelers are welcomed here with open arms and you’ll find a wide choice of help: from hour-long introduction lessons to multi-day camps.
The great thing about Jacó is that it’s merely 100kms from San Jose, so it’s easy enough to visit on a day trip if you’re tight on time. Moreover, although surfing is an exhilarating sport, it ain’t for everyone. Should you be keen to try it out, only to discover you’re not cut out for it, at least you’ll have loads more things to see and do if staying in Jacó. From wilderness tours through pristine jungles, kayaking trips and visits to authentic haciendas, you’ll find lots to do here besides enjoying the sun, sea and surf.
Best for Intermediates: Jacó and Malpais
Playa Jacó’s other redeeming feature is the fact that it also caters for intermediate surfers, so if you’re traveling with family or friends with varying skills, you’ll definitely find this spot ideal.
Malpais, on the fringes of stunning Capo Blanco Nature Reserve, is an ideal choice for those who boast ‘some’ surfing skills, but still prefer to venture into very forgiving surf. What started as a humble fishing village has evolved into one the trendiest surfing spots in the country, and the area’s striking natural beauty has earned it innumerable accolades. This region boasts some of the most pristine stretches of coast in Costa Rica, and has lately become the hot and happening destination, attracting some of the world’s famous jetsetters. More humble visitors will find a plethora of accommodation and dining options, as well as fantastic surf resorts offering assistance to boarders and surfers of all ages. From group lessons to one-on-one intensive workshops or simply board-hire options, head to Malpais and you can have as much, or as little, surfing help as you’d like.
Best for Experts: Playa Pavones
Offering one of the world’s longest rides, Playa Pavones is found on the extreme south-western corner of Costa Rica, on the Pacific Coast, and is revered among serious surfers for offering challenging breaks and unforgettable, three-minute-long, left-break rides. To catch the best south-western swells head here between the end of April and mid-October, which is when the country’s most famous surfing beach is at its optimal best.
You’ll find Playa Pavones cradled in the wild heart of the Golfo Dulce in Puntarenas and, although it’s a long but stunning drive from San Jose (count on about 6 hours) you also have the option of catching a short flight from the capital. Golfito, the largest town close to the beach is about a 2-hour drive away. Rent a 4WD and spend entire days lost in the remote wilderness of stunning Playa Pavones, a thoroughly rewarding excursion even for novice surfers who wish to admire the mind-boggling spectacle of surfing pros at work.