Your Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding Adventures in Costa Rica
Wish to master the art of stand up paddle boarding on your next adventure vacation in Costa Rica? We show you how!
Why should you try SUP boarding in Costa Rica?
With its endless miles of clean, calm seas, handful of stunning lakes, gorgeous rivers, amazing wetlands and downright obsession for outdoor adventures, Costa Rica is one of the best travel destinations for water sport enthusiasts. The water is gloriously warm all year and the two coastlines (Pacific and Caribbean) burst with calm bays suitable for beginners.
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the most popular sports here and the country boasts dedicated surfing camps offering lessons for beginners and board rentals for more intrepid water babies who wish to go it alone.
Who is Stand Up Paddle Boarding Suited to?
Stand up paddle boarding is often considered a precursor to surfing although, just between us, this is an awesome sport for anyone who loves calm adventures on the water. Sure, many will try it if they’re struggling to master surfing but the blissful enjoyment of SUP turns skeptics into addicts in no time at all.
Of all the boarding disciplines you can try on water, SUP is arguably the easiest to learn. The boards are wide, have non-slip footing and mostly offered on beaches or lakes with calm water.
If you have good balance and confidence in the water, you’ll find SUP easy to learn. SUP is suitable for adults and children alike and is one of the most popular family activities here in Costa Rica.
This sport is so gentle and relaxing, that many yogis practice their morning routines whilst out on the water – a fantastic way to practice your zen balance and enjoy an exquisite experience.
Are SUP boarding and SUP surfing the same thing?
No! Boarding is practiced in protected and calm waters (coves, bays, lakes and rivers) whilst surfing is, as the name suggests, practiced on surfing beaches. The latter is a much more challenging sport usually tackled by those who wish to improve their surfing skills.
SUP surfing is a lot of fun but it’s worth remembering the difference between the two disciplines when looking for SUP schools and equipment rental shops in Costa Rica…lets you book a lesson for your family on a wicked world-class surfing break!
Is Stand Up Paddle Boarding easy to learn on your own?
Although SUP is relatively easy, you’ll still want to learn basic safety drills from expert instructors – most especially in Costa Rica. Lakes, rivers and beaches can be hard to read by the uninitiated, plus, you will probably share the water with others, so you’ll want a local guide with you (at least, at first).
Once you get the hang of the board and paddle, you’ll feel more confident to rent some gear and explore on your own. However, we always recommend families to head off with an instructor/guide, especially if they are traveling with 2 children or more. If you are all learning together, it can be a challenge to keep your eye on the ball the entire time. Take a guide with you and you can enjoy your own trip with peace of mind.
Where are the best places to SUP in Costa Rica?
SUP boarding in Playa Tamarindo – best for beginners
The undisputed SUP boarding queen of Costa Rica, Tamarindo beach is the best place to try the sport, especially for beginners. The gorgeous town is chock-full of SUP schools and shops and the options for unforgettable boarding abound. Hop on your board and explore Tama Bay in its entirety and head out to a tiny islet (Capitan Suizo) nearby when you feel confident enough to leave terra firma behind.
SUP boarding in Lake Arenal – amazing way to get a different perspective
With the imposing sight of Arenal Volcano as backdrop, this sensational lake offers perhaps the most scenic SUP experience of all in Costa Rica. The country’s largest lake usually serves up super calm water although during the Green Season (when rain and wind pick up) it can get a little hairy. On a gloriously sunny day, you can head out with the entire family on an SUP tour of Lake Arenal, right after exploring the bordering national park. A magnificent and photogenic spot to explore by board.
SUP boarding in the Matapalo Wetlands – a unique place to try boarding!
Down in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, in the Dominical province, is where you’ll find the ethereal Matapalo mangroves. One of the country’s lesser known and visited gems, Matapalo is a dream to explore on a guided SUP boarding tour.
The setting is tropical and insanely beautiful and you can dive deep into the estuary, spotting sloths, monkeys, iguanas, vultures, kingfishers, and a gazillion other birds. Mangroves are revered for being wildlife havens so an SUP tour in Matapalo is an extraordinary way to soak up the splendors of the Costa Rica wilderness, learn more about this unique ecosystem and perfect your boarding skills at the same time.
Matapalo is also amazing to explore on a kayak so if there’s someone in your group who isn’t keen on SUP boarding, they can opt for a kayak instead – no prior experience necessary for either one!
SUP boarding in the Gulf of Papagayo – the most luxurious destination of all
Revered for its array of luxury resorts, the Papagayo Peninsula is a stunning place for an adventure-filled splurge. Most resorts offer SUP boards to guests and many run daily lessons as well. The water in the gulf is calm most of the year, protected by its namesake peninsula – this makes Papagayo ideal for beginners of all ages. This is also a fabulous sport to try out yoga boarding!
SUP boarding in the Golfo Dulce – the remote destination that’ll leave you spellbound
An equally protected gulf, yet one that’s way off the beaten path, the Golfo Dulce is the eye-popping springboard to Osa Peninsula adventures. This is where you come to explore the world-revered Corcovado National Park (the most bio diverse and unspoilt of all of Costa Rica’s reserves) and enjoy a superlative SUO boarding tour to boot.
Once here, you can include a wildlife-spotting hike in Corcovado with a certified guide on your itinerary, a zip line canopy tour, horseback ride, mountain bike tour and more. Spend a couple of nights in one of the Osa’s exquisite remote lodges and it will intensify your experience. This is one of Costa Rica’s most unforgettable highlights and being immersed in its wilderness for a few days is the stuff of dreams.
Tortuguero National Park – an ethereal escape into the remotest wilderness
If you’re looking for a truly mesmerizing place to try SUP boarding for the first time, then look no further than Tortuguero. The turtle nesting haven of Costa Rica’s north-eastern coast, and the world’s largest green sea turtle nursery, this protected reserve is an extraordinary wildlife paradise, one that’s far removed from modernity, chaos and the detrimental influence of humankind.
SUP boarding is at its infancy here but we can take you on an amazing excursion along desolate and calm waterways, accompanied by caimans in the water (don’t worry, they’re harmless!), spider monkeys above, as well as a flurry of toucans and other exotic creatures.
SUP boarding in Costa Rica is fun, easy and immensely rewarding. The best part? For every destination mentioned above, there are dozens more worth discovering! Plan your unforgettable Costa Rica adventure vacation with us and let us know you’d like to try SUP and we can plan a wicked itinerary to lesser-known destinations that’ll blow your mind.