Surfing Costa Rica:
A complete surf travel guide
Surf in Costa Rica
Every year surfers flock to the Costa Rican beaches in search of perfect waves. Costa Rica has quickly become one of the top destinations for surf travel, and it is no wonder why!
Costa Rica offers so much more than just surf. The country is absolutely stunning, packed with beautiful nature and wildlife. There is so much to do and see while visiting Costa Rica, and the surf scene is top-class. The Costa Rican people are warm, friendly, and very tourist-minded. The ‘Pura Vida’ – lifestyle is a symbol of their mentality and way of living. Pura Vida literally means ‘Pure Life’, and the mantra is all about; spending time with friends and family, having a positive and friendly mindset while enjoying the simple life surrounded by nature.
Costa Rica has become a favorite destination among surfers for a good reason. The lifestyle is very laid back, yet you will find boutique hotels, top-class restaurants, and pulsating nightlife. Costa Rica is perfectly located in Central America, which gives it one-of-a-kind biodiversity and a guarantee for consistent waves all year round in warm ocean waters.
Costa Rica surf map
The surf scene of Costa Rica can be divided into four different areas:
- The Caribbean Coast (Limón Province)
- The North Pacific (Guanacaste – Nicoya Peninsula)
- The Central Pacific (Puntarenas)
- The South Pacific (Puntarenas)
The Caribbean coast is very different from the rest of Costa Rica and the waves are less consistent. Therefore you need to do a bit more research and check forecasts, before going on a strike mission to places like Puerto Viejo. Surf destinations in the Limón Province are known for large and powerful conditions since the swells are produced by tropical storms off the coast of Mexico. For this reason, most surf sports on The Caribbean coast will only be suitable for advanced surfers. You will find the best surf conditions in the hot and dry season, between December and March.
The Pacific coastline is the most popular for surfing and provides consistent and high-quality waves. On The Pacific coast, you will find waves for all levels of surfing and a variety of surf towns for different preferences and vibes.
The North Pacific Coast is the country’s most visited region, here you will find some great surf towns like Tamarindo and Santa Teresa, which are booming with good accommodation options, bars, restaurants, etc. You will meet a lot of like-minded people in The North Pacific region, but be aware that some of the beaches can be very crowded and hold a lot of beginners.
You will find some of the most easily accessible surf spots on The Central Pacific Coast, as they are within a short distance from the capital San Jose. You will discover a selection of vibrant beach towns, that offers a great lifestyle along with consistent and mellow swells.
The South Pacific Coast is a bit off the beaten path, but those who make it there will be rewarded with lush coastal rainforests, uncrowded perfect waves, and very welcoming locals. The South Pacific Coastline is every surfers’ dream and can feel like a real-life fairytale since this beautiful region is so uncrowded.
Costa Rica's best surf towns
Costa rica's surf season
As mentioned, waves are consistent throughout the year, making Costa Rica popular among surfers all year round. However, there is still a noticeable difference between high-season and low-season, and the best season for you to visit Costa Rica comes down to personal preferences.
The high season is also known as the ‘dry season’. This season extends from December to April. The dry season is popular among tourists because you can count on good weather, making it easier to plan day trips and activities.
The low season in Costa Ric is known as the ‘rainy season / green season’. The rainy season extends from May until November. Even though this season is considered “low-season” in the tourism industry, many intermediate and advanced surfers tend to love this season, due to more powerful and less crowded waves. The so-called green season provides the best surf of the year due to its oncoming SW swells. The low season also brings the benefit of cheaper accommodation rates and more availability in general.
The downsides of the low season, are obviously the heavy rainfall, causing roads to get blocked due to flooding and river crossings, and making it difficult to do other activities than surfing and relaxing at home – A deal-breaker for some, but a perfect scenario for others. However, you may want to avoid September and October since they are the rainiest months of the whole year.
Best time to surf Costa Rica
The Caribbean Coast: December to February (and July)
The North Pacific (Guanacaste – Nicoya Peninsula): November to March (offshores during the dry season only).
The Central Pacific (Puntarenas): May to October (rainy season).
The South Pacific (Puntarenas): December to April for beginner surfers and May to October for intermediate and advanced surfers
When traveling to Costa Rica, you can arrive by airplane or by land, depending on where you are traveling from.
By airplane: Most of the tourism going to Costa Rica, are arriving by air transport. Costa Rica has two international airports, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR), located in Liberia in the Guanacaste region.
Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR), is a good option if you are going to visit the northwest coast, but the main airport of the country is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), hence its location in the capital San José, so this is where you fill find most flights heading to.
The airport (SJO) is a hub for: Costa Rica Green Airways, Avianca Costa Rica, Volaris Costa Rica, and Sansa Airlines. But the airport receives international flights from all over the world.
The top airlines flying from San José counts United Airlines (AU), American Airlines (AA), Avianca (AV), Copa Airlines (CM), JetBlue (B6), Volaris Costa Rica (Q6), Alaska (AS), KLM (KL), and Delta (DL).
The top 10 routes from SJO Airport are: Houston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Newark, Mexico City, San Salvador, Panama City, Guatemala City, and Madrid.
- By land: If you are already traveling in Central America, then you will be able to reach Costa Rica by land. There are several bus routes, taking you to Costa Rica from either Panama or Nicaragua, the two neighboring countries. You can also book shuttle services v, Caribeshuttle.
After arriving in Costa Rica, there are four different ways to reach your final destination. If your trip is beginning in the capital, then the best option for transport would be a Taxi. Are you going anywhere else in the country, then you need to arrange bus transport, shuttle service, domestic flights, or rental car service.
- Bus routes: The bus system in Costa Rica is reliable and good. Prices are cheap and the fares range from less than US$1 to around US$20. Costa Rica has two types of buses: directo and colectivo. The directo buses are going from one destination to the next, with few stops. The colectivos on the other hand, make more stops and are very slow going.
- For information on departures check: The Bus Schedule
- Shuttle service: The tourist-van shuttle services are a pricier alternative to the public buses, but they are typically a lot faster and provides more comfort. Shuttles providers to check are:
- Car rentals: Are surprisingly affordable in Costa Rica. However, the roads are not always great if you are going to a remote beach destination, especially not during the rainy season. Make sure you get the right insurance, if you go with the option of car rental.
- Domestic flight routes: Costa Rica is not so big that domestic flights make sense. Air travel within Costa Rica is not efficient and will also be pricy. We recommend skipping this method of travel, as it would not save you time or money.
When you arrive at your final destination, most towns are easy to get around by either:
Surf schools & Surf camps in Costa Rica
Due to Costa Rica’s high level of tourism, it’s easy to find surf schools and equipment rental in every surf town you visit.
Surfboard rental can range from $10 – $25 / day and group lessons can be found at $45 – $60 per 2-hour session.
In the bigger surf towns like Tamarindo, Santa Marta, and Jacó, you will find a large selection of surf schools, as well as surf camps. Places worth to mention are:
Activities & things to do in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country with a rich culture and beautiful nature – you will find plenty of activities and things to do whenever you need a day off from surfing.