Surfing Tamarindo: A complete surf travel guide

Last updated on: January 30, 2023
Tamarindo beach Costa Rica surf guide


surf in Tamarindo

Tamarindo is one of the most visited surf towns in Costa Rica, known for its beautiful nature, consistent surf, and vibrant nightlife. Despite its party reputation, Tamarindo offers so much more, and that’s why the town attracts everyone from young backpackers to families.

The perfect location in The Guanacaste province provides a unique base to explore the northern peninsula. Around Tamarindo, you will find everything from top-class surf and beaches to beautiful nature and national parks. There are plenty of things to do and see around Tamarindo, and the hyped surf town offers a good selection of restaurants, cafés, and bars. Activities are many, and you might want to try ziplining through the jungle, horseback riding on the beach, or going on an ATV tour! The adventures are endless.

Surfing in Tamarindo is perfect whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer. There are surf spots for all levels, and everyone will enjoy the laidback surf town with the stunning sunsets.

Tamarindo raiting: 8.5
Wave consistency
Wave quality

Best season to visit

The best time of the year to surf in Tamarindo depends on what kind of waves you plan to score.

Beginners looking for small and mellow waves will have the best time in Tamarindo from December to April. You can expect perfect offshore winds and clear blue skies. This period is also known as the dry season in Costa Rica, making it the best season if you plan to explore the beautiful national parks.

If you are an experienced surfer looking for medium- to large-sized waves and don’t care too much about the rain; since you are going to be surfing all day. Then you should plan a trip between May and November.

During this time of year, the South Pacific is pumping out sizable, long-period swells, providing perfect and consistent surf conditions. So advanced surfers who are planning to go on a strike mission should be paying close attention to the surf forecast during this season.

During the holiday season, Tamarindo can be very crowded, which might be a benefit if you like to party, but rather a drawback in terms of surfing.

Insider tip: During September and October, Tamarindo tends to be more uncrowded, leaving hotel/surf camp rates at the lowest of the year.

How to get there

When going on a surf trip to Tamarindo, you can book your flight tickets for one of the two international airports in Costa Rica.

The first option is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), located in the capital, San José. This airport has the most international flights but is also the furthest away from Tamarindo. The journey takes about 4,5 hours by car and approximately one hour extra by bus.

The other international airport in Costa Rica is Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR). This airport is within close distance of Tamarindo as both are in The Guanacaste Province. You will have to drive for about an hour to reach Playa Tamarindo.

From both airports, it’s easy to get to Tamarindo by either car, bus, or shuttle service. Most hotels and surf camps arrange airport transfers for an additional fee.

A rental car is a good option in Costa Rica, you can usually find a good deal, and the freedom of having a car will make it easier to experience the surroundings of Tamarindo. However, be aware that it can be challenging during the rainy season as roads often get flooded.

If you’re simply looking for one-way transportation to Tamarindo, then the best options would be the public busses or a shuttle bus service. We prefer a shuttle bus since the itinerary is faster and often more comfortable.

Where to stay

The best place to stay depends on the kind of experience you are looking for. If you want the full surf experience then we recommend staying at a surf camp where you can socialize and meet new people while taking daily surf lessons together. Some of the best surf camps in town are Iguana Surf Camp and Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. For backpackers and digital nomads, who plan to stay for extended periods and therefore not surf every day, we recommend staying at a hostel with all the necessary facilities such as Selina. If you are traveling as a group or family and would like to have your own place, then there is plenty of good hotel options and apartment rentals to choose from.

Where to go out

There are plenty of good restaurants and cafés in Tamarindo and you can’t really go wrong when looking for a good place.

If you are looking for a fun night out, you have come to the right place. Tamarindo is known for its vibrant nightlife and you are guaranteed a fun night out when hitting some of the many bars in town.

Costa Rica is very touristy compared to the rest of Central America, so don’t be surprised if prices are similar to your home country.

Some of our favourite cafés in Tamarindo

  • Pico
  • Nordico
  • Café Tico

Some of our favorite restaurants in Tamarindo:

  • Green Papaya Tamarindo
  • El Mercadito
  • Dragonfly Bar & Grill
  • La Bodega
  • Shrimp Hole
  • L’ Estanco El Jardin Escondido
  • Falafel Bar

Some of our favorite bars in Tamarindo

  • Volcano Brewing Company
  • El Chiringuito
  • Pacifico Bar
  • Sharky’s
  • The roof
  • Wild Panda
  • Tamarindo Beach Club


Tamarindo's best surf beaches

You will find plenty of good waves for all levels within the stretch of Playa Tamarindo. Next to Playa Tamarindo, you will find other beaches like, Playa Langosta, Playa Grande, Avellanas and Playa Negra.

  • Playa Tamarindo: The main beach of Tamarindo will offer some very good surf spots, right in front of the most popular hotels and surf camps. At playa Tamarindo, you will find waves for all levels.

  • Playa Grande: Playa Grande is a nearby beach located at the northernmost point of Playa Tamarindo, after the estuary. Playa Grande is known for having high-quality beach breaks that are very consistent all year round. Playa Grande’s waves are more powerful and a good option for advanced surfers who want to escape the more crowded surf spots at Playa Tamarindo. Some of the best surf spots at Playa Grande are Casitas, Palm Beach, Main Peak, and Las Palmas.

  • Playa Langosta: Located 1 km south of Tamarindo, you will find the rocky Playa LangostaAt this stretch of beach, you will experience big waves that offer both left- and right-hand breaks. The surf spots at Playa Langosta offer some radical waves for experienced surfers. Be careful at the river mouth since currents are strong, and there can be crocodiles (no joke). 

  • Avellanas: About 40 minutes from Playa Langosta, you will find another popular surf beach, AvellanasThis beach is also known as “Little Hawaii”. The surf scene lives up to the name, as the beach breaks provide some very hollow rights and lefts.


  • Playa Negra: The last beach worth mentioning within a close distance of Tamarindo is Playa Negra. Playa Negra is known for its black sand and outstanding waves. The surf spot is a right-hand point break, considered to be one of the best in Costa Rica, due to its powerful break and well-defined channel. You might already be familiar with the surf spot since it gained a lot of hype after the popular surf movie – Endless Summer II.

Surf spots at Playa Tamarindo

Tamarindo beach break

In the center of Tamarindo, you will find the main beach break, right in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. The beach break is popular due to its easy accessibility and mellow waves, making it the preferred surf spot in Tamarindo among surf schools and surf camps. Waves are usually small, knee to chest high, so conditions are perfect for beginners who need to learn the basics.

  • Skill Level: Any – But perfect for beginners
  • Break Type: Beach break
  • Wave Direction: Right & Left
  • Best tide: Mid to high
  • Optimal Wind Direction: Light offshore – NNE to NE to ENE
  • Optimal Swell Direction: SW (215° – 230°) or, NW (280° – 300°)

Pico Pequeño

Pico Pequeño is another surf spot in the center of Tamarindo, located about 150 meters south of the Tamarindo beach break. Pico Pequeño is a fun reform wave, connected to the faster and more powerful Pico Grande. Pico Pequeño is a rocky point where the lava reef turns the waves into an A-frame wedge that breaks close to the beach. This spot is for advanced surfers and can be a bit localized, so respect the lineup.

  • Skill Level: Intermediate – advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Beach break (Mostly sand with some reef)
  • Wave Direction: Right 
  • Best tide: High
  • Optimal Wind Direction:Light & variable 
  • Optimal Swell Direction: SW (215° – 230°)

Pico Grande

Pico Grande is marked by a lava-thumb reef, where waves stand out of deep water and break over shallow lava rocks/reef. Pico Grande sits on the outside of Pico Pequeño and is the power source of both waves. Pico Grande can be amazing when a good swell hits. However, it should only be surfed by advanced surfers due to its difficulty. Pico Grande is full of power and speed and is considered the best right-hand slab of Tamarindo. Pico Grande will produce a big barrel during ideal conditions, but the ride is short and provides about 1-2 sections.

  • Skill Level: Advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Reef break
  • Wave Direction: Right 
  • Best tide: Mid – High
  • Optimal Wind Direction: Light offshore
  • Optimal Swell Direction: SW (215° – 230°)  NW (280° – 300°)

The Rivermouth

At the northern edge of Playa Tamarindo, the estuary meets the ocean and creates a solid right-hand beach break. The Rivermouth is one of few waves in Tamarindo that thrives in low tide. In the right conditions, The Rivermouth will produce a hollow and perfect barrel ride, that continues all the way to the shore. The wave can be very powerful, and it usually breaks pretty far out, making the paddle out difficult for beginners.

  • Skill Level: Intermediate – advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Beach break
  • Wave Direction: Right
  • Best tide: Low
  • Optimal Wind Direction: Light offshore
  • Optimal Swell Direction: SW (215° – 230°)  NW (280° – 300°)

Henry's Left

Henry’s Left is another fun wave located on the southern stretch of Playa Tamarindo, approximately a 5-minute walk from the center. Henry’s Left breaks over a shallow lava reef and offers some fast left-handers during high tide. The wave can be a bit fickle, and it works best in medium-size conditions, so it will usually be pretty uncrowded.

  • Skill Level: Advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Reef break
  • Wave Direction: Left 
  • Best tide: High
  • Optimal Wind Direction: Light offshore
  • Optimal Swell Direction:SW (215° – 230°)  NW (280° – 305°)

Henry's Right

Henry’s Right sits on the same lava thumb reef as Henry’s Left, but as the name implies, it breaks on the right side of the lava rocks. The take-off zone is quite small, and you have to deal with shallow reefs (lava rocks), so this surf spot is only suitable for advanced surfers, and even then it may not be worth the risk. Henry’s Right needs to be surfed at high tide to make sure that the rocks are covered. The conditions have to be ideal for the wave to be working, but when it works, it offers enough power for some vertical turns and even a slabbing barrel section at the beginning.

  • Skill Level: Advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Reef break
  • Wave Direction: Right 
  • Best tide: High
  • Optimal Wind Direction: Light offshore
  • Optimal Swell Direction: NW (280° – 305°)

Capitán Suizo

At the southernmost point of Playa Tamarindo, you will find the popular wave, Capitán Suizo. The surf spot has a unique location in front of Isla Capitan, where the waves will wrap around the island and wedge up for some user-friendly sections. Capitán Suizo suits surfers at any level, as it provides some long and mellow rides. Due to the clean open lines and it’s mellow right- and left-handers, the surf spot has become a favorite among surf schools. On a big day, the wave becomes very rippable, and you can experience long sections up to 200-meters, making it a good place for advanced surfers to practice turns.

  • Skill Level: Any – Beginner to advanced surfers
  • Break Type: Beach break (has a few lava rocks)
  • Wave Direction: Left & Right 
  • Best tide: Mid-high
  • Optimal Wind Direction: E / ESE / SE
  • Optimal Swell Direction: SW (215° – 230°) NW (280° – 305

Tamarindo surf forecast

Tamarindo surf camps and surf schools

There are plenty of good surf camps and surf schools to find in Tamarindo. Some surf camps are ideal for beginners, while other surf camps offer lessons suited for all levels.

We have included the three best yet very different surf camps/surf schools in Tamarindo. One of these options will be right for you, whether you are a beginner or experienced, and whether you are staying short- or long term.

One of our favorite surf camps in Tamarindo is Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. We love this surf camp due to its beachfront location, surf lessons for all levels, and good vibes among guests and staff. They have a beachfront restaurant where you will be enjoying your daily breakfast before scoring some perfect waves.

Witch’s Rock Surf Camp is a good choice whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer. They have a unique selection of boards with more than 250 surfboards for rental. So you will be able to grab a longboard on mellow days and a shortboard when bigger swells hit Tamarindo. They have some very competent instructors, and you will be able to progress fast since their surf training include; daily surf lessons, surf seminars, surf tours by van and boat, video analysis of sessions, and a graduation surf trip and party.

Another popular option in Tamarindo if you want to take surf lessons is Selina. Selina is a hostel who has its own surf school. We absolutely love the atmosphere at Selina with its artistic vibe and young crowd. It’s a popular choice among backpackers and digital nomads, who tend to stay for extended periods.

Selina is a hostel chain with several locations on the west coast of Costa Rica, so it’s the perfect option if you plan to do an itinerary down the coast. Besides their top-class facilities, their surf school offers lessons, ideal for those who want to try surfing for the first time. You can both sign-up for private lessons as well as groups lessons.

Iguana Surf is another well-known surf camp in Playa Tamarindo – A good place for beginners who prefer a more intimate learning experience. It’s one of the oldest and most trusted surf camps in town.

Iguana is a boutique surf school that offers a very relaxed atmosphere, and they are located right at the beach. They have a big selection of surfboards to choose from and offer a variety of packages to get you started with surfing. They also offer add-ons, where you can include other experiences such as Spanish lessons, horseback riding, ATV tours, and much more! In some of their surf packages, you will also get photos and video analyses of your surfing to help boost your progression.

Surfboard rental

You will be able to rent surfboards at any surf school or surf camp, including our three favorite options above. 

Another good place to grab a surfboard is at Kelly’s Surf Shop. This is one of the best and most trusted surf shops by locals in Tamarindo. They offer everything you need; surfboards, wax, leashes, fins, etc. They also have equipment for other types of water sports. You will find any type of surfboard in all types of price ranges and Kelly’s Surf Shop is the perfect place for those who know what they are looking for.

Renting a surfboard in Tamarindo will usually cost you around $20/day or $120/week. We recommend adding insurance to prevent any unforeseen costs. Surfboard insurance usually comes at an extra $5 a day. If you are looking to rent a bodyboard, prices will typically be half of a regular surfboard. 


Activities & things to do in Tamarindo

It’s easy to understand why Tamarindo has become such a popular destination among travelers. There is so much to do and experience in the Guanacaste province. 

A must is obviously to watch the amazing sunsets after a long day of surfing. Many visitors also enjoy yoga classes, as it is a good complementary sport to surfing. 

On days when you need a break from surfing, you will find plenty of adventures to go on. There are so many fun activities and the surrounding nature is absolutely beautiful.

Some of the top things people like to do in Tamarindo are:

  • ATV Tours
  • Horseback riding on the beach
  • Exploring nearby waterfalls 
  • Visiting the national parks
  • ziplining in the jungle
  • estuary tours to see crocodiles and howler monkeys
  • sunset catamaran cruises
  • and sooooo much more…

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