Our family went on a twenty-five day surfing trip to Costa Rica. We explored four different Costa Rica surfing beaches- Pavones, Nosara/Playa Guiones, Playa Negra, and Punta Uva. I’ve broken down each spot based on wave quality, accommodations, and foodto help you decide where to go on your next surfing adventure
Costa Rica Surfing Beaches #1: Pavones
As far as waves go, it doesn’t get much better than this. This epic wave has the potential to connect into the second longest left in the world, but even when it isn’t firing, it still is a very long ride.
With it’s nice A-frame shape, getting into the wave and having a little time to get to you feet makes it an even more enjoyable surfing experience.
I liked that you had the option of sitting right on the peak and catching it where it was breaking heavier and faster or sitting a little more south (in front of the river mouth) where the break was often a little softer and slower on the bigger days. If you plan on surfing the point,drive south of the town, cross the bridge over the river, and park in the dirt overlooking the break for a shorter paddle out
When we were there in May and June, the surf was fairly consistent at 4 to 6 foot and there were plenty of waves to go around.
Helpful tip: If you get lucky enough to catch a long ride, get out and walk back to this point. I didn’t and I think it took me 30 minutes to paddle back to position…but the ride was worth it!
You don’t have many options as far as places to stay down here as you do at all the other breaks listed below. We were on a budget and chose a hostel, Casa Marea Alta, and absolutely loved it.
Casa Marea Alta is a ten-minute drive south of the surf break (near Punta Banco), but it offers a unique experience if you are adventurous. The rooms are big with 2 large queen beds and a bunk bed (which is hard to find a room that sleeps a family as big as ours!).
Related: Why We Love Pavones
The property is in the jungle so you see a lot of wildlife right from the hammocks outside your room.
Helpful tip: Don’t forget a yoga mat here! They have a beautiful yoga deck on the property that I enjoyed being able to use to recover from long surf sessions.
Casa Marea Alta is also right across the street from a beautiful beach directly across the dirt road that is always empty except for the hundreds of hermit crabs that are entertaining to watch.
If you need five-star accommodations this one isn’t for you.
- There are showers, but no hot water.
- It can get really hot and there isn’t A/C.
- At night, the bugs find their way into your room and you don’t want to walk around outside at night without a flashlight in case of snakes/scorpions.
However if you are the kind of person who likes nature, being around like minded travelers, and solitude.
The kitchen is rustic, but there is a delicious Italian restaurant 5 minutes down the road. If you get over a few fears and allow yourself to be a little uncomfortable, you will be rewarded with an incredible jungle experience that we thought was totally worth it!
There are 2 tiny grocery stores in town and a few restaurants, that’s it. You will save a lot of money on food here, but you won’t have many choices. Our staples were mainly beans, rice, and local produce from a farmer who came by Casa Marea Alta twice a week in his truck.
Cooking can be a lot of work, but the produce is so fresh and grown organically that our whole family commented on how great they felt while we were here. If cooking isn’t your thing, there are a few restaurants like Ebenezers, La Piña, and more and they do serve good food.
Related: Guide to Planning a Trip to Pavones[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shFV3n65ivE[/embedyt]
If you are looking to surf one of the best waves in the world and want to experience nature in the jungle, this is the place for you.
Who it’s good for:
- Surfers who just want to score epic waves and chill in a hammock
- Surfers who enjoy being surrounded by nature aaaaand scoring epic waves
- Surfers who are willing to drive way longer than other surf spot in Costa Rica because they want good waves and good vibes
Costa Rica Surfing Beach #2: Nosara/Playa Guiones
If you watch this spot on Surfline it shows EPIC conditions more often than any other breaks I’ve followed. We were there on one of those epic days and I was only marginally impressed.
This break delivers consistency and there are a lot of waves to go around, but it’s still a beach break.
Just like in Pavones, the wave is fat and you have some time to paddle in and get to your feet, but some days the off-shores get howling so strong that it blows you out of the wave. When the waves get bigger the paddle out can be challenging too as it is a beach break.
In the water, the vibe is friendly and mostly American. The surf culture is alive and pumping in this small town and it feels like the whole town gathers at the beach at dusk to share the pura vida vibe.
If you have money to spend, you can find really nice, comfortable homes, hotels, or hostels to stay at on AirBnb.
Being on a budget, we chose The Guilded Iguana, which was a treat with hot showers and clean towels, but it’s above a restaurant and can be loud. The best part though of staying here is location, location, location. It is a short walk to the surf break and to a wide variety of gourmet, hipster restaurants.
This place is foodie heaven. Since we didn’t have a kitchen while we were here, we ate out and ate well. My kids still talk about how great the burgers were at Burgers and Beer and Tatiana loved the burritos so much from Shore Break (she ate the entire Big Ass Burrito herself…that’s what they call them!)
There are great Acai bowls and smoothies at Nosara Juice Co and delicious coffee at True Love Coffee.
If you can afford to spend some money and want good waves, comfortable accommodations, and delicious food, then Playa Guiones is for you.
Who it’s good for:
- Surfers who just want to score consistently average waves
- Surfers who like enjoy having access to hipster cafes & restaurants
- Surfers looking for more creature comforts/upscale accommodation
- Surfers who like being surrounded by the Pura Vida spirit
Costa Rica Surfing Beaches #3: Playa Negra
My brother in law, who is Tico, warned me to be careful here because that wave deserves much respect. He was right. This wave looks perfect, but it was out of my league.
The wave breaks fast over a shallow reef and the hydrodynamics can be intense. In addition, it is a right breaking wave so you need extra confidence if you are goofy like me. If you are a very experienced surfer, you will love this wave. If you are intermediate (like myself) I recommend skipping it.
There are easier breaks nearby. Tamarindo is a good beginners wave but can be very crowded and is smaller than other breaks. We surfed Playa Grande and were not very impressed (however, we may have timed the tides wrong). The wave lives up to its name as it can get big. I’d rank it better than Playa Negra, but nowhere as good as Guiones.
There is a hotel right in front of Playa Negra and many beautiful houses you can rent in the gated communities that line the beach around it.
Many of the houses are quite affordable and if you are looking to surf, nap, surf, eat, surf, sleep you will be happy here. It can get extra hot in this part of Costa Rica so look for something with A/C.
There is a restaurant at the hotel in front of the surf break and a few restaurants in town, but not nearly as many choices as you have in the Nosara area.
If you want diversity, you’d have to drive thirty minutes north to Tamarindo, but be prepared to spend a lot of money up there. We went to one restaurant that charged $10 for one fish taco! Lola’s is a cool restaurant in Playa Avellanas because it’s right on the beach and there are pigs that usually wander around, however the food is nothing special.
If your skills are a match for this world class wave then you will love it here. Rarely have I seen a wave set up so perfectly as this one can.
Who it’s good for:
- Experienced surfers who just want are looking for the best barrels in Costa Rica
- Surfers who just want to surf all day long
- Surfers who want private, cheap, and nice accommodation
Costa Rica Surfing Beaches #4: Playa Cocles/Punta Uva
This wave is nothing to write home about. I’ve been told if the stars align the right way it can be a great break, but it didn’t happen while we were there. However, this is one of the prettiest stretches of coastline I have ever seen. Just sitting in the water on the outside staring back at the beach makes surfing here worthwhile.
If you want bigger surf you can go ten minutes north to Puerto Viejo and surf Salsa Brava when it’s firing or if you want a mellow break you can go ten minutes south to Punta Uva and surf what is arguably the most beautiful beach on the planet.
Even if you don’t surf, I highly recommend visiting Punta Uva, also known as Sloth Point, for all the sloths that hang out in the trees above the beach. There’s also an area of jungle you can hike to the south of the beach.
If you make it to the Caribbean side you have many options. We chose La Costa De Papitos in Cocles and were very happy with their comfortable cabins and lush landscaping throughout the property. We didn’t have a kitchen, but that wasn’t a problem considering the multitude of eating opportunities nearby.
If you have a little more money to spend, five minutes south is the posh town of Playa Cauhita. If you are looking for something inexpensive, there are large hostels in Puerto Viejo.
There are lots of eating options especially if you go to Puerto Viejo, but we rarely left Cocles because of the great bar/restaurant, Tasty Waves, that is right across the street from the beach. If you happen to be there on a Tuesday they throw the best party in town with their famous Tasty Tuesdays.
Next door to Tasty Waves is Caribeans Chocolate and Coffee, which sells their own brand of delicious chocolate (and even has a huge tasting room) as well as coffee and sandwiches.
When Cocles didn’t satisfy all our sweet tooth, we headed up north to Bread and Chocolate for local, organic food.
If you want beautiful beaches, a lot of food options, and a cultural experience (you will find people from all over the globe living here), then this is the place for you.
Who it’s good for:
- Surfers who just want to surf the most scenic break
- Surfers who want to visit one of the best communities in Costa Rica
Best Time to Surf in Costa Rica: April – June
Surf Trip Essentials:
Whatever destination you choose, you will find PURA VIDA all over this beautiful country!
Got questions about surf beaches in Costa Rica? Let us now in the comments and we’ll get back to you right away!