Surfing – Costa Rica Style

Hey dudes and dudesses! Surf’s up in Costa Rica!

Waiting for your luggage in Juan Santamaria International Airport, you’ll see the surfboards off in the oversize corner. Costa Rica is a great surfing destination, with it’s tropical climate, reasonable costs and multitude of surfing options. You can leave your wet suits and dry suits behind, except, perhaps, as a fashion statement.

For a tiny country the size of West Virgina, Costa Rica has an amazing 700 miles of coastline. That’s 700 more than West Virginia. Or Switzerland. As you might expect, surfing options are better, too. Many surfers bring their own boards, but there are plenty of surf shops where you can rent a board and even get lessons, if you are not quite a world class surfer (yet).

Surfing in Costa Rica can be divided into three geographic areas: The Northern Pacific, the Central and Southern Pacific and the Caribbean. The Northern Pacific Coast is at it’s best during Wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere (USA, Canada, Europe, China, Siberia…) This time of year is ideal with its generally dependable offshore winds and direction of the swells and creates ideal conditions.

The Central and Southern Pacific zone is best during the Northern Hemisphere Summer, May through November, which also coincides with the rainy season. In that respect almost the opposite of the Northern Pacific. Of course, there are no guarantees of great surf, but the odds are better if you are in the right place during the right season.

The Caribbean zone season begins in November and ends in March. There is a ‘dead’ period for all three zones, the month of April. The majority of the surfing spots are on the Pacific side, but there are also some great spots on the Atlantic/Caribbean side, just not nearly as numerous.

Trip planning and research is very important. There are many websites dedicated to the Costa Rica surf scene. There is no one solution that fits all surfers. When you can get away is an important consideration. If you have Christmas holidays free, you will probably be better served in the Caribbean. If you want to spend June, July or August surfing in the tropics, then the Central and Southern Pacific zone is your best choice. If you like what the Northern Pacific zone has to offer, then mid-Winter to early Spring is your best bet.
You might consider picking one or two conveniently located towns to serve as a base and check out multiple close by breaks. Such a location might be Tamarindo or Flamingo in the Northern Pacific zone, where there are well over a half dozen options nearby. If you choose this zone, you may want to fly into the Liberia airport. Bargains can sometimes be found flying into Costa Rica’s #2 airport. As any seasoned traveler will tell you, airfares make no sense to anybody but the airline’s computers. Sometimes it pays to book long in advance, sometimes a few days in advance gets you a good fare.

Other than the Northern Pacific Zone, you’ll probably want to fly into San Jose to start your trip. The closest surfing destination would be Jaco. Most people either love or hate Jaco. If partying is as important to you as surfing, then Jaco might be just the place for you. Tamarindo is also a party destination. On the other hand, no matter what surfer destination you choose, you’ll probably find fellow surfers both local and gringo. If you are a really serious surfer, you may prefer an out of the way location such as Pavones

A lot more could be said about the 40 or more surfing locations, but we can’t do them justice here. For more detailed info, check out one of the links below:

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