Surf Vacation in Costa Rica? Plan the Ultimate Trip, From Beginner to Advanced

surfing at Playa Grande Costa Rica

Planning the ultimate surf vacation in Costa Rica is an exciting prospect! As you eagerly anticipate the thrill of riding the waves, you may find yourself already dreaming about those invigorating morning rides, that special surfboard wax, and even those revitalizing afternoon naps you’ll enjoy on your vacation.

However, a slight challenge then presents itself – you’re not entirely certain about the details. Where to go, when to go, where to stay – it’s all a bit uncertain. Because the best surf beaches in Costa Rica are legendary, and whether you’re a beginner just getting the hang of popping up or an advanced surfer seeking the next exhilarating challenge, one thing is certain: you’ll soon be surfing in Costa Rica. That alone is exhilarating, and this guide is here to fill in the blanks.

From the best surf breaks (from brand-new beginner to absolutely epic), the top surf destinations, and even where to stay, here’s your guide to planning the ultimate surf vacation in Costa Rica:

Where to Go: Surf Destinations in Costa Rica

aerial view Tamarindo Playa Grande 16 9
Tamarindo is one of the top spots for a surf vacation in Costa Rica

The good news is that almost every corner of Costa Rica offers both beginner-friendly and quality surf. The even better news is that a select few areas boast world-class surf. The only slightly less good news is that you won’t have the luxury of surfing every spot in one go – unless, of course, you plan to stay for a few years. This is where prioritization becomes key.

Our rule of thumb is to focus on one major surf region for every 7-10 days of your journey. This approach allows ample time to explore, to relish the surroundings, and to surf the essential breaks, with room to add in a few of the more optional, off-the-beaten-path gems.

A quick note: While Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Caribbean beaches offer plenty of opportunities to surf, our wheelhouse is definitely the North Pacific. So, that’s where we’re focusing, because it’s where we can provide the best information. That said, if you’re looking to extend your reach into more of the best surf beaches in Costa Rica, then we’d recommend searching out the Central Pacific (Jacó south through Playa Hermosa and Esterillos), the South Pacific (Dominical south through Matapalo and Pavones), and the Southern Caribbean (Cahuita and Salsa Brava, specifically).

Tamarindo & the North Pacific

Situated in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, the North Pacific / Guanacaste represents one of the world’s favorite destinations for a surf vacation in Costa Rica – and for very good reason: it’s home to consistent surf and renowned waves.

Notably, Guanacaste boasts iconic surf spots like Ollie’s Point (a right-point break stretching up to 300 yards) and Witch’s Rock (immortalized in the classic surf film, Endless Summer II). Additionally, our very own Tamarindo, along with Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, and Playa Avellanas, are recognized for their consistently exceptional surf experiences.

The Nicoya Peninsula

A few hours south of Guanacaste, the Nicoya Peninsula is home to Mal Pais, Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa, and other laid-back surf towns. Embracing a rugged and challenging terrain, this tranquil region features some of Costa Rica’s most secluded beaches, offering both challenging lefts and rights. Here, rocky reefs churn up substantial swells, adding an extra layer of allure to this mellow surf haven.

Tamarindo Beginner & Intermediate Surf Spots

kids beginner surfing Tamarindo Costa Rica

At Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo, our community includes many avid surfers. While we may not be experts on every last nuance of a surf vacation in Costa Rica, we have the expertise and the experience to help you plan your best trip ever.

With that, here’s a glimpse into this epic and memorable vacation experience, beginning with some of the best surf beaches in Costa Rica for beginners:

North of the Tamarindo Diria: For downtown Tamarindo, this swell is a cherished spot among locals, perfect for novices eager to learn how to surf. Grab your board and make your way to the beach. Position yourself with your back facing the Diria and gaze to the right: you’ll encounter small yet consistent waves, enticing you to paddle out. Tip: This is a great spot for surf lessons!

Playa Avellanas: Inevitably one of those seek-the-advice-of-locals scenarios, Playa Avellanas emerges as an excellent choice for beginners, particularly on calm days. (Caution is advised on less tranquil days – it’s exclusively for advanced surfers.) However, during calm conditions, revel in the frothy promise of this pristine beach, featuring perfectly sized waves near Palo Seco and Lola’s Restaurant.

Capitán Suizo: Situated in downtown Tamarindo, the waves in front of Capitán Suizo stand out for their predictability, consistently catering to beginners. (Pro tip: If the water is devoid of surfers, the waves may be too small, even for those brand-new to surfing. Consider revisiting in about an hour.)

Casitas: Found at the river mouth (accessed by lancha boat, and be mindful of crocs!) and near Playa Grande, Casitas can be a hit-or-miss locale. Suitable for beginners on days when conditions are less favorable (read: calmer) and aligning more with intermediate levels on more favorable (read: bigger waves) days.

El Estero: Located at the northern end of Tamarindo Beach, close to the river mouth (again, exercise caution due to crocs!), El Estero proves to be an excellent spot for beginners with a degree of confidence. The consistent swells and sandy breaks offer an ideal setting for practicing pop-ups and enjoying longer rides.

Tamarindo Advanced Surf Breaks

surfing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tamarindo has earned global renown for its surf scene, and rightfully so! Home to some of the best surf beaches in Costa Rica, our coast beckons with colossal waves, challenging rights and lefts, massive barrels, and other exhilarating challenges that can be downright irresistible.

Our advice: Don’t resist! Lean in, embrace the challenge, and plan the most epic surf vacation in Costa Rica. To get you started, allow us to provide you with a preview of the thrilling experiences that await:

Pico Grande & Pico Pequeño: Meet two of our prominent surf breaks, Pico Grande and Pico Pequeño, positioned to the right of the Diria, just north and south of the rocky outcroppings. (Hint #1: These are among the most advanced breaks in town.) Anticipate shoulder-high waves and vigorous whitewater. Caution: Do Not Ride at low tide.

Isla Capitán (Captain Island): Situated just off our main beach, this exposed reef break on Captain Island is relatively accessible (pay for a boat ride or embark on a 40-minute paddle). However, it remains infrequently visited, largely due to its rocky bottom, exclusively reserved for advanced surfers.

Playa Grande: Beyond the beginner-friendly Casitas, Playa Grande unfolds into an extended stretch of consistently impressive fast-breaking lefts and rights, featuring barrels, peaks, and extensive rides.

Playa Marbella: Nestled between Junquillal and Ostional beaches, Playa Marbella boasts two spots: Playa Coco and Playa Frijolar. Both offer year-round, consistent waves – impressive in size with hollow barrels breaking in both directions. Notably, Playa Frijolar earns bonus points for its forgiving sandy bottom.

Playa Langosta: Just a kilometer south of downtown, Playa Langosta may appear serene, but it hosts some of our most beloved waves – substantial crests and left and right breaks that promise thrills for surfers unafraid of rocky bottoms. Exercise caution at the river mouth.

Playa Negra: A local favorite, Playa Negra, with its reef break and narrow peak, showcases a thrilling right. Be mindful that Playa Negra can become crowded, underscoring the importance of observing wave etiquette.

Witch’s Rock: The quintessential surf spot, this legendary location boasts an incredible left that challenges even the most skilled surfers, often serving as the stage for surf competitions. On windy days at low tide, brace yourself for seriously exciting barrels. Aim for mid- or high-tide for optimal conditions.

Where to Stay:

When you’re planning a surf vacation in Costa Rica, your accommodations are paramount: you need to be close to the waves so you can ride any time of day, and you also want to be convenient to other area breaks. The great news is you can have all that, without sacrificing your comfort or the amenities.

Casa Leo Loco

6 Beds | 4 Baths | Sleeps 12

Casa Leo Loco villas in Tamarindo

If you’ve ever dreamed of a vacation with Tamarindo Bay views (got ‘em!), Pacific Ocean panoramas (those too!), a private hot tub (you got it!), and a multi-level infinity pool (check!), then welcome to your personal paradise. Because Casa Leo Loco is one of those Tamarindo villas for rent that ticks off every item on your wishlist and then, doubles down on all your dreams.

This private villa offers a spectacular escape to environmentally friendly design, from its locally sourced hardwoods to its walls of glass and breezy terraces, which bid you open your doors and enjoy Mother Nature’s own version of light and air-conditioning. And while we’re on the subject, know that those terraces, this pool, and these views all overlook an ocean that seems to hover so close, that you can step outside and check in on surf conditions.

Which came first? Casa Leo Loco or the phrase “indoor/outdoor living”? It’s a close call…

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Casa Ventana

5 Beds | 5.5 Baths | Sleeps 12

Tamarindo Costa Rica Casa Ventana Tamarindo

Discover unparalleled spaceprivacy, and luxury at Casa Ventana—your exclusive retreat.

Perched majestically on the Tamarindo hillside, this stunning home offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, a sun-drenched coastline, and the lush tropical forest. Rejuvenate your spirit and satiate your wanderlust beside the full-length private infinity pool, where you can create unforgettable BBQ feasts against this breathtaking backdrop. And here’s the icing on the cake—daily breakfast preparation is included!

Saving the best for last, Casa Ventana boasts a prime location within walking distance of the beach. Revel in the convenience of strolling to the iconic Tamarindo surf, the local hotspot Pangas, and everything your heart desires—from fishing and sailing to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Embrace the epitome of luxury living at Casa Ventana.

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El Chante

8 Bedrooms | 8 Baths + 1 Half Bath | Sleeps 19

El Chante vacation home Tamarindo Costa Rica

Certain aspects of life create that intangible essence of “something special” – and El Chante falls into that category, capturing that elusive quality that touches the heart in powerful ways. Welcome to the indescribable.

Spanning a vast, open-air, Balinese-inspired expanse, El Chante reveals itself through a labyrinth of paths and wooden stairways, interconnecting nine distinct structures, offering the promise of an all-encompassing experience that seamlessly blends common spaces with privacy. El Chante is a harmonious fusion of upscale amenities, expansive communal areas, a magnificent ocean-view swimming pool, and awe-inspiring vistas.

It is the embodiment of everything you desire, including the splendors of nature and some of Tamarindo’s most enchanting sunset views, overlooking Tamarindo Beach, the estuary, and the glistening Pacific. Immerse yourself in the cool shade beneath leafy trees, bask in the warmth of the sun, raise a toast to the afternoon, and then simply await the breathtaking spectacle as the sun graces the horizon, setting your panoramic view ablaze for another epic sunset.

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Casa Lomas del Mar

4 Bedrooms | 4 Baths | Sleeps 8

Casa Lomas del Mar Tamarindo Costa Rica vacation rental

Nestled on a hillside above Tamarindo, Casa Lomas del Mar commands stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Playa Grande, and Las Baulas National Marine Park. Positioned just beneath your birds-eye view are Tamarindo’s renowned waves, sea turtle nesting sites, and myriad possibilities.

This residence is meticulously crafted to embrace its surroundings. Evident in the home’s every architectural nuance, from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that seamlessly blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces to create a sense of boundless unity with nature. The design ensures a harmonious connection with the lush jungle and expansive sky.

Your hilltop retreat beckons exploration in a realm defined by sleek angles, clean lines, smooth curves, and impeccable balance – a world shaped by sophisticated design and upscale amenities. Notably, Casa Lomas del Mar boasts an infinity-edge pool and a spacious sun deck with an outdoor sitting area, BBQ patio, and breathtaking 180º sunset panoramas.

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Need Help Planning an Epic Surf Vacation in Costa Rica?

That just happens to be our specialty!

Whether you’re venturing off the beaten path (or, shall we say, the ridden wave?) or sticking firmly to it, we can help you make the most of your time (and buck) here – even and especially if you’re traveling on a budget. At Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo, our job and calling are to make you feel at home, everywhere and anywhere you find yourself adventuring.

We offer everything from cozy two-bedroom condos to top-tier luxury Tamarindo, including ocean-view swimming pools, rooftop terraces, chef’s kitchens, and so much more. Search our inventory to find your perfect vacation home and then, get in touch for planning help from our friendly and knowledgeable concierge.