Rich coast: That is Costa Rica’s literal translation into English. Yes, there might be lush rainforests, smoking volcanoes, and white-water rapids, but the country was named for its shoreline. What does that tell ya? It tells you there’s something truly spectacular waiting down where the waves meet the beaches…
A huge part of that is surfing. Today, Costa Rica a magnet for those bringing the board with them. Whether you book in for a surf camp, test the waters with a one-off lesson or rent a board for an independent session, researching surfing spots is vital for both enjoyment and safety. When choosing a beach to surf in Costa Rica, you will want to consider riptides, rock bottoms, and even crocodiles!
Researching a spot beforehand also means that if conditions do not align with your surfing capabilities, you waste no valuable time in Costa Rica traveling to an ill-matched location. Luckily, to help your search, we have compiled a list of the best beaches in Costa Rica for beginners.
On the West coast, the tourist town of Tamarindo is flanked by two national parks and fronted by a 2.5km stretch of sand and surf. Playa Tamarindo may not be off-the-beaten-track, but it is one of the most popular beaches for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners.
The tourist infrastructure means surfers can enjoy easy access to the beach, with well-maintained roads and plenty of board rentals. For beginners, Tamarindo’s popularity amongst tourists means that competitive surf lessons and camps are easily found – making Playa Tamarindo an excellent spot to learn the surfing basics.
Playa Tamarindo doesn’t typically offer empty waters, but it does provide safety in numbers. It can be reassuring for beginners to surf with others in the water and visitors on the beach – just make sure you abide by correct surfer etiquette.
Playa Chaman offers characteristic mild waters and a forgiving sandy bottom, all within the paradisical Ballena Marine National Park. Playa Chaman is easily accessible, with roads from the town of Uvita. Surfers can also enjoy the beach’s facilities, which include freshwater, showers, and toilets.
The combination of easy access and complimentary facilities means that beginners can focus stress-free on surfing. Playa Chaman’s national park locale makes for a gorgeous surfing backdrop, with the added allure of a rainforest-lined beach. The jutting ‘Whales Tail’ outlet also creates shelter, further increasing the spot’s suitability for beginners. The sand and rock formation are aptly named, as visitors to the marine area often spot humpback whales and dolphins in the waters.
If you are a beginner looking for a picture-perfect Costa Rican surfing experience, Playa Chaman should be on your list. The spot is the definition of a relaxing surf environment, with the scenery and marine life definite bonuses.
Located on the shores of Guanacaste, Playa Guiones boasts uncrowded waters and a quieter tourist infrastructure than spots such as Tamarindo. Here, navigating other surfers is less of a concern – making your surfing experience just that bit more relaxing. Although, you can still access surfing lessons and a quality handful of camps, so you are not entirely cut off from support.
If you choose to stay in Guanacaste, expect a laid-back entertainment scene with few nightlife options. Instead, there are plenty of yoga retreats to combine surfing with on-land relaxation. And there are plenty of quiet cafes to grab a coffee after a morning surf.
During November to March, Playa Guiones offers gentler waves that are perfect for a beginner looking to challenge themselves and perfect their technique. However, out of this period, waves can be larger and unsuitable for beginners – making Playa Guiones a seasonal recommendation. If you visit Costa Rica between November and March, Playa Guiones is the ideal surfing spot for a beginner wanting a restful, more secluded environment.
Known for consistent waves and its selling locale in the Marino Las Baulas National Park, Playa Grande is only a little north of Tamarindo. The spot is well-positioned for those staying in Tamarindo but looking for less crowded waters to surf.
While the surf is typically suitable for beginners, surfers should be strong swimmers, as there can be areas of strong currents. Make sure to surf with a buddy and perhaps book a lesson instead of practicing independently. By booking a lesson, you can take advantage of the optimal swells but advance your skills safely under the direction of a local expert.
The famed consistency of Playa Grande’s waves makes it one of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners. The predictable conditions mean you have a high chance of having suitable waves on your visit – providing good value for time, money, and surfing education.
Quieter than its neighboring beach of Playa Dominical, Playa Dominicalito also offers surfers trusty protection from large swells. The bay protrudes from the coastline in a smooth arc, providing shelter and fun beach break waves. The offshore reef and rocks offer an additional buffer against more challenging waves – making it a definite contender for Costa Rica’s best beaches for beginners.
Playa Dominicalito is mostly sand bottom, but surfers should aim for high tide to avoid rocky patches. The beach’s typically calmer waters make it easy for swimming, so you can concentrate purely on perfecting your surfing technique and practicing independently.
For surfers looking to stay in Dominicalito, accommodation options are quite literally beachfront. The Beach House Incognito is a popular option, which offers entire beach house rentals that allow you to walk directly from doorstep to beach.
Situated between Uvita and Dominical, Playa Hermosa has larger swells than sheltered spots such as Dominicalito. However, when calm, the conditions are perfect for beginners who want a fun, challenging lesson.
Playa Hermosa is mostly sand bottom with only a few rocks at the beach’s north end. While it is best to surf in high tide, the shore’s majority sand bottom means that the waters are friendly to beginners. Playa Hermosa offers exciting beach breaks with lots of swell directions – great for catching lots of waves.
Playa Hermosa can be an ideal beach for beginners accompanied by an instructor and has the added reassurance of on-duty lifeguards that smaller beaches lack. Its proximity to predictable beginner-suited beaches also means that it can be a welcome addition to a surfing itinerary if conditions are suitable. We recommend that you base yourself in Uvita or Dominical, then venture with an instructor to Playa Hermosa if conditions align for an exciting change of scene.
Further down the West Coast, Playa Samara offers predictable beach breakers in a protected cove-shaped bay. Accessibility to the beach is excellent, with tourist infrastructure and hospitality venues closely lining a generous proportion of the shores.
The collection of rocks offshore and the bay’s protection makes Playa Samara one of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners. Following a few earthquakes, the seabed and reef off of Playa Samara have been lifted – even further limiting the size of waves. While this has driven experienced surfers from Playa Samara, it has created a sedate spot for beginners to learn to surf. The beach is excellent for those looking to master the basics, such as standing up on the board for the first time.
Playa Samara is home to both surf camps and schools – so finding lessons will be very straightforward. The calm water conditions are also welcoming for less confident swimmers or adults traveling with children. Perfect for the complete beginner to surfing, Playa Samara offers a tranquil surf experience with stress-free, enjoyable tourist infrastructure.
Playa Santa Teresa
Once a remote fishing town, Santa Teresa has crept onto the tourist radar. Surrounded by thick jungle, the town makes up for difficult accessibility with excellent surfing conditions and long, stretching beaches.
Playa Santa Teresa’s consistent beach breaks are ideal for beginners during the dry season, with lots of opportunities to practice on whitewash and regular small waves. Nowadays, Santa Teresa is very much a surfing town, which is excellent when booking camps and lessons.
Playa Santa Teresa is a great beach for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners, especially for those planning to travel in the dry season of November to March.
Esterillos Oeste is the beginner-friendly addition to the Esterillos beaches, located just south of Jaco. Lined with surf shops and rentals, yet in the shadows of palm, almond, and coconut trees, Esterillos Oeste attracts luxury travelers and locals in the know. The beach offers a relaxed, nature-immersed atmosphere but with all the facilities and venues you may require.
A rock shelf with an iconic mermaid statue juts out from the beach, which provides some helpful protection in the water. Esterillos Oeste is known for its suitability for longboards, a style of surfboard that is longer than a standard board and popular with beginners. The consistent offshore winds create waves that build gradually – making it well-suited to both beginners and longboards.
Surfers looking to stay in Esterillos Oeste can expect a more tranquil experience than staying in Jaco. However, the neighboring town is close by should you want to indulge in some nightlife occasionally. If you are a beginner looking to learn to surf on a longboard, Esterillos Oeste is one of the best beaches for you in Costa Rica.
What is the best time to surf in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica offers year-round surfing, although times vary in general suitability for different levels of surfers. In the wet season, approximately April to November, swells will be consistent but larger, which can be unsuitable for beginners. For beginners, the best time to surf on Costa Rica’s West Coast is from November to March – where the dry season creates an enjoyable atmosphere and wave conditions.
How much does it cost to go surfing in Costa Rica?
While steadily increasing tourism is bringing surfing prices up, surfing in Costa Rica can cost very little unless you want to splurge on a luxury all-inclusive camp. Viator lists surf lessons in Tamarindo from $40, and Book Surf Camps show an eight-day yoga and surf camp for $360.
Is Costa Rica surfing good for beginners?
Costa Rica is fantastic for beginners to surfing. Its existing surf culture means ample surf camps and instructors to coach beginners and plenty of rentals to facilitate independent practice. Costa Rica offers a friendly, versatile introduction to surfing – with pleasant warm waters and varied swells.