Playa Tamarindo is one of the top surfing destinations in Costa Rica for both beginners and experienced surfers. There are several breaks, including a river-mouth break that can be world-class with the right swell direction and size. The bay is rather protected and picks up most swells, so you can almost always find a surfable wave. The sand bottom makes this spot a bit less critical and it is a great place to learn how to surf, as there are multiple surf schools and camps.
Witch’s Rock, or Roca Bruja, is a world-famous surf break in the Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste. This is not a beginner-friendly place, and it is only accessible via boat or a very treacherous drive. The roads are kept in particularly terrible shape to inhibit poachers from having the chance of a quick escape. With the right swell direction, size, and wind conditions, Witch’s Rock throws perfect barrels. There are multiple different breaks up and down the immense beach. Keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles, though, as they inhabit the river mouth here.
Playa Guiones is the main beach in Nosara, a yoga and surf hotspot. There are several peaks and different sections that offer waves suitable for beginners and experienced surfers. On a big swell, the paddle out can be exhausting, but well worth it. Playa Guiones can hold a lot of swell and works on most tides. There are several places where you can sign up for surf lessons and rent boards, if you are new to the sport. It is important to learn the rules of surfing, surf etiquette, safety, and the basics before you decide to venture out on your own.
Santa Teresa is another popular surf destination in Costa Rica. This laid-back surf town is located on the Nicoya Peninsula and picks up most swells. There are several different breaks and spots for all different levels of surfers. There are multiple surf camps, schools, and shops in this zone. It is a good idea to take a surf lesson if you are a first-timer, as the ocean can be quite powerful down here. Always be sure to respect the local surfers, too – this goes for anywhere that you visit to surf.
Playa Hermosa (near Jaco) is a well-known surf spot. Unless the swell is small, this is not a great spot for beginners. The waves are typically pretty heavy and powerful. This is a spot where you can score an epic barrel. Playa Hermosa is a very consistent break. The sand here is black, so make sure that you bring your thongs down with you, otherwise you might burn your feet.
Playa Dominical is a small but happening beach town in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica. The beach is exposed and catches most swells. There always seems to be a wave down here. The beach break can be quite heavy, especially on a bigger swell. On a medium-sized swell, the waves can be really fun. Right off of the beach there are a handful of bars, restaurants, and cafes. This is a cool spot to post up for a while, and one where you will likely be able to score waves every day.
Pavones is recognized as the second-longest left point break in the world. Outside of small days, this spot is for intermediate to advanced surfers only. It is important to practice proper point-break etiquette (if you don’t know what this is, you need to learn before you paddle out at any point break). The wave is consistent and there is enough for everyone as long as everyone follows the rules. On big swells, it can get very busy, but with a little patience you might just get the wave of your life.
Salsa Brava is the premier surf spot on the Caribbean coast. It is a fast and barreling wave that breaks over a sharp reef. Only experienced surfers should venture out here. The reef sucks the wave below sea level, so you can’t really see its true size until you are in the water. It breaks both left and right, but the rights tend to be longer. Salsa Brava has been called the Pipeline of Costa Rica.