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Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is riddled with waves. When there’s a big swell, the waves are powerful, punchy, and dangerous if you aren’t an experienced surfer. However, like anywhere with surf, there isn’t always a macking swell producing pro-level waves. There are plenty of beginner and intermediate spots, as well. Here are the most popular and well-known spots for a wide range of levels.
Located in Puerto Viejo just around the bend from the infamous Salsa Brava, El Barco is a perfect spot for beginners and little groms. The break gets its name from an old barge that ran aground there. There are several different peaks here, especially as you head further north down the beach. It is best to surf this spot on a higher tide and when there isn’t too much swell in the water.
Playa Negra is a gorgeous black sand beach located about an hour south of Limon. This sand bottom break is perfectly suited for both beginners and intermediate surfers alike. It is usually on the smaller side here, but be careful when there is a lot of swell in the water as this spot can get a bit shallow and break much farther out. The south end of the beach has a live reef and is covered in sea urchins, so take extra precautions if you are down there in the water. This spot is best when the tide is on the higher side. Also, don’t leave anything valuable in your car, as break-ins are unfortunately common.
Playa Cocles is a gorgeous beach a little past Puerto Viejo. This popular surf spot is not for beginners as there is usually a lot of strong current here. There are multiple peaks and it can be really fun when it is in the chest to head high range. When it gets bigger, it tends to get really hollow or closed out.
Playa Bonita is very popular amongst the locals, especially on the weekends. It is located on the north end of Limon. There is a beach break and a reef break here. This spot is only suited for strong intermediate and experienced surfers. The waves can get big here and are almost always very powerful. This spot does require a solid swell though to work properly. It is best here from mid tide to high tide, depending on which break you are surfing. Always remember to be respectful toward locals anytime you are surfing in Costa Rica or anywhere else that isn’t your home break.
Los Tumbos is located just south of Playa Bonita. This is a bodyboarder’s dream wave. Los Tumbos is a very fast and hollow beach break that has a reputation for breaking boards. If you are not an experienced surfer or bodyboarder, you should not paddle out here. With the right swell, the waves can be up to 300 meters long and can hold over three meter high waves.
Salsa Brava is one of the most famous waves in all of Costa Rica. Surfers from all over the world come to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to try and surf this beast of a wave. Salsa Brava should only be surfed by the most experienced and confident surfers though. There are tons of rocks, unpredictable rip currents, and the wave breaks onto very shallow reef. This world-class wave can hold a lot of swell and produce massive barrels. The swell season on the Caribbean coast is typically between December and March, though it is possible to find surf outside of those peak times. However, Salsa Brava works best during swell season.
Just a 40-minute boat ride from Limon lies Isla Uvita, a small island surrounded by sharp coral reef. There is a dangerous but perfect left point break here that can hold waves that are over triple overhead. The island is undeveloped, which adds another layer of danger to surfing here in the event that an accident occurs. This spot is not for beginners surfers. The wave is fast, hollow, powerful, and breaks over shallow live reef. If you know what you are doing and arrive when all the conditions are in your favor, it is likely that you will have an insanely epic surf with few if any other surfers around.