Pura Vida! Pure life, the national motto of Costa Rica. It sounds like it might be part of a tourism marketing campaign, but it’s not. Pura vida is the real deal – the homegrown natural ‘buena vibra’ (good vibrations) of Costa Rica. And nothing quite expresses pure life quite as perfectly as surfing in Costa Rica. Clean warm water, friendly locals, uncrowded lineups, and some of the best waves on the planet beckon from the ‘rich coast’. The Spaniards who landed centuries ago did not find the type of riches they were looking for, but they found something better; they found the Pura Vida, and you can too! Where to go surfing in Costa Rica, when to go, best surf spots for beginners and intermediates, how much to budget, and what to do besides surf – read on to learn more about living the dream on a Costa Rica surf trip. Then head to ridewithlocal.com and make it happen!

How Much Does a Costa Rica Surf Trip Cost?

Costa Rica has some of the best waves in the world, whether you are just starting out, transitioning to intermediate level, or surfing like a pro, but it does not have the lowest prices. Still, if you know what you are doing, you can pull off a Costa Rica surf trip on a pretty tight budget. Airfare is affordable, so one of your biggest expenses will be relatively low. If you are flying from the U.S. or Canada, you can score a plane flight on a budget airline like Spirit for as low as $300. Airfare from Europe starts around 550 euro for the cheapest tickets.

head high Costa Rica surf
Learn from Audrey Mayoud in French, Spanish or English. Book with Audrey Surf and SUP school in Santa Teresa on the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula.

Once you arrive in Costa Rica, you will find that the combination of safety, modernity, and commitment to ecology that is so attractive to travelers comes with a slightly higher price than less safe, less developed countries. Still, Costa Ricans get by on $400 a month on average, so you can find bargains. Lodging in a hostel starts around $10 for the very cheapest options and $15 is typical.

A clean and healthy meal in a traditional restaurant – called a “soda” in Costa Rica, costs about $5. Surf board rental for a day starts around $10 and you can get cheaper deals for extended rentals. Private transportation is a killer – a 2 hour drive will set you back as much as $100, but bus rides are so cheap you won’t realized you paid. All things considered, a ten day Costa Rica surf trip from europe including air fare can be as cheap as 1,000 euro and if you are coming from the US you can keep it under $1,000.

Local Knowledge for a Costa Rica Surf Trip

Costa Rica Surf Camp by Superbrand in Jacó, Costa Rica

Costa Rica has over 100 surf named surf breaks plus a lot of secret spots. In any given area, there are many spots that you can access. Each spot has its own character, and reacts differently to tide, swell, and wind. Some surf spots only work on a high tide, some only on low tide. Some surf spots produce decent size waves with very little swell; others need a massive swell to fire, but when they are on, they are on!

Some shakas from the guys at Rogelio Surf School.

You can probably score some pretty good waves on your own if you do a little research and chat up the locals. But to be sure to score the best waves for you, given your ability and style, on any particular day, you really need a professional guide. If you are beginner, lessons are pretty crucial. It is hard to learn to spot waves and time your takeoff on your own. If you can afford it, it’s definitely worth hiring a knowledgeable local guide. All inclusive surf camps in Costa Rica start around $125 a night. For a little under $1,000, you can get set yourself up for surfing success at a seven day all inclusive camp. We’ve selected some of the best surf camps in Costa Rica for you to check out.

Best Time to Surf Costa Rica

There is no wrong time to take a Costa Rica surf trip, but you might want to avoid October and November because it can get quite rainy on the Pacific Coast. If you do go in October and November, check out the Caribbean on the east side of the country. Hurricane season can fire some nice swell at the fickle east coast.

Amazing adventures await you with Seafari Costa Rica.

Dry season in the pacific starts in mid November and runs through April. In the north, on the Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find consistent offshore winds until mid morning from January to April which makes for great surfing. Pacific swell is smallest in January and February, building through March and April. May through October the swell is pumping. May through September months provide solid swell for experts and intermediates without getting super rainy. Beginners might prefer January and February or possibly March and April when the surf is bigger but not too big.

You are in the tropics in Costa Rica, 9 degrees or so north of the equator, so you can expect warm water and warm air. Temperatures in the coastal lowlands hover in the 80s F, 26-30 C, and water temperature is also around 80 F/27 C. No wetsuit required! If you take a trip into the mountains, air temperatures might be 10-15 F / 5 – 7 C degrees cooler.

Best Places to Surf in Costa Rica for Beginners

kid's Costa Rica surf lesson
Kids learning with Surfer Factory in Jaco.

Jaco is an off the chain party town with almost 3 miles of beach break, most of which is suitable for beginners.  Jaco is the easiest beach town to get to from the international airport in San Jose, just about an hour drive away. If you are looking for a party town with locals, gringos, and international tourists boogieing the nigth away, Jaco is your best bet.

Surfing with Diego Naranjo from Costa Azul Surf School.

Tamarindo is a bit of  party town, but not quite as crazy as Jaco. Tamarindo beach in northern Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninusla makes a great base for beginners. There are several peaks on Tamarindo beach that are not to challenging for aspiring surfers paddling for their first waves. Nearby El Estero, Suizo, and Playa Grande work well for beginners if the swell and tides are right.  Access Tamarindo from the airport in Liberia.

Santa Teresa rounds out the beginner options and offers a more chill vibe on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Out of the three recommended beginner bases, Santa Teresa is the longest distance from an airport, and consequently quieter and less crowded. Liberia is the closest airport.

Best Surf Spots in Costa Rica for Intermediates

Costa Rica surf air
Grab a local and head out to explore the coasts of Costa Rica.

There are so many options to chose from throughout the country, but the densest concentrations of spots are around Jaco and Tamarindo. Jaco offers easy access on a well paved stretch of the Inter-American Highway to Bejuco, the Three Esterillos, and Hermosa to the south. Hermosa is the heaviest and most likely to barrel. Bejuco is the swell magnifier – the place to go when the swell is small. Herradura Island to the north breaks when the swell gets huge and everything else is closed out. There are three secret spots in the area that you can access if you get tight with some locals or hire a guide. We don’t recommend going alone, because they are a bit treacherous if you don’t know the spot well.

Tamarindo offers easy access to Playa Grande. If the swell gets pumping, you can check out Little Hawaii reef break at Avellanas. Playa Negra is a smoking right hand reef break nearby. Witches Rock aka Roca Bruja is a bit of project to get to, but this stunning break in front of a huge rock in the ocean is well worth the trip.

Costa Rica is not a big country, but it takes a while to get from one zone to another because the roads are not great, aside from the highway near Jaco. Pavones is one of the longest left hand breaks in the world and potentially worth the trip way down south on the Pacific Coast if the swell gets big enough for it to fire. On the Caribbean side, Salsa Brava can fire off world class waves breaking over gnarly reef in the hurricane season.

Things to Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica accounts for only .3% of the earth’s surface, but 6% of the world’s biodiversity exists in Costa Rica. Consequently, the number one thing to do is enjoy the most obvious manifestation of Pura Vida – parks, birds, and wildlife. Manuel Antonio beachfront rainforest jungle park near Jaco is a major highlight. You don’t necessarily have to go to a park to spot the four common species of monkeys in Costa Rica, howlers, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys and white face capuchin monkeys. Just keep your eyes open. There are also hundreds of bird species. Whale watching cruises are available near Dominical south of Jaco.

Pura Vida. Deep in the Jungle at the La Selva Biological Station.

There are several volcanoes in Costa Rica, including the active Volcan Arenal. If you are really fired up, you can climb Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Central America. From the summit, at around 13,000 feet, you can see Panama, Nicaragua, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. Zip-line rides, white water rafting, horse riding and mountain biking are popular in Costa Rica.

Make a Plan for a Costa Rica Surf Trip

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-06-49-30Now you know when and where to go to score the best surf in Costa Rica and you have an idea how much money you will need. If you save $300 / 270 euro a month, you will be financially prepared to go in surf camp style in five or six months. Get physically prepared with these five great surf training exercises. Make a plan.  Pick a surf camp in Costa Rica, schedule your vacation, and get ready to live the dream!