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Surfing in Guanacaste | Costa Rica Surf Breaks | Tamarindo

23 Jan 2015

Surfing in Guanacaste: the Magic of Costa Rica’s North Pacific Surf

With over 700 miles of coastline on two ocean fronts, Costa Rica has more surf breaks than you can dream of!  Surfers would come to Costa Rica even before the surfing destinations had paved roads.  It doesn’t matter if you head to the Caribbean or the Pacific, there’s always a good surfing spot regardless of your experience and skill. Particularly, the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica known as Guanacaste, is TOP-NOTCH when it comes to surfing.  Surfing in Guanacaste attracts nationals and foreigners alike because of the beauty of its many beaches and the quality of its waves and surf breaks.  The province of Guanacaste is the largest province in the country, yet it only contains about 8% of the population!  If you’ve been looking for a remote and wild surfing spot, you’ll find it surfing in Guanacaste!

Surfing in Guanacaste: Costa Rica’s Top Surf Spots

Unlike the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica that produces pretty big and wild waves during two short seasons, the Pacific gets swells of a considerable size practically all year long.  Guanacaste as a matter of fact has a swell window of nearly 180° with consistent, long distance Pacific swells arriving from both the north and the south of the Pacific.


Surfing in Guanacaste: the Magic of Costa Rica’s North Pacific SurfOne major surfing spot in Guancaste is Tamarindo or “the hub”, where visitors to the Guanacaste region can find anything and everything needed for their trip. This is also the most popular spot for beginner surf lessons.  Tamarindo has developed quite an impressive tourist-oriented infrastructure combined with the laid-back yet vibrant town life, particularly for nightlife action!  In Tamarindo you’ll find all kinds of places to stay, from the worn-down style hut to the more luxurious accommodations.  You will also find lodges from the bottom to the top of the scale for every budget scattered along the coastline just outside of town.  Tamarindo is also the area with best access in the province, close to Liberia´s International Airport Daniel Oduber (about 50-minute ride).  The most popular time to visit Tamarindo is during dry season, yet as said it is the most popular time and you will not be alone; the rainy season (May through October) may not provide the sunshine conditions of your vacation dreams, but it attracts less visitors EVENTHOUGH it is a more surf-rich time with larger waves across the board!  This is also one of the most popular departure points to trips to ¨Witches Rock¨, one of the most famous surfing spots in Costa Rica

Average Conditions: Mid-High tide, peaky beach break, sand seabed, SW-NW swell direction, easterly wind direction, swell range 2-8 ft, several reef breaks like Pico Pequeño, Diria and Henry’s.

Potrero Grande:

Better known as “Ollie’s Point”, it is located close to the border with Nicaragua.  It was named after U.S. Colonel Oliver North, who used to land weapons for the Nicaraguan contras on an airstrip close by.  The only way in is by boat from Coco Beach or even Tamarindo, but it’s SO worth the trip!

Average Conditions: Mid-High tide, right-hand point break, sand seabed, SW-NW swell direction, north easterly wind direction, swell range 5-12 ft.

Other spots nearby:

  • Playa Naranjo (Witch’s Rock) – 9 miles
  • Playa Hermosa – 24.5 miles

Playa Grande:

Located at the northern end of the wide bay of Tamarindo, very well known as an excellent beach break and also for being breeding ground for endangered sea turtles. It’s about 20 minutes on foot crossing a narrow channel or 40 minutes by car from the town of Tamarindo.

Average Conditions: Mid-High tide, peaky beach break, sand seabed, SW-NW swell direction, north easterly wind direction, swell range 2-10 ft.

Other spots nearby:

  • Tamarindo – 1.2 miles
  • Langosta – 3 miles
  • Playa Negra – 9 miles
  • Avellana – 7 miles
  • Ostional – 24.5 miles

Playa Negra:

Famous for its right-hand barrel waves and beautiful dark-sand beach, it attracts tons of surfers to experience its outstanding waves that form off the north end of its reef.

Average Conditions: Mid tide only, right-hand break over submerged reef, sand seabed, SW-NW swell direction, north easterly wind direction, swell range 3-15 ft.

Other spots nearby:

  • Avellana – 2 miles
  • Langosta – 6 miles
  • Tamarindo – 7.5 miles
  • Playa Grande – 9 miles
  • Ostional – 16.5 miles

Playa Naranjo (Witch’s Rock):

Another isolated beach break only reached by boat from Coco Beach or Tamarindo, yet its impressive waves call for the trip!  The huge rock Roca Bruja has given this surf break its nickname.

Average Conditions: Mid-High tide, peaky beach break, sand seabed, SW-NW swell direction, north easterly wind direction, swell range 4-10 ft.

Other spots nearby:

  • Ollie’s Point (Potrero Grande) – 9 miles
  • Playa Hermosa – 30 miles


The town of Nosara is emerging as a preferred surfing and yoga destination!  Its coast offers some secret coves only accessible during dry season by 4x4.  Nearby reefs at Punta Guiones pick up good swells and Playa Ostional is for the more intrepid surfers!

Average Conditions: All tides, peaky beach break, sand seabed, SW-N swell direction, north easterly wind direction, swell range 2-6 ft.

Other spots nearby:

  • Playa Guiones & Ostional – 2 miles
  • Playa Negra – 19 miles
  • Tamarindo – 25.5 miles

Surfing in Guanacaste: Some Insider Tips

Access among surfing spots is not easy, the road connecting these beaches (called la Costanera) can be closed during Costa Rica’s winter season (around Oct-Nov) due to increased river levels and possible flooding. Consider renting a 4x4 vehicle to ease your ride!  Camping might be an option, but looking for accommodations close by might make your stay more comfortable.  Camping riverside overnight can be a bit dangerous due to crocodiles and more likely the invasion of the area’s huge population of mosquitoes!

Surfing in Guanacaste: the Magic of Costa Rica’s North Pacific SurfTo tame the area, you can also take a surf trip by boat with knowledgeable local surfers to some of the most popular surf spots in Guanacaste. Using their expertise and having them assess your ability to run the waves, they will know exactly where to take you to make the most of your surf experience in Costa Rica. Priceless pointers on the breaks, the rocks, the currents, where to swim out, where to catch the best waves…  everything and anything you could need to know and you could only get from a local expert.  As mentioned, some excellent surf locations, like Ollie’s Point in Potrero Grande and Witch’s Rock in Playa Naranjo, can only be reached by boat so having someone to actually take you is extremely convenient.  A surfing tour could be the perfect approach to surfing for first-timers and an excellent route for consolidated surfers looking to discover all the secrets to ride the perfect wave in Guanacaste.

To sum it up, surfing in Guanacaste, Costa Rica is any surfer’s dream!  Live your dream today!

Last Modified: November 17, 2017 03:45 PM
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