7 Best Beginner Surf Spots in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has some of the best surfing in the world- for beginners, intermediate, and advanced surfers alike.
If you’re wanting to learn how to surf, the warm waters, consistent swells, and variety of beaches make Costa Rica a great place to learn!
However, there are a ton of different beaches in Costa Rica, and it can be difficult to choose where to go.
That’s why I’ve gone ahead and made this list of the best beaches for surfing in Costa Rica for beginners.
I’ve surfed all over Costa Rica, including at all of these beaches, and each one has a little something unique to offer.
Whether you’re looking for surf and yoga, surf and partying, a family friendly beginner surf destination, or anything in between, one of these beaches is the perfect place to learn to surf in Costa Rica.
How to choose from the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica:
At first glance, a lot of the beginner surf spots in Costa Rica may seem similar. In reality, they’re all really quite different with their own distinct feels, pros, and cons. Here are a few important factors to consider when looking at the best surfing in Costa Rica for beginners:
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How much do you want to spend on your Costa Rica surf trip?
Not all surf spots in Costa Rica are the same price to visit! And this can depend on a number of factors.
The two biggest factors that affect the cost of learning to surf in Costa Rica are accommodation and transportation.
To get to Costa Rica, you can either fly into San Jose, or Liberia- depending on where you’re coming from, it might be a much better deal to fly into one airport over the other.
Don’t get me wrong, you can easily take land transportation to any of these surf spots from either international airport- but if you’re short on time, it isn’t really ideal to lose a whole day of your surf trip to travel.
You’ll need a place to stay once you get to your surf town! And some towns are much more expensive than others.
Beach towns like Tamarindo, Jaco, and even Santa Teresa have a TON of accommodation options, and plenty of budget friendly options.
Beach towns like Avellanas, Dominical, and Nosara (home to Playa Guiones) are a little more remote, and typically much more expensive.
What time of year is best to learn to surf in Costa Rica?
Hands down, the dry season is the best time to surf in Costa Rica for beginners.
The dry season (roughly) runs from December-April, and this is when the swells are much, much smaller and cleaner.
That’s not to say that you can’t learn in the wet season (Late April-November), but the surf might be quite a bit rougher at that time.
Do you want to learn to surf in a big or small beach town?
Each of the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica has a corresponding beach town that varies in size.
Since you likely won’t be spending ALL of your time in the water, you may want to consider the actual town itself when deciding where to go to learn!
The smaller beach towns on this list include Avellanas, Dominicalito, and Nosara.
The larger beach towns include Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, and Jaco. Jaco is pretty much a small city on the beach.
What do you want to do besides surfing?
This definitely plays into where to learn to surf in Costa Rica. If you’re only interested in surfing and relaxing on the beach, a place like Avellanas might be great for you.
If you’re really interested in yoga, going to Nosara might be perfect.
If you’re keen on partying and going out, Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, or Jaco might be best.
The 7 best beginner surf beaches in Costa Rica
1. Playa Avellanas
For many, Playa Avellanas is the best place to learn to surf in Costa Rica. In the dry season, the waves here are small, clean, and fun. The paddle out is super easy too, so beginner surfers stand more of a chance actually catching some green waves!
The beach is also long and spread out, so there is lots of room for beginners to catch waves.
The area surrounding Playa Avellanas is pretty remote. There isn’t much around besides the beach,a few restaurants and hotels.
If you’re simply looking to surf, relax, and enjoy the beach, Playa Avellanas is definitely one of the best surf spots for beginners in Costa Rica.
If you’re looking for something a little livelier, you may want to book elsewhere though, as Avellanas is definitely the quietest area on this list.
For more on surfing Playa Avellanas, check out my in-depth surf guide.
The best surf camp in Playa Avellanas:
Tao Destinations 8 Day All-Inclusive Playa Avellanas Surf Camp
The best surf hotel in Playa Avellanas:
Soul Shine is a beautiful hotel in Avellanas that is only a 3 minute walk from the beach.
This hotel has a pool, bar, restaurant, and lovely private rooms/bathrooms.
Tamarindo is another of the best beginner surf spots in Costa Rica. It’s located on the Nicoya Peninsula, and is a long sandy stretch of beach running parallel to a busy beach town.
The waves in Tamarindo are great for beginners.
They don’t break as far out as other beaches, so the paddle out is easy. For the most part, the ocean floor is sandy, another plus for beginner surfers.
I will say, the waves in Tamarindo aren’t necessarily the cleanest, but they are more than suitable for beginner surfers to learn to stand up on a surfboard, and to even practice catching green waves and turning.
If you’re looking for lots of restaurants, bars, and excitement, Tamarindo is a good place for your beginner surf trip.
It’s extremely busy and touristed! Which means it’s easy to get to, has lots of accommodation options, and plenty of infrastructure. It’s also a super fun place to party if that’s your thing.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more peaceful, I’d check out one of the other breaks on this list!
For more on surfing in Tamarindo, check out my in-depth surf guide.
The best surf camp in Tamarindo:
8 Day Surf Camp at La Botella de Leche
The best surf hotel in Tamarindo:
The Coast Beachfront Hotel is located steps away from some of the best surf in Tamarindo. All rooms are equipped with a kitchen, private bathroom, air-conditioning, and flat screen TVs.
There is also a pool on the property for guests to enjoy!
The location is ideal for a surf trip since you can step right outside and be at the surf.
3. Playa Hermosa
There are (at least) 3 other beaches in Costa Rica called Playa Hermosa. For beginner surfers, I’m specifically referring to the Playa Hermosa next to Santa Teresa.
Playa Hermosa is a big beach break located about 5km/3 miles north of Santa Teresa, which is about a 10 minute drive.
Playa Hermosa has some of the most fun waves in Costa Rica! The waves here are usually smaller than nearby Santa Teresa, yet they still have a really nice and clean shape which is good for beginners who are looking to work on turns, and catch green waves.
It’s also one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, and has very few buildings surrounding it, so you truly feel tucked away in an island paradise while surfing here.
The only drawbacks of this beach as a beginner surf beach are its isolation, and the paddle out.
Waves do tend to break a little further out here than some other beaches on this list.
Additionally, since it’s a few miles away from Santa Teresa, you’ll either have to get a place right at the beach, or work out transportation down to the beach if you stay a few miles away.
There isn’t really an option for public transportation in Santa Teresa, so you should plan ahead and rent out an ATV or car in advance.
The best surf hotel in Playa Hermosa:
If you’re planning a trip to learn to surf in Playa Hermosa, there aren’t a lot of accommodation options right next to the break.
Lua Villas is one of very few, and it has perfect access to the beach here- it’s only a 3 minute walk!
The hotel itself is a collection of private villas each fitted with air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a kitchen.
Each unit is beautifully decorated, and all guests can enjoy a pool, Jacuzzi, lounge deck, and yoga deck.
Playa Guiones in the Nosara area is one of the most consistent and best beaches to surf in Costa Rica.
In the dry season, it can also be a great place for beginners to learn to surf! The waves here are fun and consistent.
In the winter months (particularly December-February), the waves tend to be smaller and more beginner friendly.
The best places for beginner surfers at Playa Guiones is the far south end of the beach- this is where the waves are typically the smallest.
With that said, Nosara isn’t exactly the best beginner surf beach in Costa Rica- the paddle-out can be quite long and difficult. If you’re a strong swimmer and have a great instructor, then you should be fine- but it’s not the easiest beach to learn at on this list.
The town surrounding Playa Guiones is also very cool and unique- it’s fairly quiet, but does have its fair share of delicious restaurants and fun things to do.
If you’re interested in yoga, a peaceful atmosphere, and consistent yet slightly more challenging waves, Playa Guiones is a great place to learn.
For more on surfing Nosara, check out my more in-depth surf guide on the area.
The best surf camp in Nosara:
8 Day Selina Wellness and Surf Camp
The best surf hotel in Nosara:
La Negra Surf Hotel is a beautiful hotel located only a 1 minute walk from the beach. The hotel itself provides surf lessons for all levels, and guests here can enjoy a pool as well as a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
All rooms at the hotel are equipped with a shower, bathroom, WiFi, and air conditioning.
For other options in Nosara, check out the 13 best hotels in Nosara for every budget.
5. Santa Teresa
Located right on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is an isolated little haven for surfers and backpackers alike.
The entire town consists of one long, dusty dirt road running adjacent to the beach, with houses, hotels, and restaurants lining either side.
Santa Teresa has plenty of surf too. Playa Carmen, a little south of Playa Santa Teresa is one of the more beginner friendly beaches in Santa Teresa, where waves break a little softer than other parts of the beach.
If you’re looking to visit a lively yet isolated surf town with lots of fun things to do, Santa Teresa is great for beginner surfing in Costa Rica.
For a full breakdown of the surf in Santa Teresa, check out my Santa Teresa surfing guide.
The best surf camp in Santa Teresa:
The best surf hotel in Santa Teresa:
Blue Surf Sanctuary is a beautiful surf hotel right in front of some of the best surf in Santa Teresa.
Each surf bungalow at the hotel is equipped with its own balcony, air-conditioning, WiFi, and bathroom.
All guests at the hotel can enjoy access to a lovely pool and garden space.
6. Playa Jaco
Jaco is a large surf town in Puntarenas, about 90 minutes from San Jose. Jaco beach is about 2.5 miles long, and this long, sandy stretch is full of beginner surf.
The waves in Jaco are fairly mushy, and close out with larger swells. In the southern part of Jaco, the waves are a little cleaner and best for beginner surfers!
If you’re looking for smaller waves to learn on in a big accessible town, Jaco is a great place to learn to surf.
As it’s essentially a small city, it’s definitely a little rougher around the edges, and not quite as safe as some of the other Costa Rica surf towns.
With that said, it has tons of rich culture, good food, and it’s in an extremely convenient location.
For more info on surfing here, read my guide to surfing in Jaco!
The best surf camp in Jaco:
6 Days Selina Surf Lessons Package
The best surf hotel in Jaco:
Selina Jaco is a large surf hostel ON the beach in Jaco.
The property has a mix of private and shared rooms, and there is also a coworking space and kitchen at the hostel.
Guests can enjoy the massive pool, as well as a beach bar.
This is a great, social place to stay while learning to surf in Jaco, and they also provide surf and yoga lessons!
Playa Dominicalito is a small beach just south of Dominical, in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica.
Because it’s located in a little bay, the beach here is much more protected than Playa Dominical, and offers a smaller wave that’s more suitable for beginner surfers.
The Dominical area is small, with a pretty strong surf culture. The area is beautiful, with plenty of great things to do and much more lush and green than any other surf spots on this list, even during the dry season.
The best surf hotel in Dominical:
Hona Beach Hotel is located right in front of Playa Dominical. All guest rooms here are equipped with a private bathroom, AC, and free WiFi.
There is also a large pool for guests to enjoy.
Keep in mind, this hotel is in front of Playa Dominical, not Dominicalito.
There aren’t any accommodation options right at Playa Dominicalito, so the best option is to rent a place in Dominical, and either drive or take public transportation to Dominicalito.
How to plan a beginner surf trip to Costa Rica
After deciding where to go, it’s time for the exciting part- planning the trip itself! There are two main ways to do this: you can either plan your trip independently, or book a surf camp.
If you plan your trip independently, you’re probably going to save some money, but it’ll take a little more planning and effort on your part.
A surf camp will be more expensive, but less effort, so you’ll have to decide what’s best for you!
1. Book your flights to either San Jose or Liberia
Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll have to book a flight to Costa Rica! If you’re visiting Avellanas, Tamarindo, Nosara, or Santa Teresa, I recommend flying into Liberia (LIR).
If you’re going to Tamarindo, Dominical, or Jaco, then I recommend flying into San Jose (SJO).
2. Book transport to the beach town
There are four main ways to get from the airport to the beach towns in Costa Rica.
- Public Bus:
This is the cheapest form of transportation in Costa Rica. If you’re a fairly independent traveler, speak a little Spanish, and/or are on a budget, this is what I recommend.
With that said, some bus routes are easier than others, and some really aren’t worth it.
I like checking Rome2Rio to look at the bus routes in Costa Rica.
They’re not always 100% accurate but they give a pretty dang good estimate.
- Shared Shuttle:
If you’re traveling alone on a budget, shared shuttles are another good option to get around in Costa Rica.
I’ve booked with Monkey Tours in the past, and had great experiences.
- Private Driver/Shuttle:
If you can’t do a shared shuttle, another option is a private shuttle. They’re usually around $200 for one trip, so it’s more expensive than a shared shuttle, but a good option if you’re traveling with a group, or have the budget for it!
- Rental Car:
The most convenient (albeit expensive) option is booking a rental car. You’ll have the convenience of driving around at your leisure, and you can more easily explore nearby surf spots.
If you’re planning on renting in the dry season though, you should book a rental car way in advance- they sell out VERY quickly.
3. Book accommodations
One of the most important parts in planning your trip to learn to surf in Costa Rica is sorting out where to stay!
If you have a rental car, you can stay further away from the beach, as you’ll be able to drive. If you don’t have a rental car, I recommend staying as close to the beach as possible.
4. Pick lessons or a surf camp
After accommodations, it’s time to book your actual lessons! There are tons of reputable surf camps and lessons all over Costa Rica, so it’ll be easy to find some.
Just be sure to read reviews, and pick the one that sounds best to you.
5. Rent a board for the duration of your stay
If you’re staying at a surf camp, it’s likely boards are provided.
Similarly, most surf lessons include board rental.
This step is mostly applicable in case you decide to take a few lessons, and then rent a board and go out and practice on your own! Which I definitely recommend.
6. Pack for your trip to learn to surf in Costa Rica
Once everything is booked… It’s time to pack for your surf trip!
For exactly what to bring, check out my ultimate Costa Rica surf trip packing list.
7. Enjoy your trip!
Step 7: Enjoy your trip! These Costa Rica surfing beaches are SO GOOD for beginners, and Costa Rica is such a warm and friendly country- all in all a GREAT place to learn to surf.
You’re going to have a blast.