It is well known that Costa Rica has some of the best surfing in the world. However, I’m going to tell you about the best of the best: the Playa Negra surf.
Playa Negra is a reef break in Guanacaste and it’s most famous for being featured in the movie Endless Summer 2 Costa Rica portion of the film.
Playa Negra Guanacaste is a bit of a rarity in Costa Rica, as it is one of the few reef breaks in Costa Rica.
I have no other way of describing this wave, than to say that it is pure magic, and easily one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
At lower tides and bigger swells, it is a steep, perfectly shaped barrel. At smaller swells and higher tides, it is a softer, perfect shaped wave that intermediate level surfers can safely enjoy.
I knew this wave was famous, but had no idea how fun it could be for even intermediate level surfers such as myself. I learned a lot while surfing this perfect wave, and I’m going to share it with you, so you can have an equally magical surfing experience!
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An Overview of the Wave
Playa Negra is a beach in Guanacaste with a right breaking, barreling reef break. This wave is near perfect, and suitable for intermediate to advanced level surfers depending on the conditions. Playa Negra is easily one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
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How to get to Playa Negra
Playa Negra is located in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. It is about 45 minutes south of popular tourist and surfing town Tamarindo. It is then directly south of Playa Avellanas, and just past Hotel Playa Negra.
You can park in the dirt parking lot and walk past the palm trees down to the beach from there.
There will almost certainly be a parking lot attendant watching over the parking lot, and you should 100% give them a tip! While it may seem like a scam to those who have never surfed in Costa Rica before, having parking lot attendants has drastically reduced car break ins at beaches, which directly benefits surfers! It doesn’t have to be a ton of money, but 2000 colones (about 3$USD) is a good start.
About the Playa Negra Surf Break
Like its name suggests, Playa Negra is a black sand beach. The wave breaks to the right, directly over a volcanic reef, which gives it its perfect, repetitive shape.
There is also a shorter left that breaks on the north side of the break, that is not as nice as the right but still very fun! Just be careful of the rocks on the left.
The waves roll in in sets of 4 or 5, with the last two usually being the biggest. To paddle out, you’ll want to hang far over to the left (south) to avoid being caught under the lip of breaking waves.
Once you’ve paddled out, you can paddle a little further north to the main takeoff point, but be careful not to sit too far inside!
Riding this wave is absolutely incredible. The water is crystal clear, and while riding it you can see the reef underneath the wave! This area is pretty undeveloped (except for a few mansions) so surfing at Playa Negra Costa Rica in 2021 sorta felt like stepping back in time to the 90’s.
The wave will likely have the best conditions with a south/southeast swell and offshore winds.
Best tide to surf Playa Negra:
You’ll want to surf Playa Negra just after high tide, on a dropping tide. The closer you are to high tide, the more soft and forgivable the wave will be. I’m an intermediate level surfer, and Playa Negra was the first reef break I’ve surfed, and I felt comfortable on this wave.
When it gets closer to low tide, more and more rocks emerge and the wave grows hollow and powerful. When it’s like this, particularly on a bigger swell, only advanced surfers should attempt to surf here.
- Shallow Reef and Rocks
The number one hazard of surfing Playa Negra is the shallow reef and rocks. This is not a beginners surf spot, and all surfers should exercise caution when surfing here.
One of the most common crimes in Costa Rica is theft, and car break-ins are especially common. To keep your belongings safe, don’t leave any valuables in your car and if you have to, at least keep them out of sight!
Best Season to Surf Playa Negra
The best season to surf Playa Negra depends on what you’re looking for! There are only two seasons in Costa Rica, the rainy season and the dry season.
Surfing Playa Negra in the rainy season
In the rainy or wet season, Pacific swells are much bigger, and the surf at Playa Negra will consistently be around head high or bigger. There will also be fewer crowds at Costa Rica surf spots overall.
The rainy season in Costa Rica is typically from May-early November.
Surfing Playa Negra in the dry season
In the dry season, the swells are smaller, yet there are still plenty! The surf at Playa Negra will typically be much smaller, and more approachable for intermediate level surfers.
The dry season in Costa Rica is typically from late November- April.
Where to stay to surf Playa Negra
Playa Negra is closest to the small town of Los Pargos. This is a small, local town without many accommodation options so it’s usually a good idea to stay in nearby Playa Tamarindo or Playa Avellanas and make the drive to this surf break.
However, if you’re exclusively wanting to surf Playa Negra (I can’t blame you!) then there are still options!
Some of the best accommodation options for surfing Playa Negra include:
For a pretty reasonable price, you can get an oceanfront room just steps away from the Playa Negra surf break. Hotel Playa Negra offers on sight surfboard lessons and rentals, although if you are coming all the way from another country to surf this wave, I highly recommend bringing your own surfboard to Costa Rica.
If you’re looking for a more authentic experience on your Playa Negra surf trip, Casa Mymy is set a little further back into the town of Los Pargos and has private rooms, as well as a dorm room if you’re traveling on a budget.
Is the wave at Playa Negra safe?
Surfing is an inherently dangerous sport, and surfing over a shallow rocky reef break under a powerful wave is even more dangerous. With that said, it really depends on the conditions. If you’re an experienced surfer then you should be fine on most swells.
Is surfing Playa Negra good for beginners?
Unfortunately, Playa Negra is not a good surf break for beginners. However, nearby Playa Avellanas is a great beach for beginners to learn to surf!
Where to eat after surfing at Playa Negra?
Odds are, after a few hours of epic surf at Playa Negra you’re going to be pretty hungry, and there are not many options in this remote area. Lucky for you, I know exactly where to go!
- Jalapeño Eatery
This place has some of the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever had. After surfing Playa Negra, there really isn’t much quite like a massive breakfast burrito. They’re open for breakfast and lunch, and they have vegan options! You should definitely try their hot sauce while you’re there. Their food costs about $10 a meal, so it’s not the cheapest but you definitely get your money’s worth.
Tips & Tricks to surf Playa Negra Guanacaste
- Rent a car, base yourself near Tamarindo, and hit all the surrounding surf spots.
The best part about this area is the abundance of amazing surf spots and they’re all relatively close to one another!
There’s Playa Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas, Playa Grande, and Playa Negra all no further than an hour’s drive. If one spot isn’t doing it for you, feel free to dip and check out another! I remember just this past year on my Costa Rica trip I was surfing Playa Avellanas one morning and it quickly became too crowded and too windy (onshore). So I skipped on over to Playa Negra, and that was one of the best surf sessions I’ve ever had!
- Tip your parking attendants!
I feel like I can’t say this enough. If you’re using google maps to get around, chances are you’re going to have your phone and some other valuables in the car. Keep your valuables safe by tipping the parking attendants!
What to Bring
Bring a surfboard!
This surf break is pretty remote, so you’ll want to bring a board along with you.
Reef Friendly Sunscreen.
The sun is HOT and powerful in Costa Rica, and when you’re in the water it’s only amplified. Your regular sunscreen probably isn’t going to cut it so you’ll definitely want some reef friendly zinc sunscreen to protect your face. If you’re interested in learning about what makes sunscreen reef safe, or the best types to buy, check out my guide to the best reef safe sunscreens for surfers!
Playa Negra Surf Guide Final Thoughts
So there you have it! My ultimate guide to surfing Playa Negra. I hope I’ve included everything you need to know about surfing one of the best waves in Costa Rica.