An Overview of Santa Teresa Costa Rica Surf
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica is a hidden gem in the surfing sphere- although it’s certainly gaining traction.
This small town on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is a bit of a backpacker’s paradise, and even more of a paradise for surfers! (If you’re a backpacking surfer…. You’re in for a treat).
This small surf town has not one…not two… but FOUR different surf spots to choose from. This is fantastic because it really leaves a little something for surfers of every level. Santa Teresa Costa Rica is easily one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica.
If it’s not already on your surf trip list, you should absolutely add it- the Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf is NOT something you want to miss out on, trust me.
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How to get to Santa Teresa Costa Rica Surf
The trek itself to Santa Teresa is rather difficult. Worth it, but difficult. When I did it, I was coming from another awesome surf town, Nosara. We crossed TWO large rivers by car, and had to ask a few cowboys on horses for directions when google maps failed us terribly (as it often does in Costa Rica, sadly).
From the Liberia airport, it is about a 4.5 hour drive, and 214 km/132 miles.
From the San Jose airport, it is about a 5.5 hour drive, and 259 km/160 miles.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great public transportation option to get to Santa Teresa. I believe it is possible by bus, but it takes 12+ hours and busses in the Guanacaste region are notoriously unreliable.
The best options to get to Santa Teresa are:
Shared Shuttle: $50 from Liberia/San Jose with Tropical Tours, and the journey takes about 5 hours.
Taxi: A taxi from Liberia will likely cost upwards of $200. Slightly more from San Jose. Remember, you can always negotiate these prices. Also, look for taxi drivers with surfboard racks! Plenty have them in Costa Rica.
Rental Car: A rental car is probably the best option to get to Santa Teresa, especially if you are in a group. A rental car in Costa Rica will cost anywhere from $200-$1000 a week depending on season, insurance, and what type of car you rent. I personally paid about $200/week for my rental car in Costa Rica, since I had the insurance covered through my credit card.
Best Santa Teresa Costa Rica Surf Season
The best time for Santa Teresa Costa Rica Surf largely depends on your skill level. There are two seasons in Costa Rica, wet and dry. During the wet season (April-November) the waves are much bigger, and more consistent. During the dry season (November-March) the waves are much smaller.
Best time for beginner/intermediate surfers: Dry season.
Best time for intermediate/advanced surfers: Wet season.
**With that being said, this area gets fairly consistent swells all year round. You’ll likely have fun regardless of the time of year you go. The nice thing about Santa Teresa is there are five different breaks, so there is usually surf for every level!
This is the northernmost surf spot in Santa Teresa. Unfortunately you can’t walk here from Santa Teresa, you will have to drive or hitch a ride. Playa Hermosa is a more gentle beach than the others, and the waves break a little softer. If you are a beginner/intermediate surfer, and the other beaches in Santa Teresa are a little too big for you, you will find refuge in Playa Hermosa!
There are also plenty of surf schools at Playa Hermosa. If you’re having a hard time learning to surf, check out this beginner surfing guide.
Playa Hermosa is a long, sandy beach break, with a plethora of fun rights and lefts. The best time to surf here is a medium to high tide. Depending on the sand bars, you can get some nice long rides here. This part of town is much less populated, and surfing here, you really feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle. Personally, Playa Hermosa is my favorite surf break in Santa Teresa.
Playa Santa Teresa
Playa Santa Teresa is the main surf spot here. The main break is directly in front of La Lora. At a low to medium tide, this break works best. The sandy bottom of this surf break is quite steep, and offers many an opportunity to get barreled.
This is a rather powerful break, and so it is best surfed by intermediate to advanced surfers when there is a decent swell in the water.
Playa Carmen is the beach just south of Playa Santa Teresa. Like Playa Hermosa, this is more of a beginner friendly beach, although it can still get big here. This beach is particularly rocky, so be mindful of where you decide to paddle out.
Mar Azul is probably the least consistent wave on this list. It is also probably the nicest- if you can catch it when it’s really working. Located in the southern end of Malpais, Mar Azul is a left hand point break. It only breaks just after high tide, and you can catch quite a long ride here with the right southwest swell.
Hazards of Santa Teresa Costa Rica Surf
Strong Waves: Santa Teresa, Costa Rica surf is no joke. I’ve seen some crazy powerful waves here. I think the only beach in Costa Rica I saw with bigger waves, was Dominical. As always with surfing, don’t paddle out if the break is above your skill level. Exercise caution with bigger swells here, and if one beach is too big, check out a different one!
Rocks: Pretty much all of these surf breaks are very rocky. Choose carefully where you want to paddle out. A good rule of thumb is to see where the locals and experienced surfers choose to paddle out, and follow their path.
Also, be careful when you’re coming in not to ride your board all the way into shore. There are plenty of little submerged rocks, and this is a surefire way to ding up your board.
Tips & Tricks
Book Accomodations near the Beach: Santa Teresa is not my favorite Costa Rican surf town to drive in. It’s basically one single, dusty long road through the entire town that runs adjacent to the beach. Traffic here is horrendous, and people drive like maniacs. It’s nice to be able to simply walk to surf, so do your research beforehand on which beach you want to be your primary surf spot, and book accommodations close to it!
Renting a Quad? Do it in Advance: Quad Rentals, particularly in the high season (dry season) sell out weeks in advance. You won’t be able to walk up to a rental shop and find a quad if you come in the high season. If you want a quad when you come to Santa Teresa, it’s best to call ahead and book it in advance.
What to Bring
Surfboard(s): There are plenty of rental options in Santa Teresa. They range from $10-$25 USD per day. There’s even a shop where you can rent high performance boards, which is pretty unique to see in Costa Rica.
Sunscreen: Sunscreen is pretty expensive throughout Costa Rica in general. I recommend bringing some reef safe sunscreen to protect your skin from the powerful UV rays.
Rash Guard: A rash guard will protect you from surf rash, and the sun. Especially if this is your first time in a while surfing without a wetsuit, you’ll want a rash guard. For more tips on how to treat and prevent surf rash, check out my post here.