Last updated on April 4, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Costa Rica

Beginner surfing in Costa Rica – 7 BEST SPOTS & TOWNS

Wondering how is surfing for beginners in Costa Rica? One word, great. Tamarindo has been one of my favorite spots together with Santa Teresa, however, there are more options.

In this guide, I have organized the best 7 spots for beginner surfing in Costa Rica, with plenty of information on the surfing conditions, why they work so well and how is the town itself, you are either looking for a low-key surfing vibe or some nightlife.

I have also arranged these destinations in a table to quickly compare them and add the locations to your Costa Rica vacation.

Renting a car in Costa Rica will take you to some amazing beaches in the country
Renting a car in Costa Rica will take you to some amazing beaches in the country

Beginner surfing in Costa Rica – Key Points

All these 7 locations have a sand bottom, which is the best condition to start your surfing adventure. Moreover, the waves are generally small and the water shallow.

Here below the full table. Click on the destination name to discover more information on the area, including all the pros, cons, and a few suggested accommodations.

On a mobile swipe left or right to see all the columns.

DestinationBest Months for BeginnersWave ConsistencyCrowd LevelLocal VibeSurf Schools & RentalsAccessibilityAmenities NearbyCharacter of the Town
TamarindoDecember to April (Dry season, consistent waves)Gentle WavesTouristyFriendlyAvailableGoodPlentyDiverse, Family-Friendly
Santa TeresaDecember to April (Dry season, gentler waves)Variety of WavesRelaxedCharmingAvailableFar from San JosePlentyNatural, Relaxed
JacoDecember to April (Smaller, manageable waves during dry season)Long WavesBusyVibrantAvailableClose to San JoseManyCity Feel, Touristy
Uvita & Playa HermosaMay to November (Wet season, softer swells)Gentle WavesQuietOutstanding NatureLimitedFar from San JoseLimitedNatural Beauty
DominicalDecember to April (Dry season, consistent but not overpowering waves)Consistent WavesCharmingSurfing TownAvailableFar from San JoseLimitedSmall, Charming
Playa AvellanasMay to October (Wet season, milder waves suitable for beginners)Versatile WavesSecludedSereneLimitedRemoteLimitedEco-Friendly, Remote
Nosara & Playa GuionesDecember to April (Dry season, consistent and beginner-friendly waves)Consistent WavesUpscaleWellness RetreatsAvailableChallengingPlentyFamily-Friendly, Upscale
Best 7 spots for beginner surfing in Costa Rica

Tamarindo

  • Best for: Beginner surfing, family-friendly, diverse activities

Pros

  • Friendly Vibe
  • Gentle Waves
  • Variety of Activities
  • Diverse Dining Options
  • Accommodation Choices

Cons

  • Potential Noise Issues
  • Touristy (not secluded)
  • Not as natural as Santa Teresa, Uvita or Dominical (see later)

When I think about surfing for beginners in Costa Rica, Tamarindo comes straight to my mind. In fact, it’s my number-one location, with a nice friendly vibe, located around one hour south of the second international airport in Costa Rica, the Guanacaste Airport in Liberia.

With its gentle, forgiving waves, it’s perfect for those just starting out. The sea is of course fabulous and shallow, with a sandy bottom that helps to avoid any type of injury, the safest environment to begin your surfing adventure.

One of the key difference of a comparison of Tamarindo vs Santa Teresa (next), is how easy is to start surfing in Tamarindo, just the perfect conditions.

High tide offers the best surfing, but even low tide has its charm. For more intermediate surfers, head west or explore Playa Grande.

The town is developed along the main beach road and on two side streets. You will find here plenty of cars, cafes, and restaurants. There is even a skate park, in case surfing was not enough during the day.

Surfing in Tamarindo is number 1 activity
Surfing in Tamarindo is number 1 activity

Tamarindo opened to tourism a few years ago and the town today offers all those kinds of facilities that you would expect from a famous destination.

In a few words, if you want to take a break from surfing, you will have many activities that you can try out, from ziplines to horse riding, from soccer to volleyball and I could keep going.

I particularly like the new Mercadito de Tamarindo Food and Cocktail, where you can taste food from all around the world in a trendy food court developed in a green garden with a fabulous bar in the center serving cocktails from a boat keel.

My biggest tip here is to be mindful of the area of your hotel; some places can be noisy because of a few clubs running music till late.

I have actually organized a full guide to where to stay in Tamarindo, with my 4 suggested area that suits any kind of traveler, from couples to families, and any budget, from cheap to boutique vacations. And be sure that any suggested accommodation is going to be quiet at night, for a peaceful sleep before another surfing day.

Here are 3 of the best accommodations in Tamarindo Town:

BoHo Tamarindo – Adults Only ($$$$): An exceptional boutique oasis in Tamarindo! Stylish, immaculate, and relaxing. Wonderful hosts, delicious breakfast, and close to the beach.

Tamarindo Blue ($$-$$$): 1BR and 2BR apartments, spacious, clean, great location, friendly staff, and beautiful surroundings

Hotel Boruca ($$): Great location, friendly staff, delicious breakfast, and comfortable rooms with excellent amenities, fantastic value for money

Santa Teresa

  • Best for: any condition of surfing, lots of nature, charming town, relaxed

Pros

  • Variety of waves for all skill levels
  • Beautiful scenery and beach vibe
  • Plenty of accommodation options
  • Easy-going nightlife

Cons

  • Noisy, dusty and possibly muddy near the main road
  • Higher board rental prices and cost of living
  • Far from San Jose

The beautiful surfing town of Santa Teresa is nestled about four hours west of San Jose by bus (or a tad less if you’re renting a car in Costa Rica), this place is a surfer’s paradise.

From gentle waves in the south of the main beach to more challenging ones in the central part, Santa Teresa has something for every surfer.

Keep in mind that in the dry season, waves can get too challenging and if this is the case, have a ride to Hermosa Beach, just 3km north of Santa Teresa, where you will find more gentle and long waves which are perfect for beginner and intermediate level.

Santa Teresa’s charm develops along the beach, with palm trees swaying and a main road bustling with life. There are plenty of accommodation options on the side streets.

You can find boutique villas as well as budget-friendly hostels. Santa Teresa is actually a hotspot for backpackers adding a nice young vibe to the town.

I highly suggest staying away from the main road if you are looking for a quiet spot. It can be noisy and dusty, and the unpaved part with potholes can be a bit messy.

I have written a full guide with all the best areas to stay in Santa Teresa besides a few suggested quiet accommodations and plenty of local tips.

Here are 3 of the best accommodations in Santa Teresa:

Hotel Nantipa ($$$$): Idyllic beachfront escape with excellent service. Comfy rooms, stunning pool, and serene surroundings. A memorable Tico experience

Canaima Chill House ($$-$$$): Serene hillside retreat with spacious suites, pool, and hot tub. Charming eco-friendly haven near Santa Teresa Beach.

Fuego Lodge ($$$): Stunning oasis near the beach with comfy rooms, friendly staff, and an inviting pool. Perfect tropical getaway.

Jaco

  • Best for: easy surfing, schools by the beach, plenty of nightlife

Pros

  • Proximity to San Jose, making it accessible for weekend trips
  • Waves suitable for beginners and longboarders
  • Vibrant beach life
  • Many nightlife options

Cons

  • Can be very busy, especially on weekends
  • Not as tranquil as other surfing spots
  • City feel
  • Not a charming town, touristy

Jaco is one of the most popular towns to stay in Costa Rica, also thanks to its proximity to San Jose, just an hour and a half. Jaco has two lives, one very quiet during the week and one very busy during the weekend when the capital’s residents flock here for some time off.

The charm of Jaco is found in its versatility. During high tide, the southern part of the beach offers long, thrilling waves that are a joy to ride. Whether you’re a beginner or a longboard enthusiast, Jaco’s waves will welcome you with open arms.

But when the low tide rolls in, the waves retreat, leaving behind a vast stretch of beach where locals and tourists alike play football, enjoy a drink, or simply chill out. It’s a time to embrace the pura vida (pure life) of Costa Rica.

Easy surfing in Jaco
Easy surfing in Jaco

I spent a week in Jaco and I started my day by catching the morning waves, then as the tide recedes, I joined the beachgoers in their leisurely activities. As the afternoon high tide returned, I grabbed my longboard and rode the beautiful waves once more. I had a really epic time.

And don’t miss the sunset surf – those last 20 minutes in the water as the sun dips below the horizon are pure magic. I particularly loved the local surf club putting on some loud music that you could hear from the sea, I really felt like in a surfing movie.

It must be said, however, that Jaco is the least charming town I have visited along the coast, with more of a city feel than a chilled-out surfing vibe. There are plenty of high buildings and the one right at the center of the beach is a real scar on natural beauty.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Jaco:

Boutique Hotel IBIZA ($$$$): Excellent location, friendly staff, and serene pools. Comfy beds, sustainable practices, and beach proximity.

Pura Vida Apartment ($$-$$$): 2BR apartment in a secure complex with a lovely long pool and walking-distance city access.

Where to stay in Jaco Costa Rica

Uvita and Playa Hermosa

  • Best for: easy surfing, outstanding nature around, unique National Park

Pros

  • Beautiful waves perfect for starting and intermediate surfers
  • Board rental available
  • Breathtaking beauty of the beach

Cons

  • A short drive from Uvita, so it requires some extra travel
  • Might not be suitable for advanced surfers looking for bigger challenges
  • Far from San Jose

While looking for the next surfing spot I was suggested a new destination, Uvita, on the southwest coast. This area is famous for its Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, a national park that develops along the coast famous for its unique whale tail shape.

Honestly, you can see this shape only with a drone, or you can visit a viewpoint 3-4km above the town. Just be sure to time your walk up with the low tide, otherwise, you won’t see much of a tail but just the final island.

The town itself is in a development phase, luckily only with small houses. You will find a few restaurants and cafes around but no nightlife.

The supermarket on the main road is also a good source of ingredients if you are cooking at your accommodation. You will find plenty of goods there, and at a great price too.

Just around the supermarket, I also discovered one of the best pizzas in Costa Rica, made by an Italian couple in a homemade wood oven. Delicious.

One thing I discovered after my first visit to the beach was that surfing was very limited if non-existing. In fact, if you’re looking for waves, you need to venture a little further.

Just a short 3-kilometer drive south and I discovered another outstanding beach, Playa Hermosa, with waves that are nothing short of perfection.

Whether you’re just starting out or at an intermediate level, Playa Hermosa offers a mix of waves that cater to all. You can ride a short or longboard here, and the beach itself is a sight to behold.

There are a couple of places where you can rent boards, of any type and size, but I could not find any school. If you need any lessons, just ask the guy at the rental, I am sure he can organize something for you.

Playa Hermosa of Uvita has probably impressed me the most of all the places I visited for the great mix of natural beauty and surfing conditions. A real paradise for beginner surfing in Costa Rica.

One thing I should mention about Uvita is that access to the local National Park with the whale tail shape is not free.

The entire area is fenced off and access is $6 for the day, doesn’t matter what time you enter. Do not venture into the rainforest to bypass the entry point because there may be crocs around.

Also, very important, there are plenty of Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica, make sure to visit the one north of Uvita.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations from my guide to where to stay in Uvita & Playa Hermosa, the 4 best areas:

Ballena Rey Hotel ($-$$): Impeccable cleanliness, friendly staff, great pool, and comfortable rooms

Bungalows Ballena ($$-$$$): Splendid family-friendly haven near the beach, well-equipped bungalows, and inviting pools. Spacious and convenient location

Where to stay in Uvita Costa Rica
Where to stay in Uvita Costa Rica

Dominical

  • Best for: any level of surfing, charming town, consistent waves

Pros

  • Any level of surfing, from beginner to challenging
  • Consistent waves, even during off-peak seasons
  • Board rental widely available
  • Small charming surfing town

Cons

  • A short drive from Uvita, so it requires some extra travel
  • Might not be suitable for advanced surfers looking for bigger challenges
  • Limited options for non-surfing activities
  • Far from San Jose

Dominical is another small surfing town on the southwest coast of Costa Rica, actually not too far from Uvita, and in this respect, you could think of visiting it on a day trip if you don’t want to split your stay between two destinations.

What I liked the most about Dominical is that works great for surfers of all skill levels. You will find in fact very diverse surfing conditions, that go from challenging to easy-peasy waves.

Dominical Beach is where you’ll find the more challenging waves that cater to an intermediate level and up.

It’s a place that consistently delivers, even during weeks like the ones I experienced in December when waves were scarce elsewhere. Still, you could find here some easy long waves to surf.

If conditions get too hard, then I suggest going to Dominicalito Beach, just a short distance away, where you will find smaller, flatter, and longer waves that are perfect for those starting their surfing journey.

The town itself is well developed but on a small charming scale with plenty of cozy cafes, bars and restaurants that mix well with the nature around.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Dominical:

Hona Beach Hotel ($$): A coastal gem offering a fantastic location steps from the beach, friendly staff, and a sustainable stay.

Hotel Tropical Sands ($-$$): Cozy rooms, a short walk from the beach. Friendly staff, lush garden, and serene atmosphere.

Dominical Beach
Dominical Beach

Playa Avellanas

  • Best for: Serene surfing and nature lovers

Pros

  • Versatile Surfing Conditions
  • Secluded Beauty
  • Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Cons

  • Limited Amenities
  • The beach is a bit remote

Nestled along Costa Rica’s stunning coastline, Playa Avellanas is a haven for surfers seeking a more tranquil and unspoiled experience.

Playa Avellanas caters to surfers of all levels, from gentle waves for beginners to more challenging swells for the seasoned surfer. Unlike some of the more touristy spots, Playa Avellanas maintains still a nice connection with the surrounding nature, for a great untouched charm.

Playa Avellanas is home to the famous beachfront restaurant Lola, right on the southernmost side of the beach. This place is well known for its delicious local cuisine and Lola, the resident pig, strolling on the beach!

You’ll find a range of eco-conscious lodging options that align with Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability, however, keep in mind that Playa Avellanas is less developed, so you might find fewer facilities and activities outside of surfing.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Playa Avellanas:

SoulShine ($$-$$$): Serene pool, and a short walk to Avellanas Beach. Friendly staff and family vibes.

Hotel Cabinas La Playa ($-$$): Tranquil beachfront retreat with friendly staff, two outdoor pools, and private kitchens.

Beginner surfing in Costa Rica, even for the very small kids
Beginner surfing in Costa Rica, even for the very small kids

Are you looking for a great Costa Rica Travel Guide? Here is the best FREE trip handbook dedicated to first-timers.

Nosara & Playa Guiones

  • Best for: Consistent surfing and yoga enthusiasts

Pros

  • Consistent Surfing Conditions
  • Yoga and Wellness Retreats
  • Family-Friendly

Cons

  • Higher Cost of Living
  • Accessibility

Nestled in the Nicoya Peninsula, Nosara is probably the least accessible of all the destinations in this guide, around 5-hour drive from San Jose. Also, some of the roads can be quite challenging, especially in the rainy season.

Playa Guiones is the main beach in Nosara, famous for its reliable waves that work well for any kind of level. However, it’s not all about surfing here.

In fact, Nosara is well known also for its yoga community. You will find plenty of studios and retreats for your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing

Nosara is also very family-friendly, with its gentle waves and various activities. Once the long trip to the destination is over, you will surely enjoy your time with your family.

It has to be said, however, that Nosara’s popularity and upscale vibe sometimes translate to higher prices for accommodations and dining.

Here are 2 of the best accommodations in Nosara & Playa Guiones:

Green Sanctuary Hotel ($$$): Cool vibe, fabulous setup, and clean rooms. Great for nature lovers and tranquility seekers.

The Nomadic Hotel ($$$$): Superb hospitality, gorgeous surroundings, and exceptional amenities for a memorable stay.

Surfing is the main sport in Costa Rica
Surfing is the main sport in Costa Rica

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Costa Rica good for beginner surfers?

Yes, Costa Rica offers gentle waves, warm waters, and surf schools, making it ideal for beginner surfers.Yes, Costa Rica offers gentle waves, warm waters, and surf schools, making it ideal for beginner surfers.

Where is the best surfing for beginners in Costa Rica?

Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Jaco, Playa Hermosa in Uvita, and Dominical are some of the best spots for beginner surfers in Costa Rica.

Which side of Costa Rica is best for surfing?

Both the Pacific and Caribbean sides offer great surfing, but the Pacific coast, particularly Guanacaste, is more popular and accessible for surfers.

Is Tamarindo good for beginner surfers?

Yes, Tamarindo is renowned for its beginner-friendly waves, surf schools, and rental facilities, making it a top choice for new surfers.

Do you need a wetsuit to surf in Costa Rica?

No, the warm tropical waters in Costa Rica usually mean a wetsuit isn’t necessary, but rash guards are recommended for sun protection.

What months are best for beginner surfing in Costa Rica?

You can surf year-round in Costa Rica, with the best beginner waves typically from December to April on the Pacific coast.

Is Jaco good for beginner surfers?

Yes, Jaco offers consistent waves that are suitable for beginners, along with surf schools and rental shops.

Is Costa Rica or Nicaragua better for surfing?

Both Costa Rica and Nicaragua offer excellent surfing. Costa Rica has a more developed tourist infrastructure, while Nicaragua offers a more rugged experience.

Is Costa Rica or Belize better for surfing?

Another great comparison between Costa Rica Vs Belize. Costa Rica is generally considered better for surfing than Belize with its barrier reef that tends to dampen the surf, making it less ideal for surfing.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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