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First of all, let me say “Pura Vida!” Costa Rica is a beautiful place and I know you will fall in love with the people, wildlife, scenery and of course waves. I made my first trip there in the early 90’s and have returned many times. I have surfed all kinds of great waves around the world, challenged myself, met great people, and still I keep going back! Costa Rica is a special place that will nourish your heart and mind, give you the chance to relax and recharge your batteries and most important, satisfy your appetite for surf!
There a few basic things you will want to consider when planning a Costa Rica Surf Trip. First, how long are you going to stay? If you’re only staying 10 days, then you should consider picking your spot, staying put and make one or two day trips. You don’t want to spend half your trip driving and waiting for ferries and flat tires. Staying a month? Now you’re talking… pick a basic route to follow with a few of the key spots on the way and loop back to your starting point. Or, just play it all by ear, follow the swell, and allow 2 days travel at the end to get back to the airport in Liberia or San José. Whatever you decide, planning a few basic things before you go is smart.
Make sure you have a valid passport and drivers license. Duh. Go get your Hepatitus A&B shots up to date (read more about Vaccinations for Costa Rica). Pack some basic medical supplies and bring any prescription meds you take regularly or even occasionally, for example, I always bring Naproxen for my lower back any time I travel.
The surf on the Pacific side is biggest during rainy season (May-October, while during dry season (November-April) offshore winds prevail and waves are smaller. Hurricane season (May-September) on the Caribbean side is the best time to go if you’re after huge heavy waves, and also December-March when Atlantic storms create powerful swells for Costa Rica’s Caribbean Surf Spots, home to the standout surf spot Salsa Brava, near the port city of Limon.
The range of Cost Rica Surf set-ups varies from sand bottom high performance beach breaks like Playa Hermosa to volcanic rock reefs like Playa Negra, capable of holding triple overhead waves, and heavy coral reef breaks like Isla Uvita, perfect for expert surfers looking for a rush. Beginners can take Surf Lessons or sign up for Surf Camps, concentrated around the mellower beaches in Mal Pais, Nosara, Jaco Beach and Tamarindo.
Waves for all levels of surfer from beginner to expert are possible, and it is important to know your limits as well as challenge yourself. Spend a bit of time studying a break before you paddle out and do your research to know if conditions are too heavy for you, or if rip currents are present.
Having a good travel guide with you is always handy as you probably don’t want to annoy everyone with 100 questions about where to go, what kind of surfboard to bring, what the bottom is like, if there are angry locals… you get it. There’s a really good guide book called Surfers Guide to Costa Rica and I suggest getting yourself a copy so that you can be a bit more “in the know” while you’re there. Or just keep reading - I will tell you almost everything I know.
I love this country, so I take great pleasure in holding your hand through the process of planning your surf trip and getting to know the various areas, breaks, methods of travel, accommodations and places to eat. I’m just about guessing that a Surf trip to Costa Rica is a welcome break from your mundane 9-5 lifestyle and I’m positive that you will probably want to move there by the end of your trip. First things first - prepare yourself to slow down - everything takes a little longer in Costa Rica, so reeeeeelax, you WILL get to your next destination eventually, and your food WILL make it to the table before you starve to death. Pura Vida!