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Surf Playa Negra - Sleep, Party and Eat at Pablo’s Picasso.

If you plan to surf up and down the Nicoya Peninsula, then no doubt you’ve mentally bookmarked Playa Negra, which is often tagged as one of the best right reefs on the Pacific side of Central America. The best time to surf Playa Negra is in the morning on mid-tide going out. Playa Negra picks up swell from most directions which makes it fairly consistent in the peak months of December to April, when conditions are best for the Nicoya Peninsula. The take off spot is small so crowds can be a factor.

I have surfed this place big, small, super windy offshore, super windy onshore, high tide, low tide, hollow, not-so-hollow, crowded and even pretty empty… once.. there was a small reef shark swimming around at the time. Ok, truth be told.. “I” didn’t surf it empty, some local guy who was a whole lot less worried about the shark did. Actually, that’s how I learned the word “tiburon.” I didn’t stick around for the full definition, I was the first one in.

Anyway, all shark puss-out stories aside, I’ve always had a pretty fun session regardless of whether or not conditions were optimal. Of course, when it’s on, you know the difference. There’s usually something playful and fun when it’s not perfect and the crowd thins out. Here’s a few weird things about this break - full moon brings in the waves even when the swell sucks. I’ve experienced this. Also- dry season whips up consistent off-shores. Best to get on the dawn patrol or wait for the glass off at night during this time of year. Midday off-shores in the 30-40 knot range are common and can easily blow out the swell.

Playa Negra is a reef/volcanic bottom right hand break. You can take the left, but it’s nowhere near as good and more rocky. So, for our purposes, let’s forget the left. Here’s what you need to know - anytime it’s good… it also crowded. the local guys have this place completely dialed in. Its a pretty narrow take off spot, so the locals just sit deeper than you. If you try to paddle people over, or paddle around them, you are bound to piss people off, and probably end up too deep and not make the wave anyway. You can still get waves by sitting just over and in a bit, and wait for someone to fall, or one of the smaller waves to swing wide. Even with the crowds, which can consist of more than a few grumpy old guys… you can get waves here and it can be worth the crowd hassle. Here it is looking perfect - and deceptively uncrowded.

I should make a point of saying - this wave is near perfect. One of the few places in Costa Rica you can count on getting barreled. The wave is consistent, powerful and can hold a double to triple overhead swell without closing out. It’s also a fun performance wave around head high or just a bit over.

When there you can stay at Pablo’s Picasso (hamburgers as big as your f*ckin head), just about a fifteen minute walk back up the road (or a three minute drive). The food is good here and it’s a fun place to hang out… most of the action at night is here or at the more high end, more expensive Hotel Playa Negra - the big palapa roof place right on the beach in front of the break. It’s owned by a French guy, and If my memory serves me, he was a former French surfing champion of some kind? Can’t remember what he said anymore… in any case, he had the wave wired and was fun to watch and surf with.

You can’t really camp on the beach here… Hotel Playa Negra has a corner on that market. But with a 30 minute walk there are a few places that will rent you a cheap plot for your tent city. When I was there way long time ago for the first time, we hung out with a couple locals - Cheecho and Ula, who were camping just about 100 yards down the beach from the break, but the rules are a bit different for locals.

My only word of caution for Playa Negra is to cover your head on the wipeouts. I hit my head on the bottom here once and it wasn’t fun. Other than that, It’s a perfect wave if you can work your way into the lineup. There is a good beachbreak at Marbella, south about 45 miinute drive if you can sniff it out… and Playa Avellanas to the north about 10-15 minutes has fun beachbreaks and a rivermouth at the north end of the beach that has an outside reef break called “Little Hawaii” (guess why) - both are well worth checking out.

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