Best surf spots in central and south Pacific Costa Rica

(Co-authored with our Costa Rica in-destination expert, Jeison Barahona)

Costa Rica is a world-class surf destination. Whether young or old, first timer or professional, there is a beach and a break in Costa Rica for everyone.  Below are just a few of our favorites!

Playa Jacó

1 hour away from the popular beaches of Manuel Antonio, Jaco was home of Surf’s World Championship 2016. It´s an easy place to surf with easily accessible waves, so it´s not a bad way to get into the Costa Rica groove. It's a big, wide and long sandy beach with peaks all along, but it tends to close out when it gets over five feet.

Playa Hermosa 

1 hour away from Manuel Antonio, 3 miles south of Jaco, Hermosa was home of Surf’s World Championship 2014.

Juicy beach break. It´s a beautiful black-sand beach surrounded by mountains. Here you will find seven kilometers of strong beach breaks that, with a little size, love to keep you under, break boards, and drill you into that beautiful black sand.

Playa Hermosa is probably the most consistent break in Costa Rica, and is usually bigger than most other breaks. It is hard to get out the back when its gets overhead, and starts closing out when double overhead. Nearly everyone you talk to has a story about getting hammered at big Hermosa. Best on the higher tide and it loves a SW swell. Crowded, especially on weekends, but since the beach is long, the crowds are spread way out and it´s easy to find. The local's favorite sandbar is in front of the big tree (with all the trash) known as the Almendro.

Esterillo Oeste (45 minutes from Manuel Antonio)

In front of the river mouth, waves break from the inside to way, way outside. There are reefs way outside here and beach breaks galore. Good bowls on an upcoming tide; best at mid to upcoming. 


Manuel Antonio

“Playitas” - keep walking past the big rock and you’ll come to a rocky little cove with the biggest waves along this beach. There are good, juicy barrels on decent swells, lefts and rights. Everything breaks best here on higher tides. Keep an eye out for rocks on lower tides.


Quepos (45 minutes  from Manuel Antonio)

Perfect left is found at the jetty. It needs a lower tide and a good swell to work well, otherwise, it´s a nice easy longboard wave. There is also beach break. Waves are best on big south swells.


Playa Matapalo (Beach-hopping)

Head to the ocean and you´ll find a long (45km), secluded, unbroken sandy beach with good, uncrowded beach breaks. Everyone from the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area heads to playa El Rey to escape the crowds, so it´s even less crowded here.


Dominical (Beach-hopping)

The town of Dominical is a mini, laidback surf-city, actually a hamlet, with surf shops, surf bars and surf-oriented hotels. There are several breaks to pick from in the area-beach, rivermouth and reef-in what is probably the most consistent surf destination in Costa Rica. Dominical is a wave magnet known for its consistent, hollow, well-shaped beachbreaks that can get heavy with size and is surfable up to nearly 20´ faces. Beach break quality varies, and can get-stand-up barrels. Michael McGinnis, proprietor of Cabinas San Clemente, and a damn good surfer, likens the beach break at Dominical to Mexico´s Puerto Escondido, and I´ve seen the pictures to prove  it. There are plenty of peaks and bowls up and done the beach with the best (and most crowded) right in front of Cabinas San Clemente and Tortilla flats Hotel & Restaurant. While these are the most crowded, no body dawn patrols here, so it´s uncrowded until about 8AM, and the sun is up before 6 and morning offshores blow until about 10.The waves are more forgiving at higher tides, which is also when the shape is best. Grinds and closes out at low tide, especially when big.

And while the waves may sometimes be forgiving, Dominical is the site of frequent drowning due to waves, current and rips. If you are a beginning surfer, or are not a strong swimmer, beware!

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