Costa Rica has become, over the last few years, one of the most popular surfing destinations in the World. Apart from the fact that it has an amazing climate that allows for year-round surfing, it is cheaper than most other surfing destinations, and it offers some extraordinary surfing spots.
The most popular surfing city in Costa Rica is Tamarindo, which attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year. With luxurious beaches and friendly locals, it is the perfect vacation destination for everyone, not just surfers.
Surfing Costa Rica: The Essentials
What’s the closest airport to Tamarindo?
Tamarindo does not have its own airport. The closest international airport is in Liberia. It takes approximately 1.5 hours by taxi from the airport to the resort. You can book a taxi through your hotel, or you can book a private transfer here. Taxis typically cost anywhere between $80 and $110.
What’s the local currency in Costa Rica?
The Local currency in Costa Rica is the Colones. 1000 Colones is equal to about $2.00, depending on the exchange rate at the moment. However, you can use US dollars everywhere, including in local stores and they will do the conversion for you. Avoid exchanging money at the airport, as they are known to have the worst exchange rates in the country.
What language do they speak in Costa Rica?
The Official language in Costa Rica is Spanish, although depending on where you are, you can hear one of the five local indigenous languages that are spoken in the country. Also, don’t be surprised if you don’t understand the Spanish they speak right away; many of them use Costa Rican Spanish, which can be quite different from other forms.
How can I get around Costa Rica?
If you want to travel to and from different surf spots around Tamarindo, you won’t need to rent a car. Typically, your hotel or surf camp are more than happy to arrange transport to and from the different spots for you. Or, if you prefer to travel by yourself, you can rent a scooter in the village at a reasonable price. If you’re looking to travel further afield around Costa Rica, we would recommend arranging private transfers or renting a car for the duration of your surf trip.
Surfing Costa Rica: The Surf Season
The Costa Rica surf season runs all year. For improvers and more experienced surfers, the best time to visit is between March and September when Costa Rica sees it’s bigger swell come in. But, for beginners who are looking for their first surfing experience, Costa Rica delivers gentle waves all through the winter, making it the perfect warm weather destination between October and February. The best thing is, the water stays warm all year round so no need for a wetsuit.
Surfing Costa Rica: Tamarindo
Tamarindo is a small and quiet town in Costa Rica. In the past, it was a traditional fishing village, making it the perfect destination to catch a glimpse of the authentic culture of the country. Nowadays, it has evolved into one of the most popular surfing spots in the country, and locals are welcoming the more and more groups of tourists every year. It has all the modern facilities that you need, but at the same time, it has a laidback vibe that makes it perfect for surfers.
Tamarindo Surf Spots
Tamarindo has plenty of surf spots to choose from. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time on a board, or if you’re a seasoned pro, Tarmarindo has something that works for all surfers. From gentle green waves, to double overhead, you can find anything you want in Tamarindo, and this is what makes it such a popular surf trip destination.
Playa Tamarindo is probably the best beginner beach in Costa Rica. It is safe, easily accessible and you can definitely learn how to surf here. The mid-high tide is preferred, as the waves can be dumpy at low tide with the surf getting progressively better as the tide comes in. The advantage of this beach is it’s flat, sandy bottom, which means there’s nothing to break the waves, and there’s nothing potentially harmful on the bottom on the sea floor. Playa Tamarindo isn’t going to be a favorite with more experienced surfers, but beginners will have a great time here.
El Estero is the perfect spot for more advanced surfers, who will find two sets of waves here: north and south. The best time to surf at El Estero is at mid to high tide when it is rising. The waves here typically ride for around 150 meters, but they can go for double this on a good day. Although watch out, sharks are known to visit this area quite often.
If you are a complete beginner, Pico Pequeno may not be the right spot for you. But for improvers and more experienced surfers, this spot throws out a really fun wave. The ideal wave height here is waist-shoulder high, and the best time to visit Pico Pequeno is during July and August when the spot gets consistent swells and offshore winds. The place can get pretty crowded, and there are a lot of inexperienced surfers in the water who don’t know much about surfing etiquette, but if you can deal with this, we’re sure you’ll have a great time at Pico Pequeno.
This less popular spot is perfect if you want to relax without the crowds. The waves are short and fast. They peak in the same place, and they boast both right and left breaks. There is plenty of coral around here, and it sits right below the surface of the water; it can even be seen during the low tide. Keep an eye open for the coral and the rocks on the bottom!
This is where it gets interesting. If you are looking for adventure, Isla Capitan is the spot for you. We recommend that only experienced surfers that want to experience the real power of the Ocean surf this spot. The right-hander is most of the time not surfable, and the left one is fast and dangerous, as the wave comes from deep waters. A jet-ski might be necessary for safety, and you should definitely not attempt to surf here if you’re not an experienced surfer.
A crowded and popular spot, Playa Grande is best for experienced surfers. The wave height is chest high or slightly overhead, and the best time to surf is at mid tide, to avoid the backwash. Overall, it is a great place to surf as long as you manage to avoid the crowd and you pay attention to the rocks.
Where to stay in Tamarindo
La Ramona Charming Hotel
A small collection of luxury pool side suites with outdoor bathrooms and modern vibes.
Budget accommodation for backpackers who are still looking for some privacy.
The name says it all. Think lots of light, open spaces, white walls and indoor plants.
This hipster hostel has everything you need for an awesome surf trip in Tamarindo.
Learn to Surf in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is the place to be if you want to learn how to surf. There are plenty of local surf schools, and you can easily find a great instructor. Witch’s Rock Surf Camp and Iguana Surf are just two of the many good choices, but most hotels can also offer ‘Learn to Surf’ packages as part of your stay if that’s what you’re looking for.
Surf Hire in Tamarindo
If you don’t have your surfing gear with you, no need to worry. There are plenty of surf shops where you can rent anything you need. Iguana Surf and Blue Trailz have great offers, and you can rent a board for as little as $5 for 2 hours.
Where to eat in Tamarindo
When it comes to food, there are plenty of options in Tamarindo. You can easily find whatever you want, from small local restaurants that offer authentic Costa Rican food, to luxurious international restaurants where you can find more expensive dishes. In general, it is easy to eat well on a budget, but you can always pay more if you want something special.
The most delicious waffles in Costa Rica are made here, and you can also grab a smoothie, ice cream or coffee. They also offer gluten-free and vegan waffles, which means that there is something on the menu for everyone.
Little Lucha is a Mexican restaurant where you can find delicious local dishes. If you are not sure you can handle the local food, don’t worry! They also have plenty of American options.
Caffe Tico is a traditional Costa Rican restaurant with delicious and inexpensive local dishes. They have gluten free options as well as vegetarian ones, and it doubles as a coffee shop where you can chill after a day of surfing.
La Bodega offers fresh, local and organic dishes and amazing sandwiches. You will find both local and international dishes here, and it is a great place for a light bite. You can also find out more about the area from the friendly staff.
Surf Shack Burgers & Wings
Surf Shack Burgers & Wings is the place to go when you are in the mood for great burgers or delicious chicken wings. They do have many other options, but it is difficult to believe you will ever stop ordering their burgers.
Activities in Tamarindo
When the spots aren’t firing, it’s great to get out and explore the local area. Tamarindo has plenty to offer in terms of activities; you can relax, enjoy the local scenery, head or an excursion, or even go on your own adventure. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite things to do below.
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Book a ziplining tour! You’ll spend the afternoon speeding through the forest, and get a full aerial view of the stunning Tamarindo bay.
Take the Rio Celeste and Llanos de Cortes waterfall tour from Tamarindo to get two waterfalls for the price of one. Perfect for nature lovers.
Many places rent ATVs, and they are a great way to get to some of the harder to reach off-road areas around Tamarindo. Click here to book our preferred Tamarindo ATV tour.
Sunset Catamaran Tour
To see the raw beauty of the Ocean, set sail on a sunset catamaran tour. Enjoy the open bar, while admiring views of the rugged coast, or go for an adventure using kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkel equipment on-board.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park
Visit the Rincon de la Vieja National Park on this full-day volcanic trek. You’ll see plenty of wildlife along the way, pass by volcanic craters, and bubbling mud pools, then you’ll cool off with a swim at the Oropendola Waterfall.
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