Once a sandy little fishing village, Tamarindo has grown into its reputation as a bustling coastal town and a world-renowned Costa Rica surf spot. These waves are worth it!
But don’t let Tamarindo’s reputation precede it: While we undoubtedly have epic surf, that doesn’t mean that all our surf is epic. Yes, you’ll find waves and breaks and reefs to challenge even the most experienced surfer, but you’ll also find surf perfect for your very first surf lesson. In other words, Tamarindo is perfect for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers alike.
The even better news: the surf is always great in Tamarindo. Due to our location, we get NW and SW swells, which peak (literally) at different times of the year. So, while you’ll probably develop a favorite Costa Rica surf season – depending on your skill level, favorite breaks, and preferred type of surf – you’ll be able to get on your board, 365 days a year and as often as you choose.
And now, just a sampling (seriously) of our favorite breaks – roughly, from south to north:
Location: Playa Negra (south of Hacienda Pinilla)
While it may not receive all the pomp and circumstance of its bigger and more famous siblings, Playa Negra is a local hotspot for its exhilarating right break, which sports a narrow peak and a reef break.
Hot tip, though: The beach break is tight, so it’s best to visit during off hours. If you happen to hit the beach when it’s full, practice your best surf etiquette; here, it’s not just polite but necessary.
Location: Hacienda Pinilla
Level: Beginner or Advanced
The more you learn about Costa Rica surf, the more you realize that the break can go either way (literally and figuratively). Case in point: Playa Avellanas, which has small waves (perfect for beginners) on calm days but can churn up some serious challenges (read: experienced surfers only) on a big day.
So, which day is it? Mosey on up to Lola’s Restaurant or check out the waves around Palo Seco. There will almost certainly be surfers already in the water; they’ll let you know whether it’s a beginner or advance-only kind of day!
Location: Playa Langosta
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Playa Langosta is most often considered a scenic beach, but you’ll love to know that it can also be an excellent surf spot. Its cred comes from the seriously challenging, rocky-bottomed coastline that serves up fast currents and big waves that churn up strong right breaks at the southern end.
Do be careful at the river mouth (crocs could be present) and know that much of Playa Langosta has a treacherous, rocky bottom.
Just North of the Tamarindo Diria
If you’re in Tamarindo, there’s no more convenient first stop than this downtown swell. (You’ll know you’re there when you spot surfboard rentals, instructors, and beginner lessons taking place!) It’s perfect for learning how to surf, as the waves are gentle and consistent, and the ocean floor is sandy.
Just be sure to stay clear of the rocky breaks, known as Pico Pequeño and Pico Grande.
In Front of Capitán Suizo
If you’re looking for another downtown Tamarindo surf spot, then you’ve found it! Because, while no wave can be called “predictable,” this one could almost be said to be so. We’re talking gentle waves with mild pull, in frothy water over the sandy ocean floor. It’s practically perfect for learning your pop-up, catching your first wave, and racking up your first fall (it’s part of the journey!).
Here’s a tip, though: If no one is surfing, that means the waves are too small to catch! Wait a half hour and then, try again.
Location: Playa Grande
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Named for the rental homes (casitas) that line the beach, the Casitas surf break is located just across the river from Tamarindo. (Tip: If you’re traveling via the beach, take the estuary ferry for about $1. There are crocodiles in the river!)
Know that Casitas can be hit or miss, at least if you’re a beginner: On a calm day, the waves are gentle and great for confident beginners. On a bigger day, waves can ascend to a size more appropriate forintermediate+ surfers. When in doubt, ask someone who’s already been in the water!
Pico Grande & Pico Pequeño
When it comes to the big ones, there are two you’ll want to get to know: Pico Grande (Big Peak) and Pico Pequeño (Little Peak), which hover around the rocky outcroppings just to the right of the Tamarindo Diriá. And, lest one’s name fool you, know that these are two of the most advanced waves in Tamarindo.
Case in point: Pico Pequeño frequently spots shoulder-high waves. Even better, you can ride Pico Grande right into Pico Pequeño, if you catch the wave just right. Know, though, that due to the rocky floor and big waves, that these twin swells are for advanced surfers and are dangerous (for everyone) at low tide.
No list of Costa Rica surf spots could leave out Witch’s Rock, one of the world’s most famous breaks. Yes, really.
This power left break challenges even the best surfers (advanced only need apply!), which is why Witch’s Rock is such a beloved spot for surf competitions. Not quite there yet? No problem: Experienced surfers can still enjoy the challenging waves at mid- or high-tide; at low tide, especially on a windy day (which are many), the barrels get both exciting and, if you’re not ready, risky. Surfer, beware.
Isla Capitán (Captain Island)
You’ll hear whispers about Isla Capitán, once a well-kept secret and now more just a favorite among the Costa Rica surf community. You’ll have to really want it, though, as this wave requires either boat passage or a 40-minute paddle to reach.
Once you’re there, though, you’ll be thrilled to catch the waves that crash onto the exposed reef break. But know that this is for advanced surfers only, as the reef and the waves and the island’s remoteness can serve up too much challenge for less-experienced riders. Do not surf at low tide.
Henry’s Right & Left
Sitting atop a lava reef, these waves churn out consistent but rarely epic waves. Henry’s Left is a great choice for intermediate-advanced surfers looking to practice reef surfing before graduating to the more advanced wave on our list, while Henry’s Right offers a bit more clearance for fat, fun rides.
Note that neither the left nor right is very thrilling. Consider this more of a practice run for bigger, more exhilarating waves up and down the coast.
Location: Tamarindo/Playa Grande
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
At the north end of Tamarindo, the river mouth (sometimes called the estuary) offers forgiving waves for beginner surfers. The key comes down to the sandbars, which offer of a pillowy cushion for newbie falls, paired with the kind of Costa Rica surf that dreams are made of: fast lefts and rights that come through both sides of the channel.
If you’re in luck (and have the skill), you may even catch a narrow barrel and bigger swells that can ride 50 meters (160+ feet) – and, FYI, that trend more intermediate than beginner.
Location: Playa Grande
Level: Beginner through Advanced
As we mentioned above, Tamarindo’s surf can often go both ways. Playa Grande is one of those dual-purpose breaks, offering a long stretch of sand that can either be gentle or go hard.
When you can find them, the gentle waves are great for beginner surfers. But, more often than not, Playa Grande is better known for its intermediate-advanced breaks. This is prime Costa Rica surf, switching between peaks and barrels, lefts and rights. Catch it right, and you’ll enjoy the long ride to shore.
Looking for Your New Favorite Costa Rica Surf Spot?
Have a favorite break that didn’t make our list? Looking for your new favorite wave? Get in touch! Our office is full of suffers and we love to help newbies and advanced surfers alike find their next favorite spot.
Because helping people just happens to be one of our fortes. At Blue Water Properties, we are happy to help you in any way we can. We can talk about surf spots and costs of living, schools and lifestyle. We can refer you to residency attorneys or other sources of information, and share our own experiences and lessons learned.
As a company and as people, we thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry. And that begins with lots of information. We are happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, even if you’re only in the beginning phases of planning your future move.
We’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate, from condos and homes to land and businesses for sale. So, go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.