Costa Rica Surf Guide For Families
Whilst the Reef breaks of Fiji, the Maldives and Indonesia attract the serious surfers, Costa Rica holds the crown as the most family and beginner friendly surf destination. Costa Rica boasts deliciously warm seas, reliable Pacific Ocean swells and a good mix of beginner, fammily and intermediate friendly surf spots. When you are not surfing there is plenty to explore inland from pristine rainforest to volcanic hot springs, world class rafting and incredibly diverse wildlife.
Best Surf Spots for Mixed Ability Surfing Families
Our two favourite spots for families with a mix of surfing abilities are Nosara (Playa Guiones) and Tamarindo. Of these, our favourite is Nosara (Playa Guiones) for its beginner and intermediate friendly beach break, laid back charm, independent accommodation and fab restaurant and bar scene. Playa Guiones is best with a mid, long or short with plenty of bouyancy. It is a long beach which peaks at various points providing plenty of space to spread out. This is one of the most consistent waves in Costa Rica. Conditions are cleanest (and usually smaller) during the dry season (November to April) with reliable offshore winds in the morning. The rainy season (May to October) can be a little messier and potentially bigger, but trust us there is still plenty of good surf to be had. Like anywhere, Guiones can get big and dangerous when a huge swell rolls in, but when it is small to mid sized it is perfect for intermediates (out back) and beginners (in the white water). What really appeals about Nosara is that a families' whole surfing needs can be catered for on one beach without the need for transport to other spots. Nosara also has a seriously good yoga scene hosting Costa Rica's most renowned yoga institutions. We recommend The Gilded Iguana in Nosara for surfing families, it is a beautiful boutique hotel with lovely pool and a perfect location in walking distance of beach and restaurants. It also has a first rate surf school and mountain bike centre.
Tamarindo is more built up and mass market than Nosara with several larger mid range resort hotels, but there are still a few good independent hotels around. Tamarindo Beach itself is fantastic for beginners and becomes becalmed at high tide, making it a lovely swimming beach. Intermediate surfers are going to prefer to head over to Playa Grande, which although just over estuary is a good 20 min drive from Tamarindo. In Tamarindo, we recommend Hotel Capitan Suisso, a friendly four star option right on the beach but far enough from town to be peaceful. Both Tamarindo and Nosara (Playa Guiones) have loads of good surf schools for beginners and there are a tonne of good boards available to hire.
Best Surf Spots for Experienced Surfers
Costa Rica's most famous surf spots for experienced surfers are enticingly located in easy distance of beginner friendly surf beaches and resorts with plenty to do for other non surfing members of the family. Ollie's Point and Witch's Rock are located on the Guanacaste Coast and can be reached by boat from Tamarindo ot the Papagayo Peninsula. For families with a mix of surfing levels we recommend Hotel Capitano Suisso in Tamarindo (beginners can learn on Tamarindo Beach, intermediates will love neighbouring Playa Grande) whilst for families with non surfers and a taste for luxury should head for the Four Seasons or Andaz Resorts on the Papagayo Peninsula from where the serious surfers can take morning boat trips out to Ollie's Point and Witch's Rock. Pavones and Matapalo are legendary spots down on the Southern Pacific Coast and whilst the area is less ideal for beginner / intermediate surfers, non surfers will be spoilt rotten exploring the stunning Golfo Dulce and Osa Peninsula which unarguably contain Costa Rica's finest wildlife viewing and eco lodges. We recommend the stunning Lapa Rios which is located literally right by Pan Dulce and Matapalo.
Of course, there are surf spots all the way up and down both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. For families, our recommendations are definitely Nosara and Tamarindo, but if you are considering elsewhere, read on;
Manuel Antonio - If you aren't planning on learning to surf properly, and just want to sneak in a lesson or two and hopefully experience standing up on a wave, then Manuel Antonio is not a bad option. Chances are you will be including MA anyway for the wildlife, so extend your stay here to 3-4 nights which will allow one day to visit the park and a surf lesson on the other day(s).
Santa Teresa - Better for advanced intermediates. There is a beach good for beginners, but it is a good 10 min drive out of town, all the breaks walk-able from town are definitely for more advanced surfers. Santa Teresa has more of a grungy, backpacker, party vibe going on.
Jaco - Jaco if built up with loads of big mid ranged hotels accommodating package tourists. It is a great beach break and it is close to San Jose, but other than that we tend to avoid Jaco as it is just to built up and touristy.
Dominical - Heavy beach break best for advanced surfers