Best Surf Beaches in Costa Rica for Learning to Surf
By Sean O’ Grady
As much as I love to search out the biggest and best waves, I find it equally rewarding to spend time with beginners. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing new surfers light up when they catch their first great wave. I still remember my first time surfing - it felt like I had become one with ocean and nature for a moment and the ocean became a lifelong friend that day. It opened up a new relationship with sea - the wave only lasted a few seconds but it was the beggining of a life long passion for surfing that has inspired my travels ever since.
Costa Rica is an amazing place to learn to surf. The water is warm and friendly and many beaches have nice relaxed breaks with sandy bottoms, alleviating the fear that begginers often have of getting smashed into rocks when they inevitably wipe out. Another awesome feature of traveling to Costa Rica for a surf trip, is that if you are traveling with a group where everyone has different skill levels, there are often appropriate beaches for everyone within a few mile radius. That way, everyone in your friend group can find some waves to ride that match their experience.
If you’re searching out the perfect place in Costa Rica to learn to surf or to practice your newfound passion, I highly reccomend a trip to any of these amazing beaches that are perfect for begginers surfers and even those who are brand new to the sport. There are a variety of surf workshops, intensives, and half-day lessons to get you started after which point you can rent a board and try it out on your own. Pack your bags, and take your first surf trip. I guarentee you will never regret the experience of learning to surf on the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica.
A famous mellow beach break that does well in an SW/W swell, especially during the rainy months. Lots of fellow beginners here, and close to town, so it's a great place to learn to surf in Costa Rica and build your surfing chops.
This beach break in Nosara has fun, mellow long lefts and rights - with lots of easygoing locals to enjoy the waves with. Given the vibes and consistently approachable surf, I highly recommend choosing this spot to learn or improve your surfing. Another plus for this spot is that during bigger swells during the rainy season, the waves here stay a bit smaller, and even if more giant waves do show up here, they maintain a mellow ride.
Similar to Playa Guiones, this mellow beach break in Samara is a great place to learn or improve your surfing. Playa Samara gets more size than Playa Guiones, and the waves here can pack a little more punch than at Guiones, especially in bigger sizes. All in all, pretty similar to Playa Guiones, especially during most conditions.
SOUTHERN NICOYA PENINSULA
Playa Carmen (Santa Teresa)
Straight out front of the craziness that is Play Carmen lies an excellent beach break that is long enough to spread out the crowd enough that everyone can catch a wave or two, even on the most crowded of days. The beach here is very exposed to the raw power of the pacific ocean, so expect some waves that pack more of a punch, the rips will be strong and longshore currents will take you 100’+ away from the peak that you worked so hard to get to. Given the shifting peaks, the paddle out can be a bit of a shoulder burn, but these fun, playful waves are great for surfers looking to improve and maybe even go from a beginner surfer to an advanced one.
Playa Los Cedros
If you want to avoid the crowds of Santa Teresa, jump over to the side of the peninsula to the little town of Cabuya, where you will find Playa Los Cedros. It needs a minimum of a medium tide to work and works better at higher tides. It is a fun, long, mushy wave that is great for beginners. It works at all sizes but works best from 3-6 feet. This spot doesn't receive as many of the SW swells as nearby Santa Teresa, so this can be a great place to go when the waves are too big in Santa Teresa for beginners, which can happen quite often in the rainy season.
Mellow beach break in the crowded beach town of Jaco. Great place to learn, and the waves stay relatively small here year-round.
Playa Manuel Antonio
Another fun, mellow beach break, especially during the dry season between December and April. The waves here can occasionally get bigger, but that is almost always during the rainy season.
The pacific ocean is very powerful at this beach break halfway down the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. If you are a beginner, I would suggest surfing here when the waves are below 4 feet, providing a lovely, mellow surfing experience that is great for beginners. But when the waves exceed 4 feet, it becomes a heavy, rip-curl-infested shore break with big closeouts. Also, don't go too close to the river mouth because there are plenty of crocs in that river.
Super, super fun right-hand point break that produces fun mellow waves that go for 300-500 feet all the way to the sand when the SW swell is over 4 feet. There are somewhere the water gets really shallow over the rocky reef point break, but you will see those spots when paddling out, so just be mindful of them, especially on lower tides. Once you get the lay of the land at this spot, it is so much fun on a 4-6' SW swell. An added bonus of this beach is that just to the right of the calm and friendly waves for begginers there is a killer ride for more intermediate to advanced surfers called Backwash. I taught Amanda how to surf here, and we were both able to catch some great waves that matched our skill levels.
Fun, mushy wave that breaks out on the point during the bigger swells and lets you ride into the sand-bottom bay. It is a beautiful spot with a small crowd and definitely a great option for beginners if you are on the Caribbean coast.