Mike fell in love with Costa Rica in 1980 when he took his first surf trip there and discovered the unbelievable surf and friendly people. Since that time, Mike surfed Costa Rica from east to west, north to south and everywhere in between.
He has lived and worked in Costa Rica in many different roles, from managing a beachfront hotel to running Surf Schools. Mike worked as a Costa Rica Travel and Surf expert for over 15 years helping surfers plan their vacations and working as a surf guide Mike also spent a lot of time consulting for Costa Rica surf camps.
10 common questions about surfing in Costa Rica that will benefit anyone planning a surf trip to Costa Rica:
1. What are the winds like in Playa Grande in early August?
The winds should be very light in August. It is usually in the winter months (Jan-March) when they get strong offshore winds, called “Papagayo Winds.”
2. I’m looking for “lefts,” preferably belly button high to a foot overhead around mid march with decent places to stay in the middle price range.
Tamarindo might be just what you are looking for. There is a pretty good left right in front of town and a lot of other good surf breaks within an easy drive as well as a few spots you can get to by boat like Ollie’s point and Witches Rock Accommodations. There are plenty of places to stay in every conceivable price range.
3. Would you recommend Nosara over the Hermosa area for novice surfers who usually ride longboards?
Generally speaking, yes. Hermosa can be a little heavy at times but you do have a lot of different spots to surf you could surf Hermosa on good days or go to Jaco or even the far south end of Hermosa. (It breaks further out not such a heavy beach break.) Also you guys could check out Boca Barranca or head down to Manuel Antonio for the day
4. I’m a beginner, but I can manage pretty well in up to 4′ (maybe 5′) waves and thinking about going to Pavones. Are there smaller waves there when the swell is not on? And if it’s way too big for me, are there other smaller breaks I could surf at nearby? Which season should I avoid (for rains, etc.)?
Pavones is a great break, but I think it might be a little too challenging for the beginner to intermediate level surfer. It can get crowded and it is a very fast wave with a rock bottom, plus in August and September is when they get there biggest waves.
If I were you, I would consider Manuel Antonio it is a beautiful beach and has a nice sand bottom and the surf tends to be much more conducive for perfecting your surfing skills. I think you will find the weather to be better in August than September, when it maybe gets a little more rainy.
5. How big is the surf at Playa Grande in May and how are the crowds?
Usually chest to head high. May should not be to bad. Most kids start coming in June and July
6. I want to take my son to Costa Rica on a surf trip but I have heard bad things about Costa Rica getting crowded. Looking for left point breaks where I won’t have to scrap too much for waves.
The cool thing about Costa Rica is that it is so consistent and there are tons of different surf breaks. And like most places people tend to congregate to certain breaks and peaks and you can always find a peak to yourself if you look around a little.
Most of the point breaks in Costa Rica are pretty well known and can be a little crowded at times especially in the Summer but noting like the crowds we see in most spots in the U.S. and the crowds tend to be very mellow because there are always lot more tourist than local and the locals are very friendly anyways.
You really can’t go wrong in the Central Pacific area of Costa Rica (Playa Jaco /Hermosa) there are lots of breaks within easy driving distance and some very nice places to stay.
Or you could stay in Tamarindo as a base camp in the northwest Pacific area and than drive to some of the local spots to get away form the Tamarindo crowds. The third option is Mal Pais — it is probably the least crowded with lots of beach break up and down the coast.
7. I have heard that Jaco beach is very crowded and that it is hard to just get a couple of rides there. Is that true?. What about Playa Hermosa: Is it crowded, and does it break on the shore or set up like a sandbar a little offshore. One other question, the season we are going in is the wet season, does this mean constant rain or what.
There are usually quite a few people surfing in Jaco but it is about a 2 mile stretch of beach and it breaks all up and down the beach so it really spreads people out. Behind the Jaco Beach Hotel is usually not bad because most people don’t want to walk way down the beach to get there. Playa Hermosa is also popular but it is about 4 miles along so people are even more spaced out; you can usually find a peak by yourself at either spot.
Jaco usually breaks closer to the beach on High Tide and out a little further on the sand bar at low tide. There is a huge difference in how it breaks depending on the tide because there is such a big fluctuation between high and low tide. Rainy season usually means it will rain every day at some point in the day or night — usually only for about 30 minutes but pretty hard. So it usually will not effect your trip too much.
8. I’m coming with my wife who doesn’t surf so I want to go somewhere where there’ll be fun waves but also where there’s a city where we can also walk around at when I am not in the water or to go to at night. I don’t need anything huge, just fun.
I think Jaco Beach would be good very consistent fun size waves right behind the Jaco Beach Hotel and town is within walking distance.
9. Where would you recommend the best place for long boarding?
The 3 best surf spots for long boarders are Tamarindo, Mal Pais or Jaco. Tamarindo and Jaco are good and you also would have some good nightlife and restaurants etc. (of the two, Tamarindo would be more crowded). Mal Pais would be good and if you are looking for a very remote spot it would be a good choice.
10. My friends have been told that Hermosa is the best place to go for first timer surfers and for those more advanced. I was also told that Hermosa could be a gnarly break over 6 feet and Mal Pais, Nosara north has a better variety of waves and can handle bigger breaks. I also have had several people tell me we would enjoy Northern Costa Rica much better because of the area, variety of good waves (the pretty water, tubes, etc.. Witch’s) and a true experience of surf and culture
I do think that Hermosa you really can’t go wrong. There is plenty of power and size at Hermosa for the more advanced guys and Jaco is just perfect at high tide for just about anyway to have fun on. And there are so many different breaks you can go with in a one hour drive. And you could go to Manuela Antonio to the park and surf and lots of other activities to do in the area.