This post has been five months in the making. Shaun’s been surfing his heart out here in Costa Rica, and I managed to convince him to write a little something about it. So, without further ado, take it away Shaun!
These past five months travelling around Costa Rica have primarily been spent along the coast. This is partly because we love the ocean and mostly because I wanted to surf. Kate was a champ in booking so many extended stays at the various surf towns. She also took a bunch of photos and twisted my arm into writing this post.
Most of the spots I surfed were fairly well known breaks on Costa Rica’s west coast. Sorry, there are no secret spots or unknown gems to be revealed here. I surfed the main breaks with everyone else. If you are looking for uncrowded surf maybe go with some buddies and get off the beaten path.
Playa Grande, Guanacaste
The trip started and finished with Playa Grande. I love this beach and wave. Every time we have visited Costa Rica in the past, we have spent at least a few days here. Usually I surf Casitas, which is on the south end. It’s close to Tamarindo which is nice because we often stay there as well. There was the odd time I would make the trek to the main break on the north end of the beach. The main break is a much better wave and usually has better size, but also has bigger crowds and its a much longer walk if you are staying in Tamrindo. I liked the south end as it has both good lefts and rights and is way closer. It was typically small, but fun. I found Playa Grande to be best at mid to high tide. And if you can get 3 to 4 feet of swell it gets pretty sweet.
Santa Teresa, Puntarenas
We were in Santa Teresa for about ten days in early December and there was some pretty decent swells at that time. It got big some days and there were some pretty nice waves and a fair amount of paddling. It is quite a big beach break so there are peaks up and down the beach, but it gets super busy. I found I preferred the mid to high tides there as it seemed to clean up a bit and mellow out. I also heard that low tide is quite good as the wave hollows out more. That being said it was a low tide surf the day I busted a board there.
Mal Pais, Puntarenas
We hit Mal Pais aka Playa Carmen for a week after New Years. This wave was mellower then its neighbour to the north, Santa Teresa and didn’t seem to have the same crowds. It was still busy enough, but had more forgiving waves. Again, I would surf the mid to high tides and typically went first thing in the morning when there wasn’t any wind.
Matapalo, Central Coast, Puntarenas
The biggest regret I have on this trip was not spending more time in Matapalo. We were only there for three days of which I spent a lot of time in the water. I didn’t know much about this wave and the day we got there it was low tide, big, and unsurfable. As the tide rose, the waves cleaned up and peeled nicely left or right. While we were there it was high tide in the morning and evening so I could put a few hours in at dawn when it was empty and glassy and then surf again at sunset. Where we stayed I could check the surf from my window with out even getting out of bed. Kate came out to take pictures one morning and ended up awestruck by the humpback whales that were swimming behind me.
Playa Guiones, Nosara, Guanacaste
Guiones is where we spent most of our time this trip. We were there for about a month and it was great. It is easily my favourite wave from our whole trip. It is a huge beach break that seems to pick up a lot of swell. Two to three feet of swell there translates into decent waves whereas elsewhere it would seem small. It was also the most consistent wave of the trip. It seemed like it worked on any tide and when it got big it held up okay and would not wall up too much. I had some of my biggest drops there and it felt pretty good.
We were there for most of March and it almost always blew off shore in the mornings then switched to on-shore mid morning around 9:30 to 11:00. By about 4:30ish it usually started dying down and it would be good for an evening session. It was quite busy in the mornings and evenings and usually empty in the afternoons when it was on-shore. It was often crowded, but manageable; it seemed like you could always find some space and get plenty of waves.
So those are the spots I spent time at. We hit a bunch of other beaches and towns, but usually only for a few days. As for wild life, I saw a ton of fish, a humpback whale, a shark, a bunch of flying sting rays, two eagle rays, and I nearly paddled into a six foot croc.
Again huge thanks to my lovely wife Kate for letting me surf so much this trip.