Tamarindo Beach and its surrounding beaches have become the place to learn how to surf in Costa Rica. Tamarindo surf spots typically provide consistent and calm waves, which are perfect for the beginner surfer. These perfect conditions mean these Costa Rica surf breaks can become quite popular and, at times, quite busy. The following are tips on how to manage a busy break and the best Tamarindo surf spots for beginners.
Tamarindo Main Break
With dependable waves that come in close to the shore, the main break on Tamarindo Beach has allowed many first-time surfers to pop up on their boards and ride a wave. It also features a soft, sandy bottom, so even if you do fall off your surfboard, you won’t get hurt on any jagged rocks or sharp coral. The waves here break close to shore, so you do not have to paddle out very far to reach these beginner waves. All of these reasons make Tamarindo’s main break the ideal Costa Rica surf spot for beginners. Located on the beach directly in front of the Iguana Surf Shop, this is the spot where you will see our Iguana Surf instructors giving lessons to excited newbies. For the safest conditions with the best chance of catching some calm waves, the mid-high tide is your best bet.
TIP: The waves on Tamarindo’s main beach break are fairly straightforward but there are still some tips to follow to ensure you and everyone around you has a great time. Our best beginner surf tip for the Tamarindo main break is to not ditch your board! Stay with your surfboard at all times, otherwise it might get away from you in the surf and hit someone around you. Surfboards are hard and can have sharp fins that could hurt another person in the water, especially another newbie who may be focusing too much on practicing their new surfing skills to pay attention to what you are doing. Another tip to keep in mind here is PAY ATTENTION! Always be aware of the other surfers around you and the conditions of the ocean. It’s not fun to get barrelled by an oncoming wave you didn’t see coming.
Tamarindo Capitán Suizo Break
Found directly in front of the Capitán Suizo hotel on the far south side of Tamarindo bay, the Capitán Suizo break is enjoyed by advanced surfers and, on the right days, beginner surfers alike. While waves here tend to be unthreatening there are a few rocks to watch out for, although it breaks in fairly deep water the whole way through so encounters with rocks are unlikely. Ideal surfing for beginners at this Tamarindo surf spot is medium-high tide.
TIP: Don’t drop in on another surfer’s wave. Whoever has the “inside” has the right of way, or those surfers who are closest to the peak, already riding the wave, or even paddling it. Cutting someone off is rude and inconvenient at best, and dangerous at worst. Another tip – don’t be a snake! Paddling around other surfers to get closer to the peak of the wave is considered poor conduct. Be patient! Everyone wants a chance at a good wave, so respect the lineup (the area in the water, away from the swell, where surfers wait their turn to catch a wave).
Avellanas El Parqueo Break
Playa Avellanas has a great beach break for those beginner surfers who have become comfortable with the Tamarindo main break. That’s why a trip here is usually included in Iguana Surf’s Costa Rica surf camp package. Located just south of Tamarindo Beach, Avellanas does have a bit of a split personality. Breaks here are only for beginners on calm days and even then, it is probably best to stick to the south side of the beach near the public parking lot. This is where you will find the El Parqueo surf break, which is suitable for longboarding and therefore, a good spot for beginners. This beach break offers long, smooth waves that are great for inexperienced surfers, however it is best to wait for mid-tide.
TIP: While Avellanas is a suitable Costa Rica surf break for beginners, we do not recommend going alone or as a first-timer. To surf at Playa Avellanas, be sure you have had at least one surf lesson before heading out into the waves and never surf at this beach without a friend or a group who is watching you. Like many Costa Rican beaches, there are no lifeguards and you have to take your safety into your own hands.
Playa Grande Palm Beach Break
While the main beach break at Playa Grande is more suitable for intermediate to advanced surfers, the Palm Beach Break is considered a good step up for those beginners that have practiced at Tamarindo Beach and are now looking for their next challenge. Much less busy than the main break, the Palm Beach break is good for beginners who need some space to learn and a sandy bottom to land. This break is located about one kilometer south of the main break at Playa Grande, which is by the main access road. Waves here retain most of their energy as they move towards the beach and break fairly close to the shoreline, meaning there is less paddling than some more advanced breaks. The best time to surf the Palm Beach break is mid to high tide.
TIP: Playa Grande is part of the Las Baulas National Park, which is a protected area and an important nesting ground for sea turtles. Due to the importance of this nesting ground to the preservation of marine life, it is vital to show the utmost respect to the ocean and beach when you visit. Respect for the ocean, the beach, and other surfers is vital to demonstrating the best surf etiquette at every beach you visit.
Another Surf Tip
While all of these tips are important to remember for beginner surfers, our best advice is to take a surf lesson, don’t go out alone, and read the surf report before you head out.
What’s a surf report? A surf report is a weather report for waves used to help a surfer predict the surf conditions at a particular surf spot at a future time.
Knowing how to read a surf report is crucial to finding surfable waves. Surfers can easily find helpful information such as wave height, wind direction, swell direction, and the tide all by checking an online surf report. At Iguana Surf, we use magicseaweed.com to predict the ideal times to surf.
The first thing to check on the Magic Seaweed Surf Report is the Swell Rating, which uses stars to rate the swells. The number of solid stars reflects the power and size of the swell, while the lighter stars mean that the wind is less than perfect, decreasing the overall rating.
The next thing to check is the Swell Period, which is measured in time (seconds). Generally, the longer the time period means the more organized, large, and powerful the surf will be. For example, a four-foot, 10 seconds swell might make a chest-high wave, and a four-foot, 16 seconds swell might make powerful overhead high waves.
Next is the Swell Direction, represented by an arrow. This can be less straightforward as not all surf breaks are created equal. A long sandy beach may be open to nearly any ocean swell, while a rocky cove may require a swell heading in a specific direction. Generally, the waves in the aforementioned Tamarindo surf spots are best when swells come from an SW or NW direction.
Finally, the Surf Height is measured in feet and is the average height of the larger waves at a particular Costa Rica surf break.
Now that you know the basics of how to handle surfing on all the best Tamarindo surf spots for beginners, it’s time to plan a trip to Costa Rica! Book a surf lesson with Iguana Surf, where our bilingual instructors have taught over 125,000 beginner surf lessons, or take an epic vacation to remember and stay with us at our beachfront surf camp. Don’t let your newfound knowledge go to waste!
Written by Jennifer LaCharite