Costa Rica has been a surfing haven for decades and is famously home to some of the world’s best and most challenging surfing beaches. Yet many don’t know that Costa Rica is also home to some of the best beaches to learn to surf in Latin America. With a stunning array of pristine beaches that boast gentle waves and beginner-friendly conditions, this tropical haven we call home attracts novices as much as it does world-class champions.
We should know! At Iguana Surf, we run our camp and boutique hotel on the shores of what is inarguably the #1 best beach to learn to surf in Costa Rica: Tamarindo. And there are plenty more beginner surfing beaches from which to choose.
Here’s a sneak peek at the very best beginner surf beaches, Costa Rica.
Surf beaches Costa Rica – 5 best for beginners
Not to be boastful, but we really do sit on the very best beach to learn to surf in Costa Rica. Coincidence?! On the contrary! We chose Tamarindo because it has a stunning blend of soft golden sand, clear waters, consistent waves, safe surfing conditions, and a warm and welcoming surfing community that embraces beginners who want to catch their first waves.
What we love most about running our beginner surfing camps in Tamarindo is that we know it’s super safe for all our guests. Although framed by dramatic landscapes, our beach has a sandy bottom devoid of volcanic rocks. You couldn’t create a better and safer environment for beginner surfers.
Aside from being Costa Rica’s most famous surf beach, Tamarindo is also a thriving town with excellent nightlife and much to see and do out of the water. Those learning to surf usually prefer a beach that offers more than just surfing – the sport can be exhausting when you’re just starting out so having other fun distractions will help you pace yourself.
Playa Guiones (Nosara), Guanacaste
Our provincial neighbor in the south is perfect if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path and a more tranquil beach to learn to surf in Costa Rica. Nosara offers a quieter alternative to Tamarindo’s bustling surf scene and is a hit with nature lovers. At its northern shores is the Ostional Wildlife Refuge – famous for its annual mass nesting events of Olive Ridley sea turtles – and all around it, the beach is framed by the Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary.
Playa Guiones is framed by a swath of protected wilderness so no development is allowed along the coast. It’s this distinct lack of services that attracts nature lovers and those who prefer a more solitary vacation. If you prefer to keep away from crowds and immerse yourself in nature while learning how to surf, this place will surely hit the spot.
The town closest to Guiones beach, Nosara, is a few miles inland and offers hotels, hostels, cafes, and several eateries. Most visitors who plan to stay in Nosara for a few days rent a 4WD to reach Guiones with ease.
Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula
Up until recently, Santa Teresa Beach was one of Costa Rica’s hidden gems and an insider’s surfing secret. Although its popularity has been on the rise for a while, the town still retains its laid-back village vibe. Santa Teresa has a lovely bohemian vibe that attracts travelers seeking a relaxed atmosphere, the kind of place where you swim in the morning, siesta in the afternoon and enjoy a sociable evening out. You’ll find yoga studios, healthy eateries, and a variety of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury resorts.
Aside from the town’s main beach, which has consistently gentle waves, you’ll also find two other fantastic beginner surfing beaches nearby: Playa Carmen and Playa Hermosa., the latter being the most popular. The combination of great waves, warm water, stunning scenery, and a welcoming community make Santa Teresa an ideal destination to learn how to surf.
Want to learn to surf as a family? Then Playa Samara is another excellent destination. Most of the time, this glorious horseshoe-shaped beach is flat as a surfboard (perfect to practice your paddling!), and when things get ‘rough,’ the waves are still exceptionally mild. Swells here rarely result in water higher than waist-deep, making it easy to run beginner classes for adults and children alike.
Samara town frames the beach and offers many surf shops, cafes, and laid-back beachfront restaurants. The beach is expansive and never feels overcrowded. If you’re in the mood for a chilled-out vacay, with a few beginner surfing lessons thrown into the mix, this Costa Rica surf beach might be ideal.
When the waves crank up a little too much in Dominical, beginners flock to this charming little bay in the south, snugly shielded from the weighty South Pacific swells. The bay has gained quite a reputation for taming those waves, ensuring they stay pleasantly small. At knee-high, these waves pack just the right punch to allow newbie surfers to practice paddling and surfing. Keep an eye out for the occasional small rock formations that appear during lower tides – local surf schools often time their high tide sessions to ensure they are not a nuisance.
The best part about surfing at Dominicalito is the setting. The bay is framed by high peaks that are blanketed by luscious rainforests. A magical picture indeed!
Top considerations when choosing the best beach to learn to surf in Costa Rica
To say that Costa Rica is the world’s best destination for beginner surfers would not be an overstatement. The above best beaches to learn to surf are just an enticing entrée of all this country offers – over 300 sandy beaches, most of which are absolutely idyllic for surfing. What’s more, the sea is warm all year round, and there’s a fantastic array of cool surf towns (and communities), many uncrowded beaches, a laid-back surfing culture that doesn’t tolerate snobbiness, and plenty of world-class surf instructors. Because who wouldn’t want to live and work in paradise?
Yet, if you are planning your first surfing trip to our shores, you should keep a few essential considerations in mind.
Beginner surfing conditions are mostly about timing – Yes, it helps to learn to surf on a sandy bottom beach with no boulders on which you can fall. However, generally speaking, surfing safety is about having reliably calm conditions. In Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, those ideal beginner conditions occur between December and April (during the country’s dry season) when the weather is at its best and conditions consistently idyllic.
The Costa Rica sun is no joke – When planning a beginner surfing holiday, you might worry about razor-sharp rocks and huge barreling waves. In reality, the sun will be your biggest danger. You won’t feel the burn when you’re paddling and having a grand time, but you will feel it afterward if you forget to protect your skin. That’s an eco-friendly waterproof SPF for everyone and a long-sleeve rashie and hat if you’re particularly fair-skinned.
Accessibility trumps remoteness – As mentioned above, surfing is a full-body workout requiring serious strength and stamina. You are likely to feel utterly wiped after one full day of surfing, and the last thing you might feel like doing is hiking half an hour through dense bushland to get back to the car. Trust us, we know. When you spend your days surfing, you want the rest of your day to be blissfully easy and relaxing. Leave the hard-to-reach remote beaches for when you’re a surfing pro and choose a surf beach with all you need (hotels, restaurants, cafés, etc) right there.
Choose the best base and explore from there – For every famous surfing beach in Costa Rica, there are more just around the corner that you’ve probably never heard about. Rather than pack up and move about daily, choose one central and convenient base and ask your surfing instructor to ‘show you around.’ You’ll be amazed at how many outstanding beginner surf beaches there are to discover in Costa Rica.