Surf Travel 101 – Tips for Planning the Best Costa Rica Surf Trips

Surf Travel 101 – Tips for Planning the Best Costa Rica Surf Trips

Trip planning is never easy, especially when there are extra things like surfboards and wax and when the swells are coming in to worry about. Surf trips have a lot of different facets, but they don’t have to be complicated! That is where we come in! There are a few key things that will really make or break your Costa Rica surf vacation that are easy to overlook. Just take these easy tips into account and you will surely have an unforgettable time! 

Do your surf homework! 

 Or, let us do it for you. For the most part, you can’t really go wrong with the surfing in Costa Rica. Overall, you can find good waves year-round so you will not have to do too much planning around timing or swells. However, the northern region tends to be the best and most consistent, between Tamarindo and Malpais. There are many awesome beaches along this coastline that are worth checking out. Tamarindo is often a hub and good jumping off spot to access many of the post popular breaks! Try to find a spot to stay in this area to make the most of your time! 

costa rica surf

You will also want to make sure that your hotel is located in a convenient location close to the surf break so that you can spend minimal time walking back and forth to the beach with your boards. You should also scope out the surf shops nearby for ding repair and supplies so that you can spend the maximum amount of time possible in the water. If you are bringing your own boards, you will be all set to go at any time. But if you plan on renting, make sure you have a good surf shop sourced out so that you can get a good deal and interact with nice people! Iguana Surf is very conveniently located in Tamarindo. The beach is long, and there are many surf shops all along it, but Iguana Surf has a prime spot right across from the break where the surfing actually happens. Here, you are sure to get the best prices and meet the best people! 

Research board bag fees before you book your flight! 

If you are planning on bringing your own surfboard on your Tamarindo surf trip, make sure to confirm airline charges for board bags before you book your airfare. It is often much more expensive to have to add on checked baggage at the airport rather than getting it taken care of beforehand. The last thing you want to do is be charged the price of a new surfboard just to check your bag! Adding it on when you book your flight will save you time, worry, and money in the long run. Make sure you have a solid board bag, also! Many don’t actually have adequate protection that boards need on an airplane. It is one thing to get a ding from doing something sick out in the water, but it is another thing entirely to get a ding on your board just from traveling when you expected it to be protected. 

Choose your Costa Rica Surf destination wisely. 

You will want to make sure that you are choosing a surf destination that suits your ability level! Luckily, the northern region of Costa Rica has breaks for all ability levels to choose from. The beach break right in Tamarindo is great for beginner to intermediate surfers, with a safe sandy bottom and consistent mellow waves. Head about twenty minutes to the north or south to find Playa Grande and Playa Avellanas, which are just a bit more advanced but still very accessible. Further down the coast you will find Playa Marbella and Playa Negra which are home to some bigger waves and more advanced surfers will love it here. Or take a boat trip to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point for the creme de la crop, as some of the most famous surf spots in Costa Rica. Depending on your level, you can easily plan which beaches you want to hit. All of these are easy day trips from Tamarindo which is a great place to make your jumping point! You can easily rent a car and get there yourself, or take part in planned van trips from surf shops like Iguana Surf to take the guesswork out of it. You could even have one of the instructors accompany you on your trip so you can get some local knowledge on the best peaks and how to surf these specific waves! Sometimes it really helps to get some of the inside scoop that most tourists do not know about. There might even be a few secret spots we could show you 😉 

costa rica surf


Get to know the local culture! 

You never want to be that tourist who is completely oblivious to cultural norms and etiquette in the place you are visiting. Luckily, since Costa Rica is a popular destination for all kinds of folks and has gotten fairly developed over the years, you will not have to adjust too drastically. But it doesn’t hurt to learn a few of the basics in Spanish like hola, adios, por favor, and gracias to show your respect for their beautiful language. Although many of the locals are fluent in English, it will go a long way and they will appreciate the effort! 

We all know that unfortunately, traveling as a woman can make for some unwanted male attention (especially in latin countries and especially in a bikini). Take that into account, but also don’t let it rain on your parade. For the most part, any comments you might get are completely harmless and although annoying, are no cause for alarm. Of course, we all have different comfort levels for attention so just do what makes you feel most comfortable while respecting the local norms. In Costa Rica, things are very laid back so pretty much anything goes. If you want to waltz up to happy hour in your swimsuit, that is completely acceptable. But if it makes you feel more comfortable to throw on a cover-up before leaving the beach, do that! 

Pack the essentials.

The people and stores in Tamarindo know exactly what travelers are likely to need and likely to forget to pack, resulting in high prices for hot commodity items. Things like sunscreen, bug spray, and towels are often times very marked up because they know that you can’t survive without them! These are things you are definitely going to need in when surfing in Costa Rica. We recommend packing your own sunscreen, bug spray, beach towels, and other necessities of the like so that you don’t have to buy them for ridiculous prices once you arrive! Having a little extra weight in your bag on the way down will be worth it, we promise. And then you can just leave them behind with new friends or other travelers if you don’t want to have to bring them back home, and those folks are sure to appreciate it. 

You may even be able to pack your essentials in a larger surf bag if you need extra room or make your surf bag your luggage!

Shoulder seasons rule.

To avoid the largest crowds and score lower prices, consider traveling in the shoulder (or low) season instead of the peak season. Peak season in Costa Rica is considered to be December – February, and it will always bring the highest prices and most people. So hitting the time in between low and peak seasons can be a great time to schedule a trip. If you want to save even more money, avoid traveling over major holidays, especially Christmas and New Years, as they almost always have the highest prices. That is why this time of year and into the summer months is the perfect time for a Costa Rica surf trip! There are not too many crowds right now in Tamarindo, so there is plenty of space for you on the waves! 

By following these few simple steps, you are sure to have the Costa Rica surf trip of a lifetime. You truly cannot go wrong in a place like Tamarindo, where the perfect waves, cold beers, and incredible sunsets will keep you stoked all day long. To learn more about booking lessons, rentals, or surf trips, just head to Iguana Surf’s website. 

Pura Vida and happy trip planning! We can’t wait to catch some waves with you!

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