`By Jennifer LaCharite
Tamarindo Beach is one of the top surfing meccas in Costa Rica. A long beach with plenty of space for swimmers and surfers alike, the Tamarindo surf is best known for its easy and consistent waves, providing many first-time surfers with the opportunity to pop up on their board.
There are many sites to surf in and around Tamarindo and these areas range from beginner level to more advanced beach breaks. Let’s take a look at what the Tamarindo, Costa Rica surf area has to offer.
Tamarindo Beach Break – Located from Iguana Surf Camp to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, the main beach break in Tamarindo is perfect for beginners. Its soft, sandy bottom and easy take-off allows safe and fun surfing for everyone. That is why this is the spot where most of the surfing lessons in Tamarindo, and much of Costa Rica, take place. For the safest conditions with the best chance of finding mellow waves, the mid-high tide is your best option.
Capitán Suizo – Located on the far south side of the Tamarindo bay, Capitán Suizo is enjoyed by beginners and, on the right days, advanced surfers alike. While waves here are unthreatening there are a few rocks to watch out for, however, it breaks in pretty deep water the whole way through so encounters with the rocks are rare. Ideal surfing at this break is medium-high tide.
El Parque, Avellanas – Located south of Tamarindo Beach, Playa Avellanas is a great beach break for those beginner surfers who have become comfortable with the main Tamarindo surf. In fact, a trip here is often included in Iguana Surf’s Costa Rica surf camp package. Avellanas does have a bit of a split personality though. Breaks here are only for beginners on calm days and even then it’s best to stick to the south side of the beach near the public parking lot or el parquet.
Pico Grande/Pico Pequeño – Located in the centre of Playa Tamarindo, Pico Grande break is about 150 meters south of the main Tamarindo beach break. Due to plentiful waves, Pico Grande may be one of the most popular surf spots in Tamarindo. Although it can be a fairly easy wave, it can be a bit dangerous if you don’t know the layout, and can be especially tricky for beginners as you need to know how and where to fall to avoid smashing against the rocks.
Pico Pequeño breaks just inside of the Pico Grande spot. Surfing this break is not as easy as Pico Grande, but waves here are much steeper and faster with a nicer form, even on small surf. Pico Pequeño is not as dangerous as its big brother as it’s mostly clear of rock but it’s still not the break for beginners. These spots are best to surf at high tide.
El Estero – Also known as the River Mouth, El Estero is the entrance of the Tamarindo Estuary, located at the north end of Tamarindo Beach. With a big, nice left wave, this break changes every now and then because of the sand bar that keeps moving. This break tends to have very strong currents and is only surfable on high tide. Not recommended for beginner surfers at all, this is a dangerous surf spot all around, with rip currents, wave breaks near the shore, and crocodiles!
Casitas, Grande – Located on the other side of the Tamarindo Estuary along the southernmost section of Playa Grande, Casitas can be a good break for all surf levels unless there is a large swell. On an ideal day, you will find lots of open waves breaking at the perfect speed for cruising and mellow moves. This break has a sandy bottom and is best surfed at mid to high tide.
Sapo, Langosta – Located on the north side of Playa Langosta, Sapo (Toad) break offers large swells and is less crowded than the river mouth break, which is popular at this beach. Sapo is on a reef that provides both left and right-breaking waves. Due to the rocks, it is not suitable for beginners. This break is best at low to mid-tide.
Main Peak, Grande – The main peak is located right in front of the main parking lot in Playa Grande. Here you will find large A-frame waves, lots of lefts and rights, and sometimes barreling sections. This peak can get quite crowded with surfers looking to find their spot in the lineup, so this carries an additional risk that is best kept for the more advanced surfer. The best time to surf this break is about two hours before peak high tide.
Little Hawaii, Avellanas – Located at the northern end of Playa Avellanas, Little Hawaii is a well-known spot with powerful waves that break over the reef. This spot is directly in front of the beach access for Hacienda Pinilla, near the river mouth, and can hold big swells for the more advanced surfers. The waves shape nicely during low tide, but watch out for the shallow reef!
Isla Capitán – Located about one kilometer southwest of the Tamarindo Beach break and about 400 meters west of the Capitán Suizo surf break is a small island called Isla Capitán. This deep water, offshore surf spot is only recommended for experienced big wave riders. A rarely surfed spot, this reef, and rock-bottomed break can only be surfed at low tide. Taking a jet ski to reach this break is highly recommended.
There are many nearby Tamarindo surf options from beginner to advanced, but like the weather, surfing conditions can change from day to day and even hour-to-hour. It is always best to ask the experts at nearby surf camps and shops and the surfers on the beach what the conditions are like at the time you plan to surf. Some spots recommended for beginners can be too harsh during a big swell or even during certain times of the year. A good rule of thumb is to watch the break for at least 10 minutes before charging into the water. Basically, you should only surf a break if you have the strength and experience to do so, and don’t surf a new spot unless you feel comfortable.
Another factor we see that can change an area over time from a beginner break to an advanced break is huge swells that can change the sand formations underwater, or in choke points like a river mouth, where there is a lot of water flowing all day. Besides these aspects, the surf breaks are quite consistent all year long. However, surf conditions, such as the tides, change every day.
There can be a lot of conflicting information out there as to which breaks are best suited for beginners, intermediate, and advanced surfers but one thing that remains consistent is that the Tamarindo surf is the best place to learn! From easy take-offs on mellow waves to monster swells, the Tamarindo, Costa Rica surf area has something for every ability.