Thanks to consistent, high-quality waves and a variety of breaks, Costa Rica has been one of the world’s top surfing destinations for decades. It’s famous for breaks like Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock (made famous in the movie Endless Summer 2), Salsa Brava (site of many national surf contests) and Little Hawaii—from pro-level to beginner-friendly.
With low costs, good value real estate and a great climate—highs in the low- to mid-30s C during the day year-round and cooling off at night—Costa Rica has a lot to offer out of the water too. And don’t forget the warm and friendly Costa Rican people. There’s a saying in the country: Pura Vida. It translates literally to “pure life.”
But it’s more like “life is good,” and it’s an attitude locals and visitors alike share. By the way, many Costa Ricans speak English.
It’s the perfect spot to spend a few months…or more. And with warm water throughout the year, you can leave that wetsuit at home.
There are world-class surfing beaches up and down the 1,290 kilometres of Caribbean and Pacific coastline. But here are three of the best.
Dominical: Tall mountains drop dramatically to the southern Pacific coastline. This is the rainforest, which is full of wildlife like capuchin and howler monkeys, sloths, coatimundis and other creatures.
Dominical is known for its powerful waves (a hollow beach break) best left to experienced surfers. Just to the south in Dominicalito, it’s calmer. It’s a funky little beach town, with a few open-air eateries and handicraft vendors in the shade of palm trees.
You can buy fresh seafood off the boat. You’ll pay about $13.50
per kilo for red snapper or sushi-quality tuna. And be sure to check out roadside stands for ceviche, fish marinated in lime juice with peppers, onion and coriander—a heaping cup for $4.
A two-bedroom villain the centre of town and steps from the beach is $1,247 per month, everything included. (This and all properties mentioned here are furnished and fully-equipped with kitchen supplies, towels, etc. and include utilities and high-speed internet.)
Tamarindo: Tamarindo features several breaks along its long gracefully curving beach, with gentler, more beginner-friendly waves to the south, and more powerful waves near the river mouth.
It’s an ideal jumping off point to Playa (“beach” in Spanish) Grande just across the river, as well as Playa Avellanas and Playa Negra about a half-hour south. This where I learned to surf. With the many surf school and board rentals in town, my skills improved quickly with daily practice.
Beach bars and restaurants line the sand in Tamarindo, offering the perfect setting for sunset viewing. In town you have chic boutiques, spas and restaurants. For filling Costa Rican meals, you’ll pay about $6.76. For international dishes, you’ll pay about double.
A one-bedroom apartment a block from the beach, fully-furnished with kitchen, patio, living room, air conditioning and a tropical garden will cost you $1,605 a month—all up.
Witch’s Rock Surf Camp is a hotel, restaurant, beach bar, microbrewery (be sure to try the pale ale—that’s my favourite), surf school, surf shop and tour company all rolled into one. They’ll take you in a shuttle to the famed breaks of Ollie’s Point, an hour to the south, and Witch’s Rock, an hour to the north, reachable only by panga (small open boat with outboard motor).
Nosara: On the Nicoya Peninsula is little Nosara. It’s a charming town that has been a well-known surf spot for many years.
It’s a centre for yoga, alternative healing practices and healthy living.
Homes, shops and restaurants are spread out in the forest along the coast, with sandy roads snaking between the trees.
The main surfing beach, Playa Guiones, has a beach break surfable at all tides with multiple line-ups. It’s virtually undeveloped thanks to a large wildlife refuge that protects nesting sea turtles.
Nothing but the water, beach and grass-covered dunes. It’s one of my favourite beaches for that reason. Just be sure to pack in your own drinks and a sunshade as there are no stores nearby…and certainly no loungers or umbrellas for rent.
A one-bedroom villa, that sleeps five and is close to shops and the beach, is $2,270 per month.
For board rentals, equipment and local knowledge, be sure to check in with Steve, the owner of Coconut Harry’s. He’s been in town for years and knows it well.
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