By: Mikael Uusitalo and Thrillism
11 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
The many beaches of Nosara, Costa Rica bring together all the elements of an amazing surfing destination. After waking up to soothing jungle sounds, sipping on your morning coffee, maybe even squeezing in a hot yoga session, you’ll head out to the water to ride some of the most epic waves in Costa.
Nosara is often described by surfers as one of the best-kept secrets of the country, and although using the word “secret” is a bit of an overstatement, it’s definitely more remote and less touristy than other Costa Rica surfing destinations.
Escaping overcrowded beaches and in-your-face nightlife is just one of the perks of choosing Nosara over Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo, or Jaco. What’s even more compelling is the pounding Nosara surf. There are a few spots that are suitable for beginners, but this is where strong riders come to shred.
Nosara is located in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province on the Nicoya Peninsula. As always, the easiest way to get here is to fly. There’s a domestic airport here that regularly receives flights from San Jose, and it’s only about a 35-40 minute flight. From the Nosara domestic airport, it’s only a 15-minute drive to get into town.
For over-land travelers, there’s one daily bus that makes its way from the capital to Nosara. It leaves early in the morning from the San Jose 7-10 Terminal and takes between 6 and 8 hours.
Nosara isn’t your typical surfer’s party town. When you compare it to spots like Jaco and Tamarindo, it’s way more laid-back and it’s a great place to get in touch with nature and escape from the everyday stresses of your life back home.
That said, you will still have plenty of opportunities to kick back and relax with a sunset few beers at your Nosara surf hotel, but travelers don’t generally come here for the drinking scene.
In each of our surf camp guides for Costa Rica destinations, we always preface this section by saying the same thing; Costa Rica is not one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Central America. Compared to bordering Nica and Panama, it’s actually quite expensive.
The good news is that surfing in Nosara won’t cost as much as the more well-known surfing hotspots of the country. Sure, it’s pricy for local standards, but the average nightly cost of a hotel in Nosara is less than a similar hotel you’d find in Jaco.
Another bit of good news is that cutting costs is fairly easy if you make an effort. Instead of eating at the touristy restaurants, eat at local sodas, or cook your own rice and beans at home. This isn’t just a money-saving tip, but also a great way to experience the local culture.
Technically, there’s no bad time to visit Nosara since each season has its own set of advantages. The high tourism season is when the weather is nicest, but it’s also when the crowds are heaviest and the cost of visiting is highest.
But let’s talk in terms of surfing. According to the trends shown on any Nosara surf report, the most consistent waves and strongest swells happen from December to April. During peak season, definitely expect strong currents and wind conditions.
Playa Guiones is by far the most well-known break in Nosara – its nickname of the “swell magnet” should give you a solid idea of what to expect here. The white sands of Guiones stretch for about 7 kilometers, so there’s plenty of space to play around.
The punchy peaks are challenging for even more experienced surfers, but there are plenty of spots along the beach that beginners can handle as long as the swells aren’t too intense. A lot of surfers claim that Guiones produces the cleanest, most well-developed waves in Costa, but you’ll have to decide that for yourself.
Nosara isn’t just home to one world-class surfing beach, though. Aside from Playa Guiones, 2 more beaches are definitely worth checking out – Playa Nosara and Playa Pelada. Both of these are great for beginners, but intermediate-level surfers can also have a good time.
After a Guiones surf session, many advanced surfers head north to Playa Marbella. Since it’s about an hour by car, Marbella is way less crowded than Guiones, and it attracts true surfers who have advanced skills and take the sport seriously.
In between Guiones and Marbella, there’s another surf beach called Playa del Ostional. Similar to Marbella, the waves here are less crowded since it’s about 30 minutes outside of Nosara. This spot is great for all surfing levels, but best of all, Ostional is a nesting beach for the Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Burnt Toast Surf Camp has a few different packages to choose from, ranging from one day of lessons to a more intensive weeklong surf camp. The 1 Week Surf Package includes 6 nights of accommodation, 6 lessons with an experienced/certified coach, and a tour to Nosara’s Mala Noche waterfalls.
“With several secret spots close by, ATV rentals and a small airport at 5 minutes drive, Burnt Toast Surfcamp is a home away from home. It gives you rest and peace when you need it!”
Another option offered by Burnt Toast is the Surf Yoga Package. It’s slightly more expensive since it throws yoga sessions into the mix, but even with the added cost, this is the most recommended package. If you sign up for one of the weeklong packages, you’ll be booking a dorm room, but you can request a private room or an apartment instead.
Barefoot Surf offers surf camps all around the world, including several in Central America. This provider’s Nosara, Costa Rica surf camp is one of the most popular getaways, and a big reason for this is because they allow each surfer to customize his/her surf program based on skill level and travel preferences.
“Welcome to the ultimate tropical surfing experience in playa Guiones. Imagine yourself surfing a pristine 7 km long beach break surrounded by some of the lushest rainforest hills on earth.”
Although it’s a bit pricy for the average budget backpacker, there’s a lot that comes with the 7-Day Coaching Retreat. It includes 5 personalized surf lessons, 5 surf theory workshops, professional surf videos, 6 nights accommodation, daily breakfast, 2 yoga classes, a SUP tour through nearby mangrove tunnels, and airport transfers.
Surf Bikini Retreat is a female’s only Nosara surf camp, so this is perfect if you want to focus solely on surf without any male distractions getting in the way. It’s not just a surf retreat, but also includes daily yoga and wellness activities as well as healthy, wholesome meals.
“Boasting unbeatable waves and expert guides, our surf school program is designed for curious beginners and seasoned pros alike.”
Surf Bikini only accepts 8 guests for every weeklong retreat, so you can count on it being an intimate experience. Here they believe that every guest should have a say in the overall experience, so it’s up to you how you’d like to spend your time. Just try to take advantage of the world-class in-water coaching if you’re new to surfing.
If you’re just interested in booking some lessons at a Nosara surf school and already have your accommodations figured out, this next one is for you. Nosara CR Surf School is a no muss, no fuss school that provides lessons and coaching for all levels at a fair price. If you are looking for lodging, NCRSS has partnered with a few nearby hotels to make your trip planning easy.
“We are a local company committed to giving back to our community, protecting and caring for our beaches, and most importantly sharing our love for surfing in a fun and safe environment.”
The thing that sets this surf school apart from others in Nosara is experience. Although the owner and head surf coach, Maikol Alvarez, is young, he has been surfing these waves for more than a decade and has been teaching under ISA standards for more than 5. Even if you have no experience at all, this guy will have you riding waves in no time.
Moana Surf Resort was designed with high comfort in mind, and these boutique beachfront suites are the epitome of luxury. But the best part is that they offer surf lessons by level (1-4) based on each student’s skill levels. Whether you sign up for Level 1 lessons for complete beginners or Level 4 to improve on more advanced skills, Moana is happy to coach you.
“Steps from a friendly lineup at one of the most consistent surf spots on the planet. Nestled in an exclusive hideaway and privileged location.”
In addition to surfing, the resort offers a variety of activities like yoga, massages, and Spanish lessons. And if you love green living, you’ll love it here; this is a green resort that promotes environmental protection and sustainable development by eliminating single-use plastic, using only eco-friendly products, and growing a garden.
There are Selina locations all over Costa, including Nosara. This Selina has a surf school on-site, and they offer a 5-night package called “The Howler” that welcomes surfers of all levels. It includes accommodation, all meals, daily yoga classes, 4 surf lessons, and tons of adventure activities like horseback riding and a waterfall tour.
There are plenty of cool Nosara accommodations catering to all types of travelers and budgets. If you’re looking for something in the mid-range budget that’s got easy-going vibes, check out The Nomadic. This 3-star hotel has a 5-star reputation, and not just because the pool is surrounded by lush jungle greenery.
Selina is always a great choice, and this massive hospitality chain caters to all budgets. If you’re a backpacker, a comfy dorm bed will suit you perfectly, but there are also plenty of private rooms and decked-out suites for big spenders.
A more luxurious option is Hotel Boutique Lagarta Lodge, which has an open-air bar, yoga studio, and onsite spa. If you’re not in the mood to get sandy and salty, the pool overlooks the ocean, so you won’t ever have to miss out on the Pacific views.
You certainly won’t go hungry or thirsty during your time in Nosara. There are a lot of highly-rated places to eat here, but the best is probably K-Rae’s Black Sheep Pup & Resort. This authentic pub puts an interesting twist on Irish cuisine by adding in some Costa Rican flavors.
El Chivo Cantina is another popular one, serving both sweet and spicy margaritas alongside tacos, burgers, fresh salads, and more. The casual atmosphere makes this a great spot for families, especially since there’s a killer kid’s menu.
Lastly, you’ll want to grab a table at Rancho Tico if you’re craving a true taste of Costa Rica. You’ll find only typical local food here, and you can bet that any seafood you order was probably caught just hours before. The service isn’t the fastest here, but it’s worth the wait.
Visiting all the Nosara surf spots should keep you busy for a while, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Nosara is often called the “wellness capital” of Costa Rica, which is why it generally attracts travelers who are into yoga, clean eating, and connecting with nature.
Even if you’ve never done yoga before, you’ll definitely want to try it out here. There are tons of cool places around town to practice, like Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, Nosara Wellness Center, and Harmony Healing Center.
A lot of visitors to Nosara sign up for a river safari, which is an amazing way to explore the 2 rivers of the area – Rio Nosara and Rio Montana. A local expert will give you the low-down on Costa Rica’s most beautiful flora and fauna, and you might even see a crocodile or two.
Another great activity for nature lovers is hiking through the Nosara Biological Reserve, a protected area with clearly-marked trails that even non-hikers will find enjoyable. Expect to see howler monkeys, iguanas, anteaters, and lots of colorful butterflies.
What’s the best surfing spot in Nosara for beginners?
Considering the powerful, consistent swell of Playa Guiones, many people are surprised to hear that this is actually a great spot to learn how to surf. There are spots along the beach here that definitely aren’t beginner-friendly, but these tend to be further out. Closer to shore, there are lots of easy-going breaks that anyone can ride.
Differentiating between the beginner spots and the not-so-beginner-friendly spots isn’t too difficult, but the easiest way to find the right wave for your skill level is by signing up with a camp or school. You won’t have to search long for this – here are several located right on the beach.
Which Nosara surf camp should I choose?
You’ve got to answer this one for yourself, but we can definitely give you some pointers on how to make your decision. First off, you can’t go wrong with any of the providers mentioned above. But the real trick to finding the perfect surf camp for you is to think about how you like to travel.
Are you a solo backpacker looking for a social vibe, even if that means sleeping in a dorm bed? Or are you the type of surfer who prefers to end your day out on the water with fancy cocktails and even fancier beachside accommodations?
Apart from that, it’s important to consider your surfing skill level, your budget, and specifics like special dietary needs or preferences. After factoring in all these things, you should be ready to book an unforgettable Nosara, Costa Rica surf camp.