By: Mikael and Thrillism
10 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
Tamarindo is a must-visit destination for anyone hoping to see all of Costa Rica’s wave-riding hotspots. This town is known specifically for being home to some of the best beaches in the area, but it’s even better known for its strong surf and consistent conditions.
Some travelers even refer to Costa Rica Tamarindo as a miniature surf metropolis, which says a lot considering the town itself is actually very small. Not only is it one of the surf meccas of Central America, but it’s also a little slice of paradise – and it’s calling your name.
The best part of all is that you don’t need to be a pro to embark on a Tamarindo surfing trip. On the flip side, if you are at the level where you can handle hollow barrels and challenging reef breaks, you’ve got plenty of opportunities here. Whatever your surf level may be, this intro to surfing in Tamarindo Costa Rica is your guide to planning an unforgettable adventure.
You’ll quickly find that traveling through Costa Rica is well-organized and easy to plan. Local tour companies cater to both long-term backpackers and vacations, so you’ll find plenty of options for getting to Playa Tamarindo.
If you book a Tamarindo surf camp, there’s a good chance that the camp provider will organize all of your transportation from the international airport in San Jose or the one in Liberia. The quickest option is to fly into Liberia’s Daniel Odúber International Airport (LIR) and take a 1-hour shuttle or taxi from there.
For surfers coming from San Jose, it’s possible to fly directly from the capital to the local Tamarindo airport, which is about a 30-minute flight. There’s also a public bus that leaves from San Jose to Tamarindo, but this can take as long as 6 hours.
Like all the best Costa Rica surf spots, Tamarindo started out as a small fishing community, but things changed in the 70s and 80s as tourists started to flock here (most of them accompanied by surfboards). Located on the Pacific Coast’s Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo’s draw stems from the strong surf, but travelers also love the general “Party and Play” vibe.
Whether you’re here to party, play, surf, or get in touch with nature, Tamarindo’s got it all. You can easily spend the daylight hours swimming, surfing, fishing, and diving, and then take on the buzzing nightlife once sunset hits.
Your budget for Tamarindo depends entirely on how much you’re willing and able to spend. If this is just a pitstop in a long-term backpacking trip through Central America, then maybe you’ll be happy saving money by eating rice and beans and staying in dorm rooms.
For Tamarindo on a budget, you should still plan on spending at least $50 a day (you could spend less, but then you’ll miss out). If visiting Tamarindo is just a quick vacay from home, you’re probably more willing to spend some cash to make the most of it.
It’s possible to book a basic private room for about $50 per night, but most hotels charge a nightly rate of at least $100. For food, it’s really easy to eat cheap – just plan on eating lots of rice and beans. If you’ve got high-end taste buds, the nicer (more touristy) restaurants serve meals typically starting at $15.
Surfing in Tamarindo is possible year-round, but all the best wave conditions happen from June to October. However, the real answer depends on your specific expertise level. Beginners looking for small and medium-sized waves are better off visiting between December and April.
Advanced surfers prefer the conditions between the months of May and November, which is when the biggest swells make their way from the South Pacific. The other thing to consider is high vs low season, especially if you’re looking for the best prices on accommodations and Tamarindo surfing lessons.
First, let’s focus on surfing Tamarindo Beach (aka Playa Tamarindo). This long white sand beach is the perfect place for catching some rays, but not so much for swimming due to strong currents. It’s also a great spot for catching some waves. There are two main breaks here: El Estero and Pico Pequeno.
El Estero is an exposed river mouth that breaks over a smooth sandy bottom. It’s suitable for all levels, but beginners avoid it when the swell is big. Pico Pequeno is more geared towards intermediate and advanced surfers; the waves may look gentle from shore, but they’re extremely strong and powerful.
Located to the south of Tamarindo, you’ll find Playa Langosta. At the southern end of the beach, there’s a powerful surf break that’s ideal for veterans. Just north of Tamarindo, you’ll find Playa Grande, which is loved for its long barreling waves.
Witch’s Rock is a well-known Tamarindo Costa Rica surf camp that’s been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, Huffington Post, and more. It’s gotten a lot of recognition over the years, and some people (and publications) say that this is the best surf camp in all of Costa Rica.
“Witch’s Rock is a place for everyone, for all levels of surfers. It’s home base for surfing, eating and drinking, hanging out, and connecting with other like-minded travelers.”
Whether that’s true or not, it’s safe to say that Witch’s Rock Surf Camp is one that’s worth considering. They’ve got a variety of surf packages to choose from for every level and every age group. There are even women’s only camps and one that’s geared toward’s single travelers.
Similar to Witch’s Rock, Iguana Surf Camp Tamarindo Costa Rica is another popular provider that surfing travelers have come to trust. The goal at Iguana is to provide guests with an epic adventure, and the team here understands that everyone’s definition of epic is different. This is why they offer a variety of packages and lots of optional add-ons.
“Iguana Surf’s mission is to share our knowledge of Costa Rica waves and instill a healthy respect and awareness of the ocean with travelers from all around the globe!”
Although the surf camp is the main reason that so many travelers choose Iguana, the additional tours are pretty cool, too. Iguana offers an adventure tour for everyone, ranging from ATV and zipline adventures to whitewater rafting and turtle watching. Whatever you’re into, Iguana will likely be able to make it happen.
Selina is mentioned in every one of our Costa Rica surf guides, which isn’t that surprising considering the amazing reputation of this hospitality brand. They’ve got locations all over the world and several in Costa Rica. The Selina Surf Camp Costa Rica Tamarindo is positioned between Playa Langosta and Playa Grande, making it the perfect place to learn how to surf.
“Boasting unbeatable waves and expert guides, our surf school program is designed for curious beginners and seasoned pros alike.”
The surf school is just one amazing aspect of this Selina location. They also offer activities and tours like volcano treks, extreme water sports, yoga, meditation, and ATV rentals. The dorm room environment makes this great for solo travelers on a budget, but there are also private rooms and suites.
Some of the best surfing lessons in Tamarindo, Costa Rica are offered by La Oveja. This hostel and surf camp is rustic and funky, and it’s a great choice for budget backpackers who want to learn to surf during their time in Costa. In addition to private and dorm rooms, there’s an onsite restaurant and bar as well as options for signing up for tours and excursions.
“La Oveja Tamarindo, Costa Rica Surf Camp is often referred to as “The Black Sheep”, lives up to it’s name. On any night, you will find travelers from all over the world having the time of their lives.”
La Oveja makes it easy for guests to plan their perfect trip with customization options. You can either sign up for private/shared lessons as you go or sign up for one of the pre-planned packages. There’s a surf-only package, but there are also options for surf + yoga or surf + SCUBA.
Surfing Tamarindo Costa Rica waves is all about making great memories, and Blue Trailz Hostel is focused on making this happen, no matter your budget. Blue Trailz offers camps for every type of traveler, no matter if that means you’re pinching pennies or seeking out the most luxurious experience possible.
“Tens of thousands of happy guests have passed through our hostel, surf camp and surf school taking home with them great memories from their tropical holiday and the best Tamarindo has to offer.”
The Budget Beginner Surf Camp is the most popular package offered by Blue Trailz. You can choose between a 3 or 5-night package, and each one includes dorm accommodation, unlimited board rental, and surf lessons.
If staying in a surf camp Tamarindo location isn’t for you, that’s completely OK. The town isn’t just packed with surf camps and schools… It’s also home to mid-range hotels, boutique guesthouses, quirky hostels, and luxury resorts. Here are a few of the top-rated accommodation options:
Whether you spend the day riding waves or building sandcastles, chances are you’ll build up an appetite for good food and cold cocktails. For both food and drinks, Wild Panda is a top choice. This seafood and cocktail bar specializes in Costa Rican cuisine and 2-for-1 cocktails.
If you want to take a break from Costa Rican food for the evening, check out La Oveja Mexican Bar & Restaurant. The pool table and ping pong setup make this the perfect hangout place, and more often than not you’ll get to enjoy live music performance while you chow down on tacos.
The best place to try a little bit of everything is the El Mercadito de Tamarindo Gourmet Food Market. The vibe here is casual and the food is delicious (most visitors recommend the poke bowl).
Once it’s time to take the day off from Tamarindo Beach surfing, you might be tempted to just spend the day beach bumming. With so many beautiful beaches in the area, this is definitely an option, but if you’re looking for more action, here are few ways you can spend your time:
What’s the best beginner-friendly surfing spot in Tamarindo?
For easy-going Tamarindo Costa Rica surfing, your best bet is to stay at Playa Tamarindo. Although this beach is right in the heart of the town’s action, the waves here are laid-back and forgiving, specifically at the El Estero break at the northern end of the beach.