In a country with over 1,000 miles of beaches, Costa Rica has earned worldwide accolades for its surf beaches. Annually tens of thousands of tourists and more specifically, surfers, are heading to the Costa Rican beaches. “Non surfer” tourists are giving “it” a go, checking off their bucket list, while soul surfers continue to come from near and far to pursue their Endless Summer.
Costa Rica is gaining in popularity for first time surfers: consistent waves, warm waters and natural beauty are to blame. First time surfers are either: just going for it, taking private lessons or attending one of the growing number of surf camps throughout the country.
In the Guanacaste area, we are lucky to have many surf beaches that will suit surfers of all levels. Some spots are best for beginners, some for experts; however most handle both, depending upon the swell and conditions. One of the hidden gems that delivers for all is Playa Grande, located just across the estuary North of Tamarindo.
Where to surf
Playa Grande beach has a sandy bottom. Depending on the strength of the swell and conditions, much of the time has little or no undertow and waves big enough to surf. Playa Grande is named Grande for a reason. Most think it’s the 3 mile stretch of wide open sandy beach. However, anyone who has seen a strong swell hit Grande thinks differently. Any time there is a notable swell, proceed with caution, since riptides and undertow can be strong.
There are multiple beach breaks, starting at the south end river mouth up to the north end. Unlike Tamarindo and the busy surf beach, Playa Grande offers fewer surfers and a relaxed and peaceful surf experience most of the time.
The south end, known as Palm Beach, is great for beginner and intermediate surfers with beautiful waves that are not too big but enough to whet your appetite. Waves will typically be in the 3-4 foot range: consistent and fun. At any given time you will see only 10-30 surfers spread out in this area, so it is pretty tranquilo.
At the main beach, you find bigger waves and more intermediate to advanced surfers. Beginners and novices should not be trying to just paddle out to the line-up when the surf’s up. Please be honest with yourself. Although we encourage you to push yourself, be realistic with your abilities and practice surfer etiquette.
The main beach waves are optimal when in the 4-6 foot range and gets unbelievable when the off-shores are blowing. However when the surf is Big, we mean big, Playa Grande usually doesn’t hold and most huge days are unsurfable. This is when the swells reaches double + overhead. The occasions when the big surf does hold, Grande is no place for a beginner.
If you come to the main beach in Grande and don’t mind a bit of walk, head South towards Tamarindo and you will find some amazing waves.
Grande is easily accessible by car, taxi and some surf companies will provide transportation. Local buses will take you to Playa Grande, but there are not many routes per day. Tamarindo is a 30 minute drive but well worth it if you want a slice of your own paradise. Some surfers do walk from Tamarindo and take a water taxi. Note: it is NOT recommended to paddle across the mouth of the estuary, there are warning signs posted because of the estuary wildlife.
As with all surf spots the tide has a lot to do with the waves conditions: Playa Grande is a high tide spot. Best times to surf here are between 2 ½ hours before or after high tide. There is still good surf to be had for beginners on the off times if there is a swell. Nice rideable, super fun, white water waves are abundant. Sunset surfing is spectacular here; the sun is dead center on the ocean and the sky is awash with a rainbow of colors.
Local shops- Frijoles Locos and Playa Grande Surf Shop In Palm Beach there is Playa Grande Surf Camp and several local companies like Mojo Surf Adventures that offer lessons. During high season, lesson reservations are recommended.
FOOD and DRINK
There is only one restaurant on the beach and it’s Taco Star, a classic! Close is the restaurant in Hotel Las Tortugas and a short walk are a few close bars and restaurants: Sugar’s Monkey, Rip Jacks and La Marejada.
Going into the village is a classic Tico Restaurant & Bar called Kike’s Place and a few others: El Huertos, and The Point. In Palm Beach, there are a few restaurants: Seven, Hotel Cantarana and Hotel Bula Bula.
Playa Grande offers hours upon hours of fun beginner surf spots… but again… know your ability and be cool!