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Central Pacific

The beaches of the Central Pacific coast are generally more accessible than other regions of Costa Rica. It’s closer to San José and international airports, and its terrain is not as rugged, so the highway can run close to the beach.

The best known breaks in this are include Boca Barranca and Playa Hermosa – both with great waves, accessible and crowded. There are plenty of other great breaks with less exposure. In fact, most of the other breaks are uncrowded.

The best surf season is April through November, but there’s always good surf in the Central Pacific.

Boca Barranca

Boca Barranca is an easily accessed rivermouth with very long lefts. It is site of the annual “Toes on the Nose Longboard Classic” contest held Memorial Day weekend. Since it’s less than 2 hours from San José it gets very crowded, especially on weekends. Best in July and August.

Doña Ana

Just across the river to the south of Boca Barranca is Doña Ana, another good left. The break starts outside easy and gets progressively faster.

Puerto Caldera

CalderaPuerto Caldera is about 3 km south of Boca Barranca and it’s another great left. Caldera is easy to find since it’s right next to the highway.

Where to Stay for Boca Barranca through Puerto Caldera
Puntarenas is nearest city to these breaks. The hotels here are either at the east end of town (Cocal) nearer the surf, or just outside of town in San Isidro, just a short drive from the surf.

The Fiesta Resort & Casino is a 20-minute walk from Boca Barranca. The point is visible from many of the rooms and it’s definitely the best hotel in the area for those traveling with family, although a bit expensive.

Closer to Boca Barranca is Hotel Río Mar. It’s not as nice and fancy as the Fiesta, but you’ll save money and walk-to-surf time. Another place with basic accommodations is Cabinas Oasis, which is right on top of the break at Boca Barranca.

Tivive

Tivives is a beach break with uncrowded left and right peaks. There are no hotels or cabinas here, but you can camp at the beach or drive to hotels nearby such as Hotel Marazul.

To get here from the north, take the turnoff to Playa Guacalillo from Highway 34. At the fork with signs for Bajamar, go north (right) and follow the road about 3 or 4 miles until it hits the river.

Playa Valor is a hollow, left-point wave that breaks off at the south end of the Tivives beach. It’s a little tricky to find but well worth surfing.

Playa Escondida

Playa Escondida is 10 km north of Jacó and is accessible only by boat. It’s an excellent left and right reef and works best on big south swells. Escondida has become crowded, which is why we recommend getting there early.

Playa Jacó

JacoJacó is Costa Rica’s most visited beach. It has a long list of good accommodations and is easily accessible, as it is only 2 hours from the airport or San José, depending on the traffic. It gets crowded in and out of the water.

Playa Jacó is a big, wide and long sandy beach with peaks all along. The best surf is usually up towards the rivermouth – it can get really fun.

There are many surf shops for supplies, ding repair and rentals.

Roca Loca

About 5 minutes out of Jacó around the point at the cliff, is the rock reek Roca Loca. Waves break over a big submerged rock that’s right in the impact zone. To get to the surf, you have to climb down a cliff.

Where to Stay for Jacó, Roca Loca and Playa Escondida
The most popular option is staying in Jacó and traveling to the other breaks, since everything is nearby. Prices in Jacó can be higher than other areas due to its touristy nature, but there are plenty of lodging alternatives here and you can even get surfer discounts. Camping is also available near the beach at Camping El Hicaco, Cabinas Madrigal and Vista Guapa Surf Camp.
Our featured hotels in Jacó are the following:

  • Best Western Jacó Beach
  • Pochote Grande Hotel
  • Villa Caletas Hotel

Playa Hermosa

At Hermosa you’ll find seven kilometers of strong beach breaks in a beautiful setting of black sand beach surrounded by mountains and great waves. It is probably the most consistent break in Costa Rica, usually bigger than most other breaks.

Playa Hermosa is usually crowded, especially on weekends, but since the beach is long the crowds usually spread out and it’s not hard to find empty peaks all along.

Tulin’s and Boca Tusubres

These breaks are part of Playa Hermosa since they’re on the same stretch of sand. Tulín’s is down the beach, towards the rivermouth (Boca Tusubres). This beach break is bigger than Hermosa’s and breaks best at lower tides.

Tulin is definitely not for beginners as it breaks harder and farther out than Hermosa, which is pretty hard and pretty far out.

Where to Stay for Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa has lots of good places to stay right on the beach that cater especially to surfers.

Cabinas Las Olas is right on the beach in front of very consistent surf. It has one of the best restaurants in the area, with great breakfasts and perfect views to the surf. Another great choice is the Fuego del Sol, a more upscale hotel, located right next to Terraza del Pacífico, home base for II International Surf Championship. Right in front of these hotels is great surf.

Esterillos and Bejuco

EsterillosJust south of Playa Hermosa, and less than a mile from the highway, is a great, out-of-the –way place, with cheap cabinas, bars, friendly locals and popular surf camp. Esterillos Oeste has all sorts of surf. The best one can be found on mid to upcoming tides.

In Esterillos Centro, Este and Bejuco you’ll find more rivermouths and beach breaks, with fewer crowds. If you are coming from Oeste, you need to head back to the coast road and go south, because the beach road doesn’t go through.

Where to Stay for Esterillos and Bejuco
Lodging choices come down to cheap cabinas, Rancho Coral Surf Camp or Albergue La Felicidad in Esterillos Centro, right out front empty, hollow beach breaks.

Rancho Coral Surf Camp, located in Esterillos Oeste, offers surf lessons and personalized instruction for the more experienced surfer.

Palo Seco

Just south of Parrita town is Playa Palo Seco. Here you’ll find a decent beach break with no crowds at all. This is a great place with black sand beach and excellent breaks on higher tides.

Damas Rivermouth (Boca Damas)

Boca Damas is a mile north of the Quepos Rivermouth and is usually bigger than the nearby breaks. As with other rivermouths, is best to surf here when the tide is coming in.
It’s possible to walk in from Quepos, although is a long walk, and you’ll have to paddle across the Quepos estuary.

Quepos

Quepos is a small town with many restaurants and hotels, due in good part to having the Manuel Antonio National Park nearby – a very popular tourist destination. It is about a four-hour drive from the main international airport in Alajuela. From the airport, follow the signs to Jacó and Highway 1 south.

If you want to walk to the surf, stay in one of the many lodging alternatives in Quepos. Otherwise, we highly recommend staying up the hill toward Manuel Antonio, where it’s nicer and cleaner.

Manuel Antonio

Manuel AntonioManuel Antonio is an internationally famous national park with good beach breaks. The beaches here are beautiful, however good surf is not as consistent – there’s still usually something to surf every day.

The main road takes you through town, past the hotel area, and down to the main beach Playa Espadilla. Right out front is a fun beach break with good shape on higher tides.

Being a famous eco-tourism park, Manuel Antonio is home to exotic flora and fauna, including crocodiles. It’s known that there are at least a couple of crocodiles hanging out near the northern end of Playa Espadilla.

Where to stay for Quepos and Manuel Antonio
There are hotels on the beach right in front of the breaks. You can also walk to the beach from many of the other hotels located up on the hill.

Some of the hotels in the area include the following:

  • Casitas Eclipse Hotel
  • Costa Verde Hotel
  • Karahé
  • Makanda by the Sea
  • La Mariposa Hotel
  • Hotel El Parador
  • Rancho Casa Grande Hotel
  • Si Como No
  • Las Tres Banderas
  • Tulemar Bungalows

Playa El Rey

El Rey is a secluded beach with good breaks on lower tides. To get here, take the road south from Quepos towards Dominical. About thirty minutes later you’ll come to Roncador where you’ll turn right and drive about 11 km until you get to El Rey.

Playa Matapalo

Mata PaloHalfway between Quepos and Dominical is the village of Matapalo, inland from the surf about 3 km. It’s a very long, secluded, unbroken sandy beach with good, uncrowded beach/rivermouth breaks.

Where to stay for Playa Matapalo
Playa Matapalo hotels are almost right on the sand. Most of them are European owned, including the few but great restaurants in the area. Some of the hotels at Matapalo are Coquito del Pacífico Hotel, El Ranchito, Terraza del Sol Hotel and Coquito del Pacífico Cabinas.

Dominical

Dominical town is a small, laidback, surf city with surf shops, surf bars and hotels tailored to surfers. There are several breaks in Dominical – beach, rivermouth and reef. Dominical is probably the most consistent surf region in Costa Rica and is known for its hollow and powerful beach breaks that get heavy with size.

Being a site with strong currents and heavy waves, Dominical is not recommended for beginners or not so strong swimmers.
Just south of Dominical are more reefs with rights and lefts – fun, uncrowded and good for longboards.

Where to Stay for Dominical
There’s an information center at Dominical, just past the bridge when coming from the north or east, and it’s a good place to check on hotels, car rentals real estate, etc.

There are many places to stay right at the beach in front of the surf, such as San Clemente and Tortilla Flats and Green Iguana Surf Camp. There are many other cabinas within a short walk distance to the surf.

A pretty good place to stay at is the Coconut Grove Cottages, about 2km south of town. It has a pool and A/C and is relatively new. Rooms are about 100 meters from the beach and each one has a kitchen with utensils to make you feel like at home. Punta Dominical can be seen from here, and the beach break at Dominical is a 15-minute walk up the beach.

Punta Dominical Cabinas is also a good option. It’s high on the cliff with great views, cool breezes and a good restaurant.

If you’re looking for a more economical option, Antorchas Camping is a good low budget choice. Here you rent a tent right off the beach, and showers and toilets are shared among campers.

Playa Hermosa (Dominical)

On your way to Punta Uvita from Punta Dominical, you’ll find a good beach break called Hermosa. It’s usually a bit smaller than the beach break at Dominical, but it’s a good place to go when the swell is on.

Punta Uvita

Less than 20 km south of Dominical is the coastal village of Uvita, right at the base of a huge reef. There’s surf out on tat reef – some fun surf exploring to be had. There is also Ballena National Park, the only marine park in the country, and an offshore island, Isla Ballena, with reefs and good surf.

Boca Coronado

This place has lots of excellent and uncrowded surf. Boca Coronado, also known as Playa Tortuga, is a big rivermouth that catches lots of swell and with good surf everywhere. This is a big rivermouth with a lot of water moving around – watch it on dropping tides.

Where to Stay for Boca Coronado
The Lookout at Turtle Beach is a great small place with views of the surf. It’s a nice and clean place with a very good restaurant, bar and pool. Other good options are Villa El Bosque and Villas Gaia, and they are relatively close to the surf.

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