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Nicoya Peninsula

This area is somewhat remote.  The Nicoya area has a lot to offer in the way of uncrowded waves – lots of beach breaks and a few outside reefs.  On good swells there are some outside reefs at places like Playa Sámara with no one out.  But as the area develops and the crowds grow, those reefs will be put to better use.

It’s a bit of a commitment getting to some of the spots in Nicoya Peninsula.  Paved roads are in the works, and during the off-season, services are less available; although for many surfers, the surf in this peninsula is worth every effort.
Getting there

If you are coming from the north (Tamarindo, Playa Grande, etc.), head on down along the coast.  If coming from the south (i.e. the Metropolitan Area), head right into the middle of the area by taking the Tempisque Bridge across the northern and narrower part of the gulf. 
You may also fly in to the airports at Sámara or Nosara via one of the local airlines. 

Playa Ostional

OstionalPlaya Ostional is the most important nesting site for protected Olive Ridley turtle.  Thousands of female turtles come ashore where they dig holes and lay their eggs.  While the turtles come ashore year-round, they are busiest July to December, and always at night.
Ostional is a long stretch filled with uncrowded beach breaks and reefs.  Shape is best at higher tides. 

Getting there
To get to Playa Ostional you can either fly into the airport at Nosara, or drive by the road from Nicoya toward Samara.  The area can become difficult to reach during the rainy season due to river crossings.

Where to stay for Playa Ostional
There are only a couple of places where you can stay in or near Ostional, other than very basic cabinas or camping.  One place near the surf is Hotel Luna Azul, which opened in 2004, but it’s still 4 km from the beach. 

There’s also the Hungarian owned Rancho Hotel Brovilla.  This hotel has all the comforts, is secluded and realaxing, and has great views.  Due to the fact that it’s located way up above, you’ll need a 4x4 just to get up the steep, rocky hill to the hotel.

Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones

NosaraPlaya Nosara is north of Playa Guiones and is not surfed much, however, most people call Guiones “Nosara”.  It’s a long beach with lots of decent beach breaks and no one out.  To get to the rivermouth follow the signs to ‘Boca Nosara’, where surf is best. 

Guiones is one of the most consistent breaks in Costa Rica.  There’s always surf here, and it’s usually pretty good.  The surf can get big and it’s usually bigger and better as you head to the north part of the beach.
Playa Guines has been getting more crowded due to the consistent surf, with new hotels catering to surfers and surf schools.  There are a few surf shops in this little surf village. 

Where to stay for Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones
There are no hotels right in front of the surf in Playa Nosara or Guiones, but camping is permitted.  The hotels are all around woods near the beach and up the hills, and you can walk to the surf pretty easily from most of them. 

Nosara Beach Hotel gives you a great view of the surf as well as fairly easy access to it.  Harbor Reef Lodge is set back from the beach in the woods, which provides a pleasant seclusion.  Its rooms are spacious and nice with big bathrooms and air conditioning. 

There’s also a surf camp close to the surf at the north end of Playa Guiones, called Blew Dog’s.  Here you can find a variety of boards for rent, board repair and surf lessons. 


Garza is a south-facing bay with reefs at each end and occasional beach breaks inside.  The north end of the bay has a good right reef.  To get there, you can walk around the bay or drive up next to the Villagio Hotel where there’s access to the beach. 

Playa Sámara 

SamaraPlaya Sámara is a good spot for surfers in general.  There are some small beach breaks good for beginners, and bigger outside reef breaks for the most experienced. 

The beach is in a protected bay facing south, about 24 km south of Nosara – an hour from Nicoya over a nice paved highway.   It has good accommodations and food.    There are campgrounds as well, at the north end of town.
You’ll find the best waves at Isla Shora, at the south end of the bay.  You can rent a kayak and paddle out to check out the reefs, or you can get a boat ride out.

Where to stay for Playa Sámara
Las Brisas del Pacífico is a good hotel right on the beach with the best beach break right out front.  There’s also a restaurant and bar, and good ocean views.  It’s walking distance to town.

An inexpensive option in the area is Joel’s Camping and Bar Las Olas.

Playa Carrillo

CarrilloSouth of Sámara there’s a protected bay with some beach breaks and outside reefs.  The gem here is the reef in the middle of the bay’s mouth. 

Where to stay for Playa Carrillo
There are only 2 options at Playa Carrillo – the expensive Guanamar Hotel or an eco-traveler place up the hill to the north of the bay.  It’s recommended to stay in Playa Sámara and drive to Carrillo.


Playa Camaronal

Just south of playa Carrillo there’s a secluded beach long known for its consistent surf.  Camaronal has a rivermouth and beach breaks, and it’s never crowded.  It can get big; in fact, Camaronal usually has the biggest surf in the area. 

South of Camaronal is Punta Islita, where smaller waves break in a colorful cove.  The best thing about the surf here is that it’s the easiest to get to in the area.

Getting there
Take the road south out of Playa Carrillo, and then make a right (about 5 miles out of Carrillo) towards Punta Islita. 

Where to stay for Playa Camaronal and Punta Islita
The two nearest hotels are the Sueño Tropical to the north, and the exclusive Punta Islita to the south.  Both are short drives to the surf.

Playa San Miguel

San Miguel is a long stretch of totally uncrowded beach breaks.  Here you will definitely surf all by yourself.

Where to stay for Playa San Miguel
There’s a hotel right there on the beach.  The Italian owned L’Arca de Noe, is a peaceful and quite place, recommended by many.

Playa Coyote and Playa Caletas

Here you will find a variety of beach and reef breaks.  Most of this coast is somewhat uncrowded , especially north of Playa Santa Teresa. 
You can drive right down onto the beach.  The best place to stay is L’Arca de Noe Hotel at San Miguel, or inland 5 km at San Francisco de Coyote where there are some cabinas.  There’s also camping at Tanga’s beach restaurant.

Playa Caletas is a long beach with beach and reef breaks all along.  The north end is a rocky right reef break, which means it needs a good swell.

Getting there
Take the Playa Naranjo ferry from Puntarenas, from Naranjo head to Jicaral, then San Francisco de Coyote and then San Miguel.

Playa Manzanillo and Playa Hermosa

Playa HermosaAt Manzanillo you’ll find an offshore reef at the north end of the beach breaks.  Playa Hermosa is more of a beach break with peaks all along.  It’s located between Playa Manzanillo and Santa Teresa, 4 km north of Santa Teresa.




The Mal País Area

The Mal País area has changed a lot over the last few years.  It’s a popular destination for eco tourists, surfers and upscale visitors.  Here you’ll find many jewelry stands, internet cafés and many surf shops.

Mal País starts just south of Playa Carmen and goes down to Cabo Blanco.  It’s considered to have good waves and moderate crowds, with goof reef-points if there’s a strong swell, beach and reef breaks when there’s not. 

The road in and out from the north of Mal País can be difficult.  If weather conditions don’t allow you to drive the beach route, you’ll need to take the backtrack roundabout route through Paquera and Naranjo.  The best way to get to Mal País is via ferries in Puntarenas – either the Paquera or the Naranjo.  The Paquera is most direct and takes about 90 minutes. Below you’ll find the schedules for the ferries.

Paquera Ferry

Naranjo Ferry

From Puntarenas

From Paquera

From Puntarenas

From Naranjo

4:15 am

6:00 am

3:00 am

5:10 am

8:45 am

10:30 am

7:00 am

8:50 am

12:30 am

2:30 am

10:50 am

12:50 pm

5:30 am

7:15 am

2:50 am

5:00 pm



7:00 am

9:00 pm

Playa Santa Teresa

This is a hollow beach break that picks up a lot of swell – there’s always good surfing here.  It’s the cleanest and best shaped beach break in the area.  Teresa is about 2km north of Playa Carmen.

There are lots of places to stay along the stretch from Playa Teresa to Cabo Blanco, many of them within walking distance of Teresa.  The closest are Point Break and Cabinas Santa Teresa.

Playa Carmen

Playa Carmen is the closest beach to the Mal País Surf Camp, a great place for surfers who are on a budget and enjoy the company of other surfers.  It’s a fairly easy break, so it’s good for beginners, but it also gets big for the experienced.  Most of the surfing happens right there where the road from Cóbano meets the Pacific.

Where to Stay for Manzanillo through Mal País
Manzanillo to Mal País is a pretty long stretch, but most of the places to stay are south of Santa Teresa.  One decent walk-to-surf option near the Santa Teresa break is Cabinas Santa Teresa.  Another option is the Sunset Reef Marine lodge at the other end of Mal País.  This hotel is one of the most comfortable in the area, which makes it good for families and couples.

One of the long-time favorites for surfers is the Tropico Latino.  The rooms are clean, big and comfortable. 
Other recommended hotels in the area are the following:

  • Casa Azul – Playa Carmen
  • Mal País Surf Camp – Playa Carmen
  • Vista de Olas Bungalows
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