Surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica: A Guide for First Timers

man surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica with blue sky

Surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica is an absolute paradise and one of the top things to do in Santa Teresa. This stunning coastal town is home to some of the best surf breaks in Central America for beginners. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, there’s a wave waiting for everyone when it comes to Santa Teresa surfing.

Try catching a surf lesson at the beginner-friendly Santa Teresa Beach, or opt for the more intermediate waves at Playa Carmen (my top recommendation when it comes to Santa Teresa surf). For something more challenging, advanced surfers can hit the larger and punchier (less consistent) Mal Pais break when the conditions are right.

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If your reason to visit is for some top-notch Santa Teresa Costa Rica surfing, I’d recommend staying at a popular Santa Teresa surf camp in town, like Lapoint Costa Rica located in south Playa Carmen. Here you can find like-minded people and up the ante on your surf game.

In this complete guide, I’ll give you the low down on the top Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf spots and who they are best for, when to surf in Santa Teresa, the best Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf camps, a few tips to know before hitting the waves and more!

Just starting out? Try this highly-rated 1.5-hour Santa Teresa Surf Lesson

Santa Teresa Costa Rica Essentials

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man with surfboard surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica with rocky beach

Where is Santa Teresa Costa Rica?

Santa Teresa is a beach town located on the Nicoya Peninsula in the Province of Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The town spans approximately 10km of coastline from Mal Pais in the south to Playa Hermosa in the north.

As one of the most remote surfing beaches Costa Rica offers, Santa Teresa can be reached within a 5-hour car and ferry journey from San Jose, the country’s capital. Alternatively, you can hop on a short-haul 45-minute domestic flight to neighbouring Tambor airport, then grab a taxi or arrange a shuttle to make the 1-hour drive to Santa Teresa.

This map of Santa Teresa Costa Rica gives you a good idea of how spread out the town is, taking 30 minutes by car or ATV to reach Playa Hermosa from Mal Pais.

About Surfing in Santa Teresa
Costa Rica

Santa Teresa surf is spread out along a 10km pristine, and mainly unbroken stretch of white sand beach. Gaining popularity in recent years due to its laidback yet new-age sociable beach vibes, Santa Teresa entices surfers of all levels.

What’s great about Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf is how many breaks can be found along the shoreline, creating a relatively uncrowded lineup along its length. And, without a gnarly reef or rock section (with the exception of Mal Pais) to navigate, the paddle out to the waves is pretty breezy.

Don’t forget about the crazy consistency that Santa Teresa surf offers, too. Ranging from a high 70% in the dry season to a ridiculous 90% in the rainy season, you are sure to find a wave no matter how long you stay in Santa Teresa, or when.

panoramic shot of people surfing in Santa Teresa along the coast
Surfing at Santa Teresa Beach

Best Time to Surf in Santa Teresa

Surfing Santa Teresa Costa Rica is fantastic year-round, but the best time to surf in Santa Teresa really depends on your level. No matter when you choose to surf in Santa Teresa Costa Rica, though, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time!

Wet Season (May-October)

Best For | Intermediate + Advanced

Intermediate and advanced surfers will enjoy surfing in Santa Teresa from May to October during the rainy season when the waves are at their best. These months also offer the most consistent surfing conditions (90%!), with smaller crowds.

What’s great about surfing in Santa Teresa during the wet season is the bigger swells created by Pacific storms. The waves during the green season are more powerful, larger and more consistent. Plus, surfing in the rain can be really fun (just make sure to wear a rashguard!).

Surfers heading toward the waves at a santa teresa surf spot

Dry Season (December-April)

Best For | Beginners

If you’re a beginner surfer, or just starting out, I recommend surfing in Santa Teresa from December to April during the dry season. The waves are a bit calmer and more manageable for beginners during this time of year. The downside of surfing in Santa Teresa during the dry season is a higher number of visitors due to the number of sunny days.

Map of Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Surf Spots

Santa Teresa has been blessed with many great surf breaks spread throughout its 10km coastline. From Playa Mal Pais in the far south to Playa Hermosa in the far north, you really can’t go wrong.

For beginners, I recommend sticking to the more central beginner-friendly Santa Teresa Beach for smaller (albeit sometimes mushy) waves, perfect for your first surf lesson or to take your skill to the next level. Intermediate surfers head to Playa Carmen for medium-sized, more consistent waves.

Click on this map of Santa Teresa Costa Rica surf spots to get a general idea of where to stay in Santa Teresa if your priority is surfing.

Best Santa Teresa Surf Spots

Playa Carmen

Best For | Intermediates

waves at Playa Carmen the best for surfing in Santa Teresa
Surf waves at Playa Carmen (near Banana Beach)

If you’re looking for the best surfing in Santa Teresa, look no further than Playa Carmen. This is my top pick when it comes to Santa Teresa surfing and a relative newcomer when it comes to hot spots for surfing in Costa Rica. The waves here are consistent (90% of the time in the rainy season – that’s huge), and they offer a great ride for all surfing levels depending on where you decide to splash in along the beach.

Further north towards Banana Beach (around Hotel Tropico Latino), you can find waves fit for beginners progressing to intermediate status or intermediate folks who just haven’t surfed in a while.

Further down the beach towards South Playa Carmen Costa Rica, you can find a more substantial intermediate break with steeper peaks and faster rides.

If you are brand new to surfing and this will be your first time hitting the waves, opt for a surf lesson along the more beginner-friendly Santa Teresa Beach, instead.

Santa Teresa Beach

Best For | Beginners

surfing in santa teresa beach
Playa Santa Teresa

If you’re looking for smaller, more manageable waves while surfing in Santa Teresa, look no further than Santa Teresa Beach. This is the best spot to surf in Santa Teresa Costa Rica for beginners due to its mellower conditions.

The waves here are a bit mushier, making the whitewash perfect for learning how to stand up on the board. Playa Santa Teresa Costa Rica gives newbies a great opportunity to learn the ropes (or should I say, catch some waves), without feeling intimidated.

You can find board rentals near Selina Santa Teresa North at Pacifica Surf School, just a 2-minute walk from the water. Whether you want to take your chance in the water solo or have a knowledgeable guide help you out in a 2-hour session, you can find both here.

If you happen to be staying in close proximity to Santa Teresa Beach and consider yourself more intermediate, don’t fret. Past the whitewash and smaller green waves, you’ll find some larger more exciting waves to try out. When the swell is big, you may even get a tight barrel!

Mal Pais

Best For | Experienced Surfers

a rocky Mal Pais beach one of the most challenging Santa Teresa surf spots
Playa Mal Pais

If you’re an experienced surfer looking for a challenge while surfing in Santa Teresa, Mal Pais is the spot for you. Located a 10-minute drive south of Playa Carmen along a dirt road, this Santa Teresa surf spot offers very few people on the lineup. The Playa Mal Pais break is known for its punchy and powerful waves, which make for a really fun ride.

The downside of Mal Pais surfing is that it’s not as consistent as some of the other spots on this list and is plagued with a pretty gnarly reef and rip current. But, when the waves are good, they’re really dang good, we are talkin’ 6ft and up of hollow loveliness.

Because Mal Pais is a short trek from central Santa Teresa, check out the Mal Pais surf cam before going, so you know you’ll get good conditions.

Playa Hermosa

Best For | Beginners

beginner surfing in Santa Teresa in Costa Rica at Playa Hermosa drone shot
Playa Hermosa

If you’re looking for surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica that’s a bit more mellow, Playa Hermosa is the perfect spot. This expansive beach has long and small waves, making it ideal for beginner surfers.

Although the waves here are pretty consistent (about 80% of the time), they can be a bit on the small side. But, if you’re looking for gentle waves and a relaxed surfing experience, Playa Hermosa is the place to be.

When swells increase at Playa Hermosa Santa Teresa, advanced surfers can enjoy the point break at the far north of the beach.

Popular Playa Hermosa Surf Lesson

surfers heading toward to the beginner-friendly Santa Teresa surf break
Surfers heading out at Playa Hermosa

Surfing in Santa Teresa Prices

Cash is king. And this is the rule throughout Costa Rica for most things, including Santa Teresa surf board rentals and lessons. It pays to pay in cash, and that’s usually reflected in the price list.

You can find a concentration of surf shop Santa Teresa Costa Rica options around the high point in Santa Teresa Beach and in South Playa Carmen.

If you want to commemorate your surfing trip to Costa Rica, most instructors can take videos or photos of you surfing in Santa Teresa at an extra cost. Just ask if they offer this service when booking.

You should expect to pay the following prices for surfboard rentals and lessons in Santa Teresa:

Surf Board Rentals Only

  • 24 hours: $15 – $20 USD
  • 72 hours: $35 USD – $50 USD
  • 7 days: $65 USD – $85 USD

Surf Lessons Santa Teresa Costa Rica

  • Private Lesson: $75 – $90 USD
  • Group Lesson: $55 – $70 USD

Best Santa Teresa Surf Camps

As a newly discovered yet popular Costa Rica surf destination, the coveted beach town offers many surf camp Santa Teresa Costa Rica options for every budget and preference. You can expect packages that include accommodation, surf lessons, daily breakfast and free equipment use at a minimum from most surf camps in Santa Teresa. Here are a couple of my faves:

Lapoint Costa Rica

Undoubtedly the most popular surf camp in Santa Teresa, Lapoint offers 1-week, 2-week, 3-week, 36-day and 57-day stay and surf packages. The most basic 1-week package includes accommodation, daily breakfast, 5 dinners, 5 x 2-hour lessons, surf theory classes, and daily surf equipment. You can expect some pretty laidback trendy digs.

Lapoint is particularly great for solo travellers, female surfers, and small friend groups. Make sure to reserve ahead of time, it slots sell out fast!

Selina Santa Teresa North

Selina santa teresa surf camp
Selina Santa Teresa North via Booking.com

Selina North’s motto is surf, party, surf, repeat. That gives you a pretty good idea of the vibe at Selina.

They offer a surf lesson package that includes 5 days of accommodation, 4 surf lessons, daily breakfast, 4 lunches, 2 dinners and access to surf equipment. 5 days is a perfect amount of time if you plan to move on to other destinations in Costa Rica. Not too long, not too short.

Check Prices on Booking.com

Lucero

Lucero santa teresa surf camp
Lucero via Booking.com

Lucero offers a more boutique experience with 4 beautiful rooms nestled into the jungle across from Santa Teresa Beach. Each light and bright room features a private ensuite and terrace and access to the shared pool. If you aren’t participating in the surf package, you can grab a healthy meal a-la-carte from their onsite restaurant.

Lucero offers a surf & stay package with 6 nights of accommodation, 4 surf lessons, a daily breakfast buffet and free use of surf equipment for your time there.

Check Prices on Booking.com

Best Surf Hotels in Santa Teresa

If structured surf camps aren’t your thing, and you still want to be in an environment rich with the laidback surfer vibe of Santa Teresa, you can stay at a great surf hotel. Some of the coolest surfing resorts Costa Rica offers are found here, including boutique offerings all the way to lively hostels.

READ MORE | The Best Hotels in Santa Teresa Guide

Somos

Somos santa teresa Costa Rica surf camp
Somos via Booking.com

Somos is a luxury hostel located across the street from Playa Santa Teresa (where you can find the best surfing in Costa Rica for beginners). With top-end amenities, effortlessly cool decor, a trendy open-air cafe (including an airstream serving up cocktails), and a surf shop, Somos offers a great casual, yet elevated experience.

Rooms here are private (no dorms), with king-sized beds, ensuites and balconies all surrounding a nice shared pool. For something truly unique, opt to stay in their renovated caravans that can fit up to two people. Grab a surfboard rental from the surf shop and make the easy 2-minute walk to the epic surf break.

Check Prices on Booking.com

Santa Teresa Surf Vista Villas

Surf Vista Villas santa teresa surf camp
Santa Teresa Surf Vista Villas via Booking.com

Located up on the hill overlooking the expansive coastline of Santa Teresa, you can watch the sunset from the luxury of the onsite pool with epic views. Wake up early in the morning for a yoga session on the deck and meet some new people, or have some quiet time and read a book on your private patio in a hanging chair.

Spacious suites here can accommodate up to 6 people, and you can expect a lively atmosphere here, with people hanging out at the pool with a beer in hand. Because it’s located up in the hills, I recommend having access to a rental car or ATV.

Check Prices on Booking.com

El Gato Rojas Surf Hostel

El Gato Rojas Surf Hostel santa teresa surf camp
El Gato Rojas Surf Hostel via Booking.com

Located in South Playa Carmen, El Gato Rojas Surf Hostel provides a chill economical experience. From quaint A-frame bungalows that fit two people, and deluxe king-sized suites to 10-bed mixed dormitory rooms, El Gato can accommodate just about anyone.

Enjoy some evening entertainment while cooking your dinner in the shared kitchen, or make the short walk to some of the best restaurants in Santa Teresa.

Check Prices on Booking.com

What to Bring for Santa Teresa Surfing

Receiving warm water conditions all year long, all you need is a rash guard, shorts or a bikini for surfing in Santa Teresa. Of course, if you live in a hot climate year-round and are visiting Santa Teresa in the rainy season, you may want to pack a light wetsuit.

If you have your own surfboard, remember your surf wax, fins and leash (all of which can be bought in Santa Teresa if you forget). If you are looking to take on the more advanced Mal Pais surf break, a good pair of reef shoes will be invaluable.

Generally speaking, you will want to pack a good reef-safe sunscreen, maybe a little zinc for the nose for those extra sunny days, and of course a good sense of adventure.

girl with her surfboard doing santa teresa surfing
Surfer heading to the waves at Playa Carmen

Basic Terminology for Surfing
in Santa Teresa

If you are new to surfing and want to pick up some basic surfing lingo to act the part, here are a few things to know before surfing Santa Teresa Costa Rica:

Ocean + Wave Structure:

  • Swell: large waves created by storms far out at sea
  • Tide: the rise and fall of the ocean’s water level
  • Point Break: when waves hit a point of land and create a surfing area
  • Reef Break: when waves hit a reef and create a surfing area
  • Wave Peak: the highest part of a wave
  • Whitewater: the broken part of a wave (usually where beginners learn)
  • Green Wave: an unbroken wave
  • Wave Closeout: when the wave is about to break and becomes unrideable

Riding Waves:

  • Backside: surfing with your back to the wave
  • Frontside: surfing with your front to the wave
  • Goofy Footed: surfing with your right foot forward (only 30-40% of surfers)
  • Regular Footed: surfing with your left foot forward
  • Bottom Turn: the first turn you make when dropping into a wave
  • Carve: a sharp, tight turn on a wave
  • Kick Out: exiting a wave by paddling around the back of the wave as it breaks
  • Duck Dive: diving under oncoming waves to prevent them from breaking on your surfboard

Surfboard:

  • Surfboard Wax: applied to the top of the surfboard to provide grip for your feet while surfing
  • Surfboard Fins: attached to the bottom of the surfboard for added speed, maneuverability, and control while surfing. There are different types of fins depending on the conditions.
  • Surfboard Shapes: the different shapes of surfboards affect the surfing experience. The most common are shortboards, longboards, and fish boards.
    • Shortboard: generally considered the best board for surfing, they are maneuverable and allow for more complex surfing tricks
    • Longboard: these boards are good for beginners as they are more stable and easier to paddle. Don’t expect to be doing any sharp turns on these.
    • Fish Board: these boards have a wider nose and tail than your average shortboard and are great in smaller waves.

Insurance for Costa Rica Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa Costa Rica is known for water and jungle adventures, and with that, comes the risk of fall, injury or accident. Don’t be left with huge hospital bills and protect yourself with the right travel insurance.

Travel insurance is one of those things I hope you never have to use. But in case you do, you’ll want reliable insurance on your side. Plus, it’s such a small cost for peace of mind. Please, don’t leave home without it!

I used HeyMondo insurance on my trip to Costa Rica and can recommend it.

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  • Covers trip cancellation – very useful these days!

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Surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica Conclusion

So there you have it, my complete guide to surfing in Santa Teresa Costa Rica! You can find some of the best breaks for surfing for beginners in Costa Rica here, plus surfing is one of the best things to do in Santa Teresa Costa Rica, if not THE best.

Want to surf Santa Teresa Costa Rica? I hope this has inspired you to give surfing a try on your trip to Santa Teresa. And if you’re already a surfer, I hope this has helped you plan your perfect surfing trip in Costa Rica.

Remember to always surf safely, within your abilities, and always respect the ocean. Now it’s time to get out there and enjoy the waves.

Pura Vida and Happy surfing!

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