As far as the complete Costa Rican vacation is concerned, Nosara may be one of the most up-and-coming vacation destinations in the entire country. Central America, and Costa Rica for that matter, are slowly becoming more and more developed and this town is no different.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Though there’s tourism and an expat community Nosara has remained a little off the grid in terms of vacation hotspots.[/box]
Nosara combines top of the line style accommodations and eateries with the remoteness of a Tico beach town. You won’t be charged an arm and a leg for a meal, but don’t expect the prices of southeast Asia street cuisine—how I miss me some Gado Gado from the stalls of Bali.
The town of Nosara is small, but there’s a ton to do, regardless of your surf abilities or interests. Obviously you’ll probably be visiting Nosara to catch some gnarly beach breaking waves, but a session or two of yoga while you’re there is a smart decision.
Nosara doesn’t have the heavy rage atmosphere of Tamarindo or Puerto Viejo, you’ll actually get some really solid days of surf in while you visit and might even heal your chakras from all that debauchery from last week. After a great night sleep, you might be able to get two sessions in a day—depends on a 5 or 6 a.m. high tide; two sessions every day, that’s what we all love, wake up to the brisk Costa Rican morning (well, not that brisk), watch the sun rise and surf until breakfast.
Nestled in the northern peninsula of Costa Rica in a region called, Guanacaste. Guanacaste is known for is “cowboy country” atmosphere, gnarly waves, and pristine beaches, though it hasn’t been overrun with thousands of tourists. Although you’ll find ridiculous crowds and hundreds of tourism companies in nearby Tamarindo, Nosara delivers a much more relaxed and chill-out vibe than any other beach I’ve visited in Central America.
There’s tuk-tuk taxis rolling all over town, the food is out of this world, and everyone in Nosara embraces life in the most positive of fashions. If you’re trying to surf Costa Rica on a budget, then Nosara isn’t the best option, but it can definitely be done if you know the right places.
One of my favorite parts about Nosara is the way how the town in general operates. If the swell doesn’t hit or the wave isn’t working, people find ways to entertain themselves. Another huge plus of Nosara is that it’s home to the majority of the beach yoga institutes, which means in shape vacationers. It’s a whole lot better to a bunch of babes on the beach than the typical overweight American vacation slug.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Badass waves plus badass babes will always make for an incredible surf trip.[/box]
Nosara is definitely one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets, for it may attract a lot of surfers, but the majority of them are fairly strong riders.
There’s two different beaches in Nosara, so you won’t get caught in too big of a lineup, but on the weekends, expect a few dozen surfers. From my experience in Nosara wasn’t your typical party surf town, but you can probably find something happening if you hit any of the bars on the main strip.
This town is set up very well, everything is convenient, but it isn’t packed with tall buildings or fancy resorts. Not to say there aren’t great accommodations, but it’s much nicer when the hotels are more boutique style as apposed to enormous all-inclusive ones.
As you enter town from the highway, you’ll see tons of surf shops, surf schools, yoga studios, Tico souvenir stores and tiny little bodega style grocery marts. The majority of the vibe in Nosara is based around surfing, yoga, and escaping from the business of your life.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Everyone I met in Nosara was so awesome, it was a great breath of fresh air.[/box]
From the highway, you’ll find the main strip of the town, where you can find most of the things you’ll need during your trip. You can wake up, head to Café de Paris, where a cute french couples dishes out French pastries and killer drinks at the barista—they also have some rooms for rent but it would drive me crazy to wake up to French pastries every day.. Or you can head to Tibidabo, where you’ll find authentic Mediterranean style foods and an upscale cocktail bar.
At the end of town is where this place called the Beach Dog Cafe is located and is a great local hangout for people looking to catch natural lunch and stiff buzz. With the majority of shops and restaurants owned my Expats, the town functions pretty smoothly.
You can most definitely find Tico cuisine all over town, it’s cool how so many people from around the world have moved to Nosara and called it their new “home”. You really get that international vibe when so many cultures come together and it works super well in Nosara.
Nosara is made up of three different beaches, all serving up a different style of wave. There’s Nosara, Pelota, and Guiones—Guiones is by far the best. If you’re just learning, I’d recommend Playa Nosara or Pelota, but a beginner will hold up just fine at Guiones (as long as the swell isn’t huge).
Guiones is an enormous, un-crowded, white-sand beach, which dishes out glassy, clean, and forgiving waves.[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded”]The beach is surf-able almost 365 days a year, with about 250-300 days of shoulder to overhead size waves.[/box]
Because the beach at Guiones is huge and there’s a ton of points, every skill level of surfer will find what they’re looking for. The best times to rip here is either in the early morning, or just before sunset, arguably the best times to ride anyways.
As far as Costa Rica is concerned, Guiones has potentially the cleanest and most well developed waves in the country, which is why I find myself returning every few months. As a short boarder, low tide is probably my favorite time to rip Guiones, as the waves have much steeper faces when there’s less water.
I’ve found the wave barreling at low tide, while high tide and mid-tide are much better for beginners or badass old timing long boarders.
Much like most of Costa Rica, the locals are cheerful, friendly, and an energetic bunch. They’ll be happy to share waves with you as long as you can respect there presence.
I wouldn’t recommend dropping in on a veteran Tico, but he’ll definitely give you the head nod to rip that slow rolling right if you just give it a little time. As one of the chillest places in the whole country, locals tend to be pickier with their waves and won’t drop in on every set that rolls through.
Now, let’s check the surf . . .
There are a few surf schools around the entire town, so finding a lesson is super easy. A lot of the surf schools throughout the town, there are there I’d recommend Nosara Tico Surf School, Nosara Surf Academy (www.nosarasurfacademy.com) or the Safari Surf School (www.safarisurfschool.com) for they have the best instructors.
As an avid surf backpacker who’s been all over Central America, I whole heartedly believe that Nosara is one of the best waves I’ve surfed. It may not have the power or height of somewhere like Salsa Brava, nor will it have the remoteness of Playa Grande, but Nosara is awesome. It’s a great beach for short boarders, long boarders, old timers, veterans, virgins, intermediates, chicks, dudes, bros, weirdos, the whole goddamn shebang.
Head to Nosara, surf Guiones, and throw in a yoga session; trust me, you won’t regret a visit here.
Here’s a video to show you what’s up in Nosara:
It all depends on what type of vacation or surf trip you want to have. Nosara is a little bit on the pricier side, but can easily be conquered by surf backpackers if they choose the right accommodations.
If you are traveling with a crew, you will probably want to rent a house somewhere and avoid staying in a hostel. But if you are traveling solo or with a small group, then theres a bunch of hostels and surf camps that cater to people trying to live on a budget.
Nosara Beach Hostel: This is one of the places I stay when I’m surfing Nosara, because it’s like a 2 minute walk from the southern point of Playa Guiones. Bunks here range from 10-15$, usually have air conditioning, and are super modern. You walk into this hostel and you’ll feel like you just walked into a millionaires kitchen.
The hostel is very spread out, so you feel more comfortable than a standard backpacking hostel. This is the most popular hostel in Nosara, so it brings in people from around the world. The majority of people here are either surfing, yogaing, or looking for some peace in Central America. I have only good things to say about this hostel and would recommend it to anyone who wants to surf the break for a few days and needs a place to live cheaply at.
4 You Hostel: Another great hostel choice, perfect for backpackers. You pay 13-18$ per night here, but are housed in an extremely luxurious hostel. There’s a room to lock your board in, there’s badass keypads for the doors (so you won’t have to worry about losing your hostel keys), an enormous shared kitchen, and plenty of area to lounge. This hotel is definitely the cleanest in Costa Rica, so you can actually feel clean while you sleep.
The Gilded Iguana: A stapled landmark in the town of Nosara, the Gilded Iguana has been housing backpackers, surfers, and vacationers for years. This place has a super chilled-out vibe, a great seafood restaurant, and is located a few yards from the beach. There’s a pool, clean rooms, air conditioning, and a bunch of different room styles. I’d recommend this place for any surfer who has a little bit more dough to spend on accommodations, or even if you want a great bite to eat, a trip to the Iguana is a great idea.
Nosara is without a doubt one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I’m not sure whether it’s the people, the waves, the town, the vibe, or the overall happiness of the locals, but Nosara has a distinct atmosphere.
The people are friendly, everyone’s in great shape, and everything is very clean and warming. If you want a place that feels like a less crowded, smaller, more homey version of San Diego, then Nosara may be the best place to visit.
Everyone wants to meet you, everyone wants to surf with you, and everyone wants you to get stoked out of your gourd. Enjoy Nosara.
Did you read In Search of Captain Zero? If you did then you know all about this place. If you didn’t read this book but plan on visiting this side of Costa Rica then you know which book to read next.
Puerto Viejo, also know as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, has been home to some of Costa Rica’s most legendary surf competitions, parties, and cuisines for decades. As you walk around this Afro Caribbean little town, you soon realize why so many expats and Ticos have been calling this place home for so many years.
Dozens of beach cruisers line the beach, creating a homey atmosphere for vacationers and surfers alike. Though Salsa Brava has been famed as one of the biggest waves of the Caribbean side, Playa Cocles usually dishes out a super powerful beach braking wave as well.
Only the most experienced of surfers should hang around Salsa Brava, because this reef breaking wave has been known to rip inexperienced surfers apart with it’s notorious “cheese grater”.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]The last thing you want while surfing in Puerto Viejo is a trip to the hospital, so don’t test your limits at Salsa Brava unless you truly can handle a fast breaking left. [/box]
One of the most important things you need to remember as a foreigner is that though you may be a rad surfer, the locals in Costa Rica have been ripping these breaks since you were in diapers. Though the majority of Tico surfers are going to welcome you with open arms into the lineup, beware of dropping in on an old timer because they will put you in your place.
This video show the wave at Salsa Brava at it’s best . . .
As one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, Puerto Viejo has a considerable amount of surf tourists. As long as you respect your elders and wait your turn, a day on the waves in Puerto Viejo can be an unforgettable experience.
From my experience in Puerto Viejo, you either want to party, surf and party, or surf and party, and party. The whole town comes alive at night, so don’t be surprised if you end up watching the sunrise with your crew.
Though I wouldn’t say the waves were exactly what I expected, I’d admit that they were fun. If you’re in Puerto Viejo when conditions are choppy, you best be in good shape because the current is typically pretty strong.
– Best Season: November-April
– Best Swell Direction: Northeast
Salsa Brava is considered to be the biggest break in all of Costa Rica, this Caribbean style wave works the best during the dry season (Nov-April).
Known for claiming an excessive amount of “sauce” each year, Salsa Brava takes a considerable amount of broken boards, bones, and gnarly cuts each day, so beware of the shallow beach break.
There are a few different take off points at Salsa Brava, but the North Peak is by far the most popular for surfers looking to get uber pitted. Though the reef at Salsa Brava broke a few years ago during one of the area’s earthquakes, you’ll still see huge days there, just not nearly as frequently.
Let’s check it right now . . .
And the forecast . . .
The wave holds its size under most conditions and is probably going to be best when the report is head high to overhead conditions. When a south-east swell is in and you’re getting western winds, chances are you’ll find yourself barrel hunting at Brava. Once again, beware of the shallow reef, which has been known to destroy surfers of all skill levels.
Playa Cocles is your best bet when Salsa Brava isn’t working. Cocles is only about a 10 minute walk from Salsa Brava, or 2 minute bike ride. Cocles hosts a ton of surf competitions each year, so if you can catch one of these events, they truly are a great time to be in Puerto Viejo. Lots of surfer after parties and late night shenanigans with the locals. Similar to Salsa Brava, Cocles best conditions come out when it receives a head high to overhead swell from the northeast.
But if the seas are choppy, Cocles doesn’t work very well. While I was surfing Cocles, we had shit north winds and gale warnings, so surf was iffy. If this happens, my best advice is to either wait it out, or head down to Panama.
Playa Negra is perfect for people who want to surf while they’re in Puerto Viejo, but don’t want to have a date with Salsa Brava’s cheese grater. While I wouldn’t recommend Negra for experienced surfers, if you’re just starting to learn to surf, taking a lesson in Negra is a wise decision. Snorkeling, swimming, and diving is popular over in Negra, but you’ll catch a few 2-3 footers if you’re there on the right day.
Puerto Viejo is a huge fan favorite for tourists, mainly because it has a very unique vibe that you simply cannot find anywhere else in Costa Rica. The town was originally called Old Harbor until the Costa Rican government institutionalized Spanish as the new local language and changed the names of the towns and landmarks in the area from English to Spanish.
Though the true barrel hunting surfers prefer to hang out on the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Viejo’s Afro-Caribbean vibe is rad. As you walk through the center of town, you’ll see Rastas shooting dice, playing checkers, and selling the best ganja in the country.
Everything in Puerto Viejo is going to cost significantly more money, but a lot of the time it’s worth it. There’s a ton of Jamaicans that migrated to Costa Rica’s eastern coast, so the food that’s served up is super authentic. If you see any chubby Jamaican ladies serving up Caribbean Jerk and Jamaican marinated chicken, I highly suggest you buy as much as you possibly can.
Puerto Viejo is set up to cater to tourists of all budgets, interests, and ages. So, obviously there’s going to be a lot to do while you visit Puerto Viejo.
You’ll find a variety of bars that cater to just about all styles of music, but if mainly you’re going to find super swanky Reggae clubs that have been dishing out Jamaican tunes for decades. One of the local favorites is a place called Lazy Mon, which hosts fire dancing shows and other live musical acts.
Tasty Waves Cantina is another great place to get your buzz on is this little surf bar. And of course there’s Johnny’s Place, which is the area’s long standing dance club/bar. A lot of fun ensues at Johnny’s place, from the shenanigans at the bar to the roots, rock, and reggae vibe of the dance floor—you’ll have a great night here guaranteed.
If you’re looking for a hostel type party with a bunk of beautiful surf babes, then head down to Rockin’ J’s and you’ll find a party, especially if it’s a full moon.
Everyone loves to ride beach cruisers here and it’s almost necessary if you want to truly feel the energy of this little beach town. The town has a lot, but isn’t too spread out, so you’re able to really see the entire thing quicker if you have a bike.[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Remember to lock bikes there’s a ton of bike theft in Puerto Viejo. [/box]
It’s also super nice to just cruise around on a beach cruiser when you’re waiting for the tide. Puerto Viejo is without a doubt one of the most unique parts about Costa Rica, because the atmosphere is very Rastafari, praise Bob Marley, groove down to some late night Reggae.
The Lazy Mon: This is one of the areas most hopping bars when the sun goes down and I’m pretty sure you can get hostel style-dorm beds for around 11$ per night. You can also request a personal room, but I’m not sure how much they’d cost you. They have a good restaurant here, but if you want to sleep, you’d be better off finding a house rental or hotel.
Rocking J’s: Rockin’s J’s is without a doubt the largest and most expansive hostel I’ve ever seen. You can rent hammock for like 6$/night, or set up your own tent or hammock for something around 4$.
There are also dorm beds, private cabanas, honeymoon shacks, and bunch of other pretty awesome hostel accommodation. I would by no means say this place is the clean, petite, boutique style hostel though.
It smells like beer, people party until 5 a.m. every night, there are no quiet hours, and if you stay here, you’re going party super hard. There’s a restaurant and bar at the hostel, but obviously you can bring whatever you want into the hostel. Staff is super laid back. So, they known you’re probably just a bum surfer who wants to drink rum & cokes, meet babes, and get stoked out of your gourd.
La Ruka Hostel: Another great hostel in Puerto Viejo, but with a much more laid-back, relaxed vibe than a place like Rocking J’s. This hostel is more family-friendly, but there’s definitely a ton of backpackers here. It’s much smaller, cleaner, and less “touristy” than a lot of the other hostels of the area. It’s located just down the road from Salsa Brava and about a 15 minute walk from Playa Cocles, so you really have the best of both worlds at La Ruka. Bunks cost 10$/night and private rooms are 30$/night.
Hotel Banana Azul: Though there aren’t too many hotel options in Puerto Viejo, there are definitely a few available for travelers that want a bit more comfort during their vacation. Banana Azul is one of the places I’d recommend to surfers that have a little more budget to work with. A pretty cool guy from Vancouver owns this place with one of his buddy’s from Peru, good bunch and they offer a great place for surfers and vacationers to stay while they’re in Puerto Viejo.
More can be found here on Trip Advisor.
Puerto Viejo is a great surf destination if you like to party, or if you arrive during the right time of the year. There’s a ton to do here, from surfing gnarly reef breaks to watching spun-out fire dancers perform at local bars, I guarantee you’ll enjoy your time in Puerto Viejo.
One thing to remember is that this is a tourist town, so a lot of your expenses will be higher than if you were to vacation in a more remote destinations. The entire atmosphere of the town is surrounded by Rastafarianism and reggae, so if you are uncomfortable with either, you’ll hate it.
But, if you’re like 99% of the world, you’ll find your vibe in this little party-heavy town in the Caribbean mon—and don’t forget the words of Bob Marley, [quote]”Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” (and surf).[/quote]
Tired of sharing a lineup with hundreds of other surfers?
You want to surf with the locals and earn some Tico respect—then may we suggest planning a trip to Costa Rica’s legendary, Playa Avellanas.
Located just 2 kilometers from nearby and tourist trap Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas boasts some of the most consistent waves in the entire country. This beach is gnarly for so many different reasons, the power, the height, the speed, it’s exactly what you’re looking for in a wave.
I’ve surfed just about every beach in Costa Rica and I would without a doubt say that if you want a consistent wave that won’t disappoint, then there’s no better beach than Avellanas.
The best part of Avellanas is the fact that there’s basically zero tourism in the town, I mean, there isn’t much at all in the town. You have your standard surf hostels, a few taco joints, and whole bunch of badass expat surfers. I’d been surfing Playa Tamarindo for months before I discovered this little gem and when I looked out at the breaks, I literally shit myself. The beach is so incredibly vast that it’s able to deliver 7 different points, yeah, 7 different points to shred.
Because Avellanas receives such epic swells, you can catch a tasty right or left, the choice is absolutely yours. My personal favorite (and the locals will agree) is the wave that pushes out from the river mouth. Here is a video to get you stoked.
Locals have termed this wave “Little Hawaii”, and you can honestly get barreled there almost 300 days a year. What people forget about Costa Rica is that you can surf every single day, regardless what the wind decides to do. Of course, an onshore or cross shore wind aren’t going to be ideal, but you can definitely find a few fun jibs regardless of the wind direction.
Tons of people flock to Costa Rica to do all sorts of surf related activities. Whether you’re a first timer, intermediate, semi-pro, or SUP bro, you’ll find your happy place in Avellanas. Unlike some of the local only beaches around the world, Ticos (Costa Ricans) are incredibly warm to foreign surfers. As long as you don’t drop in on their waves or snag them in a lineup, you’ll keep your limbs—just kidding! Costa Rica is by far the safest country in Central America.
I can’t stress the abundance of surf points enough. Because there’s seven points to surf, you rarely have to sit in the water and wait for some Chad to get his wave. For the more experienced surfers, you should head north in the beach to the river mouth and catch the wave known as “Little Hawaii”.
If you’re entering the beach from the public parking lot, then just head as far right as you can. Trust me, you’ll see that bad boy breaking in the distance. Also, if you’re like me, and like to explore, you’ll find there’s a secret little dirt path that veers off the main road.
If you take that road (not fit for cars), you’ll find yourself right in front of this epic wave and definitely far away from the crowds. I’ve seen this wave top 12 feet before, but most days you’re looking at a height anywhere between 4 and 8 feet.
In addition, though most days the wave in front of Lola’s tends to stay pretty small, you can go barrel hunting steps from the parking lot. This spot, known as “El Parquet”, normally adheres to a lot of the beginners and intermediates, but surely anyone can have fun riding that wave.
There’s a ton of surf lessons going on over here, so if you don’t want to dodge the New Jersey vacationers, then I would stay away from this break.
As you move down the beach, you’ll find a handful of other waves breaking, so you really can judge what you want to ride for the day.
La Purruja breaks over a reef and is popular with the more advanced surfers, El Estero is a consistent break and its peak allows for perfect lefts and rights. There isn’t a strong current or a gnarly reef below where you’ll be surfing, so don’t be scarred to rip it. Avellanas is always working, but the best conditions are going to be at high tide rolling in, or mid tide.
A few things to remember about Avellanas is that it’s not your typical lavish, all inclusive surf destination. You won’t find Taco Bells or fancy resorts, it’s much more Ma & Pa vibe over there.
The majority of people who come and surf Avellanas for vacation find themselves either renting a beach house, sleeping in a hostel, or for the rich folk, staying at the JW Marriott just a bit north of Playa Avellanas.
Though the Marriott has its own private beach and a golf course, I’m a huge fan of supporting the local Ticos that are trying to fill their beds. With smaller accommodation options, you’ll find that your dollar goes much further.
Local fruit and vegetable vendors will pull up their donkeys right on the beach and you can buy a backpack full of produce for under 5$. But be careful, these guys will try to overprice some of their products if you look like a total Gringo, so try speaking a little Spanish. Even if you don’t know any Spanish, you’ll get much more respect if you at least try to engulf yourself in the Tico culture.
As far as the town of Avellanas goes, there’s not much, but there is enough. You can grab bite to eat at the famous Lola’s Bar & Grill, a place where almost everyone hangs out at after a day of surfing.
Beers are normally 1-2$, drinks are a bit more, and burgers are 5$. The people that work at Lola’s are all legends; I’ve rolled in there with 25 cents and offered to tell jokes for beers, they’ll hook it up if you seem like a good person.
The Beach Box serves up organic breakfast and dinner tacos at about 2-4$/each. Unfortunately there’s not much more food options in Avellanas, so family style dinners at hostels are huge here.
There are two market stores, where you can buy anything from pancake mix to toilet plungers, so don’t fret if you run out of something.
Due to its remoteness, getting to Avellanas can be challenging to some, but it’s easy if you know what you’re doing. If you’re flying into San Jose, then either get a private shuttle (they’ll take you straight to Avellanas), or hop on a bus to Santa Cruz or Tamarindo.
From Santa Cruz, you can connect to the Avellanas bus, or take the 5$ shuttle from Tamarindo to Avellanas. There’s a Santa Cruz-Avellanas bus early in the morning and one right before sunset. The Tamarindo-Avellanas shuttle leaves every 2 hours from 8am-6pm.
JW Marriott: This is a great option for families, or rich people, because you have all the amenities of a resort, but are located very close to an epic surf beach. This hotel is going to run 400+/night, but worth it if you have the funds.
Draco’s Surf Camp: This is without a doubt the best option for backpackers, families, or groups, because it has it all. 8+ bedrooms, a cooled pool, outdoor shower, lounge area, huge kitchen, air conditioning, basically everything you’d want when you’re in Costa Rica.
David, a great friend of mine happens to own and run this place. Tell him that Jason sent you and I guarantee he’ll give you a little discount.
Generally, dorm beds are 15$/night and private rooms with A/C and bathrooms are 40$/night. David runs this place like a bed and breakfast, so feel free to throw on your tunes, slice a mango, and lounge in one of the hammocks.
Hotel Mediterraneo: Cozy little hotel/hostel type accommodation. Fairly cheap, clean, and definitely safe.
Cabinas Las Olas: A tiny surf camp, located about a 5 minute walk from the beach. You’ll be able to meet a bunch of other surf travelers and hot yoga girls here, if you don’t stay at Draco’s this is the place to be. Dorm beds are between 10-20$/night.
Los Altos de Eros: A more luxurious and romantic option, probably not the best for surf bums. They say on their site, “We are hurricane proof and we don’t have drug wars. Good start!” They claim to be a 5-Star Costa Rica boutique hotel & spa resting on a 27 acre estate atop a small mountain with stunning views to the Pacific Ocean.
To Sum it Up
If you love surfing, hate line ups, and aren’t afraid to get frog house barreled, then a trip to Playa Avellanas is definitely a good choice. There’s a ton of surf able beaches in the vicinity, so if you want to switch things up, it’s more than possible.