Planning a surf trip to Brazil can be a little tricky, most people don’t realize how big the country is and might plan to visit north and south regions by car in two weeks.
Sorry to tell you, but you would spend most of your time inside your car and not surfing—not a good idea.
First of all, decide how many days you have, and start from there. If you have 2 weeks or less, it’s best to choose one region and explore a smaller region—I assure you will have plenty to see and surf.
Here is a surfers guide to Garopaba, Santa Catarina – Brazil.
Before you buy your ticket, don’t be a kook and check our updated Airline Surfboard Boardbag Fee Guide for Surfers.
Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL). U$ 1,00 = BRL 4*
(* today’s conversion 11/15—get an update here)
From April to September, the weather is mild or even cold (south Brazil) and southern region catches east to south swells. From November to March, is meltingly hot summer, during this time northern Brazil catches northern swells. Nevertheless always bring your full 3/2 wetsuit when you visit the south of Brazil.
In this post we will talk about Garopaba, a small coastal region in southern Brazil located on the state of Santa Catarina, known as the surfers state—you will understand why once you get to the end of this article.
Garopaba is located 55 miles south from Florianopolis (Santa Catarina’s capital) and has a population of 20K people. The region comprises of Garopaba Town and a few other small beach villages—you can surf in all of them!
The economy depends mainly on fishing and tourism. Which means: surf and beers everyday, helping the local economy. The main breaks are: Rosa Norte, Silveira, Vermelha e Ferrugem, all of them are driving distance to each other.
Just another summer day in Garopaba starts with a good surf session, while the wind is still calm. Then, go home, have breakfast, get some rest and prepare your stuff to go back to the beach and spend the rest of your day.
Chairs, sombrero, sarongs, water, sunscreen, camera, surfboards, etc. Arriving at the beach, settle down and go to the local bar/shack, order some fried shrimp and a cold Original Beer (local beer). Sit, relax and enjoy the view of beautiful people, white sand, blue ocean and the rain forest right behind you.
Surfing and napping is also mandatory along the day. At the end of the day, you will leave the beach starving, go to an “all you can eat” restaurant and be happy, or go home and make an awesome barbecue with your friends and more Original. Tomorrow starts all over again. Sound good?
First, let’s check the surf right now…
Arriving in Florianopolis Airport, you will need to rent a car. You can use the Airport Website to compare fares from different car rental companies and book prior your trip. Remember to ask for surf racks or bring your own Wave Tribe hemp travel racks and straps. Price average for a SUV is U$50/day.
Leaving the Airport you will take the freeway BR-101 direction south. After 50 miles, you will see a sign for Garopaba and turn left. You will enter a municipal road SC-434 that will take you to all the beach villages and the beautiful beach town of Garopaba.
There are many different options to stay, from luxury holiday rentals, B&B’s to simple fisherman’s shacks. The best option is to stay in a “Pousada”, they are kind of a B&B, but without the breakfast and most of them are safe (they have gates and night security).
Usually a pousada offers a self-contained apartment, simple furnished, full kitchen and a barbecue (very important!). It will cost you around U$15-20/night per person. The main grocery shop is in Garopaba is Silveira Supermarket, but you will also find some mini-markets around.
If you are feeling cheap, you can rent a simple fisherman shack for as low as U$8/night per person. There are 2 problems with this option: first they don’t have websites, so you might have to drive around and ask. Second, they are not very safe, doors are too easy to break into. Unfortunately there are bad people always looking for an opportunity to steal from tourists.
Here are some great resources for accommodation in the area:
Ok, now you have a car and a place to sleep. Let’s check the surf!
The main breaks are Silveira, Ferrugem, Vermelha and Rosa Norte.
To get to Silveira you need to take a dirt road from the main SC-434, close to Mormaii surf shop. The waves break on the south side of the beach, a nice right starts from behind the rocks and enter the beach. The beach is not developed, there are no bars around, so bring your all your stuff if you plan to stay there for the day.
It’s just 4 miles from Garopaba, follow the signs and you will be fine. It’s also a sand bottom and works lefts and rights. In contrast with Silveira, Ferrugem is very developed with many bars, lots of beautiful people and a good atmosphere—it’s a great place to spend the day.
Watch this video, this is just another summer day at Praia da Ferrugem.
You can only get there walking on a trail from Rosa Norte, 20-30 minutes. The beach has no development at all, you will want to bring some water. The bottom is sand with some rocks. Even if there is no surf, the trail is worth it for such amazing view!
Praia do Rosa has two breaks, Norte and Sul, or north and south. Rosa Norte is more consistent, the rocks on the coast protect the break from the north wind and you can easily paddle out thru a channel right close to the rocks. To get there you can park your car at Rosa Sul and walk along the beach, or park at the parking lot up the hill on Rosa Norte, then walk the trail down to the beach.
If you are travelling with your other half and want to take her/him for a special romantic date, Tigre Asiático located at Praia do Rosa is a great option. Asian food, candle lights, you know the rest.
There are some “all you can eat” types where you pay $10, get to choose one type of protein (fish, chicken or steak) and it usually comes with: spaghetti, salad, beans, rice, french fries, fried eggs.
You can always ask for more if it’s not enough. There is a really good one on the main road in Praia do Rosa, just opposite side of the road to Ouvidor. Wooden deck, easy to find.
There are a few small surf shops in Garopaba Town, Ferrugem and Praia do Rosa that would cover your needs, but if you are in town there is a bigger and more complete shop called Mormaii located in downtown Garopaba, they also have a nice café in the shop.
The night life takes place mostly during summer time, Praia da Ferrugem is the busiest place, it’s really a party town with many bars next to each other on the main road.
A good option if you want to hang for a few beers and music is Beleza Pura, a bar in Praia do Rosa main road and is open year around with live music on the weekends—beautiful people and flirting atmosphere, if you are single, that’s the place to be.
Met someone at Beleza Pura, fell in love with the place and want to live there forever.
Ok, that happens a lot. This is a magical spot in the world. Here are a few real states if you are planning to buy or rent a house. Remember to invite me for a visit!
Almost forgot, how’s the crowd?
In the winter the crowd is ok during week but is busy on the weekends. In contrast, the summer crowd is insane. Be nice to the locals, have fun and invite them to share some beers and you’ll get more waves.
Praia do Rosa Facebook Page here , you will find information about lodging, events, surf, restaurants, etc.
Praia da Ferrugem on Trip Advisor.
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once wrote that “love is so short, forgetting is so long”.
Planning a vacation to Santiago, Chile—Neruda’s birth place is—is a must see. Though you can’t surf in Santiago itself (except for at the wave pool), as it is about 2 hours from the coast by car, you can prepare for some excellent waves near the capital and enjoy this fabulous city before launching into the Chilean coastal towns.
It is nothing short of an adventure in Pacific Coast Paradise. There are endless surfing opportunities—with 300 days of waves per year—and plenty of other things to do as well. In this article we’ll just talk about a visit to the capital. Though Santiago itself sits in a valley not far from the sea, it will likely be your jumping off point for any trip into Chile.
Santiago is the most populated city in the country of Chile and was founded in 1541, which lent it neoclassical architecture since its inception.
Because of its more recent economic growth, it is also juxtaposed with a more modern metropolis design, giving it a neat sense of time travel while walking through it.
Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city and tend to trap the smog from the rapid pace of growth and development.
The city is situated in central Chile, at an elevation of 1,706 feet, which gives it a temperate Mediterranean climate, with low humidity and mild winters.
The reliable waves and plethora of attractions, have secured Santiago as an enviable destination for surfers and travelers alike.
Santiago is filled with many different parks, museums, monuments and markets, all beautifully designed and centrally located, making it easy to explore. Spicy Chile Tours offers free walking tours of Santiago, with a mix of historical information and the best anecdotes and recommendations for enjoying the city,
Be sure to check out the beautifully manicured Cerro Santa Lucia Hill, which is centrally located, making it a great starting point for your exploration and a great start to any walking tour of the city.
Across from the hill is the famous Santa Lucia Craft Market, filled with traditional artisanal crafts that are perfect for souvenirs and a great place to see what people are making with their hands. There are several dozen stores offering various styles of clothing and hand crafted souvenirs—most of which probably are typical of Chile.
Also, not to be missed in Santiago, is the food. Santiago is known for its seafood, which can be found in many of its trendy restaurants. Aqui esta Coco has been popular among the locals and tourists, alike, for its innovative atmosphere and incredible dishes.
If you are looking for a way to relax and rejuvenate yourself, you can take advantage of Yoga Luka which offers a subscription of sorts to local yoga studios for just $2 a session. This gives you unbeatable prices for a variety of styles.
As for accommodations, Santiago is one of the more expensive cities in South America, so you can easily find nice hotels and boutiques to stay in during your visit.
One of the favorites is the Lastarria Boutique Hotel, which has a great location and a very chic yet homey feel; separating it from the more traditional hotels.
It is easiest to get to Santiago via airplane. If you are flying from the U.S., be prepared to pay the $100 USD tourist tax at the airport.
From there you can catch a cab, or a shuttle to your hotel.
If you’re heading straight to the Central Coast, then renting a small car is your best option, with prices from 100-150 US$ for a week.
If you are staying inside Santiago, then you can easily rely on the safe and clean Metro, as it is well-connected throughout the very large city. Metro Santiago has a metro system with five lines and 94 stations, with many holding rotating art exhibitions.
Trains run between roughly 6.00AM and 11.00PM, with each station posting the exact hours for the first and last trains. Buses run parallel to subway lines after hours. (Grab a free PDF of the Metro Map here)
Hotel Aruma is located in Arica very close to the pedestrian walkway that goes to the wharf, shopping district, laundry and walking distance to many different restaurants and services.
They have 16 not super large but clean and comfy rooms to choose from. The Hotel has a modern minimalist design with a jacuzzi to chill in on the roof terrace. They offer a yummy breakfast made with local organic ingredients and tea, drinks and snacks during the day.
Hotel Aruma has good wi-fi and safe parking in a secure lot across the street. The service here is by far the best they will go above and beyond to make you happy and do it with a smile.
With only a $20 difference between this place and other average places nearby, I would definitely stay at the Hotel Aruma.
Hotel Loreto is located a stone’s throw away from Barrio Bellavista, Santiago’s most heterogeneous and cosmopolitan area and is very close to the capital’s city center.
They offer all the usual stuff like wi-fi, satellite tv, heat and a safe deposit box. The biggest plus for this hotel is the amazing customer service they offer. The staff and owners will make your stay as enjoyable as possible and if you’re lucky might even give you some coupons for free drinks at a bar/restaurant near by.
The rooms are very clean and some have great views. The only complaint I’ve seen is that the larger room didn’t seem to have enough furniture and no closet to hang their belongings.
Also be sure to ask for a room with a private bath if that matters to you (does to me) otherwise there are small bathrooms across the hall. Be sure to stop by the courtyard which has an orange and pomegranate tree. Level 2 balconies have roof covers in case of rain and if it does rain they even offer loaner umbrellas for when you want to take a walk to near by Central Market or the Pacific Galleries.
Just looking for somewhere to chill? Well look no further than the ChilHotel cause that’s pretty much all you’re gonna get there.
It’s affordable, safe and quiet. With less than a 3 minute walk to the metro, strong wi-fi, a hot shower and a simple breakfast it’s a perfect place to sleep in between outings.
Do not visit Santiago Chile without having a “Completo Del Domino” Domino is an awesome little place to go grab some cheap eats, a cold beer and people watch while you rub elbows with the locals.
They have a limited menu but still something for everyone. The Completo Del Domino is the most recommended by far, it’s a hot dog made “Italian Chilean style” with tons of mayonnaise, avocado and tomato.
Sounds gross huh? Well apparently it’s not gross it’s brilliant and before you know it you’ll be pouring mayo on all your buddies hot dogs at your next BBQ.
Bahia Pilolcura is a little deceiving to the eye. When you first arrive all you’ll see is a fish market until you find the trap door that leads you down a rickety set of wooden stairs to the basement “dining room”, don’t freak out though you’re not in the middle of a horror movie you’re about to have some really good food.
They only serve seafood but being as it’s located right under a fish market you can imagine how fresh it is.
Try the outstanding ceviche or the grilled swordfish or just ask the waiter what’s fresh and recommended that day.
The service is eh, honestly after your food arrives the waiter will probably forget you’re even there but that’s OK just go back upstairs and pay when you’re done.
This is a cultural experience that you should not miss out on. Super cheap but cash only.
Want to take your lady out for a nice romantic evening after all the hole in the wall joints you’ve hit up so far on your trip? Then Maracuya is the just the place.
Located just outside of the Port of Arica, Maracuya serves lovely elegant traditional Chile dishes with a beautiful view of the ocean. Locals say it’s the best restaurant around. The place isn’t cheap but offers real value for the money. Time to splurge!
Sky Costanera is the tallest building in South America! Inside it’s a multi level high-end mall with movie theaters and restaurants but the main attraction is the top 2 viewing levels.
Many people recommend going the day after it rains right before sunset. The views are incredible. You really don’t realize how big Santiago is until you see it from that far up. There’s no where to eat or anything on the viewing levels yet but that’s OK it’s totally worth it.
Some reviewers stated they wished they had some open air access at the viewing level since they have to take their pics through glass but I can understand how that would be a safety concern. There’s never really too many crowds but it does cost more on weekends and holidays. Look for the signage above every window to help you pick out landmarks!
Fantasilandia is an amusement park located in Santiago. Great for
children of all ages and adults too.
At under $15 per person (as of 9/2015) it’s a great value! It’s no Disneyland/Six Flags by any means but there’s plenty of rides and attractions to keep you busy all day.
The bathrooms are clean and easy to find and don’t forget to bring a change of clothes cause you will get wet on a few of the rides. Some reviewers recommend taking a cab or the metro to get there probably cause the parking sucks.
Around Halloween it’s pretty rad, they stay open late and everyone is dressed up in crazy costumes!
Now for the surfing and what brings people from far and wide. Fall is a great time of the year to plan a surf trip, as the water has had all year to warm up and school is back in session, so the beach is less crowded.
It is also the time before the more temperamental winter has begun. The close proximity of Santiago to some of the world’s best surfing has inspired many surf schools in the area to open up.
If you’re looking for lessons check out Magic Chile International Surf School as the top loved surf school by tourists from all over the world.
Waves suck today? Well then head on over to Wave House to get your fix. Located in the Los Condes neighborhood in Santiago they have everything from Simulators, wave pools and climbing walls.
The instructors are great and the staff is always available to answer any questions you might have. There’s no hot water in the dressing room and the wet suits are a bit worn out so if you have your own bring it.
But if you’re looking for some waves right in the middle of the city, this is the place to go.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or one filled with action, Santiago certainly can be the place for you. Central Chile has a temperate climate, making it accessible throughout the year.
Enjoy the weather, the surf, the seafood, and the endless activities Santiago, Chile has to offer.
There’s a lot to be said about Jacó, some of it is rad, but some of it is quite grungy, even for a surf bum.
For years, this beach town has been getting mixed reviews from all sorts of surfers, travelers, and vacationers, so we’re here to set the record straight.
Having visited Jacó dozens of times, I know the best places to stat, eat, and party, without feeling unsafe or unclean. The overall structure of Jacó is incredible. There’s basically one ‘busy’ street in Jacó, which is full of surf shops, taco joints, souvenir emporiums, and a whole lot of places to get drunk.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]There’s definitely a technique to visiting Jacó, because if you decide to just wing it solo and stay at the cheapest hostel and eat the cheapest meals, you’ll have a terrible time. [/box]
There will be a ton of people trying to convince you to stay here and eat there, but if you follow the advice on this page, I guarantee you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.
Similar to the majority of Costa Rican surf towns, Jacó caters to surfers, partiers, vacationers, and a ton Gringos. Though Tamarindo gets the name Tama-Gringo, Jacó brings in the masses of Gringos and fat Americans.
I say this with all honesty, if you want to avoid chubby, pale, gnarly looking vacationers, then I would seek a surf trip elsewhere. This is not to say that there aren’t beautiful surf babes in Jacó, because there’s a ton!
As you enter town from the north, you’ll drive past a Best Western (great place to stay if you want a quiet place), then past Tico Loco Tacos, and then you’ll eventually cross the bridge to enter the heart of Jacó, Costa Rica.
With the famous slogan “Get Wacco in Jacó”, you can imagine why so many surf bums and party animals choose to call this place home. There aren’t too many places in Costa Rica that are really built up, and Jacó isn’t extremely built up either, but compared to somewhere like Dominical or Avellanas—this places is crazy incorporated.
You won’t find skyscrapers and all inclusive resorts, but you’ll discover that Playa Jacó and Key West Florida look incredibly familiar—feels like Spring Break most of the year.
Jacó is without a doubt the most convenient surf town in Costa Rica, because you’ll be able to get just about everything you’d ever need in this town. Whether you’re looking for a specific set of surf fins, a name brand type of whiskey, or simply want some constant waves, Jacó is definitely a great place to do any of the three.
When my friends visit from the states, I don’t personally take them to Jacó (especially my parents), but if you are on a strict budget and can’t make it to the rarities of Pavones or Avellanas, then I’d definitely recommend a place like Jacó.
If you and your boys (or girls) are planning a surf trip, but want to have a bunch of late nights, then choosing a place like Jacó can be very smart.
Your day will begin with awaking to the noise of Ticos selling lottery tickets in the streets and noisy Americans strolling through the streets—some of them likely never went to sleep. Your hostel will offer a free breakfast, otherwise you can find several eateries off the main drag that provide American or Tico style breakfast for about 5$.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]If you choose to cook your own meals, you’ll end up paying about 3-4$ for each meal. Eggs, chicken, bread, and milk are all ridiculously cheap, so keep that in mind. [/box]
As far as places to eat, drink, and party, Jacó has some of the best of Costa Rica. Though it doesn’t mirror the quality of some of the tourist heavy spots like Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo, it definitely has some great spots.
My favorite place to munch down at would have to be the Taco Bar of Jaco. This place has fresh fish, chicken, and beef tacos at a pretty affordable price. You’ll end up spending about 14$ on three tacos, so if you’re on a backpacking budget this place is not ideal. But, if you can spend the cash and enjoy a nice taco, then you’d be insane not to make a stop here.
If you like sushi and want to treat yourself, then there’s a place called Arigato Sushi on the main strip where you can feast on some of the best sushi in Costa Rica for under 20$. As I recall they don’t open their doors until 6 or 7 pm, due to the fact they only cook with the fish that’s caught that day. Yes, it’s that fresh. The chefs here are world class and if you order the Jacó roll, you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to party, it won’t be difficult. There’s dozens of pub crawls, bars, and drug dealers everywhere, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you chose the right beach town.
I have a friend named Billy from NYC who opened a bar called Moonshine on the main strip, where you’ll find 2$ cocktails and a ton of great people to party with. Otherwise, you can go dancing at Pub Orange, drink a few beers with local surfers at Swell Bar, but you best bet is to get to sleep early and catch the sunrise surf. Because once 10 a.m. hits, the water will be packed.
Located in the Golfo de Nicoya area of Costa Rica, Jacó has a fair amount of exposed breaks and doesn’t bring in too many surfers. Normally there will be reliable offshore winds from the northeast, but like any beach, it can be terrible on bad days. The best swell is going to be fro the south, southwest, which will bring in beach breaking waves in both directions.
Whether you like rights or lefts, both will be thundering if you get to Jacó on a good day. Though some of the locals prefer to surf low-tide because the waves are a bit more hallow, I really only surf it during high tide. I’ve found that as the tide comes in, the waves break a little cleaner and because the beach is so huge, it’s never too crowded. Though I say it’s not crowded, the best point (further south), is by far the best. The waves on this end of the beach are much larger and don’t wash out as easily.
One of the best parts about Jacó is the fact that it’s so versatile for every skill level. I’ve been to a ton of beaches around the world and I’ve never seen as many surf camps than in Jacó Beach.
Not only are there about 30 surf shops (all offering lessons) in the town, but there’s an additional 10-12 beach front surf schools.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]These are great for beginners that have never surfed before, while intermediate surfers should stay away from these classes.[/box]
The instructors will do just about anything to convince you to take a lesson, but don’t listen! They’ll tell you that there’s sharks in the water, a terrible jellyfish population, or sting ray breeding season, but they are probably lying.
I’ve surfed Jacó dozens of times and I’ve never seen, heard, or even slightly thought about a shark. Sting rays are a different story. I’ve been stung 5 times in my life, once was at Jacó, but it’s all part of the sport.
Because there’s a ton of advanced surfers who visit Costa Rica, I have to mention Playa Hermosa de Jacó. This is where you’re going to want to surf. The wave works very well when it reaches overhead heights and has a ton of power. Hermosa is only about a 5-10 minute drive from Jacó, so it’s easy to get to. Hermosa is a great spot to visit if a big swell comes in, especially if you’ve got the balls to try a tow-in day. My advice, check the surf report and bring the gun.
Let check the surf now . . .
The Buddha House Hostel: This is one of the best options for surfers and backpackers that don’t have a bunch of money to spend on accommodations. I normally either stay here, or with friends.
The Buddha House is clean, safe, and comfortable. Three things that you won’t find everywhere in Jacó. A room will cost you 12$/night for the shared dorms, 25$/night for the private air conditioned rooms, and 35$/night for the master bedroom.
They have a beautiful Argentinian receptionist named Camilla, basically the reason I sleep there. You’ll feel at home at the Buddha House, so get cozy and enjoy your vacation.
Clarita’s: Easily the most lively place to stay in Jacó. This place is home to the Miss Jacó competition each year, so you imagine what type of things ensure.
Wet T-shirt contests, beer pong, and a ton of other games. I don’t specifically stay here, because I like to sleep at night, but I always catch a few post surf brews here.
Clarita’s is notorious for housing hundreds of drunk people, especially during high season. Though it can get quite ratchet some nights, it is actually a decent hotel. Rooms are anywhere from 40-100$/night.
Room 2 Board: This is a huge hostel complex, where a ton of backpackers stay. Rooms are 10-15/night, rooms lock, and it’s pretty clean. This is the largest hostel, so you’ll be able to meet people from around the world.
They host pub crawls, surf camp, and Spanish lessons, so it’s a pretty organized facility.
Jacó is a great vacation spot in Costa Rica, but it is most definitely not for everyone. If you’re young, like to party, and are comfortable with your surf skills, then you may feel right at home here.
There’s a ton of great eateries, a decent amount of waves, and one of the rowdiest nightlifes in all of Central America. Things to keep in mind!
Jaco is not as safe as the majority of other surf towns, so keep your belongings close! Don’t bring out too much cash, don’t get too drunk, and don’t walk on the beach at night. The locals in Jacó are by far the worst, so if you slam a bottle of Flor de Caña and smoke a bag of grass, don’t expect to make it home with any dignity.
If you avoid the beach, stay with your group, and know a little Spanish, you won’t have to worry about anything. Just don’t follow a local into a dark ally, use your head! Though it isn’t the most extravagant place to surf, Jacó is a great beach, full of a lot of great surfers, so rip some waves and drink some rum!
If you’re backpacking through Costa Rica, or are simply just hitting a few of the beaches in the southern Pacific region, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of either Quepos or Manuel Antonio. Both beaches offer a completely different vibe, so depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll fall in love with at least one of them.
Personally, I stay in Manuel Antonio, but generally prefer to surf Quepos, assuming the wave is working. These are two HUGE tourism towns in Costa Rica, so if you’re looking for a cheap, remote little surf town, then I highly suggest you seek your stoke somewhere else. But, if you want to surf some fun breaks, meet beautiful girls (also surf bros for all those surf babes out there), and generally have some very interesting nights, then the Manuel Antonio Quepos gangbang is a great choice for any surf bum’s vacation.
Located only a short 2 hour drive from San Jose, Quepos serves as an ideal place to start your surf journey (especially considering Dominical, Uvita, and Pavones are all just due south).
Similar to every tourist heavy town in Costa Rica, you won’t find the 50 cent tacos and 1$ beers here, but you can definitely scrape by if you have a few hundred dollars in the bank account.
There’s a ton of epic restaurants and bars all over Manuel Antonio, with equally as much found in Quepos. But, beware! Quepos is home to a ton of sketchy Ticos and prostitutes, so unless you want a little something, something, I wouldn’t talk to any of the “fine” women in high heels. Stick to the sun-kissed surf girls in the bikinis and you’ll go home with a few stories to brag about.
Similar to any surf town in Costa Rica, the atmosphere in both Quepos and Manuel Antonio is completely surf orientated. Though you won’t have the abundance of surf hostels and surf shops of Jacó or Tamarindo, you will get a heavy dosage of surfage if you look in the right places.
Though Quepos generally gets a bad rap for robberies and loose women, if you have your head straight, you’ll find that the sketch balls leave you alone. Just stay away from the Quepos pier/boardwalk at night, nothing good ever happens there, seriously never.
Alright, Quepos and Manuel Antonio are two entirely different towns, but they are located within 2 miles of one another, which is why we categorize them together in a surf guide.
Quepos is the Tico town located at the bottom of a giant hill, while Manuel Antonio is the town located at the top of the hill. So, you’ll have to pass through Quepos to get to Manuel Antonio, which makes surfing both of them in a weekend super easy.
First, let’s talk Quepos. This is a fairly small Tico town located about 2 hours south of San Jose on the beach, just 1 hour south of popular Jacó. Quepos is by no means a beautiful or quaint, not cute town, but the wave that breaks of the jetty makes it a gorgeous town in my opinion.
I don’t visit surf towns because they’re beautiful, I visit surf towns because I can get stoked and drink rum. If you want to soak in an infinity pool, eat a steak dinner, and get massages all day, my advice is to go to Hawaii. Quepos is gritty, but safe, so in my opinion, it’s a win-win.
From my experiences, the locals in Quepos are a lively bunch and are just looking to get drunk with a few Gringos, so if you sport a smile and a little spirit for adventure, you’ll love it here. But, for those that are willing to spend a little more money, or just want to enjoy a more aesthetic town, then hop on the bus up to Manuel Antonio for 50 cents and see what it has to offer.
Manuel Antonio is a great place for backpackers, couples, solo travelers, families, or basically anyone that wants to wake up on top of a mountain and peer out at the vast Pacific Ocean.
Manuel Antonio is perched at the peak of a mountain, so regardless of where you choose to stay, you’ll be able to bask in the glory of Costa Rican jungle. I’m much more familiar with Manuel Antonio as far as accommodations and eateries, so listen up and you’ll be treated.
Depending on you budget, you may want to buy your own food and cook it yourself, but I highly recommend a few restaurants if you have the funds.
First and foremost, El Patio is just about the dankest food in Costa Rica. They blend Caribbean style cuisine with fresh seafood to literally spin heads. Last time I was there, they had a Teriyaki Coconut Mango Tuna steak that I would eat 365 days a year and never complain about.
Though they have gnarly cool combinations of all sorts of seafoods and sauces, you won’t be able to afford this place on a poor man’s budget. Meals are generally like 20$ a plate, so only go here if you can swing it.
If you’re working with 5$/day for food, then split the bill at the Super Joseth with your buddy. You can get two huge ass Tuna steaks, coconut mango marinate, a bag of rice, and fresh veggies for 10$. Don’t believe me? Ask my buddy Uncle Steve, he still talks about my seared Tuna. Apart from the high end restaurants, you can generally find a fish taco for 2$, but like I said before you’re better off cooking your own meals while in Manuel Antonio.
Quepos: This is a tricky one, because sometimes it works and sometimes it’s flat. I’ve seen it at 1 foot and I’ve seen it at 10 feet and let me tell you, when it’s working at 10, paddle out.
Although I almost always stay in Manuel Antonio, I’ll bus down to Quepos any day if the wave wants to work. The wave is always going to break left, which is rad for everyone, because it’s a super clean left.
The wave isn’t as heavy as say, Dominical, so you can catch it and ride that puppy for a few hundred yards. If you want a barreling wave, then you want a big strong southwest or west swell, because anything under waist height will probably be pretty mushy.
Quepos used to be a pretty rad left that broke to the beach, but with the construction of the jetty, it breaks out pretty deep.[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Though everyone thought the construction of the new harbor was going to destroy the wave, it did the exact opposite. Now, the wave peels cleaner, faster, and ultimately makes for a much better ride.[/box]
Manuel Antonio: There isn’t a whole lot to say about this wave, because it’s going to be your typical fun-sized beach breaking wave.
If you head down the beach a few kilometers you’ll hit Playa Playitas. Playitas brings in much better waves, but Manuel Antonio beach is perfect for beginners or intermediates that want to perfect their style.
You can take a bus that runs from Quepos to the beach in Manuel Antonio for just under 1$, which will take you directly to the beach. You won’t have to pay a national park entry fee, nor deal with too many surf beginners, because the majority of tourism in Manuel Antonio is geared towards birdwatching and hiking.
Although this wave generally stays under head height, if you get a strong SW swell, expect a little power. I’ve had incredibly days at Manuel Antonio and would definitely recommend it to anyone that wants a nice salty long boarding Sunday.
Depending on your budget, you can stay at a variety of different places. Hotels are great, houses can be rented, but generally, hostels are the best options for backpackers and surfers.
Vista Serena: One of the best and most affordable accommodation options in Manuel Antonio. This place is run by Conrad and his mother (both Ticos) and they truly make all their guests feel right at home.
La Serena offers a ton of different room options (dorms, privates, cabinas, etc), so you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs. Rooms go for 10-20$ night and all options are clean and safe. You can lock up your valuables, watch an epic sunset, or just kick it on one of the several hammocks.
Backpackers: The long standing backpacker hostel in Manuel Antonio is an affordable, yet not always the safest options for backpackers. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting their packs and boards lifted at cheap hostels, so I usually just splurge the extra 2$ and stay somewhere a bit more comfortable.
La Mariposa: This is the ultimate option for people who have money to spend, or for those surfers that are visiting during the dead low season. This is a five star resort, but I’ve found accommodation for 120$/night.
That’s 60$ a person for easily the best accommodation in the area. There’s monkeys, toucans, sloths, and all sorts of wildlife running around the hotel, but you obviously won’t be getting your room for 10$. If you have the funs, I’d definitely recommend La Mariposa.
Quepos and Manuel Antonio are two incredibly beautiful destinations in Costa Rica, especially if you’re somewhat interested in wildlife. I’ve seen just about every animal from whales to sloths here, all while getting a heavy dosage of wave ripping.
It is definitely not you average cheap, surf bum town, but sometimes you have to pay a little extra to have the breathtaking views of this blessed country.
If you’re traveling with your girlfriend or family, this is an excellent way to spend time surfing, while also enjoying the wildlife of Costa Rica!
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.
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.