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.