Located in mainland Mexico at the entrance to the Sea of Cortez, the area is a magnet for south and southwest swells. Ranging from hollow A-frame beach breaks to incredible world class point breaks, surfers of all ability levels will get a thrill of a lifetime—or at lest Mexico-time.
The point breaks offer truly remarkable waves that can wrap for more than 500 yards. This wave can be both a hollow and thumpy—offering some barrel time and fast shoulders to race into the inside.
Most of the areas are all sand bottom and water temperatures hover around 75-85 degrees from May through November, hence no wetsuits are required.
In April, a vest or spring-suit may be desirable. Typically there is always an off-shore flow in the morning that lasts until early afternoon.
Surfing in Sinaloa is a damn good experience!
Type: point break
Reliability: fairly consistent
Best: Swell SW | Wind ENE
Average Sea Temperature : 25.9 °C
Best Season to surf: The important thing to remember is not to try during the rainy season—surf season is from March to Oct.
Patoles in Sinaloa is an exposed point break that has quite consistent surf. Summer offers the best conditions for surfing. Works best in offshore winds from the east northeast.
Groundswells more frequent than windswells and the best swell direction is from the southwest. Good surf at all stages of the tide and it’s rarely crowded here. Submerged rocks are a hazard though. Patoles can be reached by any rental car from Mazatlan in less than two hours.
Reliability: very consistent
Best: Swell SW | Wind ENE
Average Sea Temperature: 26.0 °C
Marmols Left Point in Sinaloa is an exposed point break that is usually a safe bet and works all around the year. Works best in offshore winds from the east northeast. Most of the surf here comes from groundswells and the best swell direction is from the southwest. Even when there are waves, it’s not likely to be crowded. Watch out for rocks.
Marmols Surf Quality and Wind Quality by season:
Reliability: fairly consistent
Best: Swell SW | Wind ENE
Average Sea Temperature: 26.1 °C
Dimas Rivermouth in Sinaloa is an exposed beach break that has quite reliable surf and can work at any time of the year. Ideal winds are from the east northeast.
Dimas tends to receive distant groundswells and the best swell direction is from the southwest. Waves at the beach are both lefts and rights. Even when there are waves, it’s not likely to be crowded. Rocks are a hazard.
Best: Swell SW | Wind E
Average Sea Temperature: 26.0 °C
Rucos in Sinaloa is an exposed beach break that has consistent surf. Summer offers the optimum conditions for surfing. Ideal winds are from the east. Rucos receives distant groundswells and the best swell direction is from the southwest.
Waves at the beach are both lefts and rights. Good surf at all stages of the tide. Rarely crowded here. Beware of rocks, locals and sharks.
Rucos Surf Quality by Season:
Best: Swell SW | Wind NE
Average Sea Temperature: 25.0 °C
Celestino in Sinaloa is an exposed point break that has consistent surf. Summer offers the best conditions for surfing. Offshore winds blow from the northeast. Ideal swell direction is from the southwest. When it’s working here, it can get crowded. Dangerous rips are a hazard.
Reliability: very consistent
Best: Swell SW | Wind ENE
Average Sea Temperature: 26.3 °C
El 29 A Dimas in Sinaloa is an exposed beach break that has very consistent surf. Summer offers the optimum conditions for surfing. The best wind direction is from the east northeast. Tends to receive distant groundswells and the optimum swell angle is from the southwest. The beach breaks offer lefts and rights. Rarely crowded here. Watch out for rocks.
Sinaloa Surf Adventures (SSA) is the longest running surf camp in Northern Mexico having been in business for 11 years. Recently, the camp was awarded the Mexico State Tourism award for top recreational business in Mexico.
Set in the small, tranquil fishing village of Las Barres, SSA provides a place to get away from the stress of everyday life while experiencing world class surf. This overlooked region in Mexico has been referred to as “the land that time forgot” and the “promised land”.
For decades surfers have flown right over the area for more well-known and overcrowded surf breaks. Arguably, the area around this part of Mexico has the most world-class breaks per mile on this side of the globe.
SSA is also very unique in that it surfs areas that are completely isolated and non-accessible. Image paddling out at your local break and it’s just you and your buddies, that’s what every day is like at SSA. There is simply no other place like SSA in the world.
SSA offers, best in class service, beach front accommodations, air conditioned rooms, great food, tons of memories and of course…world class, un-crowded surfing.
Barras de Piaxtla Surf Camp is located 1 hour and 15 minutes north of Mazatlán in the small fishing village of Las Barras De Piaxtla.
If you would like to spend your day learning how to surf on pristine secluded beaches, enjoying a cold drink in a hammock 10 feet from the ocean, sea kayaking, feasting on lobster, or warming your bones next to a beach bonfire, then Barras de Piaxtla Surf Camp is the place for you.
The waves are usually small to medium in height and perfect for surf lessons. There are no crowds and plenty of space to make learning how to surf easy! The surf camp will provide all your surfing equipment. All you have to do is show up!!
Culiacán International Airport is an international airport located at Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. It handles the national and international air traffic of the city of Culiacán. It is easy and cheap to get to with flights from Los Angeles roughly 2 ½ hours with an average cost of $325.00.
The Palms Resort of Mazatlán is located on the beautiful beaches of Mazatlán, in front of the three islands in the Golden Zone.
This hotel really seems to go all out for it’s guests. They will book excursions, fishing trips and the restaurant will even cook your caught fish for you! If you sleep in late the cleaning service will still clean your room and they have an amazing coffee bar with fresh squeezed orange juice every morning if you decide not to sleep in.
The bar will bring your margaritas to your room for you if you want to enjoy the sunset in privacy. The only issues I’ve seen are that the beds are a little hard and they could use a couple more servers around the pool. But for the views, cleanliness and service the price seems to be worth every penny.
The Quality Inn Mazatlán is perfect for if you’re on a budget and just need a nice place to crash after a long day of surfing.
They offer all the same amenities that all Quality Inns offer (free breakfast, wifi, pool and tv), there’s only 3 channels in English but it’s not like you’re in Mazatlán to watch TV anyway.
It’s about a 5 minute walk to the beach and many local clubs and restaurants are within walking distance just stay away from a place called “Panama” apparently they have terrible service. No mini fridges but all in all seems like a great place to stay for the value.
Pancho’s is located in Mazatlán in the “Golden Zone” right on the beach. Check them out for breakfast, lunch or dinner if you’re in the mood for some really good Mexican Seafood. Have an awesome Margarita with some Shrimp Kabobs, sit back and enjoy the beautiful view.
Surf’s Up Café is located in Mazatlán right next to the El Sol La Vida Beach Resort. When you walk in you can really tell that the owner Leanne loves what she does. Everything is homemade from the exquisite soups, caramel apples, burgers, hand cut papayas and Cubano sandwiches.
There’s tables right in the sand and live music is starting again in November. It sounds to me that the 2 kilometer drive off gravel road is worth the rubber.
The Social Cafe Lounge located in the heart of the Golden Zone
seems to be the place to be if you want “soft live music in the background, a large grownup drink in front of you and a beautiful friend to your right” ~Reviewer FrankyFigs2015.
The prices are amazing, they offer free wifi and parking and there’s live music on Thursday nights at 6:30, but get there early cause it fills up quick. The Social serves everything from Martinis, Cocktails, Mojitos, Vinos, Cervezas and more.
On they’re food menu they serve Salads, Pizzas, Sliders, Bagels, Paninis, Delicious Desserts and other great items. I can’t wait to try their “Cookies and Cream blended coffee drink with a little adult fun in it” 😉 Cash only.
The Huana Coa Canopy Adventure is off the hook! They offer three different options for your adventure. Combo #1 is Canopy + ATV, Combo #2 is Canopy + Horseback Riding and Combo #3 is Horseback riding + ATV. It’s kind of a long ride to get there but it’s definitely worth it and they even pick you up in a WWII vehicle.
They have an awesome staff including “Yara, Liz, Filipe, Danny and Jesus” who love their jobs and are fun to be around. Safety is their first priority, they have two lines just in case and you can zip upside down. When you’re done zip lining you have lunch and ride your ATV or horse to have a guided tour (with samples) of where they make their tequila!
There’s no pressure to buy any but you’ll probably want to since it’s better and cheaper then buying it back at your hotel. Don’t forget to bring your sunglasses and GoPro! Check out this Video about Huana Coa.
We do have a new iTunes App, something I developed for you for FREE.
You see, I love to make lists—especially before I travel to a foreign country. This little app will help you remember everything you need to take on your next surf trip.
Woohoo—free for me (I mean you).
People say you can’t get anything for free anymore but they are wrong. Here it is. Grab it and leave us a review—we’d be stoked. Or search for Wave Tribe in the App Store on your phone.
Need a place to go?
Try one of these on for size—surf travel articles—Wave Tribe style.
Wait, don’t go yet . . . there is one more thing you should know before you go back to Facebook. Well, you know we have a Heal The Oceans campaign . . . but damn, what about the land?
We wanted to do something for MOTHER TIERRA too, so we just launched a partnership with Trees for The Future,
Wave Tribe will gladly plant a tree in the Brazilian rainforest with each purchase.
We call it: Buy One, Get One Tree.
Let’s review—eco surf products made from hemp and other sustainable materials, an international campaign to help Heal The Oceans, and a commitment to plant trees with every purchase.
Dude, are you kidding me—quit shopping at the mall!
~ Derek, Wave Tribe Founder & Tree Lover-Planter
If you’re not familiar with Costa Rica, then you most likely will not have heard of the little beach town named Playa Grande. A place which I called home for 6 months was none other than the remote beach area of Playa Grande, a place that simply cannot be matched.
You’ll receive all the benefits of the Costa Rican, Pura Vida lifestyle, but without the overpopulation of tourists. Playa Grande is unique in the sense that it is located so incredibly close to nearby tourist trap Playa Tamarindo, yet seems to fly under the radar when it comes to crowdedness.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]I surfed this beach every single day for 6 months and the biggest lineup I saw was during Christmas, though there were still only about 15 people in the water. [/box]
The reason Playa Grande avoids all the tourists is because it’s pretty hard to reach if you don’t know what you’re doing. Separated from Tamarindo by a crocodile infested estuary, many tourists and locals choose to stay and surf in Tamarindo, while the true surfers head over to Playa Grande.
Playa Grande is made up of two different areas.
The main stretch of Playa Grande and the hidden reserve of the Palm Beach Estates. They both have incredibly great waves, though I tend to prefer to hang around the Palm Beach break known as Casitas.
If you want a relaxing spot to surf for your next vacation, or simply want to avoid the nasty lineups of Tamarindo, then I highly recommend you check out this spot. I could wake up and surf Playa Grande 356 days a year and you’d never hear me complain about anything.
If you want to know what Pura Vida actually feels like, then head on down to Playa Grande and see what you’ve been missing.
Playa Grande is without a doubt the only place in Costa Rica that has its town set up in such a strange fashion. Though it’s only located 1 km from Tamarindo, it’s a 30 minute drive, because there’s no bridge connecting the two towns.
This allows Grande to remain more remote and ultimately brings in significant less surfers. If you’re coming from Tamarindo, you’ll have to detour through Huacas, then continue through Matapalo, and eventually you’ll land in the main stretch of Playa Grande.
Like any surf town, Grande has surf shops, restaurants, a convenience store, a tiny school, and a ton of hostels and hotels.
The beauty of Grande is the fact that it’s located in a National Forest, so there are no buildings over 2 stories. This is insane considering how many hotels have tried to be developed in the area. Due to Costa Rica’s strict laws against building on National Forest, the hotels have turned from the five-star resorts you see in Mexico to the surf vibe hostels of Bali, Indonesia.
Your bed will be soft, the windows will be open, and monkeys will dance outside your cabina doorway and the Ticos are just downright welcoming.
While living in Playa Grande, I met a variety of different people, all of whom were incredibly helpful and friendly. To put things in perspective, I had my surfboard stolen in Tamarindo and my neighbor went out of his way to track it down. I figured I’d never see it again, but after 2 days, Oscar showed up on my doorstep with my surfboard and a fresh bar of wax.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]That’s how small of a community Guanacaste is. You lose something, someone helps you find it.[/box]
As far as accommodation, it won’t be hard to find a place to rest your head, the only difficulty will be finding a place that isn’t expensive. Due to its remoteness and tranquility, the majority of the hotels and hostels try to charge a lot of money.
This can easily be avoided if you find the right place, or rent a house with a bunch of your mates. I rented a pool house in Palm Beach for 400$/month, but it could sleep 2-3 people.
Otherwise you can fit 10-12 surfers in one of the beach homes, or you can stay at one of the hostels. Depending on your budget and length of stay, a rental home could be your best option. Then, you’ll be able to cook all your own food, do what you want, and not have to worry about quiet hour of a hostel.
If you want incredible cuisine, then Playa Grande isn’t the best place to find it. Although there’s a few really good Sodas (Tico restaurant), the best ones are over in Tamarindo.
The best place to get a meal in Grande is either at Bar Seven or Kiki’s on the main strip. One thing to remember is that if you stay in Palm Beach you will need a car! Palm Beach is located a 20 minute drive from the mains trip of Grande, so walking from place to place takes a long time.
One good part about Palm Beach is that you can take a 1$, 2 minute boat ride across the estuary and eat in Tamarindo whenever you want. The only problem about the boat is that it only operates between 6/7 am and 530 pm. This presents a problem, because you can’t party in Tamarindo and expect the boat guys to be working. You either have to pay a taxi (20-40$), find a place to crash in Tamarindo, or swim the estuary.[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Do not swim the estuary, you will get eaten by the crocodiles.[/box]
Playa Grande has a ton to offer any type of surfer and there’s a ton of wildlife surrounding the entire town. After reading this guide, you should be comfortable enough with the town of Grande that you can find a place to stay, eat, and surf without having to deal with Gringo prices.
If you only have a short time in Costa Rica, then a place like Playa Grande is a great way to have guaranteed incredible surfing, while also being able to check out a few other close spots.
Due to its close proximity to Tamarindo, Avellanas, Langosta, Marbella, Nosara, and Witch’s Rock—Playa Grande serves as an ideal spot for surfers who want to get a heavy dosage of Costa Rican surfing.
One thing about Playa Grande that sticks out the most is the consistency of the waves. I lived there for 6 months and only could remember a few days that were really choppy. Though a 20 foot swell won’t work at Playa Grande, anything between 6-12 is going to be epic. The paddle out is extremely easy, the waves hold well, and there’s never anyone surfing Playa Grande.
Playa Grande is a beach-breaking wave, offering rights and lefts to surfers of all shapes and sizes. There are two main breaks in Playa Grande, Casitas being the one located right next to the river mouth and main grande being located right next to main town.
Casitas is located right next to a huge rock formation, so there will definitely be a few rocks below you, but during high tide you’ll be far enough above water to not have to worry. The daredevils that are looking for a hollow low tide wave are welcome to rip Grande, but as a Playa Grande veteran, I’d go high tide coming in 9 times out of 10.
Depending on the time of day you surf Playa Grande will determine what type of board you should use, or at least from my experience. Though a dedicated short boarder, I found that surfing sunrise in Playa Grande was much more enjoyable with a longboard.
I’m not sure whether it was the waves, the crowd, or the fact I was just tired at 5 a.m., but early mornings in Playa Grande was always better with a 10 footer.
But, there’s no use in wasting your time on a long boy if the waves came out to play. For this reason, I’d recommend a short board for most afternoon sessions. I ride anything as short as a 5’ 4”, and anything as long as a 6’6”, though it doesn’t really matter because it’s all personal preference.
My go-to in Playa Grande was my 6’2” Rusty Joker, but it’s really up to you >
Depending on your style of play, Playa Grande can be a phenomenal place to spend your surf trip. The waves won’t be the barrels of Tahiti, nor the length of Pavones, but they’ll be better than Tamarindo 10 times out of 10.
You’ll get to rip a few of those cutbacks you’ve been dreaming about and on top of it, you won’t be wearing that 3/2 Cali wetsuit because you’ll be in Costa Rica baby!
Okay, let’s do that surf check . . .
Like I mentioned before, renting a house with your buddies is probably the most affordable and luxurious option, but obviously there are a few additional options.
Yoga, surf, fish, enough said. The RipJack offers a ton of different styles of rooms. From singles to family suites, you’ll most likely find something that satisfies your need here for sure.
The beds are comfortable, the staff is super cool, and you’ll be located about 100 feet from the main Grande beach break. You can’t really beat that, but rooms will be priced much higher than a hostel.
Standard rooms are 80$/night, Suites are about 200$, and private bungalows are around 150$.
This boutique style hotel is located right on Playa Grande National Park beach, allowing guests to enjoy the National Park and the untouched beach during their Tico vacation.
Also, the sea turtle population in this area is out of control, especially between Oct-Dec. There will be a ton of tours every single day, so if the waves decide to take a dump, at least you’ll be able to see some cool wildlife.
This is the best option for backpackers and surfers, because rooms are cheap and you get the luxury of staying in the Palm Beach Estates. This means that there will be 24/7 security, complimentary golf cart rides, and a whole lot of rich people on vacation. In addition, you’ll be a 10 minute walk from Casitas surf break and have the convenience of everything that Palm Beach has to offer.
This is the best place to stay if you’re vacationing with your family, because it’s quite luxurious and is located just steps from the best break of the area.
Located in the Palm Beach Estates, you’ll receive 24 hour security in the gated community and have the comfort of a five star resort.
The pools always cold, the food is delicious, and the staff is helpful and friendly. Also, if there are a few non-surfers in your party, the hotel offers several tours for them to enjoy.
Simply states, there ain’t no place like Playa Grande. You have constant waves, a quaint surf town, safety, and one of the emptiest lineups in the entire country.
Though it’s a little hard to reach, Grande offers a tranquility that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the country. You won’t have to deal with hundreds of people crowding up your lineup, neither will you have to worry about walking on an unsafe beach late at night.
Everything in Playa Grande is very much Pura Vida, so feel free to kick off the sandals, rub some wax on the board and surf some of the slow breaking wavs of Playa Grande, Costa Rica.
The state of Oaxaca (pronounced: wah-HA-ka) in Southern Mexico is home to what could be considered the most-famous beachbreak in the world: Zicatela Beach, aka Puerto Escondido.
But few realize that the potentially fatal monster of a wave is flanked on both sides by incredible surf spots, many of which are well-kept secrets guarded by the kinds of people you don’t want to piss off.
Some local knowledge is key to really enjoying the region, as many of the best waves are sand-bottom right points located miles from the highway down little more than bike trails.
Puerto Escondido has some pretty intense crowds, complete with their own homegrown locals who rival the guys on O’ahu’s North Shore, so mind your Ps and Qs in the water, and be humble. As the swell increases in size, the men are separated from the boys, so if you’re the former you might find it manageable.
The points to the east used to be empty, but recent publicity and stories of perfection on the scale of the Superbank have caused an influx of visitors. Get it before it has Kirra’s crowd.
Thievery is probably your biggest concern, as Mexico is infamous for rip-offs and corrupt police. It’s also a very hot, muggy place, so heat exhaustion is possible, but if you’re gonna paddle out into 20-foot Puerto Escondido, losing your wallet or getting prickly heat are the least of your worries.
The prime surf season, summer is also the rainy, muggy season, beginning in June and lasting until October. Water temps are in the 80s; air temps in the 80s and 90s. Most surfers visit Mexico in summer.
This is when the booming south swells begin to taper off, but there is still plenty of action, especially at the beachbreaks. Temperatures cool a bit, the rain eases, the tourists go home … but the surf is still there.
The “coldest” time of year, with air and water temps hovering in the 70s. It’s pretty dry, too, and south swells are nonexistent, so the Mexican surfer instead must focus on spots that catch northwest and west swells. Not a bad time of year, but not the best.
We reckon that spring is the best time to visit Mexico because it’s still dry, temps are warming up but not too much, the tourist masses have yet to arrive, and you get those early-season south swells creeping up the coast.
Oaxaca has consistent, year round surf, but many consider summer (April-Oct) as the prime surf season. Quality swells are generated from lows off New Zealand and these provide regular 3-10ft (1-3m) SW swells.
Add the heavy action of the tropical storms or “Chubascos”, generated off mainland Mexico, which churn up swells of 6-15ft (2-5m) between June-Oct. Many of these hurricane swells are just too unruly and closeouts are common.
Double overhead days are far from rare and during the height of the swell you will often see waves getting to triple overhead. Some of the time the combination of wind and swell is far from ideal. Between Nov and Feb, there will be lots of glassy or N wind days, but less of the strong swells. When the summer swells are pumping, there’s more chance of onshore, due W winds, blowing from 39% of the time in April to 17% in July. Afternoon seabreezes are an almost daily occurrence.
The summer rainy season brings winds from all directions, but mainly a mild W-NW or a better E-SE. Tidal range is minimal and has little effect on most spots.
|dominant swell||NW –||S –SW||S –SW||S –W||S –W||NW –|
|swell size (ft)||3||4-5||5-6||7-8||6-7||3-4|
|dominant wind||W –NE||W –NW||SW –NW||W –NW||W –NW||W –NE|
|water temp (C)||27||27||28||28||28||27|
Let’s check the surf now . . .
Oasis Surf Academy is rated the “Best Surf School in Puerto Escondido” They have a very warm, familiar and relaxed atmosphere.
You can just get lessons or you can stay in one of their apartments and enjoy some tacos at Juan’s Fish tacos right out front. Oasis has great quality surf equipment and Roger (one of the instructors) is even a shaper so if you damage your board he can repair it for you or just give you a new one to use.
All of the instructors, Roger, Roger Jr., Sebastian, Enrique, Julio and Tito are fun, speak good English, bond great with kids, patient with beginners and those that don’t speak Spanish. They even offer Spanish lessons! Impresionante!
Las Palmeras Surf Camp is located in the town of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, approximately 2.5 hours south of Huatulco, Oaxaca, where your plane will land. Hautulco is located in the central (coastal) part of Oaxaca, approximately 4 hours south of Puerto Escondido and about a 1.5 hour flight from Mexico City.
The house features air conditioning in the bedrooms, hot water, high speed Internet with WiFi, cable television and all of the comforts of a modern home. They offer surf sessions, 3 meals a day and alcohol (extra $).
Punta Chivo Surf Camp located in Salina Cruz offers everything from airport pickup and dropoff, access to secret spots via hummer, they avoid crowds as much as possible and even have drone photography to get some rad shots of you riding those waves.
Hotel Santa Fe is located in Puerto Escondido right on the beach. They have a very friendly staff and a restaurant with yummy food including vegetarian cuisine but you are also in easy walking distance to all of the restaurants in Zicoleta.
The rooms have AC’s and are old school Mexican style. Hotel Santa Fe has 2 pools and beautiful grounds to explore! Check out their Facebook page.
Hotelito Swiss Oasis is also located in Puerto Escondido about a block from the main drag and beach. If you get a downstairs room you get your own hammock, upstairs you get your own balcony.
Rooms come with a fridge stocked with beer for a small fee like 15 pesos or something and the hotel is known for awesome customer service and is very clean! What more could you ask for?
The only thing that might be an issue is finding the place, I guess some cab drivers don’t know exactly where it is? So just make sure you have the correct address and you’re ready to go!
One Salina Cruz is of course located in Salina Cruz, Mexico. Nothing too fancy just a descent place to stay and within walking distance to Walmart, where you should apparently stop at on the way to grab some bottled water since that seems to be a rare commodity at this hotel.
Reviews include: “Average, but one of the best is Salina Cruz” and “Excellent Value”
La Olita is located in Puerto Escondido. Their fish and shrimp tacos/burritos are awesome made with fresh ingredients Baja style. They have yummy guac, gold beer and mojitos. The establishment is small and unassuming with a “hip ambiance”.
The owner is a super cool local surfer that goes out of his way to make your experience enjoyable. The only issues I see is that the hours of operation are a little scattered. So make sure you give them a call or check out trip advisor to make sure they’re open before you head their way!
Cayuco Mezcal y Cocina is located in the sand at the west end of Zicatela beach in Puerto Escondido. Enjoy the relaxed ambiance while you watch the beautiful sunset and eat their amazing ceviche! (Seriously people say it’s the best they’ve ever had).
Some of the other favorites are their Mahi-mahi, seared tuna and cold tomato soup with mussels. The location is ideal if you have little ones with you or you just want to stick your toes in the sand while you eat since the tables are at grade on the beach.
They have live music on Thursdays but that’s their busiest day so expect delays receiving your food or drinks since they only have one server as of February 2015. Hopefully they’ve hired one more person since then so you can get that ceviche más rápido!
La Ola located right on the beach in San Augustinillo looks like a great place to just relax have a couple of shrimp tacos, some tuna tartar and some fresh squeezed tangerine juice or a clamato while you watch the waves. If you’re lucky you might run into the crazy lady with “the lord’s chips” they sound delicious.
Laguna de Manialtepec is a natural habitat made by a sand reef which separates the lagoon from the sea. The best time to go is right before sunset, at dark the water turns phosphorescent just like in the movie “The Life of Pi”. You can rent a canoe of your own or take a guided tour (if you’re staying at the Hotel Santa Fe they will hook you up with an awesome tour guide) Don’t forget your bug spray!
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!
What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?”
~ George Carlin
A surf trip is an opportunity to see new places and to discover yourself through the expression of who you think you are beyond the borders of your country—it will expand your mind and enrich your life in very meaningful ways so please don’t wait to do it—in this article we will explore surfing southern France.
I have been traveling for over a decade in search of waves and experiences along European coastlines and I can tell you that there is much adventure awaiting you.
Surfing in Southern France was written with the help of a French local surfer with over 30 years of experience surfing in southern France, we asked him to help us create this Surfer’s Guide to Southern France. And he said yes, trés cool!
We will talk about the known spots in the southwest of France, unfortunately only the known ones. We were told by the locals that if we speak about the secret surf spots we could never have another chocolate French croissant and believe me this is a great punishment that we want to avoid—with a little creative exploration you’ll find some unknown oceanic French jewels while surfing southern France.
Most of the known spots are crowded in the summer but you can find empty line-ups off the beaten path or during the fall and winter. The fall is our favorite time to travel to surfing in southern France and can be exceptionally warm. September and October serve up some solid swell with spring-suit or trunkable type conditions and is mostly outside of the European busy travel season (especially October).
It will be cheaper and the surf will be more consistent in the off season—June through the beginning of September can be packed like a Mexican pinada and unless you like the sardine feeling we’d recommend staying away from this season. Of course, you can go in the summer too—it’s a different place with topless girls and bronzed Italians, in winter the only thing topless will be your red wine bottle.
The winter can be brutal—you’ll want a 5/4/3 wet-suit with hoodie, gloves, booties and a bottle of tequila tucked into your wet-suit to keep you warm. You’ll need 3/2 full suit in October and sometimes into November. I lived in Lacanau in the winter of 2010, it can be punishingly cold (like snow-on the-beach cold) and the waves can get so big that you won’t be able to surf. But there will be many days in the winter with perfect uncrowded waves. Spring can also be enjoyable but the swells are less frequent and come from a different direction—May can be fun.
In mid September the tourists go back to work, so the surf is not too crowded, except in the areas of Biarritz, Hossegor, and Lacanau. The best surf is around Hossegor and Biarritz/Anglet. There are always a lot of surfers there, no matter of the season and sometimes a few pros dangling about—especially before the professional contests (usually in October).
A surf trip is an opportunity to see new places and to discover yourself through the expression of who you think you are beyond the borders of your country—it will expand your mind and enrich your life in very meaningful ways so please don’t wait to do it.
The French southwest coast is mainly exposed to full west swells (much like southern California), which means that the off-shore wind is mainly from the east. Here are the wave facts:
Insider’s Tip. There are a lot of small towns and unknown surf spots between Soulac and Lège-Cap-Ferret; in the Médoc between Biscarosse and Seignosse; in Les Landes between Capbreton and Anglet, and further south of Biarritz. Don’t limit yourself to the top name breaks, get in the car and explore and you’ll find some real gems.
The best surfing in southern France is in fall during September, October and November. These three months are synonymous with ze’ French Power, with off shore winds, barrels, and some big swells. Water temperature is still good south of the Aquitaine region, between 60° – 70° Fahrenheit.
View Southwest France Surf Spots in a larger map
There are various ways to travel to Southern France. The biggest French airport is obviously in Paris, but there is one small international airport in Bordeaux called Bordeaux Mérignac and hour flight from Paris. Flying into Bordeaux is the most convenient and most direct route to the surf.
There is also a national airport in Biarritz and this is a good second option if you can find an airline that flies there. There are numerous trains from Paris to Bordeaux (3 Hours on the TGV Fast Train) and Biarritz (5 hours)—in fact train travel in Europe is a great way to get around and if you take the fast train it can be quicker than flying and much cheaper to transport your boards. You can take your boards on the Train no problem.
From the States I recommend flying into Paris or Bilbao, Spain. It will cost you about $800 – $1200 round trip in the off season to fly from the Los Angeles, California, and it takes about 12 hours.
I recommend flying into Paris and hanging out there for a few days before or after your surf adventure (always depends on swell of course). The first thing you need to know is that Paris is split into districts, think of them as small neighborhoods.
I also suggest at least two days in Paris near the 6th district, it’s close to most everything and has great shopping and dining. It will cost you 50 euros to take a taxi from the Airport to the center of Paris and it will take between 20-40 minutes. You can also take the train but it’s a pain in the arse if you have boards and luggage with you. You’ll save like 30 euros, no really worth it in my opinion.
Insider’s Tip. One of my favorite places to eat in Paris is La Maonnina Italian resturant at 10 rue Marie & Louise. The telephone number is 01 42 01 25 26. There are tons of places in the 6th to eat.
All trains departing for the southwest of France leave from Gare Montparnasse in the 14 district (an easy walk or Taxi ride from the 6th). You’ll want to take the TGV fast train to the south of France to Bordeaux, Dax or Biarritz. The train ticket to Bordeaux costs about $100 each way. Once you get to the south you’ll want to rent a car at the train station or airport ($500 for one week).
Booking your train tickets in advance can save you lots of dinero. Book your train tickets online here: http://www.idtgv.com/en/
It’s a little tricky to pre-book the car on the internet at the Bordeaux train station but with a little persistence you can do it. The train station is called Bordeaux Saint Jean Train Station and the car rental companies on location are Sixt, Avis, National, Europcar. The easiest way to book is to do it directly through the company websites.
I usually fly into Paris and out of Bordeaux Mérignac (BOD) airport (you can fly to many other European locations from Mérignac) and they always let me pick the car up at the train station and drop it off at the airport at no extra charge. You can ask them about this when you go to pick up the vehicle.
If you fly into BOD and need to get to the train station there is a bus that will shuttle you either way for 7 euros. It leaves every 45 minutes and takes about 30 minutes depending on traffic. Give yourself an hour if you need to make a train or flight.
At BOD the pick-up is in front of Terminal B at exit 11. Look for the sign in the picture above. If you taking the bus from the train station to BOD look for the same sign in front of the train station in Bordeaux.
If you decide to rent a car get the insurance. On one trip when I got home there was a letter waiting for me telling me that the rental car company had charged my card an additional 250 Euros for a small scratch on the fender, not trés cool.
Pay a little extra to avoid those unforeseen charges, it sucks to get a large bill that you didn’t expect in the mail after an epic surf trip. On the main highway watch out for the radar cameras—you’ll see a warning sign before you hit the radar zone but if you don’t slow down and you see a flash you will get the ticket in the mail or the car rental agency will charge your card for the infraction. Sometimes the police will set up stops or use radar on the smaller roads leading into towns.
The French usually have border agents at the toll booths going back into France so you might want to dispose of any Moroccan goodies before you cross the border. I’ve never seen the Spanish stop or screen anyone going the other way.
Take soft racks. We recommend Wave Tribe Hemp Racks! Seriously though, cars in Europe aren’t like American behemoths and most likely you’ll end up renting a smallish car. Once you pile your wet-suits, wine, luggage and boards into the cramped space you’ll wish you had racks. Oh yea, don’t scratch the roof with the racks (see above) or leave your boards unattended—they might disappear.
Another option is to fly into Spain and drive up to the surf in France from Bilbao. It’s about a 3 hours drive from Bilbao to Bordeaux and the flight from the USA is about the same price. It’s a really easy drive and the car rental companies don’t mind that you cross the border into France or visa-vera.
Do you hate border crossing? Bad memories of Mexico? Well, where to grab your coffee and croissant is your greatest worry while traveling between Spain and France, the border crossing is a non-issue, you just drive straight through. If you do get stopped it will be on the French side at the toll booth.
As we all know, flying with boards is not that comfortable and can be very expensive. That’s why I must talk about surfboards in France. There are a lot of surf shops all along the coast, like everywhere in the world. You’ll find small funny surf shops, but also the branded surf shops. You’ll find exactly the same brands of surfboards in France as in US or Australia—and let’s not forget those cheap Chinese and Thai surfboards.
Another option is to rent your board. Nick at Ocean Gypsy Surf (http://oceangypsysurf.com) has a fine collection of surfboard rentals. He is located in Labenne Ocean, 5 minutes South of Hossegor and 20 minutes North of Biarritz. Send him an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call him 33 (0) 6 33 82 14 26 to reserve a board.
There are many different places for eat, from the worst to the best. Don’t worry about it before you come, if there is one thing that the French people don’t joke about, it is food and wine. You’ll find very French restaurants, but also food from all around the world. One thing to keep in mind is the afternoon eating schedule, the French tend to start lunch around one and they finish eating around three and if you arrive too late they might not serve you.
Vegans will find it hard to eat in France and vegetarians that eat cheese are in paradise. Grab a bottle of red, a French baguette from the bakery and a chunk of blue cheese and you are golden. You’ll also find a lot of street markets, organic or not. If you have an apartment, buying food at the street market and cooking it at home is the cheapest way to eat. But you’ll need a place with a kitchen, another reason to get an apartment.
If you like red wine, like me, then you are in the most bountiful wine zone of France with so many delicious Bordeaux’s that your head will spin when you walk into the store to select one. France’s first extensive vineyards were established by Rome in around 122 BC in today’s Languedoc and then later perfected in Bordeaux.
The major reason for the success of wine making in the Bordeaux region is the excellent environment for growing vines. The geological foundation of the region is limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium.
In Bordeaux, almost all wines are blended. The typical blend consists of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (and/or Cabernet Franc), with small additions of Petit Verdot and Malbec. So, my friends, the real gift the French have is in how they blend those varietals.
However, the French use one other interesting trick call chaptalization, which means they add sugar before undergoing barrel-ageing. In the south you can get a good bottle of Bordeaux for 4 Euros, so it won’t break your wallet either. Great red wine and sick barrels, what else could you ask for?
Accommodation will run $50-$100 a night in most places and your food budget is up to you. Shopping for fresh groceries and preparing meals will be much less than eating out every meal.
Finding an apartment for part of your trip is what I recommend, most breaks in the south are within a reasonable driving distance from each other. You could do a ten day trip (with car) for about $2000 USD, less if you camp and prepare most of your own food.
Add a few nights in Paris, some good meals out, and a few bottles of Bordeaux and that low budget could easily double.
If you want to go to France in the summer, during July and August, it will be very expensive.
Insider’s Tip. Accommodation is much easier to rent and most summer rentals sit unoccupied during this season. You’ll be able to get long term rentals for about 40% less. Check out http://www.homelidays.com for great rentals. Also check camp sites (where you can rent mobile homes) and surf camps.
The well-known surf spots are more expensive.
Be forewarned, you must book your accommodation very early in the year for travel during the high season—if not you’ll be sleeping on the beach, which might be cool too.
There are camp sites in every coastal city, prices vary depending on the popularity of the area—for example camping in the popular spots like Hossegor or Lacanau are much more expensive. You’ll find the prices on the internet. Here are some resources:
There are not many guest houses in France. Chambres d’hotes are the way to go, you rent a room in a family house and can share meals and learn about the culture. Rooms can be offered in a home or in a spare room in the garden.
This is highly recommended for people that want to learn about French culture and lifestyle. You can, if you want, eat with the owner in some situations. There are a lot of different prices; this site is a good resource.
This can be a fun way to travel, spend time in someone’s home or on their couch. France has a big representation on this site.
There are thousands of hotels in France. You’ll find all types of prices. You can book them on the internet:
You might want to consider renting a place for a week or longer. There are lots of websites offering long term rentals. Here are a few links to get you started. I have used homelidays and liked it.
Lacanau is a small quaint town and a nice place to start your trip. The further south you go the more crowded it will be. From Bordeaux train station it’s about 45 minutes by car to Lacanau or about 1.5 hours to Hossegor. You’ll want to check the surf reports to see what’s the haps, but if there is swell all those places will be working.
Lacanau has a lower profile surf scene than its cousins in the south and is more laid-back, it feels more rustic and is a good place to ease into the southern vibe. You’ll find less crowds in this region and have the opportunity to explore some of the lesser surfed breaks to the north towards the Bay of Biscay.
SearchForWaves.com is a great resource for surf forecast in southern France while on the road. You can check surf spot information at:
Surfline also has a forecast page:
Wannasurf France section is good for chatting with local surfers and learning details:
Good site for wind:
But yea, this is the age of the widget so here is the swell forecast for you . . .
The best waves are in Médoc, suggests our French local. Even if it’s perfect, you can surf alone or just with your friends. The waves only break on sandbars and there is a spot on every baïnes—every 300 to 400 meters.
A baïne is a kind of big hole in the beach, parallel with the ocean, made by the currents. At the door of the baïne, you’ll find the sand bars. Be careful when surfing the baïnes, people die every year from the currents and they can be tricky to manage in big swell.
Insider’s Tip. A nice hotel-resort in Lacanau for less than 100 Euros a night is the Vitalparc at Route du Baganais. The website is http://www.vitalparc.com and the phone number 33 (0) 5 56 03 91 00. I have stayed there a few times, it’s about 5 minute drive to the ocean and has nice dining and even a Spa for your lady. Want a massage after your long session?
The worst thing about the Médoc is that there aren’t a lot of sheltered spots and the wind can cause some real havoc. When the wind is onshore, it’s best to look inside the mouth of the river called the Garonne—here you’ll find some off-shore waves, but usually a bit smaller than other places.
You can also check the waves north of Lacanau towards Soulac. The waves tend to get smaller as you travel north—depending on the swell and also remember to watch the tides.
My favorite place to surf is right in town at Lacanau and here is a surf school if you are look for one.
There are a few really good sandbars and jetties that produce barrelling waves when the conditions are right. This place changes on the tide swings and can look totally uninviting at low tide and then turn on at high tide, so keep an eye on it and don’t be surprised if it jumps within a few hours.
You can go hang at Le Kayoc where they have free wifi and watch it. Le Kayoc is the restaurant at the end of the main drag and looks out onto several breaks. The food is ok.
The best waves in France are around Hossegor, Seignosse and Capbreton—simply put, the surf is world class in this area and this is where they hold the professional surf contests each year.
There is a very deep fault at the bottom of the ocean in front of this region (much like Blacks in California). This means that the swell arrives extremely fast onto the sand bars, creating very large and powerful barrels (like the one on the previous page). Unfortunately, this region is cursed with the same wind issue as in the Médoc.
You can surf big waves in la nord (north) in Hossegor—from 12 to 14 feet. The southern beaches in Hossegor are a bit more sheltered from the larger swells if that’s more your style. So if it’s too big in the north, try hitting the southern beaches. It can be twice as big on the northern beaches—it’s a strange phenomenon, just a few hundred feet north it starts to get much bigger.
If it’s really big try heading for Capbreton, you can surf sheltered waves at the Santosha, but just as in le sud that damn French wind blows hard and could ruin your session. I have had some great sessions over the years in this region and I find the French trés cool in the water. Always remember to be respectful of the locals and other surfers in the water and follow courteous surfing etiquette—no snakes.
The Basque country has a wide variety of waves with wonderful quality—this is one of the most beautiful coastlines in all of Europe. The mountains and ocean are married at the same place. That means that in winter time, you can have a surf session and a snowboard session on the same day.
In Anglet and Biarritz you’ll find hollow waves on sand bars. If you go south from Biarritz you’ll find a lot of different waves on reefs and sand bars. There are a lot of sheltered spots in the Basque region and it’s the best place to surf when the wind is howling or the surf is gigantic. A solid swell at Biarritz can be super fun with options at Anglet five minutes away and playful reefs in the southern part of the city.
Insider’s Tip. I recommend the Hotel Le Bellevue in downtown Biarritz located right in front of an excellent surf spot and close to shopping and great food (check out the Italian right across the street). There are also beautiful walks along the boardwalk. The hotel is located at 5 Avenue Edouard VII. The phone number is 33559030450 and the email email@example.com
Surfing at Grande Plage in Biarritz can be really fun, it’s a thumping wave and when it’s going the peaks shift around so you can get waves even in the crowd if you work it.
Try sitting outside near the rocks to catch some of the larger sets.
You can find miraculous waves without too many people if you hunt for the right spot, or keep going south to Spain—a totally different experience, one you will not want to miss!
San Sebastian is only about 30 minutes from downtown Biarritz and if the swell is too big in France it might be perfect in San Sebastian—check out the map. The winds are also different in Spain and sometimes it can be totally blown-out in France and glassy in Spain.
San Sebastian is a very protected spot that is protected by huge cliffs from the north and south. It’s a nice day trip from France. Follow the signs out on the main highway and head toward Spain, the boarder is about 30 minutes from Biarritz. You’ll go through several tolls on this route so grab some spare change. Depending on how deep into Spain you go you’ll need about 20 euros each way.
Most of the tolls are automated, you throw the change into this bucket and the gate opens. It’s a pain if you don’t have the exact change, in fact they will make you turn around if you can’t pay.
Once you enter Spain the coast make a large sweeping turn here and the beaches go from facing west facing to north facing in just a few miles. Thus the more northerly swells slam right into Spain, providing epic waves just around the corner.
San Sebastian is a fun wave and will hold plenty of swell.
Try and find a parking spot at the north end of the beach against the cliff. There is also a paid parking structure two blocks off the beach, just follow the signs. Don’t leave any valuables in your car.
Insider’s Tip. Try the People’s Cafe on the main beach at San Sebastian for an awesome post session beer and watch the other surfers while basking in the sun. The have excellent sandwiches and really fresh bread and cold beer.
You can’t miss the wave at San Sebastian, there is a left off the jetty and a fun right next to the rocks at the north end of the beach. Sometimes it breaks in the middle section too, depends on the swell.
This is a fun place to hang out for the day and you’ll be surprised how different Spain is compared to France.
If you have crossed the boarder into Spain you are not far from one of the premiere waves in Europe—Mundaka. The tides, wind and swell have to be just right but if you are lucky you might score this wave.
If there is a lot of swell I’d check it for sure, it needs 3-5 meters to work. Mundaka is situated on a beautiful cliff overlooking a breathtaking rivermouth. Look up the river and be blown away by the immense beauty of this place.
Getting there by car look for the Gernika exit right before (coming from France) the city of Bilboa. Follow the signs towards Bermeo and eventually you’ll drop right in to Mundaka about 20 minutes off the main highway. If you get lost along the way just pull over and ask any local: “Donde esta Mundaka?”
Once you are in Mundaka prepare yourself for a small maze of streets, work yourself towards the harbor—the main break is right in front of the harbor opening. If you have a van you can even camp right in the main parking lot above the break, but as always be respectful and if the police come to your vehicle offer to buy them a beer.
To get to the main break head toward to harbor and jump in next to the boats (see picture below) and paddle about 30 yards into the lineup.
Insider’s Tip. The best place to stay in Mundaka is the Hotel El Puerto. The hotel is literally right next to the main break and for less than 100 euros you can watch the waves and sip a cervesa. Make a reservation at http://www.hotelelpuerto.com/ or give a jingle at 34 94 687 6725
Check the middle and inside sections of the waves too, sometimes if the peak is crowded the middle section can be super fun.
Most people know Mundaka as a fun left but if the sandbars are setup just right you can also surf a sweet barreling right.
When we were there in 2012 we surfed some of the best right tubes of the trip. You just never know in Europe.
There is also a super fun beachbreak across the bay and a reef break near the island at the mouth of the river. Do some exploring, you’ll be stoked!
Have a great trip, let us know what you think of the Wave Tribe Surf Travel Guide Series and don’t forget to check out Wave Tribe for great eco surfing gear before your trip.
Go out there and score some waves. Traveling will change your life and is one of the most precious activities you will ever do!
Derek Dodds, Founder Wave Tribe
PS. Bali, Cabo, Peru, Brazil, South Africa Surf Guides in the pipeline—always free to the Wave Tribe family!
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!
Located in western Mexico on the Pacific Ocean, the State of Nayarit is an extremely scenic area, with lush tropical jungles, mangroves and deciduous forests lining the coast.
Mostly undeveloped, the coastline of Nayarit has attracted hardcore surfers since the late ‘60s. For those early surf pioneers, the chance of scoring an epic session at San Blas, known as being the longest right in the world, was worth the suffering inflicted by the “jejenes” (local sand flies) & mosquitoes.
But things have changed with the fast rise of Puerto Vallarta, once a tiny fishing village in the neighboring state of Jalisco, now attracting 500,000 tourists each year and boats (literally) full of people.
Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit spans 100 miles of pristine coastline, from Nuevo Vallarta all the way to San Blas. The highest concentration of quality surf spots in this region is around the Northern tip of the Bay of Banderas—not banditos—there are over a dozen pristine surf breaks with crystal clear tropical water within easy striking distance.
One of the most popular events of surf in Riviera Nayarit is organized in Sayulita amid of March, where the surfers from all over the world arrive to the coast of the Pacific seeking the best waves. For those who want to incursion in surfing during the holidays, several places teach to dominate the waves in short or long board and in stand-up paddle board.
Surfing in Nayarit is such an overwhelming experience. Some of the most famous spots for surfing in Riviera Nayarit are:
At the south of El Anclote; Sayulita, at the north of El Anclote; Los Veneros (or Dinosaurs), Las Albercas, Las Playas and others.
In San Francisco surf can be strong with powerful currents—other places are La Caleta, reached in boat from Chacala, The Bay of Matanchen, famous for its manageable and long waves and Las Rocas, to the north of the same bay and Lolas—at the north of San Blas.
In the heart of the Riviera, Punta de Mita is an impressive 1,500-acre pear-shaped peninsula surrounded by the Pacific on three sides—and home to one of the most awe-inspiring coastlines in the entire country.
The villas and resorts that have sprung up along these golden shores are nothing short of spectacular, and offer visitors an elite combination of championship golf, trophy game fishing, gourmet dining, and top-drawer service in an extraordinary setting.
At the same time, all the development of this region has created access complications to the surf breaks, making it very difficult to access the majority of the breaks by car.
It is necessary to utilize the panga boats as the everyday transportation from your accommodations to the surf spots, with overland transportation a secondary option when necessary to access the few breaks outside the bay that depends on swell conditions.
The surf in this region of Mexico is generally 1/2 to 1/3 the size on South swells of more powerful breaks to the South such as Pascuales, Nexpa, or Puerto Escondido.
For average surfers, long boarders and SUP this is welcome news considering mainland Mexico’s surf can reach 20-30ft at the most exposed spots. It is unusual to see surf over 6-8ft face heights in this region.
What is lost in size is compensated for in quality, the spots inside the bay well protected and offshore in the dominant afternoon Westerlies.
The SW swells are most common from April to October and the WNW swells from December to March. Tropical swells from storms passing to the West provide another source of swell from June-October. Overall the surf is very consistent for long boarding and SUP and less consistent for short boarding. For this reason, this is a great destination for long boarders, SUP, beginners and intermediates, while potentially disappointing Alpha short boarders seeking larger, hollower surf on a daily basis, although it is possible to luck into some bigger surf maybe 60 days of the year or less.
The breaks in this region are a mix of coral reef and rock bottom with a few beach breaks. There are both right and left breaks, but rights are dominant by about 2 to 1. A-frame peaks, long walls, rippable sections, and perfect lines are typical of this region, not so much big tubes, but there are opportunities to get barreled including a few ledges and reefs. The dry season is from November to April and the wet season is from May to October, although both can be lovely. The dry season is cooler and less humid, while sultrier tropical weather prevails in the wet season.
La Caleta is just north (some 2 miles) along the coast from Chacala Beach and some 8 miles from Las Varas, Nayarit. On good days La Caleta offers waves that are the length of a football field, as well as being situated to hold any size of swell.
The bigger it gets, the cleaner the ride. Caleta is well known by surfers all over Mexico, and slowly also the rest of the surfing world!
You can get there by panga, it’s a short trip from the little marina in Chacala, by land you’ll need a 4 wheel-drive vehicle (rough terrain) and if you’re very energetic, as some of the younger local surfers, you can walk through the jungle, though it is a fairly long hike, at least an hour, carrying your board, so think it over before you start off.
From La Caleta, 400 yards to the South, toward Chacala Beach is yet another break, called Colorine, and this is one of the best wave rides in Nayarit, another left with fast waves over fairly shallow water.
The state of Nayarit receives consistent, reliable swells most of the year. Winter (November-March) is the best season for Banderas Bay, when W and NW Aleutian swells will wrap into the bay, losing some size but cleaning-up with the northerly off-shores.
Occasional W swells will provide the biggest conditions on most spots. The summer surf season will start after the transition months of March and April, which are usually windier than the rest of the year. South Pacific activity and seasonal hurricanes push-in long period swells from SW to S directions, although Nayarit seems to lack a bit of size and power compared to southern Mexican states.
For northern breaks, summer is a more consistent time than winter, with regular swell in the 4-8ft (1.2-2.5m) range and excellent direction for the lefthand breaks north of Punta de Mita. Northerly winds prevail in the winter season before progressively shifting to a W-NW direction that will continue all summer. The tidal range hovers around 3ft (1m) and there are usually 2 tides daily.
|dominant swell||NW –NW||NW –SW||NW –SW||NW –W||NW –W||NW –NW|
|swell size (ft)||3||3-4||4||5||4-5||3-4|
|dominant wind||NW –N||W –N||W –NW||W –NW||W –N||NW –NE|
|water temp (C)||23||23||25||28||28||26|
Let’s check it . . .
Located right under the Tropic of Cancer, Nayarit is blessed with warm temperatures year-round. Abundant rains in the summer, mixed with intense sunshine, regularly take temperatures beyond 30°C (86°F).
The mountains generate cooler breezes at night, making the climate more bearable than further south. The tropical rainy season starts mid-June and stretches to the end of October bringing heavy rain and humidity, particularly in August and September.
Winter sees daytime temperatures around 27°C (80°F), but nights get cooler, down to 15°C (59°F). Hurricane Kenna’s hit this coast in October 2002 – the first in 74 years. Hurricanes usually stay out at sea, tracking northwest towards Baja, or west towards Hawaii. Water temps range from 28°C (82°F) in the summer down to 22°C (73°F) in the winter, when a spring suit is advisable.
Sayulita is a laid-back city. San Blas is Nayarit’s tourism centre and starting point for jungle river boating to La Tovara springs. Check out remote beaches, or snorkel/dive around Islas Marietas. Along the Malecón (downtown PV), a strip of restaurants, bars and clubs will provide all night entertainment.
Unlike other Mexican breaks of bone-crushing fame, these are more adapted to intermediate level surfers. Locals don’t always see the influx of surfers positively, but crowd levels are low on spots requiring a boat. San Blas surroundings are infested with jejenes (tiny sand gnats) that come out at night and provoke intense itching.
Avoid Puerto Vallarta’s polluted waters. Recommended quiver includes a longboard or fish rather than a gun. Equipment and rentals are available at Coral Reef Surf Shop in Bucerias or Acción Tropical Surf Shop in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco State) is 1h ahead of Sayulita and Punta de Mita (Nayarit).
Flying to the Riviera Nayarit is easy and convenient for national and international travelers.
The Tepic International Airport and the Puerto Vallarta International Airport both await you with exceptional customer service and all the amenities required that ensure your arrival and departure will be pleasant experience.
The Tepic International Airport (TPQ) is located just 1 hour east of the resort coastal area of San Blas in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico’s Pacific Coast’s oldest sea port.
Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) is located just 10 – 15 minutes from Riviera Nayarit’s southern most resort areas of Nuevo Vallarta/Flamingos, 30 minutes from the resorts of Punta Mita, and Litibu, and approximately 1 hour from the area of Guayabitos.
With both National and International arrivals, this modern facility offers much for the traveler.
If I was going to Nayarit I think I would choose this place to stay out of all of the different options. There’s only 3 rooms so you need to make sure you make your reservation ahead of time.
Bungalows Unelma looks amazing. Private, every room comes with a outdoor kitchen and there’s a beautiful garden to chill in. From the reviews that I’ve read it also seems to be a real well kept place (very clean) and the back gate heads straight to the ocean 🙂 Trying to pick one good photo to post was hard because there was so many to choose from! This place is beautiful!
Trip Advisor reviews include: “Ideal hideaway on the beach” and “Private Paradise”
#1 of 8 Hotels in Sayulita Mexico and a Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor . This place seems really really nice but is probably really really expensive. They do offer discounts like the “Summer Romance Special” though. I wonder if that counts for bromances?
Reviews include: “Magical is not too strong a word for this place” and “Hidden Paradise A great place to shipwreck away from the rat race of life.”
If you’re just looking for a good place to crash that won’t put you in the poor house then this is the place for you!! And there’s a surf shop right next door!
Trip Advisor reviews include- “Good clean hotel” and “Nice place for the money!”
Hey Cocina Nayarit
Tiny little place with some yummy Mexican food and fish 🙂
Trip Advisor reviews include: “HEY!! This restaurant is a gem!!” and “Love this place, cute off the beaten track”
Not in the mood for tacos? Try Orangy, they serve juices, smoothies, healthy snacks and “power bowls”.
Trip Advisor reviews include: “Beautiful people, Beautiful food :)” and “Refreshing and Welcoming!”
This place is off the beach so it’s more affordable. Apparently their chilaquiles are to die for and there’s a cat named “Midnight” running around that everyone loves!
Trip Advisor reviews include: “Good value, Nice ambiance” and “Great little bar restaurant”
Stoners Surf Camp is located in San Blas Nayarit, Mexico!
Surfing being the most popular inquire at Stoners Surf Camp where beginners to advanced surfers can find gratitude in 7 different surf spots ranging from front cabin beach breaks to minuets away point breaks. Stoners Surf Camp gets its name from renowned photographer Ron Stoner, who surfed and captured this now called “Stoners” surf break that has been ridden by surfers all over the world.
Stoners Surf Camp is owned by former Mexican surf champion Jose Manuel Cano “Pompis” who has traveled to many countries making surfing a big part of his life. Pompis being the main instructor at the camp makes certain your ambition for surfing is strongly met and strides to comfort and guide each and every guest.
Lunazul Surfschool & Shop is a family business located on the main beach in Sayulita, Mexico. They provide surf lessons, organize surf camps and have the broadest selection of surfboards and paddle boards for rent in Sayulita and Punta de Mita. Friendly staff, the best location and excellent surf instructors are but only a few things that set them apart from their competitors.
WildMex looks pretty legit. They have everything from transportation to boards to wet suits to lessons and they even have insurance! So you know you’re covered. “If you are staying in Punta de Mita, Nuevo Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita Surf. Lessons interests you, do not worry we pick you up and returned at the end of the lesson.”
Splash of Glass is located on the corner of Lazaro Cardenas and Calle Morelos in the beautiful town of Bucerias. They offer classes in lamp work beads, beginning stained glass, fused glass, sun catchers, fused glass jewelry, and glass mosaics! They also carry many beautiful products handmade right there in Mexico. On a hot summer day if you need a break and want to get inside this is place to do it.
Rancho Manuel is located in Sayulita, Mexico. The owners Manuel and Adalberto offer guided horse and boat tours. Apparently they are two of the nicest people you will ever meet!
“Manuel is a real character with enough charm for 10 men!” and Adalberto has been known to go out of his way to make these tours spectacular especially for children. If you have some spare time and you’re in the area I would definitely check out Rancho Manuel!
Located in the Punta Mita resort Punta Mita Expeditions offers Marine Safari, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Surf, Scuba Diving, Whale Watching, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Hookah Diving, Wild Dolphins Adventure and much more! “Booking was simple and they were responsive, all of the gear worked great, and their whole crew were fun to be around.”
This place will have a special place in my heart forever (and yours) when you arrive.
I’ve had some of the craziest nights of my life in Samara and hope to continue to surf this town until the day I die. The entire town is full of beach bums, surf nuts, and party animals, which makes it one of the best destinations for surfers, backpackers, and anyone who wants to weave in a little rowdiness to their surf trip.
There’s a ton of hostels, beach rentals, and hotels—finding hotel accommodations is super easy and affordable. Though the main beach break normally doesn’t reel overhead waves, if you walk down the dirt road north of town, you’ll find Buena Vista, the semi-secret beach break that the locals call home.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Whether you’re traveling with your family, girlfriend, or the boys, a visit to Samara is completely worth your time. [/box]
Samara has one of the rowdiest nightlifes in Costa Rica and when the waves hit, provides a dirty beach break that you’ll find yourself reminiscing about as you sit in your cubicle back in the USA while ordering office supplies.
One of my favorite parts about Samara (and also Nosara) is the idea how everyone seems to know each other. It’s got the surf vibe of places like California/Hawaii, but without the overabundance of people. Anyone surfed Trestles lately—take a number!
As opposed to visiting a place like say, Southern California, you actually get to dominate the lineup with your buds. There’s no fifty person lineup, no dickhead locals trying to maintain a dick-tatorship (hehe), no crusty comments—the atmosphere is 100% pura vida![box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Though you can find this friendly, Hakuna Matata vibe in many parts of Costa Rica, Samara is one of the few places where everyone is like that.[/box]
From the OG long boarding Expats to the barrel hunting local Ticos, every surfer in Samara is out for one thing: fun.
You’ll hear the locals whistling, hollering, and making all sorts of strange sounds. This is the surfing I love, when you get a crew of different cultures all doing their thing, it truly creates a vibe that is unexplainable. If you’re trying to plan a Costa Rica or Central America surf trip, Samara is a great one to add to the list. You can get stoked all day at Buena Vista, grab a great fish taco, and hit the night with a bottle of rum and a clear head.
Alright, so there’s two beaches that you’ll want to surf while you’re here. The first time I came, we just surfed in front of Lo Que Hay, where Playa Samara is located. Depending on the swell, this wave is either going to be fun, or incredibly flat.
The majority of experienced surfers aren’t going to hang out here, unless theres a fat southern swell, in which case, it’s a great wave. You get the convenience of being right in front of town, it’s a calm beach breaking wave, and you may just be able to catch a few airs.
I’d recommend Playa Samara for beginners, or low-intermediate surfers that want to practice their surfing abilities. The wave is going to work much better at high tide as it comes in, which provides decent waves for long boarders, or beginner short boarders.
Unfortunately for experienced surfers, there’s some offshore rocks that block a lot of the swell, so you might want to head to Buena Vista.
Let’s take a quick break and check the surf . . .
Buena Vista is a much better beach for surfers that actually want to get pitted before they hit the town. This beach is located just north of town and can easily be reached by a 30 minute walk, or 5 minute car ride.
Though the wave isn’t going to barrel, most local Ticos find that there’s a ton of moderate sized waves here and you can definitely have a little fun with the wave lips. Lying at the north end of the estuary, near a river mouth, Buena Vista’s waves are normally pretty good. There’s going to be two points here, one is sketchy, the other is mellow.
There’s a huge rock formation at the south end of the beach, which provides a pretty sizable left, but there’s definitely a ton of rocks below. If you’re comfortable and it looks rip-able, then send it, but if you want a mellow day, then I’d stick to the other point.
Locals call this wave, Punta Tortuga, meaning turtle point, as it’s located in front of a small Turtle sanctuary. I’ve had great days riding here and it’s awesome because Buena Vista is very lush with vegetation. After you rip and earn some local respect, the Ticos will treat you to an after session coconut. They will literally shimmy up the coco trees, kick down a few dozen fresh cocos and teach you how to open them without a machete.
Due to Buena Vista’s remoteness, there aren’t any places to buy water or refreshments, so my advice, bring a water bottle. The waves at Buena Vista break moderately slow, so you’ll forfeit power for length with a lot of these waves.
For surfers that want to party in Samara, but really want to get out of their mind pitted, should head to a little Tico town called Marbella. Marbella use to be one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets, but like most epic surf towns, it has been developed. It’s not as crazy developed as Samara or Tamarindo, but compared to what it used to be, it’s not the same.
This is a reef/rock break, dishes out epic left and rights, and should only be surfed by experienced surfers. There’s rarely a lineup, with a ton of power, and you don’t have to surf with Chads from New Jersey.
This is a very hard beach to find, but if you really want to access it, it’s very possible.
It’s going to be on the way to a town called Junquiyal, where you would normally stop, but if you keep on the road and ask a few locals, they’ll guide you in the right direction
There’s a ton of bars, restaurants, and funky eateries in Samara, which makes a post Samara surf session one of the best.
If you want a taste of natural Costa Rica, but want a twist of rage, then Samara Beach is without a doubt the best place to go. The Ticos of Samara have all had their fare share of all nighters, so don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up, because these guys are pros in-and-out of the water.
Though there’s tons of different places to start the night, a beach front eatery called, “Lo Que Hay” is of my favorites. The name which literally means “It is what it is”, delivers a heavy dosage of strong drinks, cool people, and music that will get those bones a’shaking. Maybe it’s because I’ve started so many nights at Lo Que Hay that I’m prejudice to start every night here, but you really can’t go wrong with cheap fish tacos and cheaper beer.
One of the other places where you’ll find just about everyone everyone in town is a swanky joint called Sports Bar Arriba. Located on the second floor of a shopping complex, it feels almost as if you’re walking into a high class Tico nightclub, but trust me, you aren’t.
This sports bar/surf hideout is a local favorite and the bartenders mix up some of the tastiest drinks in the area. Whether you’re looking for shots of whisky, piña coladas, beers, or anything in between, this bar most likely has it. The entire staff at this restaurant bar is incredibly friendly, everyone speaks english and I promise you will have the time of your life.
Last time I was at Arriba the bartender and I were inventing new shots; ask for the Guanacaste or the Shooter McGavin (Happy Gilmore, come on!), maybe they’ll remember.
Aside from the endless party scene in Samara, you can actually find a great bite to eat and meet some of the badass Expats that have migrated to this slice of absolute paradise. As you enter town (from the north), there’s a joint called “LuvBurger” that offers amazing organic and vegan options for those health-nut surfers out there.
You’ll find your surf munchie style tacos at El Taco Volador. Personally I’m a Lo Que Hay kind of guy, but it’s always worth a little variation when you’re visiting a foreign place. Also, Il Vino has arguably the best pizza I’ve ever had in the land of Pura Vida. Thin crust or deep dish, I’m not sure who the chef is, but he deserves a high five for sure.
If you’re looking for something quick before heading out on the waves, I’d recommend a stop at the town’s Panaderia y Heladeria. You can scarf down a quick croissant (or 5) for some quick surf energy, for this place is on the road which leads to Buena Vista surf break.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Playa Samara is one of the most organized towns in the entire country of Costa Rica and you’ll be able to find everything you need for a kicks surf trip. [/box]
There’s two or three grocery stores, two ATMs (which are normally hard to come by), a few rental car places, a ton of hotels, and plentiful surf schools for the beginners. As a family friendly, surf friendly, party friendly town, Samara Beach is a place you’ll want to stay at forever. And feel free to, there’s plenty of work and there’s even a hippie commune outside of town if you’re looking for a free place to crash.
La Mariposa: This is a great hostel for backpackers and surfers, because it’s cheap, clean, and fun. Though I normally stay with friends in Samara, this is a great alternative option for people that are traveling on a budget. I’ve stayed here multiple times and have absolutely no complaints. You can rent hammock rooms for like 8$/night, or dorm rooms for 12$/night.
Samara Tree House Inn: This is a more luxurious option, which offers five or six treehouse style apartments in the heart of Samara Village. You get your own apartment, making it a great option for surf crews that want to ball-out a little bit while they party and surf in Samara. The rooms include top of the line beach furniture, a pool, WiFi, free breakfast, and a much better standard of living than any other hostel. Apartments are only 35$ per night (for 2 people). Find more info at www.samaratreehouse.com.
Hotel Samara Beach: If you want to be located super close to the beach, then this is probably one of the best options as far as accommodation goes. This place has an awesome tropical beach vibe and offers guests clean and comfortable rooms. I’m not sure what pricing for rooms are, but you can find what you need at: www.hotelsamarabeach.com.
Cabinas Nayuribe: Renting a cabina is always a great idea when you visit any surf destination. Though when I say “cabina” I don’t mean the epic luxurious one’s you find in Hawaii, but rather the Tico style of Cabina. Sometimes they are nice, sometimes they are gnarly. I’ve never personally stayed at these cabins but I know people who have and they’ve said positive things. Cabins can be anywhere between 25-60$ per night, depending on size, comfort, etc.
Samara Beach is definitely on my list of favorite destinations in Costa Rica, mainly because there’s so much to do.
I wouldn’t say it’s the most epic location for surfing, but I would recommend it as a pit-stop along the way.
Every legendary surf trip needs a few nights of hardcore partying and you’ll definitely get your fair share of late nights if you stay in Samara. Samara is a semi-popular vacation destination, but doesn’t have the overabundance of obese North Americans crowding the beach. There’s a ton of beautiful people, tasty food, funky bars, and ways to spend your day.
The waves aren’t going to be up to par for the barrel hunters out there, but I would totally recommend at least a few nights in this surf party town. Also, if you happen to be traveling with your family, there’s a ton to do as far as tours and all that jazz. Although you’ll always find me cruising waves over at Buena Vista, every part of Samara is worth a visit. Happy shredding.
Surfing Jalisco Mexico is quite a phenomenon experience. The Jalisco region of Mexico contain a long series of beach breaks, river mouths, and the occasional reef, stretching from Puerto Vallarta in the north to the border of Michoacan in the south.[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded”]If you decide to venture into Michoacan please be careful because these days it has been reported that the Narco activity on this area may be hazardous to your health.[/box]
Let’s get back to Jalisco, the birth place of Tequila . . .
While it’s home to several high-quality waves like Tecuan, Campos Manzanillo, El Pariso, and Boca de Apisa, the jewel of this area is the infamous Pascuales. A thumping beach break that can hold 25+ foot waves. Pascuales is to Jalisco and Colima what Puerto Esondido is to Oaxaca—you’ve seen this wave in the mags—dangerous, hollow, and for experts (or you) only if there’s any hint of Southern Hemi in the water.
Like in most of Mainland Mexico, crowds in Jalisco can vary wildly from spot to spot. The bulk of big-name spots in the area will have a crowd, and expect some pretty serious localism in the water at Pascuales, a wave so fierce, getting beat up on the beach will be the least of your concerns if you paddle out on big day.
The usual in Mainland Mex: dangerous roads, corrupt cops, shallow reefs, Montezuma’s Revenge (a stomach bug in the water supply that can strand you in the bathroom for days on end), highway bandits, board liquefying beach breaks, and mosquitoes o’ plenty.
Yet, this trip is well worth all the challenges and risks—word on the street is that these days it’s a little sketchy up towards La Tica area but if you dare to travel into that region you will be rewarded with empty waves.
The rainy season, and hot as hell. This is the most consistent time for surf, with the South Pacific churning out regular south and southwest swells that end up peeling into the region’s point breaks, reefs and beach breaks. Most crowded with surfers, too. Watch out for hurricanes, as they can (and do) make landfall here on occasion.
September – November are the rainiest months in the rainy season, and as such, can be difficult to travel in. The upside is that there can be less wind so the surf can stay glassy all day; the downside is well, all the rain and mud and bugs it brings. South swells aren’t as dependable as spring and summer, but it’s still a reasonably consistent time to visit.
Perfect weather and minimal swell.
Can be the best time, as it’s not too hot, the rains haven’t started in earnest and south swells start hitting strong in May. Plus, it’s Spring Break, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your age and marital status.
Other than surf, there isn’t much to do or see in this small coastal town in Jalisco. You may want to stay down the road and drive in and surf Pascuales, but if you decide that you would rather get up with the chickens and surf before anyone drives in than we do have a few options for you.
Well, it’s not the Sheraton but it’s as close as you will get out here in the wild west of Mexico. Check out Paco’s Hotel for 50 bones a night.
Manscos Homero (Located in Tecoman a short drive away)
Barre de Navidad in Jalisco is an exposed beach, reef, rivermouth break that has reasonably consistent surf. Summer offers the best conditions for surfing. Offshore winds blow from the north northeast.
Clean groundswells prevail and the best swell direction is from the southwest. The beach break provides left and right handers and in addition, both left and right reef breaks add variety.
Relatively few surfers here, even on good days. Beware of rocks and sharks.
Forgot your surfboard or need some gear? Check out Barra Surf Shop & Bar.
Well kept boutique hotel right on the beach in Barra de Navidad. The hotel is centrally located in the town, within easy walking distance of restaurants and markets.
Reviews for Casa Chips look good . . .
“Our room had a terrace and ocean view. It was large, comfortable and CLEAN and even had a kitchenette! The staff was friendly and attentive. It was so easy to feel right at home in a totally new place in a different country. We will definitely go back again.”
Link to hotel on trip advisor.
Casa Colina– $$$$ Ultra High end but worth it
Link to hotel on Yelp.
Hotel Laguna del Tule– $$ Moderate price range
Link to hotel on Yelp.
Restaurant Paty (link on Yelp)
Amber di Mare
If you’re looking for something different other then Mexican food this place looks great. They’re mostly Italian with some seafood variants. We ran across someone that loves this place and said, “We ate here twice in one week! We have been going to Ambar’s since 2000 and it is always fabulous. My husband LOVES the French onion soup, the crepes are delicious, the pizza is fabulous, and the Cesar salad was wonderful. Ambar’s is a rare gem in an unsuspecting place.”
Link to Amber on trip advisor.
For night-life options and a deeper dive into local restaurants in Barra check out this link.
Quimixto in Jalisco is a quite exposed beach break that has consistent surf. Summer offers the optimum conditions for surfing. Offshore winds are from the south.
Groundswells more frequent than wind-swells and the optimum swell angle is from the west southwest. The beach breaks offer lefts and rights. A fairly popular wave that can sometimes get crowded.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Be wary of rips – they make surfing dangerous.[/box]
Arroyo Seco is small town 50 km north of Barra de Navidad. Empty Beach well know by the locals for it’s big waves. It’s hard for beginners, when the swell is small the waves break really fast and hard.
|Type of Wave||Beach break|
|Direction of Wave||Right|
Surf-mexico.com was originally founded by three friends who love to surf. They help you find best places to stay, best places to surf and share surfing tips in Mexico.
Enjoy your trip, stay safe and let us know how your trip goes. Check out these other articles for some more details about the area: