In Spanish Tivives Means
A Beach Breaking Wave
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Finding the best time and ideal place for an ultimate surf adventure in Costa Rica is easy to do, with Tivives all over the country. All you need is a brief outline of the different surf spots, a good idea of how to get there, and when conditions are at their peak.
Costa Rica's climatic and geographical variations can be divided into four different surf regions: the Caribbean, the North Pacific, the Central Pacific, and the South Pacific.
The Caribbean coastline has a defined surf season from January to March and July to October. Strong storms in the Caribbean often send short but extremely powerful swells crashing onto world-class breaks.
The North Pacific generally has good quality surf year-around. The consistent northeasterly "Papagayo" winds during December through March and the Northern Hemisphere storms create ideal waves.
The Central Pacific is an exposed stretch of coastline regarded by many surfers as one of the most consistent areas.
Quick and easy access from the San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport, and a wide variety of restaurants, accommodations and entertainment for surfers, makes it an ideal place to start off a "tico surf adventure."
The South Pacific has a wide range of waves to choose from. Some of the best-known spots, like the point break at Pavones, requires a south swell, characteristic of the winter months in the Southern Hemisphere (July-November), even though Costa Rica is in the Northern Hemisphere.
Costa Rica's diversity and tremendous variety of surf spots make it possible to surf excellent waves all year long. The short travel distances and different regions provide traveling surfers with the possibility not only to experience magic and adventure while visiting interesting and unique parts of the country, but to score a variety of world-class point breaks, reefs and beach breaks. Best of all, you can surf in warm water all year around.
Costa Rica experiences semi-diurnal tidal differences. Extreme tidal variations on the Pacific coastline often affect certain breaks. But, the long irregular coastline always guarantees quality waves for hard-core surfers willing to explore.
Stop in at any local surf shop or befriend a local to learn about the best conditions for the different breaks. With so many different beaches and locations to choose from, Costa Rica is the ideal place for an unforgettable surf trip. Grab your stick, wax up and read up on the top 37 favorite spots right here in Jetsetters Magazine.
Manzanillo - Located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Reserve, 20 km south of Puerto Viejo, the northern end of this beach sports a fast break. On contrary, the southern end has virtually no surf because it is heavily protected by a large coral reef. Although surf is not a heavily practiced sport at this beach, diving, sea kayaking, trekking the reserve and observing the nesting of turtles in the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Lagoon are among other options. Although the road in is unpaved, 4WD is not required. Lodging is rustic and the several restaurants around can dish up some excellent, typical Caribbean cuisine for starving visitors.
Puerto Viejo - An area with plenty of surf, but most well-known for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, "Salsa Brava" or "Mean Salsa". This thick, voluminous, Hawaiian-style wave builds in deep water and breaks on a shallow reef. The right will usually be steep and tubular and its left will also provide a short, but sweet ride. Puerto Viejo is approximately a 3-1/2 hour drive from San José. Plenty of restaurants and hotel accommodations are available in the area.
Black Beach, Cahuita - An excellent beach break, not well known and therefore not heavily visited. Nevertheless, there are waves all year around. To reach Black Beach, take the road to Puerto Viejo. Take a left about 2 km before the Cahuita National Park entrance. After about a ten minute drive from there, you will find the point - a well kept secret with a few surfers living in the area. The area hosts a variety of food and lodging accommodations.
Westfalia - A stretch of beach breaks extending south from Limón to Cahuita, offering lefts and rights that tend to close out when the swell gets too big. Food and lodging accommodations are recommended in Limón or Cahuita.
Uvita Island - An island off the coast of Limón where a perfect but dangerous left breaks on a reef. Isla Uvita is about a 20-minute boat ride from Limón with passage available only at certain times of the year.
Bonita Beach - A point/reef break known for its very thick, powerful and dangerous left. Access is a short and easy drive up the coast from Limón.
The North Caribbean Coast - This endless stench of beach breaks is located along the coast of the Tortuguero National Park where some of Costa Rica's largest rivers meet the Caribbean Sea. Extreme conditions and the presence of sharks at these river mouths can deter any hardcore surfer. Most tourists visit the area to sportfish at these river mouths or boat through the Tortuguero canals and access its rich biodiversity. From July to November visitors come to witness the nesting of the Green Turtles. Overnight lodging is available. The most practical way to get there is to fly or rent a boat from about 2 km north of Playa Bonita or from a small port 7 km north of Limón.
Potrero Grande - A very remote right point break with very fast and hollow waves, located about 270 kms north of San José with no road access. You can rent a boat out of Playas del Coco or Playa Ocotal. There are no facilities there, but camping is a possibility.
Naranjo Beach (also called Witch's Rock) - One of the best beach breaks in the country, with very strong offshore winds from December to March. This remote spot is located in the Santa Rosa National Park, about 28 km north of Liberia. A good 4WD is a must. For long stays, campgrounds are set up but no facilities are available. It is also possible to boat over from el Coco or Ocotal. Don't forget your mosquito net.
Ticotravel.com offers the Witch's Rock Surf Camp in Playas del Coco, a beautiful bay community in the northwest Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Playas del Coco also serves as the direct path to the world class Witch's Rock and Ollie's Point surf breaks by boat. It is for this exact reason that both surfers and non-surfers from all over the world come to the surf camp.
The surf camp is not a hotel, and you live the Costa Rican surfing lifestyle in a small (4 rooms) facility. The upstairs bedrooms are basic with shared bathroom. You can get a million dollar view from the balcony.
WRSC Surf School offers the unique blend of classroom instruction with in-water practice. Students are taught more than the simple physical act of standing up and riding waves. Students are given confidence achieved through learning simple surfing facts that cannot be acquired through surfing alone. One could take years gaining the knowledge explained in the week-long course.
The WRSC surf school includes:
- 7 nights accommodation at WRSC Tamarindo;
- Class enrollment with all class materials provided;
- Daily instruction with a WRSC instructor;
- 3 in-water instructions with a WRSC instructor;
- 7-day surfboard rental;
- Continental breakfast daily;
- Airport pickup and drop-off from Liberia International Airport or Tamarindo Airport.
Tico Travel is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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Espadilla Beach - Located at the end of the road into Manuel Antonio and just before the entrance to the National Park. This beach break can be loads of fun when large swells make it into the bay. Most surfers prefer the hefty right at the northern end of the beach. Abundant accommodations, restaurants, bars, entertainment, surf shops, and ding repairs are easily accessible.
Grande Beach - This beach break is located about 20 minutes north of Tamarindo. It is a recent addition to the National Park system as an effort to protect the area as a nesting ground for Leatherback Turtles. It is accessible by road, or an easy 45-minute walk across the Tamarindo Estuary and down the beach. A couple of accommodations and restaurants are available.
Tamarindo Beach - A good, central location for North Pacific surfing. Plenty of hotel and restaurant accommodations are available and easily accessible, along with local surf shops and ding repair facilities. Surf spots consist of: Pico Pegueno, a rocky point; El Estero, an excellent river mouth break, and Henry's Point, another rocky point break. Surfers that stay at the Witch's Rock Surf Camp (see above) can also access this area.
Langosta - A right and left point break that curls off the mouth of a small river, located 1 km south of Tamarindo. Easily accessible.
Avellanas - Surfers have the choice of a good beach break, an estuary break, and the well known reef break, "Little Hawaii." Located 10 km south of Tamarindo and now easily accessible by a graded dirt road. Some accommodations and restaurants are available.
Negra Beach - One of the North Pacific's best right reef point breaks, located 350 kms from San José and accessible all year around, although a 4WD during the wet season is recommended. It is only 5 km south of Playa Avellanas, but normally accessible by 4WD only. Several food and lodging accommodations are available in the area.
Nosara - A beach break with lefts and rights. The 350 km drive from San José across the Nicoya Peninsula takes about 5 hours. Food and lodging accommodations exist in the area.
Coyote Beach, Mal Pais, Cabuya - Good beach breaks and reefs in a remote area on the Nicoya Peninsula where a 4WD is a must due to the rivers and heavy mud. Roads are more reliable and accommodations improve as one travels from Coyote south to Mal Pais.
Boca Barranca - A river mouth with a very long left, located 100 kms from San José and easily accessible just off the main coastal route. Accommodations abound as Boca attracts hundreds of surfers from around the globe.
Caldera Port - This excellent left is located 3 km south of Boca Barranca and breaks off of a jetty/river mouth near the port. Best on a big swell.
Tivives Beach and Valor - Featuring a variety of waves from beach breaks (Tivives) to a rocky point (Valor). Good quality rights and lefts located 19 kms south of Boca Barranca just off the paved coastal route before the exit to Jacó down the coast.
Escondida Beach - A horseshoe reef break with a left and right. On good swells the spot can get rather crowded with locals dominating the peak.
Jacó Beach - One of Costa Rica's most visited surf towns, located about two hours from San José (140 km); it hosts a wide range of tourist attractions, surf shops, ding repair facilities, hotels, cabins, campgrounds and restaurants. Jacó Beach itself is a fun beach break and home to some of Costa Rica's best surfers. It tends to close out on larger swells but its central location and wide range of amenities make it a good base for surf adventures.
Roca Loca - This "Crazy Rock" is located at the southern tip of Playa Jacó, just off the cliff from the coastal highway. This tricky wave breaks right over submerged, shallow rocks, and is best during large swells.
Hermosa Beach - The most consistent beach breaks in the area (10 minutes south of Jacó) where deep waters off the coast and exposure to different swells have built up a variety of sand bars. The preferred sand to surf is located in front of a large tree known as the "almendro." Explore up and down the beach for a perfect A-frame peak of your own. Accommodations are available nearby.
West Esterillos, East Esterillos, Bejuco, Boca Damas - An area with good potential for those willing to go a little out of their way for surf. Plenty of beach breaks with conditions similar to those of Playa Hermosa. Access is easy and some accommodations exist.
Quepos - A small left located at the mouth of the estuary just outside of town, and several good beach breaks in the area. Quepos is about 45 minutes south of Jacó. With Manuel Antonio National Park and white beaches just over the hill, tourist accommodations and restaurants abound.
Corky Carroll's Costa Rica Surfing School, based out of Huntington Beach, California, offers expert surfing instruction. Call them at (888) 454-7873 or (714) 969-3959; Costa Rica email: or check them out at surfschool.net
They have complete surfing packages for all levels of surfers. Corky has two locations one in a little village on the Nicoya Peninsula (Headquarters) and the other at Tamarindo.
El Rey Beach - Beach break sporting many peaks. After driving 24 minutes south of Quepos on the unpaved road to Playa Dominical, turn right at Roncador. Accommodations and restaurants are recommended in Quepos or Manuel Antonio.
Dominical Beach - Another powerful and consistent beach break much like Playa Hermosa with a more exuberant, tropical landscape. Other semi-secret reef breaks and river mouths lie in the area. Accessible by dirt road traveling south of Quepos or a 3-4 hour drive on the Pan-American Highway over the mountains from San José. Several pleasant accommodations and restaurants are available.
Drake Bay - Accessible only by boat and quickest from the town of Sierpe, this remote area offers several areas of long, powerful waves during a big swell. The right at Rio Claro is about a 30-45 minute walk along the coast and through the jungle from Drake Bay. True adventurers can explore the coastline of the pristine and distant Corcovado National Park, about 1-1/2 hours by boat. Several hotels, cabins, campgrounds and restaurants exit at Drake Bay, but camping is required in other areas.
Matapalo - This excellent right point is located across the Golfo Dulce from Pavones and can often be seen breaking from there during large swells. Surfers can drive there via the Pan-American Highway; 4WD is recommended. It is also possible to rent a boat out of Pavones or Golfito. Local airlines can fly you down to Puerto Jiménez, where you can catch a taxi to the point. Several remotely located accommodations exist, but camping is a must if you want to wake and see the break from your bed.
Pavones - Considered one of the longest lefts in the world, this point is located 400 kms south of San José (8 hours by car); for those unwilling to drive, local airlines can fly you to Golfito, where you may catch a bus or taxi to Pavones. Good accommodations exist on the point and surrounding area but camping is a possibility if you are not afraid of heavy rains during peak swell months.
Punta Burica - Very remote and little explored reef breaks south of Pavones and accessible only by boat. Nearest accommodations are in Pavones.
Much life surfing, a windsurfing trip in Costa Rica can be adventuresome and unforgettable, if you know where and when to go to have the most fun. Wind conditions, irregular topography, small size and vibrant biodiversity create a dream-come-true for any adventuresome windsurfer willing to explore new territories. The vast majority of the windsurfing practiced in this tropical paradise is on lakes, but the off-shore winds in the North Pacific during the summer months create an excellent funnel affect for certain areas.
In the extreme northwest, nearing the border of Nicaragua, the beautiful beaches of Cuajiniguil and Puerto Soley in Bahía Salinas host tranquil waters but experience the direct offshore winds of the summer months. Accommodations and restaurants are available in the area.
Here, Playa Naranjo also experiences the strong summer off-shore winds, but attracts heavy swells for windsurfers in search of waves. Camping is a must. Further down the coastline, about an hour's drive from Liberia, Flamingo Beach and Playa Potrero offer calm waters and excellent wind conditions. Many hotels, resorts, cabins, restaurants and discotheques are located in this area. Tamarindo Bay, about 45 minutes south can also be a popular place to practice windsurfing in average waves. Because ocean windsurfing is not very common in Costa Rica, few areas in the Central and Southern Pacific regions are recognized. It is recommended trying out the Golfo Dulce due to its calm waters and strategic location for winds from all directions.
Inland, the most highly recognized windsurfing spot in Costa Rica is the Arenal Reservoir. At the southeastern rim of the lake towers the Arenal Volcano, blowing off steam and lava as windsurfers skim across the lake, with 55-70 knot winds. Conditions are best during the summer months, as windsurfers will encounter with most spots.
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Windsurfing equipment can be rented at a few local shops and hotels around the lake. Accommodations include various hotels, cabins and restaurants scattered throughout the area and especially in the towns of Fortuna, Nuevo Arenal, and Tilarán. Other points of interest to explore include the nearby hot water springs, waterfalls, and rainforest trails. Coto Lake, just north of Arenal, is another superb spot for windsurfing during thee summer months of ceaseless winds.
Traveling about an hour east of San José through Cartago, the old capitol of Costa Rica, windsurfers can catch a ride on the Cachi Reservoir. This dammed up section of the Reventazon River offers a spectacular view of the picturesque Orosi Valley and surrounding coffee plantations. With such easy access, hours of windsurfing can be practiced in the cool freshwaters of Cachi in just a day. Strong winds are not always guaranteed, but the locations makes it a poplar spot for weekend windsurfing trips.
With all these locations to choose from, variable conditions to work with, and spectacular scenery to witness, a windsurfing vacation in Costa Rica could be the best and most memorable adventure getaway ever. - I sit back in my jungle cabin with a cup of Costa Rican Tres Rios coffee and a Manudo waiting for the next wave to breakPoint Tivives
By John Smeltzer, Florida Correspondent.