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Surf’s Up in Costa Rica

By Paige, Nicaragua, June 2011

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Though perfect curls roll in on both of Costa Rica’s coasts throughout the year, April marks the beginning of the Central American Pacific’s big wave season. From the southernmost swells on the Panamanian border, where an endless left crashes into pristine Pavones; to epic Ollie’s Point in the far northwest—named for Oliver North, who handed off supplies to Nicaraguan Contras here during the 1980s—the options are endless.

The big waves begin with the onset of rainy season—or “Green Season,” as the brochures rather aptly call it. This can worry spouses and significant others, but be aware that invierno (or winter, as Ticos call rainy season) starts slow. Beginning in May, afternoon showers become a regular occurrence, though mornings are usually sunny and carefree. By September and October, however, week-long rainy spells and flooded roads really can make travel unpleasant.

The Nicoya Peninsula, well known for its epic waves, including legendary surf spots like festive Tamarindo, more isolated Nosara, and the twin surfing communities of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa remain the driest parts of the Pacific Coast.

But don’t overlook the lush Caribbean Coast’s wild and wonderful waves, which (like its rainy season) are less predictable than those on the Pacific; during hurricane season, they can grow to Hawaii-sized proportions. The most popular Caribbean beach town is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, with easy access to expert-only Salsa Brava, right offshore, and more beginner-friendly breaks up and down the coast.

There are dozens of other waves crashing into Costa Rica’s undulated shore, with lefts and rights for every expertise. Although many of the most famous breaks are described in online guides such as Surf Costa Rica.com, CRSurf.com, and Costa Rica Surfing Travel Guide, as well as specialty guidebooks like Mike Parise’s recommended Surfers Guide to Costa Rica, keep in mind that there are plenty of secret surf spots you’ll only find out about once you’ve arrived.

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