Surfers in Costa Rica
Surfers in Costa Rica

Where is the best place to surf in Central America?

What's the best Central American surf trip for me and my girlfriend (who’s a beginner) in late winter? Honduras? Costa Rica? -Andrew New Haven, CT

Surfers in Costa Rica
Greg Melville

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The best surf spots are in untrammeled, hard-to-access spots like Playa Colorado in Nicaragua, where massive Pacific waves roll onto the shore near the mouth of the Rio Colorado with only a smattering of people to witness them. But “practically undiscovered” usually means “totally undeveloped.” So your girlfriend would probably get so angry at you for not finding a good nearby instructor that she’d kill time on the beach by hanging out with some studly, flirtatious surfer dude while you’re in the water all day. The next thing you know, your vacation’s ruined, she’s headed on the next plane to Malibu with Moondoggie, and all you’re left with is a big credit card bill. Let me stop this situation from happening by recommending that the two of you spend your vacation at a surf school resort—even if it means you’ll be staying in a slightly more developed and pricier location. Here are some options:

Surfers in Costa Rica

Surfers in Costa Rica Surfers in Costa Rica

Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Etched onto the edge of a jungle-lined beach fringing a national park on Costa Rica’s north Pacific coast, Witch’s Rock Surf camp provides easy access to waves suited for all skill levels. Beginners take lessons practically right out the door of the camp’s surf lodge. More skilled surfers go by boat to the breaks made famous in Endless Summer II at Witches Rock and Ollie’s Point (named for Oliver North, who’s forever banned from the country thanks to his alleged gun-running hijinks in the 1980s).

Safari Surf School, Nosara, Costa Rica
A short distance north of Tamarindo, on a much more secluded stretch of sand, you’ll find the sleepy village of Nosara, home to the well-respected Safari Surf School—created by two brothers from Oahu a decade ago. Spend your days taking surf lessons and fitness classes from the school’s impressive roster of instructors, or exploring the jungle on one of its side excursions, and spend the night at one of Nosara’s handful of boutique hotels or casas.

Popoyo Surf Lodge, Popoyo, Nicaragua
Yes, the white sand and surrounding jungle of Popoyo, a couple of hours south of Managua on the Pacific coast, are breathtaking. But you go to this blink-and-you-miss-it spot for one reason: the surf. Its shores offer everything from gentle swells for beginners to nearly a dozen towering breaks within an hour’s boat ride, which draws some of the world’s top surfers. Founded by U.S. surfer JJ Yemma in 1999, Popoyo Surf Lodge is the oldest surf camp on the country, its cabanas, restaurant, and pool strewn among 14 acres by the ocean.