Planning a family surf trip? Where better to go than Costa Rica? With oodles of beaches both on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the country offers a balanced menu of terrific waves with a friendly environment for beginning surfers, making it a great place to surf for families (even those with young kids).
About Surfing in Costa Rica With Kids
The beauty of Costa Rica surfing beaches is that apart from having deliciously warm water, they also have reliable, consistent waves. There’s an abundance of surf camps and surf schools, providing safe surfing for every member of the family- including the little ones.
Do note: waves in Costa Rica can be strong, and it’s important you go with an instructor who is experienced in working with kids to teach them to surf. These beaches are great for surfing and offer kids’ surfing lessons, but still be on your toes as you surf with little ones. I don’t recommend trying to do this on your own at all. Safety first!
And don’t forget- at beaches with much gentler waves you can always rent a boogie board and play in the surf at almost any beach in Costa Rica- our favorites are Playa Blanca, Playa Nacazcolo, Playa Ocotal and Playa Mantas.
There are plenty of activities for non-surfers too, ensuring optimal fun for everyone. Here are some of my favorite spots for surfing with kids.
Playa Hermosa & Jaco Beach
The Playa Hermosa/Jaco area is the ideal locale for active family vacations and surfers who also love a party. While Hermosa is well suited for families with intermediate and experienced surfers, there is a host of non-surf activities that can be enjoyed by the entire gang including horseback riding, birdwatching, zip lining, boat tours, and cultural experiences.
Hermosa Beach has been home to many international surf championships, making it one of the top surfing beaches in the country. This also can mean wicked waves and rip tides, so it’s best to go with an experienced guide. I consider this a great beach for advanced surfers.
Next door, the southern end of Jaco beach is more beginner-friendly and there are plenty of surf schools here. The waves are calm and slow and the water is quite shallow, which makes it one of the best places for children and beginner surfers alike to get acquainted with the waves. The northern end of the beach is the perfect place for more intermediate surfers to ride as there are much bigger waves.
Jaco is also famed for its beautiful sunsets and numerous bars, perfect for those lazy evening beach walks and nightlife. We love to visit the crocodiles from Jaco, and two of my favorite hidden beaches- Playa Mantas and Playa Blanca.
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Each year, Playa Grande draws surf families from all over the world with its mid-sized, consistent swells that accommodate surfers of all experience levels. You will find many open waves forming and breaking at just the right speed waiting to be cruised.
These are gentle enough so that novices can ride safely but with powerful enough sections that even skilled surfers will enjoy adrenaline-rushing sessions.
Surf lessons are available upon request to ensure that even the most nervous members of the family can safely and confidently take on the waves.
Some surf camps teach even kids as young as three and a few will even offer babysitting services so you can sneak out for a few grown-up surf sessions! Witch’s Rock Surf Camp is the most well-known surfing spot in Playa Grande. You’ll want to fly into the Liberia Airport to visit this beach.
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Starting from the Hacienda Pinilla and stretching all the way from the north of the river mouth to Playa Lagartillo is Playa Avellanas, another one of my favorite spots for surfing with kids. Here, you’ll find seven different surfing points, offering a variety of waves for both newbies and experts.
If you’re a beginner, head to the area near the parking lot to ride some of the smaller waves. There are also many surf schools onsite. For skilled surfers, the biggest wave (aka Little Hawaii) near the river mouth is really good.
Done surfing? Lounge under one of the shrubby trees and feel the gentle breeze from the turquoise waters touching your face and body or just go explore the rocks with the kids. There are some gorgeous shells to be uncovered in those tiny rock crevices!
We love to unwind at Lola’s, some of the best Costa Rican appetizers and the coldest beer in the entire country!
Playa Guiones boasts consistent waves, fine white sands, laid-back charm, and beginner to intermediate-friendly beach breaks, making it one of the top contenders for family getaways in Costa Rica. It’s in the heart of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Kick off the day with dawn patrol, as early morning is when there are the best offshore winds and you’ll find big swells. When the winds subside, the waters become a playground for beginners and there’s no shortage of surf instructors. Plus the place has fewer crowds so it’s easy to find a secluded spot for the best waves.
If you’re weary of being atop the surfboard, there are plenty of other exciting things to do too.. Decide whether you want to take a walk on the beach, ride a bike, go horseback riding, goof around on a boogie board, or just spend the rest of the day watching the little ones build sandcastles from the comfort of your hammock.
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In the heart of the small town of Dominical along the South Pacific coast hides this spectacular surfing gem where intermediate and experienced surfers can find strong and fast waves all year round.
Because of the big swells, however, this spot is not recommended for beginners. Sure, there will be instructors to help you navigate the waves safely, but it’s important to take caution. For beginners and people with kids, I would advise surfing close to the shore or coming here during the dry season when the waves aren’t too intense.
But even though the swells don’t favor everyone, there are many can’t-miss activities available for adventurous families including whale watching, hiking, eco-tours, and horseback riding.
Dominical is your traditional laid-back lazy surf town, and it’s a great spot to slow down and enjoy the Pura Vida life– whether you are surfing the great waves or not!
One of the best surf spots for beginners, Tamarindo beach is famous not only for its mellow waves; the water also becalms at low tide, making it great for swimming. With plenty of surf schools and surf shops offering kid-friendly lessons to get those young surfers up on the board, this is also an amazing place for family getaways, allowing children of all ages as well as first-time surfers to take baby steps.
If the little ones aren’t quite ready to snag a surf lesson, rent a boogie board. Boogie board rides are slightly tamer but still just as exciting. If you would rather tour the surroundings, rent a kayak and paddle to the Tamarindo estuary or book a horseback ride and explore the countryside together.
Playa Santa Teresa
Pumping beach breaks, cheap rentals, laidback lifestyle are some of the things surfers love about Santa Teresa. With terrific waves for both beginner and expert surfers and friendly instructors offering lessons to kids as young as five years, this is a great destination for families who love to play with the waves.
High tide is the best time to cruise and while it’s also when there are more crowds, you will enjoy consistent breaks. Don’t forget to try other activities in the area like ziplining and eco-tours. Or, just sign up the little ones for the kids’ camp where they will be enthralled with interactive activities as you enjoy relaxing yoga at Funky Monkey.
Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into getting around Costa Rica. If you would like to talk to me about a customized itinerary or specific Costa Rica travel advice for your family’s next Costa Rica vacation, (zero sales- just advice!) check out my “Ask Christa” page for more information on custom Costa Rica trip planning geared towards family