The Ultimate Guide to Nosara Surf

by Chris Smith

Nosara surf is firmly up there with the best surf in Costa Rica these days. It’s still more off-the-beaten-track than other locations, but has the waves and beaches to tempt all levels.

Nosara surf

Nosara surf at a glance

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The good

  • Breaks for all levels
  • Chilled and charming town with great hotels and surf camps
  • Beautiful stretch of shore that hasn’t suffered from logging

The bad

  • It’s growing every year!
  • More people crowding the line up every season
  • Big variation in the wave type with the tides

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Costa Rica

What’s in this guide to surfing in Nosara?

An introduction to the Nosara Surf

Nosara has been touted as the next big thing on the Costa Rican surf scene. Yep, the secret’s out and this ever-growing community midway down the Nicoya Peninsula is now the go-to place for many an international surfer. It’s certainly got the credentials. There are three beaches that face steep west into the Pacific, with a slight southerly bend to help hoover up those dominant antipodean swells that come up from NZ and beyond. Each has it’s own neat array of waves, with spots suited to beginners and intermediates especially in abundance.

The truth is, the town hardly needs two of its trio of beaches to hit the big time. The real jewel in the crown of the Nosara surf is Guiones, or Playa Guiones. That stunning horseshoe bay spreads a whopping three miles from end to end. It’s got peaks by the bucket load, most of them classic Pacific sets of rippable sandbanks that come in like clockwork from June to August. With the growing popularity, surfers are starting to spread to other nearby breaks, like Pelada and Ostional to the north.

Right now (and we’re so sure this will change pretty soon), the vibe in Nosara is awesome. There are some cracking hotels with pools and tropical gardens, all stitched together with dusty mud tracks. The place retains a touch of that rustic Pacific charm and the surf scene remains low key and welcoming. It’s one of our top picks for beginners and intermediates heading to Costa Rica.

Where is Nosara?

Nosara is midway down the Nicoya Peninsula, just before the coast turns eastward to give the beaches a more SW orientation. The town itself is draped over a cluster of hills behind the shoreline. It’s got a real remote feel thanks to the thick covering of jungle and rainforest. The main 160 highway is the sole way in. It comes down from Tamarindo and Santa Cruz, but also up from Sámara. There are regular buses that take the route from San Jose and Liberia, but most surfers rent a car – a 4X4 is required for these parts!

A guide to Nosara surf spots

There are a handful of pretty h igh-quality beach breaks in the Nosara area. they’re bolstered by sandbar, rivermouth, and occasional rock reef sections to give a good mix of options for different swell directions and tides. Let’s take a look…

Playa Ostional

Playa Ostional is the big, black-sand bay to the north of town. It’s got some of the more advanced Nosara surf, which comes thanks to the NW swell pickup. It also gets the dominant SW, so also works in the green season. Waves are fantastically hollow and wally at high tide, with long, fast rides if you can catch em’. Watch out for the sea turtles!

Playa Nosara

The main beach at Nosara isn’t actually the most quality break in the area. You can go to the north end and catch some of he hollower breaks that filter off Playa Ostional. Out back on bigger days is experts only, but mainly because of the paddle power you’ll need to conquer the double overheads. Most of the time it’s nowhere near that and you’ll get all sorts of peaky beach breaks, with lots for beginners too.

Playa Guiones

The real good are down on Playa Guiones. Located to the south of the town itself, this long arc of pristine sand is home to the best breaks in the area. They top the bill mainly on account of consistency. The northern end of the bay pokes out perfectly to catch those oncoming SW groundswells and the product is a wave that goes from heavy and hollow at low to fat and cruisy at high with all possible variations in between.

Most of the time, Playa Guiones is a good option for all levels of surfer. The harder waves crunch at low tide and then stay out back on the primary swell, leaving lots of whitewash for the kooks (good on ya’!). Add in the usual easterly offshore and bingo: You get glassy wave faces that are just asking to be carved – a real dream for intermediates who are starting to play with their turns.

Playa Garza

Playa Garza used to be the spot to go to for a great escape from the crowds. There have been times where we’ve surfed here with the sunrise and it’s only us and the howler monkeys. Those days are passing as the surf schools look further afield to get more peaks to themselves. It’s still an option if you want to be alone, though. Just come early and choose one of the outer reefs. They are the main spots, giving reliable rides that get best at 5 foot or so. Being south-facing the easterly winds can mess with things a tad, but the rides waves are fun, cruisy and pretty forgiving. Hazards = rocks underfoot.

Where to stay in Nosara

Surf camps and hotels by the beach are one of the real strong points of Nosara. There are some downright gorgeous pads to pick from, all within a stone’s throw of the best breaks. We’ve picked just three of our favorites below…

A bird in Nosara

Moana Surf Resort ($$)


Moana Surf Resort sits at the north end of Playa Guiones – yep, that’s right by the beach’s most reliable sandbar breaks. It’s a stylish, new surf camp with modern interiors that are serene and stylish. There’s also an on-site pool and a yoga studio. It’s everything you could ask for.

The Gilded Iguana ($$$)

Best for: Total luxury!

The Gilded Iguana is luxury within a stone’s throw of Nosara’s best surf. A new-build resort, it manages to channel the organic feel of Costa Rica with palm-thatched roofs and palm-studded gardens. There’s – of course – a glorious pool, along with bright and airy rooms that ooze style. You can’t go wrong with this one!

The Nomadic Hotel ($$)

Best for: A fantastico pool in a cool setting

The Nomadic Hotel is another very stylish hotel option that’s just back from Guiones Beach. It’s calm and peaceful but manages to take care of all the creature comforts. The apartment rentals are cracking if you like extra space. Oh, and that pool is gorge!

When to surf in Nosara

The Green Season (June to November) is the best surf season in Nosara. However, there are waves all year round in this corner of Costa Rica….

Dry Season (Nov-March)

Yea, the beaches are nicer on the Pacific Coast in the dry season. That’s becuase there’s way less rain. However, surfers aren’t treated so well. The SW swell struggle to get through to Guiones, and the surf is generally smaller and less quality. It’s still okay though, and very good for beginners who aren’t as discerning or chasing barrels. Nosara also offers some spots (mianly Ostional) that pick up the NW swell, so you can ride tubes even in November.

Wet season/Green Season (June-Nov)

The turning on of the south-western swells is what you’re waiting for in Costa Rica. All down the Nicoya Peninsula, the beaches get fired up when anything ranges in from that direction, and the waves are goo quality to boot. The wet season is prime for all that, but also brings neat NE offshores that keep things glassy for the whole morning (it can change in the afternoon). This is the best time of year to surf in Nosara.

Don’t even think about surfing in Costa Rica without a good sunscreen to protect you from that UVA and UVB. Even when it’s overcast on the Nosara beaches, the sun is strong in this part of the tropics.

Check out our complete guide to the five best options to purchase right now!

Surf shops in Nosara

Nosara surf shops might not offer all that fancy branded surfwear and whatnot, but they take care of the basics and do it with a smile :).

Nosara Surf Shop

Simply named. Lovely people. That’s it. We always drop by this cracking shop when we’re in Nosara. They have a great range of boards up for rent, from short pin noses to larger minimals. There’s also some locally designed surf fashion – loving the green-blue boardshorts!

Juan Surfo’s Surf Shop

Surfboards and rentals sold with a big smile – that’s what you can expect at Juan Surfo’s Surf Shop. It’s a fun spot with a great range of boards of all lengths up for grabs – brands include Al Merrick, Rusty, and Lost.

What’s the best time to surf in Nosara, Costa Rica?

Anytime between March and October is best to surf in Nosara. That’s when the SW swell channels are fully active, so you’ll catch the best of the waves the Pacific can offer. Sometimes it’s pretty big, but there are lots of days of chest-high waves and offshore winds for beginners too. The tail end of the dry season in February also isn’t bad. That’s when spots like Ostional catch the leftovers of NW winter swells and get powerful for expert surfers.

What level are Nosara surf conditions?

Nosara surf conditions are suited to all levels. Beginners will enjoy the reliable whitewash that rolls into Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones. Intermediates love an incoming tide at both of those. Experts head to Ostional beach to surf harder barrels that are fast and long.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in ___

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