Surf Guide: Playa Grande, Costa Rica

At MI OLA, the waves are our playground and Tamarindo, Costa Rica is our home break. When the surf is not hitting right in Tamarindo, we #GetOutThere and explore for waves. One of those beaches happens to be Playa Grande, a hop-skip-and jump across the Tamarindo river mouth.

Playa Grande, is quite the contrast to Tamarindo. Once you cross the river mouth, all the beach front development stops. This is because Playa Grande is located in a protected national park called Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. The long stretch of beach is an ideal nesting ground for the Leatherback turtle, the largest marine reptile.

Playa Grande is a beach break.  There are the waves up and down the long stretch of beach, so you can walk as far as you wish (or not) to find a nice, uncrowded wave. Grande tends to be a bit more, well, grande than Tamarindo. It faces more towards the South and also holds more size than Tamarindo.

Playa, Grande Costa Rica

Main peak at Playa Grande, Costa Rica – Photo by team rider Kristen, Samba to the Sea Photography.

Where to Surf:

The main peak is located in front of the main parking lot in Playa Grande.  It’s a nice fast A-frame wave and there are lots of lefts, rights, and sometimes barreling sections. This peak can get crowded, and aggressive.  If surfing with a crowd is not your thing, there are plenty of waves to be found to the left and right of the main peak. The whole beach is sandy bottom.

Best Tide: In general, the best time to surf is mid-high tide.

Best Wind: Offshore, from the East.

Best Swell: South, Southwest

Ability: Beginner to Advanced

Season: For offshore winds all day, January – April. But pretty much this is surf year round!

Crowd Factor: Crowded and localism on the main peak. Other than that, there are plenty of waves to be found.


How to get there: From Liberia Airport, Playa Grande is an hour drive. From Tamarindo, you can drive to Grande in 30 minutes, or you paddle across the Tamarindo estuary and voilà! you are at the end of Playa Grande.  The main peak is about a one mile walk down the beach. Parking will cost you a 1,000 Colones (about $2).


Where to Stay: Rip Jack Inn is a three minute walk down a path to the beach. They also serve pretty good grub at their restaurant. Other options are Indra Inn, Hotel Las Tortugas, Bula Bula, or VRBO/ Airbnb.

Water temperature: It’s MI OLA bikini weather all year round! But, due to the strong offshore winds from December-March and upwelling, the water temperature can drop overnight and require you to wear some thin neoprene.

Apres Surf: The tipico breakfast at Rip Jack Inn is worth a try. Other favorites are Taco Star – in the main parking lot, Bula Bula and El Huerto Pizzeria. You can always find a pipa (fresh coconut water) guy who greets you as you exit the water.


Tamarindo Estuary Tour. Photo by team rider Kristen, Samba to the Sea Photography.

Other Activities: Since Playa Grande is in a protected park, there is plenty of wildlife to experience. Go to Hotel Bula Bula and take an estuary tour to see crocodiles, monkeys, and an endless array of birds. If you’re really lucky, you might see a Baula turtle laying her eggs on the beach at night.  We suggest you check out the Parque Nacional Las Baulas info center (main road in Playa Grande) for tours – the public aren’t allowed on the beach at night.

Costa Rica has some of the most magical and beautiful sunsets to enjoy. So whatever you do, make sure you catch the sunset at Playa Grande.


Sunset Surf in Costa Rica. Photo by team rider Kristen, Samba to the Sea Photography.


We’ve been covering the science of surfing in the past few months, so click here to learn more about swellhow waves are formed, how wind affects waves or what makes a wave a left or a right.  We also have super handy surf guides from all around the world, written by our local ambassadors, so if you are headed on a surf trip be sure to check them out!