Surf Guide: Tamarindo

Last month we kicked off our “Surf Guide” series with our founder’s hometown break, Rockaway.  For this month we are staying local; local as in MI OLA’s tropical home base, Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

First, a little background on the surf in Costa Rica. The surf here is very diverse.  Just about, every two miles there is another beach – and another surf spot. The surf pretty much goes all the way down to Panama.

There are waves for all levels, from beginner to advanced, and there are beach breaks, point breaks, reefs, and river mouths. You can surf various spots all in one day. The tide changes about 7-10ft, so surfing a certain spot depends on the time of day. You could show up to a spot at low tide and find no waves, and then a couple of hours later there’ll be waves breaking up and down the beach.

And, there’s the wind. During the summertime (mid-November to April) here in Guanacaste (North-West Costa Rica), the wind usually blows offshore all day. Once rainy season comes, the wind turns onshore usually in the late morning, and then can shift back to offshore after an afternoon storm.

Location: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tamarindo is the home break for Helena and team riders Kristen, Ashley, and Christina. There is nothing like rolling out of bed, walking five minutes down the the beach, and surfing your local break.

Kristen says, “The Rivermouth is my playground.” Tamarindo tends to be more of a longboard wave and most people usually head out of town to surf other beaches, but surfing the Rivermouth in the mornings is like hanging out at your local coffee shop; you paddle out, say your hellos, have a quick chat or laugh, then mid-sentence paddle to catch a wave.


Where to Surf:

Rivermouth (Estero): One of our favorite breaks is at the Rivermouth. Depending on positioning of the sand bars, there can be some phenomenal lefts and/or rights. Best time to surf is mid-high tide, but can be super fun at low tide. It is one of those waves that you just need to keep on checking all day, as the wave changes with the tide.

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Beachbreak: Located right in front of the parking lots, a lot of beginners take lessons here, but with the right swell there are some amazing lefts that can take you all the way to the Rivermouth. Best time to surf is mid-high tide.

Pico Pequeño: This wave is a reform wave coming off of the rocks of Pico Grande. Pico Pequeño an unreal spot for aspiring young kids wanting to be shredders. Usually when nothing else is breaking in town, there at least will be a small wave at Pico Pequeño. Surf at high tide.

Pico Grande: During a good swell, this wave can be amazing, with rights and lefts breaking off of the rock. Pico Grande is a fast, more advanced surfer wave. Surf at high tide.

Capitán Suizo: This break is located all the way down the beach, towards Playa Langosta. Surf schools bring their students here, but during a good swell, Suizo is a really nice wave. Also, since Suizo faces a different direction then the other spots in town, if the wind is coming from the south, it will be offshore vs side-shore elsewhere in town. Best time to surf is high tide.


Best time of year to surf: The Rivermouth comes alive with a really good North swell during the Northern Hemisphere winter. In general, there usually is always something to surf, even if that is a tiny ankle biter wave.


Corduroy for miles. Rivermouth alive with a North swell. Photo by Kristen Brown.


Water temperature: 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.


Crowd factor: Since Tamarindo is the second largest beach town in Costa Rica, it definitely is no secret spot. But if you are new in town, here is some local knowledge. Please just be sure to look left, right AND in front of you before dropping in on a wave. Tamarindo tends to get crowded and you never know who else is going to be sharing the wave with you.

Wack-a-mole Tamarindo style. Kristen showing the boys how it's done.

Wack-a-mole Tamarindo style. Kristen showing the boys how it’s done.


Apres Surf:

Located in Villa Real, Las Palmas is a super-local soda (restaurant)—you can’t beat the homemade arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and the $5 price.

For breakfast, lunch, dinner or sunset drinks on the beach, you can’t go wrong with Nogui’s. Try the shrimp tacos, patacones (plantains with black beans), mint-ginger smoothie and the rotunda tica breakfast. This restaurant makes some of the best pies that team rider Kristen has ever tried in her life (the pineapple pie is a must-try).

Early morning surf sessions call for fast food French Bakery style. Located just as you are headed out of Tamarindo, the croissants or leek quiches are a must before an early morning surf trip.

For your NYC pizza fix, La Baula has great thin crust pies—Kristen’s favorite comes with arugula, prosciutto, Parmesan and a drizzle (or dump) or spicy olive oil.

Helena, Kristen, Ashley and Christina also love to hang out at Vaquero at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, located right on the beach, for sunset drinks. With a surfboard fresh water shower, live bands during the weekend, and a great location, Vaquero has become a local favorite.

AND make sure you are at the beach for sunset. Tamarindo has some of the most magical and beautiful sunsets and our team rider Kristen loves to take photographs of them!

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Chasing sunsets in Tamarindo. Photo by Kristen Brown.


How to get there: Fly into Liberia airport, hop a shuttle to Tamarindo, grab a surfboard and head to the beach! If you stay in Tamarindo, you don’t even need to rent a car. Pretty much everywhere in town is within walking distance to the beach.

On top of these breaks, with a certain swell, there are some other spots that break…but we can’t give away all the local knowledge! Have fun, be safe and no dropping in on the locals!