Surf Guide: Puerto Viejo

August 04, 2017

Costa Rica. It is only roughly the size of West Virginia or Denmark, but the natural habitat is quite diverse. MI OLA's Costa Rican home base of Tamarindo is located in what is called a 'tropical dry forest,' where we see a  big change in seasons with six months of absolutely no rainfall, and six months of rainy season.  If you head a few hours away to the Arenal Volcano, you will be surrounded by real rainforest - year round.  Costa Rica is part of Central America, so the country has two coasts, the Pacific side and the Caribbean side - and both coasts are incredibly different.

We have a new ambassador, Nena (@nena_belen)- who lives in Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean coast.   Since we've never surfed there, we asked her for a surf guide for when we come to visit!



Hi everyone! My name is Nena and I have been living off and on in Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. I learned to surf a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with the warm, Caribbean water and surf culture. Puerto Viejo is one of two locations in which my company, TuCamino Travel offers weeklong trips that include surf, yoga, nature exploration, cultural immersion, and community service. I wanted to share a little bit about one of my favorite spots to surf. Hope you get the chance to check it out!

Surf Guide: Playa Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Where to surf: Playa Cocles is one of the main surf spots in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. It is about a 5 minute bike ride from the center of town or a 15 minute walk. Although this break is more for intermediate/advanced level surfing, beginners can be taught here with an instructor. Playa Cocles is a beach break that offers rights and lefts, as well as crystal clear water and is surrounded by lots of nature and jungle. Be cautious of the beach’s strong currents, but there are lifeguards and local surfers who take care of the beach and people. Best time to surf is around high tide.


Crowd Factor: This is a great beach to surf at because you have a lot of space to spread out and catch waves and practice. The line up is usually small and consists of friendly locals and tourists. There is no aggressive surfing here and the rule is pretty much to respect the beach and one another.

Other Surf Breaks:

Salsa Brava: The infamous Salsa Brava is known as Costa Rica’s most intense wave. This wave is right in town, in front of Salsa Brava Beach Bar. Being a reef break, it offers lefts and rights, has two peaks, and is at its best when it is barreling. This wave is super fast and because of its extreme speed and steepness, the local surfers have learned to be quick on their feet. This wave is only recommended for advanced surfers. If you have the chance to surf Salsa, you will see what I mean!

Punta Uva: Punta Uva Beach is a 30 minute bike ride or 15 minute bus/car ride from the center of Puerto Viejo. This beach is known for its surreal scenery, clear water, and right reef break. This is a great wave for beginners or intermediate surfers when the waves at Playa Cocles are too big. After a surf session, you can walk over to Arrecife Restaurant and enjoy delicious Caribbean food and enjoy the sun and beach.

Playa Grande: Playa Grande is a little bit further than Punta Uva. I recommend going by car or bus, which ends up taking about 20 minutes from Puerto Viejo. This is also a good wave offering lefts and rights when the conditions at Playa Cocles are not great. This is a beach break and although there can be a lot of current at times, this is a really fun wave and perfect for intermediate and advanced surfers.

Other activities: Depending on the size of the waves, kayaking, SUP,  boogie boarding ,and snorkeling are some activities you can partake in. Usually, there is a volleyball game to play during the day or bonfire/BBQ going on in the evening.

Photo courtesy Joel Sharpe
Photo courtesy Joel Sharpe

Sunny mornings and rainy afternoons are the norm, so dawn patrols and sunset sessions get the best winds. The uniqueness of this region is the people: Jamaicans who came to build the Panama Canal more than a hundred years ago and stayed to enjoy fishing, farming, and a fresh start. The bars blast reggae music, and the smell of jerk spices and seafood simmer in the humid evening air. -Surfline

How to get there/where to stay:

Getting to Puerto Viejo from San Jose is pretty easy. You can either arrive via public bus, shared shuttle, private transfer, or you can rent a car. Once you arrive in Puerto Viejo from San Jose or the Pacific side, you have the option to rent a bike and use this as your transportation to Playa Cocles or you can walk. Either way, the scenery is beautiful and you will enjoy the sounds of howler monkeys, birds, and nature. You can often see sloths on the side of the road.

A few places I recommend staying that are close to town and the beach break are: Casa Verde, Pagalu Hostel, La Ruka Hostel, Jacaranda Hotel, or Hotel Pura Vida.

Cocles Surf (3 of 3) nena

Apres Surf:

The restaurants and food on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica are amazing! There is something for everyone. There is everything from jerk chicken, coconut rice and beans, Italian pastas/pizzas, to vegetarian/vegan Thai fusion. A few of my favorite places to eat after surfing are:

-Elena Brown: Caribbean style cooking

-Stashu’s: fusion cuisine

-Puerto Pirata: vegetarian/vegan/organic ayurvedic inspired

-Tasty Waves Cantina: known for its awesome tacos and burgers

-Caribean’s Chocolate lounge: rich coffee, delicious smoothies and sandwiches

Water temperature: 

MI OLA bikini weather all year round! Tropical, warm water set at about 28 degrees Celsius.

Nena MI OLA 2

1 Response

Cameron Guthrie
Cameron Guthrie

January 21, 2019

Great write-up! There’s a ton of useful info here and I’m saying that as a long-term local.

You might like this surf clip I took just a bit south of Playa Cocles in December.

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