As Costa Rica’s surf scene continues to explode, so have the number of camps catering to all levels of surfers, from first-time novices to experienced wave-riders who want to bring their skills to the next level.
Wherever you fall on that range, there are a few things to keep in mind when booking a surf camp. First, many of these camps fill up far in advance, and planning out a year or two ahead is not uncommon. The majority of surf breaks and camps in Costa Rica run up and down the Pacific coast, where all of our top picks are found. This is where you find surf nearly all year long, especially on the northwest Nicoya Peninsula, and where the wet season (May to November) brings the biggest, most consistent waves. Some of the most powerful waves occur on the opposite side of the country along the southern Caribbean coastline, though these come only during the hot, dry months (December to March), and surf camp operations here tend to be limited and subpar.
Because surf camp options abound—from family-friendly hotels to luxury all-inclusive accommodations that throw in yoga sessions, massages, cultural excursions, and gourmet meals—we’ve narrowed down a list of six of Costa Rica’s best surf camps, each with its own unique edge.
1. Safari Surf School
- Location: Guiones, Nosara
- Best: Camp for the environmentally inclined
- Book now: From $1,750 single occupancy for seven-night package; email@example.com
You’d be hard pressed to find a quality surf camp in Costa Rica that doesn’t care about the environment, but the world’s first sustainable, STOKE-certified surf school (and also the first surf camp to open in Nosara back in 1999) brings a next-level commitment. At Safari Surf School, environmental stewardship goes beyond recycling, which it does right down to its surfboards—some of which are sustainably produced Firewire boards and all of which get donated or recycled into art. SSS puts a big emphasis on care of the local community with best practices that include hiring and training only local people. Plus, it supports local conservation projects and tracks and offsets all guest and staff carbon emissions with reforestation projects.
The cherry on top is SSS’s home base and partnership with all-suite Olas Verdes, the first LEED-certified Platinum hotel in Costa Rica. The down-to-earth boutique hotel comes with a pool tucked into a jungle of trees, friendly staff, and 17 expansive rooms, some of which can be combined into multi-room suites. It’s also primely situated steps from the south end of Nosara’s Playa Guiones, a playground for beginner and intermediate surfers with its sandy bottom, gradual descent, and long (and very rip-able) rolling breaks that can carry you all the way to the shore. Bigger waves for more experienced surfers can also be had farther out.
SSS might also be one of the most “pura vida” surf camps, if only for its ability to create customized and flexible experiences. Need a budget hostel or prefer an upscale private home? SSS can find you what you need. Need a break from surfing? No worries; they can also tailor the day on the fly with options such as ziplining, horseback riding, snorkeling, or simply a spa and siesta.
2. Kalon Surf Resort
- Location: Altos de Miramar, Dominical
- Best: Camp for those seeking luxury with their surfing
- Book now: From $3,990 single occupancy for seven-night package; kalonsurf.com
If your idea of surf camp is stepping off of the beach and into the lap of luxury, Kalon Surf Resort’s got you covered. Whether you’re a rank beginner or a shredder who wants to fine-tune some moves, Kalon tailors its coaching to help you attain your goals, including choosing the right surf breaks for you—all while piling on the creature comforts.
The secluded mountaintop resort on the Ose Peninsula has six guest rooms featuring balconies with sunset-primed ocean views over the central Pacific coast, luxury linens, and rain showers; a new two-bedroom junior suite with an outside Jacuzzi and shower offers views of both the ocean and the jungle. Get a beer or glass of wine and a snack from the open kitchen, stroll the six-plus-acre property (including an organic garden), chill by the infinity pool, or get a massage at a new spa overlooking the rain forest. Dive into local culinary offerings with coffee tastings, an informal cooking classes (empanadas, anyone?), or even a hike to a neighboring cheese farm. At the end of the day, sit down to a farm-to-table dinner featuring elevated Costa Rican dishes and molecular-cooking preparations of wagyu beef and fresh seafood.
3. Surf Simply
- Location: Nosara, Guanacaste
- Best: Camp to hone your skills
- Book now: From $7,218 single occupancy for seven-night package; surfsimply.com
To get an idea of what sets this state-of-the-art surf camp apart, look no further than how seriously the owners of Surf Simply considered its elegant accommodations, which were designed by the same San Francisco architects responsible for the original Apple stores and Facebook HQ, as well as the Seoul Incheon Airport.
Surf Simply brings the same level of detail and commitment to its surf coaching, not just for beginners but for experienced surfers as well. The team believes that even people who’ve been surfing for years will benefit from their highly individualized approach, with a strong emphasis on physics, theory, and video analysis. The teaching ratio is 9 coaches to 12 students, guaranteeing highly personalized attention.
The gleaming but understated 10-room resort is nestled alongside a nature preserve, where a short path leads to the waves at vast Playa Guiones, near Nosara, on the Nicoya Peninsula.
4. Surf With Amigas
- Location: Pavones, Puntarenas
- Best: Women-only camp
- Book now: From $2,250 single occupancy for seven-night package; surfwithamigas.com
Whether you grab a girlfriend or two or go solo, prepare to experience the full power of an adventurous all-women gathering at Surf With Amigas, founded and operated by U.S. pro surfer Holly Beck. SWA conducts one-week surf camps with accommodations at three different locations along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, all of them near the world-renowned break of Pavones and all taught by women. (The camp is also offered in northern Costa Rica, as well as Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, and Morocco.)
Its low-frills Jungle Retreat ecolodge accommodates 10 to 12 guests, is surrounded by jungle, and is a short walk to two surf spots. The somewhat more upscale Pura Vista house (for 8 to 10, with air-conditioning and an infinity pool) overlooks the ocean and jungle, and surf sessions are held at beaches a short drive away. The Longboard Surf House, on par with Pura Vista’s accommodations, is actually two guesthouses (housing 12 to 14 guests combined), with shared or private rooms near a left-breaking point, perfect for beginners and those wanting to improve their longboarding skills.
Surfing is the focus and SWA’s number one goal is to help guests catch the best waves for their ability, though there’s also daily yin yoga, chocolate making workshops, and waterfall hikes. Beck, who is pursuing her master’s degree in counseling, has also begun offering surf therapy retreats in Pavones that dig deeper with supportive mindset training.
5. Peaks ’n Swells: Best kid-friendly camp
- Location: Montezuma, Puntarenas
- Best: Kid-friendly camp
- Book now: From $3,350 single occupancy for seven-day package; surfcamppeaksnswells.com
Peaks ’n Swells couldn’t make it any easier or more fun for families who want to learn to surf together. Its location in Puntarenas on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is unlike the exposed Pacific side in that there are options—everything from gentle waves sans riptides on the inside to surf breaks on both sides of the peninsula, just a short drive away.
The intimate camp is limited to three families at a time, each in one of three comfortable chalet-style villas that share a pool, all right on the beach. The homes are extremely private, but they’re only a 10-minute walk from the bustling town of Montezuma. Balance and safety are the name of the game at Peaks ’n Swells, with a coach-to-child ratio of one to one in the water and a well-organized program that knows how to keep everyone happy. While mom and dad enjoy a late-afternoon yoga class on a platform in the jungle or a siesta in a hammock, the camp organizes kids’ activities like waterfall hikes, tide pool exploration, beach games, or a walk to town for ice cream.
Each weeklong session includes a midweek “day off” for excursions at an additional cost that include ziplining, stand-up paddleboarding, visiting a turtle sanctuary or nature preserve, and private island tours.
6. Witch’s Rock Surf Camp
- Location: Tamarindo, Guanacaste
- Best: Camp for solo travelers
- Book now: From $1,586 single occupancy for seven-night package; witchsrocksurfcamp.com
You may arrive at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp by yourself, but you won’t be alone for long. WRSC, whose 18 midrange rooms can accommodate as many as 70 guests in shared and private quarters (you can also upgrade to one of two penthouses with a private roof deck), estimates that nearly a third of its weekly guests are solo travelers.
Located right on the beach in the surf town of Tamarindo, with more than 50 restaurants and over a dozen bars (and plenty more nightlife spots), it’s the perfect location to connect with other like-minded surfers both in and out of the water. Even better, WRSC has its own microbrewery, two restaurants, coffee shop, and surf shop, creating its own little resort atmosphere.
Surf camps include daily instruction for beginners and intermediates; advanced surfers can opt for surf tours, too, which include trips to some of the biggest and best spots in the region (although sans instruction). There’s a great break right in front of the hotel, and a dozen more close by, so you’ll never have to go far to find waves. And no matter your surfing ability, everyone can gather to geek out over weekly screenings of Endless Summer, with live commentary by legendary surfer Robert August, who costarred in the cult-favorite film and resides in Tamarindo.
This article was originally published on Apr 16, 2019; it was updated on January 4, 2022 with additional information.