With a coastline that stretches for thousands of miles, Central America has its fair share of world-class surf spots, but not all are suitable for those taking to a surfboard for the first time. So where should a first-timer head to?
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Although you can surf on both east and west costs of Costa Rica, the Pacific Coast has the most consistent waves year-round.
Tamarindo AKA Tamagringo (because of its high numbers of western tourists) is on the Nicoya Peninsula and is known to have some of the best beginner waves in the world and a big party scene. It has gone a little crazy with development over the last few years but you are spoilt for choice here – with surf-camp packages, hostels, hotels and a serious amount of well-stocked surf shops to rent all your gear – and all are just a stones throw from the beach.
Along with its popularity comes the price – longer-term backpackers or those on a tight budget might find it stretches the wallet just a little too far. Costa Rica is easily the most expensive country in Central America, with prices more in-line with Europe that its neighbours. But if ‘surf camp’ sounds like your kind of thing – keep your eyes out for an off-season bargain because Tamarindo is the place to do it.
Other popular beginner spots include Nosara, a couple of hours south of Tamarindo which offers more tranquil surroundings for the hammock-lover, and Dominical in Southern Costa Rica, located right next to a national marine park – perfect for snorkelling on your day off from the surf (believe me, you’ll need one).
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
San Juan Del Sur is great for backpackers who want both the surf and the party but who are on a budget, plus the town hasn’t been overdeveloped by expats either. Though you won’t have the luxury of staying right on the beach, there are plenty of transport options that will get you the short ride to one of the surf beaches a little out of town. The main surfing beaches are Playa Maderas and Playa Remanso but make sure you venture a little further out to Playa Hermosa for a full day of surfing and an sunset to die for.
For another consistent break with offshore winds – check out Popoyo, only a few hours south of Nicaragua’s capital, offering lots of packages which include lessons, accommodation and food.
El Zunzal, El Salvador
El Salvador is famous for its world-class surfing (World Master Surfing Championships and ASP 3-Star Copa Quiksilver to name a couple) but is it worth considering a visit for first-timers? Yes. Beginners should head to Playa El Zunzal for a long right break and if you want to see the experts – take a trip to Punta Roca and watch them in complete awe.
When to go
The Pacific coastline is pretty consistent all year round so the main things to consider are crowds of people and the weather. Summer runs from December to April and attracts the biggest numbers of visitors while the rainy season runs from May to November. The surf is good pretty much year-round but be prepared for serious humidity and a mid-afternoon storm or two. And don’t worry, the water is warm over there – between 80-90 degrees. So if you aren’t a big fan of cold water, head to Central America and make your first time surfing without a wet suit.