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Learning to Surf in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Nested on the southern Caribbean coast close to the Panamanian border Puerto Viejo is surf heaven. This small beach town inhabits a variety of breaks with waves to suit all surfers making it a top spot to learn or perfect your moves.

Puerto Viejo’s home beach Playa Negra just north of town delivers small, gentle waves making it a perfect place the ultimate beginner. You can grab a lesson here for around $40 from one of the local guides who will teach you the surfing basics and get you to your feet. Or if you rather try out on your own the waves here are relatively tame making it safe to do so.

Most days you will be able to rent a board and pick up a lesson straight of the beach, otherwise a short walk into the town you will find many surf stores eager to help you out.

For surfers who have already perfected their pop up, can catch a wave and are seeking to progress, Playa Cocles 2km south of town caters for the more intermediate learner. This beach break gives more of a consistent wave offering decent right and lefts.

Here you will find a choice of places to rent boards or pick up a lesson straight of the beach. Competition between the locals promotes competitive pricing a good opportunity to pick up the right size board.

If surfing alone make sure you speak with the locals and find the right spot to surf in. Cocles has a strong current due to its steep beach entry and get yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time you could quick find yourself in serious trouble. The beach does however have a lifeguard between 9.00am and 5.00pm so if in doubt ask for his advice.

This quirky Caribbean town is also home to Salsa Brava, which boasts the ‘heaviest wave’ in Costa Rica. Not apt for any learner this spot is strictly for the pros. These waves break over a shallow reef and can get super big making for great viewing. Pull up a pew in Salsa Brava bar or pick a spot on the beach and be inspired by the locals and far travelled surfers as they rip up some serious waves.

As perfect as Puerto Viejo is for learning to surf unfortunately the waves don’t break all year round. The best months are between November and April with the rainy season seeing flatter waters and the surf town concentrate more on fishing and snorkelling. But choose the right season and with these warm waters, mellow vibes and friendly locals you really couldn’t ask for a better spot to learn

By Judi Gebhard

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