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Your Playa Grande, Costa Rica Surfing vacation

Your Playa Grande, Costa Rica Surfing vacation

Playa Grande, the Ultimate Costa Rica Surfing Vacation Destination

Probably one of the most consistent of all Costa Rica surf spots, Playa Grande is a quality beachbreak, especially on a good south swell. There are outer reefs which make low-tide not ideal (close-outs mostly), but from mid-tide on, it is A-frame, tube rides, fun, playful lefts and rights. On south swells, often double the size of Tamarindo waves, and worth the 25 minute drive it takes to get there from Tamarindo. The closest surfing beach to Liberia International Airport (LIR), being a 1 hour drive on all paved roads. 75 minute drive from the Papagayo Penninsula and Four Seasons resort. Only 15 minutes drive from Reserva Conchal and the Westin, 25 minutes from Flamingo and 30 minutes from Potrero, it is the place to surf in the area. If everywhere else is flat, Playa Grande will have something to ride, and it’s especially good when an off-season south combines with winter-time offshore winds.

Best Tide:

Mid-tide. Around 3 hours before and up to 3 hours after high tide. At dead high-tide there can be some strong backwash on full-moon high tides.

Best Swell Direction:

SW, W

Best Size:

Head high to a few feet overhead.

Best Wind:

NE, E

Bottom:

Sand

Ability Level:

Beginner to advanced

Best boards for Playa Grande:

Longboard, shortboard, fish, anything goes!

Best Season:

Dec, Jan, Feb for perfect (but smaller) offshore waves. The rest of the year for bigger, more consistent swells

Access:

Public beach accesses at the end of the road from Frijoles Locos Surf Shop, where Hotel Las Tortugas is, and 200 meters north of here known as ‘the palm trees’. Palm trees are great for families, offering good shade. Both places have guarded parking for $2 per vehicle. Don’t leave anything in the car anywhere, ever!

Parking in front of RipJack Inn also, but not guarded.

Takes a good 25-30 minutes to walk from Tamarindo estuary to main peak in front of Hotel Las Tortugas.

Crowd Factor:

Playa Grande at the main peak can get very crowded- 100 plus surfers in the high seasons. The beach is long, with peaks everywhere, and if you have a little motivation for lonely waves, you will find them.

Local Vibe:

There is plenty of attitude in the line up, and a lack of surfing etiquette from some. Don’t add to the problem- use your common sense and paddle away before you find yourself in a predicament.

Be aware of surf etiquette/ the rules- set the standard for everyone else.

Paddle power requirement:

4 out of 10 (10 being an ironman strength required)

Water cleanliness:

9 out of 10 (10 being cleanest)

Shark Danger:

2 out of 10 (0 being a swimming pool and 10 being shark infested)

Hazards:

Surfing where the crowd is, if you are not competent, can be dangerous for you and others. Beginners need to find a spot away from the crowd. The beach is sandy, no rock hazards, and apart from the occasional sting ray or shark spotting, Playa Grande is one of Costa Rica’s least hazardous beaches. Like all beaches with waves, you must know what to do in case of getting stuck in a rip current. Read up on it or stop at Frijoles locos to get some info.

How to get to Playa Grande From San Jose (SJO) & Liberia (LIR)

How to get to Playa Grande From San Jose (SJO) & Liberia (LIR)

Playa Grande Estates Map

  • Left hand side of map, numbers in yellow.

Map Legend:

1- Frijoles Locos Surf Shop

2- Kike’s Place

3- The Garden Grill (closed)

4- Pulperia (small store)

5- Playa Grande school

6- Playa Grande Park Hotel

7- MINAE office and Turtle Tours

8- The Beach House

9- Rip Jack Inn and restaurant

10- La Marejada Hotel and Marbar

11- Playa Grande Inn

12- BP Surf Hotel/ Pete’s Place

13- Rancho Privado

14- Hotel Las Tortugas

15- Lighthouse apartments

16- Apartamentos Veraneras

17- 24- Beach houses for rent

25- Casa Linda Vista (Kai’s place)

Palm Beach Estates Map

  • Right side of map, numbers in blue.

Map Legend:

1- Hotel Bula Bula and the Great Waltinis Restaurant

2 & 3- Las Malinches Supermarket and restaurant

4- Charlie’s Rancho/ Cabinas

5- Hotel Cantarana and Restaurant

7- Casa Verde

8- Casa Baula

9- Casa Muy Grande

10- Casa de Amigos

11- Playa Grande Surf Camp

12- Casa Bonita

15- Casa Cameleon

20- Casa Dorado

21- Villa Baula hotel

22- Casa Marina

Driving Directions from San Jose International Airport (SJO):

  • Travelling time is approximately 4-5 hours.

From the airport, you go on the old road, not the new toll road:

Old road:

1. From San Jose Airport, take the Panamerican Highway North. Look for sign towards San Ramon.

2. Keep going following the signs to Esparza. Pass through Esparza and keep going straight following the signs to Limonal.

3. In Limonal there is a new Subway on the right, and a Delta gas station on the left. Turn left here, following the signs to Nicoya, and the Puente Amistad Tempisque (Tempisque Bridge). Cross the bridge and keep going straight.

4. There is one fork in the road that is poorly marked on the portion of road past the bridge. You want to go left at the fork. If you go right, there is a gas station but then the road dead ends in a small town.

5. Keep going until you hit the T south of Nicoya. Turn right following the signs to Nicoya and Santa Cruz.

6. Pass the turn off to Nicoya where there are traffic lights, heading towards Santa Cruz, pass by Santa Cruz (one more traffic light) and keep going to Belen. There is a gas station on the corner in Belen. Turn left following the signs to Tamarindo/ Playa Grande (Parque Nacional Marino de las Baulas). These signs for the Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas have a drawing of a turtle, they are brown with white writing, and refer to Playa Grande.

7. Follow this road without turning off. After around 20 minutes, you will pass another gas station called “Oasis” on your left.

Continue going straight along this road. You will go up over a mountain after the oasis gas station, you will go down the other side of the mountain, and about 2km along, will see a turn off to the left for Tamarindo. DO NOT take the left to Tamarindo!

Stay straight. You will see Super Compro supermarket on your right around 200 meters past this intersection.

Stay straight on this road, passing by the turn-off to the right for Flamingo, Conchal etc.

When you get to the next t-intersection, you are in Matapalo. On your right will be a soccer field.

8. Turn left here pass over the little bridge, continue on the paved road for another 8-10 minutes.

You will go over another mountain, continue along until you come to a little more of a township. Pass by Kike’s place (Kee-Kays) on your left (down the hill, there is a big rancho style roof).

9. Take the first left turn at the big sign and the little school of Playa Grande is on your left.

Frijoles Locos Surf Shop in on the left just after the school. Stop in here and get a map, ask for directions, or grab a cold ‘pipa’ (fresh coconut water).

Driving from Liberia International Airport (LIR):

  • Travelling time is approximately 1 hour.

1. Once you reach the T when you are leaving the airport road, turn RIGHT.

2. Stay on this road for around 20 minutes, until you get to a turn off to the right. There is a large gas station on the far right corner, and signs indicating Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa Danta. Turn RIGHT here.

Stay on this road for around 20 minutes until you reach a gas station called “Oasis” on your left.

Continue going straight along this road. You will go up over a mountain after the oasis gas station, you will go down the other side of the mountain, and about 2km along, will see a turn off to the left for Tamarindo. DO NOT take the left to Tamarindo!

Stay straight. You will see Super Compro supermarket on your right around 200 meters past this intersection.

Stay straight on this road, passing by the turn-off to the right for Flamingo, Conchal etc.

When you get to the next t-intersection, you are in Matapalo. On your right will be a soccer field.

3. Turn left here pass over the little bridge, continue on the paved road for another 8-10 minutes.

You will go over another mountain, continue along until you come to a little more of a township. Pass by Kike’s place (Kee-Kays) on your left (down the hill, there is a big rancho style roof).

4. Take the first left turn at the big sign and the little school of Playa Grande is on your left.

Frijoles Locos Surf Shop in on the left just after the school. Stop in here and get a map, ask for directions, or grab a cold ‘pipa’ (fresh coconut water).