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:


Best Size:

Head high to a few feet overhead.

Best Wind:




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


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)


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.