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+ Consistent, seasonal swell
+ Powerful reefbreaks
+ Insignificant tidal range
+ Laid back Carribean style
- Flat between seasons
- Lack of good beachbreaks
- Extremely wet
- Petty crime

Limón, Costa Rica, Central America and The Caribbean

Salsa Brava, Steve Fitzpatrick

Surf Spots

Tortuguero Beach
Cocaïne Point
Playa Bonita
Roca Alta
Isla Uvita
Barco Quebrado
Playa Negra - Limon
Salsa Brava
Playa Cocles
Little Shoal
Punta Uva
Manzanillo (Limón)

The Surf

Costa Rica is a member of that privileged club which receives swell from two very different suppliers on its schizoid coastline. The Pacific Ocean delivers year-round long distance swells from both the north and south, producing the perfect small to medium, west coast waves that Costa Rica is famed for. Not so well known is the fact that the Caribbean side receives fairly big and wild waves from short lived, seasonal storms, mainly centered off Colombia. It’s truly amazing how much power is contained in the short fetch Caribbean swells, which break in the 2-12ft (0.6-4m) range. It is possible to cross from Puntarenas on the west coast to Puerto Limón in 5-6hrs, meaning both coasts can be surfed in the same day. The Caribbean coastline is short (212km/132mi), the majority being within the Tortuguero National Park, a long sandy line backed by huge waterways with countless beachbreaks and potential rivermouths, but with no access and brimming with sea-life.

When to Go

The Caribbean Sea spawns some of the strongest windswells on earth, producing clean and very consistent, 2-12ft (0.6-4m) surf, during two distinct seasons. The main season is winter from Dec to March with many storms churning off Cartagena in Columbia. The main ENE direction aims directly at Costa Rica. This brings stormy weather to the coast, but the Talamanca coastal range helps to calm down local squalls and induces offshore winds. There is also a June-August season, July being the safer bet. Caribbean hurricanes from August to October usually track north of Costa Rica and are more likely to spray the Greater West Indies and US East Coast. Due to its swell window Costa Rica is fortunate not to be plagued by strong and consistent onshores, but it’s still necessary to wake up early for calm winds. Tidal phases are far less than on the Pacific side, reaching 1m (3ft), but that’s enough to make the heavy coral reef platforms even more dangerous at spots like Isla Uvita and Salsa Brava.

dominant swell NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E
swell size (ft) 3-4 3 1-2 3 1 3
consistency (%) 80 60 30 60 10 70
dominant wind N -E NE -E NE -E NE -E NE -E N -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F3 F4
consistency (%) 95 74 78 85 61 91
water temp (C) 26 26 27 27 27 27
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts
Limon - 360,000

212km (132mi)

GMT -6h

Travel Information


The Talamanca coastal region is affected by an extremely wet climate. Rainfall averages 2400mm (95in), which is close to rainforest levels. Unfortunately, the rainiest months (Dec/Jan, July/Aug) correspond with the swell; it can rain for days on end, but the sun usually comes out a bit every day. Rain can come in heavy downpours, often at night, followed by clearing skies. Temps are similar throughout the year. Typically the lows will be above 21°C (70ºF) and the highs below 30°C (86ºF). Expect high humidity and cooling breezes. Water temps are very stable in the 26°C (29ºF) range; boardies all the time.


Cahuita National Park wildlife includes howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, parrots, hummingbirds and toucans. Diving can be good when surf is flat. The Caribbean side means serious nightlife, especially in Limón (Springfield) and PV (Crucial Bar or Sunset Reggae). Have a look at Bri-Bri handicrafts.


Be prepared to face intense downpours. These waves have power and intensity and can be dangerous especially at Salsa Brava, the most crowded spot. Jellyfish appear in the murky water at certain times of year. Things to avoid: Rasta wannabees selling drugs, street crime, bugs and mosquitoes!


Take a semi-gun for Salsa/Limon spots. There are several shops in San José (Mango, Shaka Bra) and gear to rent in Puerto Viejo as well as Dan Garcia, a reliable shaper. Bring wet weather clothing!