Surfing in Jaco
From the airport in San Jose, Jaco is Costa Rica’s nearest surf town. Not only is Jaco quick and easy to get to but is home to a 4 kilometer beach with plenty of room to catch your perfect wave. The A-frame waves break over a sandy floor that runs up to a beach covered in small stones.
Intermediate skilled surfers are advised to surf 2 hours before or after high-tide while beginners have better luck during low-tide catching white-water. During low-tide you do need to be aware of the waves as it can get very shallow catching any wave that is not already broken. The best time to surf at Playa Jaco is May to November when it is less humid but the waves are good year-round.
You do need to be aware of what is in the water. Jaco is a tropical place with stingrays, crocodiles, and small jellyfish. The jellyfish are not very painful and will just leave a small sting on where you make contact with them. If you are surfing you may see stingrays jump out of the water and belly flop back down again. They again are not an issue but you do need to be aware of them. The stingray population increases during the summer and you need to shuffle your feet when entering or exiting the water. If you step on a stingray it may turn around and sting you. This will result in pain, nausea, and possibly stitches. This is a rare occurrence.
Crocodiles are present in Jaco as there are two river mouths that empty into the ocean after a rainfall. This is when it is most common to see a crocodile floating in the shallow water. They usually will float with the current down the beach and go back up the river. If you see one the best thing to do is to calmly get out of the water with not much splashing and alert other surfers or swimmers. Also wait three hours one the river stops emptying into the ocean after a rainfall to surf. This gives the ocean enough time to circulate the dirty water out and be safe for you to surf or swim. Again, this is rare, but we want you to be aware.
Deciding to bring your own board verses renting a board can be difficult as transporting boards via an airplane is always a gamble. Boards are dinged or damaged more often than not. I would say if you are traveling to Costa Rica mainly for the surf, for 2 weeks or longer, and are an intermediate surfer you should bring your own board. If you are still learning or a beginner there are over 30 surf shops in Jaco to rent from and 10-15 beach-front surf schools.
Room2Board is a surf hostel that rents out a variety of boards at $10 a day and offers surf lessons for groups or private. There are multiple experienced instructors to teach you the basics and help you catch your first wave!
If you are a more advanced surfer and looking for larger waves head to Playa Hermosa where waves are usually head high, consistent, and have good shape. Playa Hermosa is a 10 minute drive from Jaco and a beautiful beach. Make sure you are a very strong paddler and surfer before you head out as the rip current is strong and waves can be heavy. Swimming is not advised at Playa Hermosa and signs are posted along the beach. If you go to The Backyard on a Saturday night there is a weekly surf competition that starts at 4:30pm. The competition is followed by Ladies Night (free drinks for ladies) from 6pm-9pm.
If you are a beginner the best advice while surfing is to choose a foam or soft-top board. Hire an instructor, wear a rash guard, and pile on the sunscreen. The sun is very strong in Costa Rica and you need to wear a waterproof sunscreen with 30 SPF or more. Zinc is also recommended to wear over your nose and under your eyes. Be aware of where you are in the water and never have your board between you and the waves. Make sure you look to both sides when paddling for a wave so you do not run into anyone. Get comfortable sitting on the board and transitioning from sitting to paddling and turning around. If you have time, try to go every day for two weeks. This will help you improve much faster. Have patience with yourself, enjoy your time in the water, and most importantly have fun!