Central America

The Best Surf Spots in Central America

Central America is surfers paradise! This part of the world is blessed with some fantastic waves, thanks to the consistent swells rolling in from both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. Whether you’re seeking barrels, beach breaks, or tubing waves, Central America has it all, year-round.

Central America is a total surfer’s paradise! With its beautiful beaches, warm waters, and killer waves, this place is a must-visit for any surfer whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, Central America has something for everyone. From the pumping waves of El Salvador’s Punta Roca to the mellow breaks of Costa Rica’s Nosara Beach, there’s no shortage of spots to catch a wave. And when you’re not shredding the gnar, you can kick back with a cold cerveza and soak up the sun.

Best surfing spots in Central America

Costa Rica is famous for its surf-party towns with endless stretches of coconut-strewn beaches, while Panama boasts stunning archipelagos of tropical islands surrounded by reef-ringed waves. But let’s not forget El Salvador, where you’ll find some of the most powerful A-frames right next to hippie beer shacks! And that’s just scratching the surface of what Central America has to offer for surfers.

The Best Surf Spots in Central America

Our guide to the best surfing spots in Central America is your ultimate go-to for finding the top spots for all levels of surfers, from beginners to pros. Whether you’re looking for big waves or just starting out, we’ve got you covered. So grab your board, pack your bags, and get ready for the surf trip of a lifetime in Central America!

Surfing and Party Vibes in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Surfing and partying are two words that perfectly describe Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This town gained fame in the surfing world since the early 90’s when the town was featured in Bruce Brown’s classic surf film, Endless Summer II and it has not lost any of its charm since. Located on the Pacific Coast, Tamarindo is home to Playa Tamarindo, a long, white-sand beach with waves for surfers of all levels.  One thing to keep in mind is that the breaks at Tamarindo rely on submerged rock reefs, making high or incoming tides the best time to surf. Be sure to wake up early, so you can catch the best waves before the crowds hit.

Surfing in Playa Tamarindo Costa Rica

Beginners can enjoy the whitewash while intermediates can start ripping on lefts and rights, while more advanced surfers will want to head over to Playa Grande for faster and hollower waves.While Tamarindo may be the go-to destination for many surfers visiting Costa Rica, those in the know will tell you that the best waves can be found at Playa Grande. Despite the advice of locals and seasoned surfers, some thrill-seekers from Tamarindo choose to paddle across the croc infested estuary that separates the two beaches Thankfully, crocodile attacks on surfers are rare occurrences, but it’s still important to exercise caution when paddling in these waters.

When you’re not out on the waves, Tamarindo has a vibrant nightlife that is hard to resist. From beachside bars to clubs, this town has something for everyone. The famous Sharky’s and Crazy Monkey are popular hangouts for travelers, serving up delicious drinks and lively entertainment. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing surf getaway or a fun party atmosphere, Tamarindo is the perfect destination.

Bocas del Toro, Panama: A Tropical Paradise with World-Class Waves

Bocas del Toro in Panama has become an overwater bungalow paradise with a Maldives vibe, but the real action is in and under the water. Boating, scuba diving, and surfing are what make this group of islands special.

Bocas del Toro breaks the mold on this countdown of top surf spots in Central America, as it’s the only one situated on the Caribbean side rather than the Pacific. While this location might make some surfers hesitant, those who brave the less consistent and shorter period swells of the east coast will be rewarded with some of the meanest and most powerful waves in the region, without the usual Pacific-side crowds. The selection of waves that can be reached by a short boat ride from Bocas town is amazing. To get around, you really need to have a boat. Beginners can hit up Wizard Beach for glassy 5-foot swells without the crowds, while experts can charge the sucky tubes at Bluff Beach that have the power to snap boards. Isla Bastimentos is the go-to spot for intermediate surfers.

Bastimentos Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama best spots for surfing
Bastimentos Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama

To make the most of your surf trip to Bocas del Toro, timing is everything. You’ll want to aim for the season between December and early April, when the offshore winds converge with the SW swells to produce the best waves. But for those who are adventurous and willing to take a chance, the rewards can be epic. And when you’re not shredding the waves, the charming town of Bocas offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation, exploration, and fun. However, it’s worth noting that outside of the peak season, the water is calm and flat, making it better suited for snorkeling and relaxation.

Popoyo, Nicaragua: An Experienced Surfer’s Paradise

Popoyo, a small but mighty beach in the southwest of Nicaragua, is a surfer’s paradise. This stretch of sand may be only 800 meters long, but it packs in more waves than you can shake a stick at. It’s a surfer’s dream, and it’s no wonder that it’s earned a reputation as one of the toughest surf destinations in Central America. The waves at Popoyo can handle good-sized swells and offer a mix of point breaks and reefs that present their own unique set of challenges.

Surfing in Popoyo, Nicaragua
Surfing in Popoyo, Nicaragua

The crown jewel of Popoyo is Popoyo Main Break. This A-frame wave creates fast and fun lefts and rights on pretty much any tide. It’s not as heavy as the Outer Reef, which pounds triple overhead slabs that are only suitable for the most daring surfers. Goofy riders should check out Stoney’s, a lefty point that will remind them of Bali’s iconic Uluwatu. For those who are new to surfing, beaches such as Playa Guasacate and Playa Popoyo provide a safe and ideal environment to learn. On the other hand, advanced surfers can opt for more exhilarating experiences by heading to Popoyo reef or Playa Santana.

El Tunco, El Salvador: A Laid-Back Haven for Surfers

El Tunco is a renowned destination for surfers in El Salvador, offering a perfect combination of sun, waves, and a relaxed, hippie vibe. Beyond surfing, it’s also known as a party-friendly town with a community of locals who love to surf.

El Tunco Beach, Best spots for surfing in Central America
El Tunco Beach in El Salvador, Central America

There are four impressive breaks that cater to all levels of surfers, stretched over a 2-mile coastline. If you’re just starting, you can take lessons from several outfitters available at El Sunzalito or nearby Playa San Blas, both offering sandy bottoms and easy waves. For intermediate surfers, the El Sunzal point break is a must-try as it’s designed to improve your skills. Meanwhile, experienced surfers can have a thrilling experience with the fast and tubular left-hander La Bocana, which breaks in shallow water.

Don’t miss out on the chance to watch the sun go down over El Tunco’s famous rock formation shaped like a pig, while admiring the skilled surfers shredding La Bocana. With so much to offer, El Tunco is a paradise for surfers and beach enthusiasts, so grab your board and head on over for a memorable experience.

Jaco: The Ultimate Surf and Party Destination in Costa Rica

Jaco is a quintessential Costa Rican beach break that offers consistent waves all year round. Located in a town that never sleeps, Jaco is a perfect destination for those who are looking for a blend of surf and party lifestyle. If you are a surfing enthusiast, there’s no doubt that Jaco should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Central America.

Jaco, Costa Rica. Best spots for surfing in Central America
Surfing in Jaco, Costa Rica

Jaco caters to surfers of all skill levels, from beginners to experienced surfers. If you are just starting, there are plenty of surf schools in the area that offer lessons and board rentals. On the other hand, experienced surfers can take advantage of the consistent and challenging waves that Jaco has to offer. The beach break is renowned for producing waves that are perfect for practicing your aerial maneuvers or for getting barreled.

Aside from surfing, Jaco is also a town that never sleeps. After a day of surfing, you can enjoy the vibrant nightlife that the town has to offer. The streets of Jaco are lined with bars, restaurants, and clubs, which come alive at night with music, drinks, and dancing. So whether you’re looking for a casual night out with friends or a wild party, Jaco has something for everyone.

Punta Roca: The Best Surf Spot in El Salvador

Located near La Libertad, Punta Roca is widely considered as El Salvador’s best wave and potentially Central America’s top surf spot. It’s so highly regarded that it’s often referred to as the J-Bay of Central America. The quality of the waves at Punta Roca is hard to match, making it a must-visit destination for surfers looking for a challenge.

Best places for surfing in Central America

The name Punta Roca comes from the many rocks surrounding the area. These rocks are both in and out of the water, making it quite a challenge for surfers to enter and exit the water without leaving their fins behind. The waves at Punta Roca are also no joke, with a fast and tubular right-hand point break that requires a certain level of skill to navigate. Despite its challenges, Punta Roca is consistent and has a great line-up, offering some incredible rides for experienced surfers.

Despite its growing popularity, Punta Roca has managed to maintain its laid-back vibe. The surrounding area is not overly developed, and surfers can still find small beachfront hotels and guesthouses to stay in. There are also plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful coastline and immerse yourself in the local culture when you’re not hitting the waves. For surfers looking for a challenge and an unforgettable experience, Punta Roca is a must-visit destination.

 Guatemala’s Hidden Gem: El Paredon Surf Destination

Guatemala may not be on the top of most surfers’ travel lists, but that’s about to change. With a consistent swell all year round, Guatemala’s Pacific coastline has become a popular destination for surfers, and El Paredon is one of its best-kept secrets. This small fishing village offers empty lineups and powerful, barreling waves, making it a perfect surf spot for all levels.

he power of uninhibited swell can be felt in the water at all times in El Paredon. It should be noted that it is not a beach where beginners can simply wade into the water at any time without instruction or guidance. Most hotels offer surfboard rentals exclusively to their guests, so booking the right place to stay is important. Despite its lack of modern comforts, El Paredon is a charming coastal community with a welcoming spirit, invigorating surf, and a simple way of life. So, for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path surf destination, Guatemala’s El Paredon is definitely worth a visit.

Surfing in El Paredón, Guatemala. Best spots for surfing in Central America.
El Paredon beach in Monterrico, Guatemala

El Paredon has beach breaks and sandbars, with wave heights ranging from 3-12 feet depending on the swells. The best time to catch the gnarliest waves is during the rainy season, from June to October. However, it’s a bit tricky since the sandbars are constantly shifting due to the power of the waves. On the other hand, from December to April, the waves may be smaller (around 3-6 feet), but the sandbars are more stable and offer the cleanest rides.

El Paredon’s powerful waves and uncrowded breaks attract surfers from around the world, but not everyone who visits this black sand beach is a surfer. El Paredon has become a popular spot for backpackers traveling through Central America, offering activities like morning yoga, kayaking through mangroves, visiting a sea turtle hatchery, and of course, plenty of pool time and Gallo beer. El Paredon remains an authentic and off-the-beaten-path destination, far from the typical tourist crowds and commercialization.

Nosara, Costa Rica: A Surfing Haven for Beginners and Nature Lovers

Nosara, Costa Rica has long been overshadowed by neighboring Tamarindo, but this quiet surf village is finally coming into the spotlight. Although the locals may lament the secret is out this surfing town is worth sharing.  Playa Guiones is the standout spot, with a gentle bay that curves towards the Pacific, and a variety of breaks that form on the ever-shifting sandbars. Low tide can be a bit gnarly, but as the water rises, glassy green waves start to roll in, perfect for learners to catch some whitewash.

Nosara is a quiet town in the Guanacaste province that boasts stunning beaches like Playa Nosara and Playa Guiones. The town of Nosara offers a refreshing alternative to the buzzing and hectic vibe of Tamarindo and Jaco.  Nosara is all about balance and rejuvenation, with surf camps offering not only lessons but also yoga classes. It’s the perfect place for beginners to catch their first waves while enjoying a more laid-back surfer vibe.

Pavones, Costa Rica: The Hidden Gem for Surfers

Pavones, Costa Rica is a wave that is definitely off the beaten path when compared to other surf spots in Central America. Tucked away on the southern end of the country, the journey to Pavones is well worth it, as it offers a raw and welcoming experience. Pavones is a place where the jungle meets the ocean, providing a truly unique and unforgettable experience for surfers.

Best spots for surfing in Costa Rica

When it’s on, Pavones is Costa Rica’s longest wave and also one of the world’s best left-hand waves. With its mix of sand and small stones, the surf in Pavones is perfect for all skill levels, with the front offering the perfect spot for beginners and the back being better for advanced surfers. The break works on all tides, allowing surfers to catch waves at any time of day. The town is very laid-back and mostly visited by surfers and adventure travelers. With no modern development, it’s an authentic place to be, and is considered one of Costa Rica’s last true paradises. The town has no shopping centers, no ATMs, and no big commercial restaurant chains. Instead, there are just a few chill out bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Pavones is a very consistent wave and can be surfed year-round, but it’s best from March to October. With its secluded location, Pavones offers a peaceful and secluded getaway from the hustle and bustle of modern life. If you’re looking for a hidden gem to surf in Central America, Pavones is the perfect destination for you.


Born and raised in Guatemala Paula currently calls Florida home, where she lives with her husband, two teens and two Goldendoodles. Paula is passionate about travel and writing, and she is on a mission to inspire people to explore the hidden gems of Central America while dispelling myths and fears about the region's safety. You can catch her travel stories and recommendations on GrowingUpBilingual.com and MagicalCentralAmerica.com. She also loves to create personalize travel itineraries using her expertise about the area. With her deep connection to Central America's vibrant cultures and landscapes, Paula is your guide to discovering the beauty and culture of this enchanting part of the world. She loves crafting personalized travel itinerary for those seeking unforgettable journeys through Central America. And when she's not writing or planning incredible trips, Paula loves whipping up delicious Guatemalan dishes, kayaking and chasing sunsets at the beach.

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