In the heart of the summer, local surf in the lower 48 can be difficult to find. New England sees lengthy lulls in the swells during the time between winter storms and hurricane season, and California tends to suffer similarly from flat spells, fog, and onshore winds. Conveniently, parts of Central America are a relatively short flight from many major US cities, and you can score some awesome waves here during the summer months on a reasonable budget.
The classic trip from the states is to get on a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. From here, your number one priority is to get to the pacific coast ASAP. San Jose is notorious for being pretty dumpy and there’s not much to do. Hop in a cab from the
airport aeropuerto to the bus station estación de autobuses (~$25) and find a bus over to Jaco (~$5). A touristy beach town, Jaco is a good place to get your bearings and work back into your sea arms. Surf some fun crumblers out front of town, or hitch a five minute ride over to Playa Hermosa to step it up a notch. Expect fast sections that may closeout on you at this heavy beach break.
From Jaco, you can head south to Playa Dominical for another all-time beach break, or north up to Santa Teresa which is slightly more populated, but breaks consistently almost everyday. For Santa Teresa, you can either endure a series of buses (~$8), or jump on the direct water taxi from Jaco (~$40). Plenty of hostels will take you in for $10-20 a night, but nicer cabanas and villas are available in the area as well if you’re looking for a luxury experience. The town itself stretches across sandy beach sections, and there are plenty of restaurants to grab lunch at in between surf sessions. Stop in at any of the restaurants that say “soda” (directly translates to a cafe in the US) on them for a cheap casado (~$5 for a massive plate with salad, fries, rice, beans, and fish), and after your late-afternoon siesta, be sure to hit up La Lora Amarilla on their Thursday reggae night for some fiesta-ing.
Plenty of other surf towns exist on Costa Rica’s pacific coast, just keep an eye on the swells and ask a local surfer what the best way to get to your destination is, chances are they might be heading the same direction. Tamarindo is a great wave, but is a very touristy area and can get crowded quickly on a good day. If the swells aren’t hitting, jump over to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica for a change of scenery where you can also hire the san diego whale watching tours to enjoy the ocean wild life.
Called by many the “home of the offshore winds”… while the breaks themselves are less than spectacular, a massive
lake lago in the middle of the country produces offshore winds for a good portion of Nica’s pacific coast 300+ days per year.
Take the same steps as in Costa Rica when you fly in – collect your bags at the Managua airport, and get the hell out of there. Heading to San Juan del Sur, chicken buses are the cheapest route (~$5 but it’ll be very crowded and will take a few hours with a lot of stops), or you can split a cab with friends or other travelers for a direct trip. From San Juan, you can grab a fish taco, and then hitch a ride to the nearby break at Playa Maderas. There are restaurants and hostels on the beach here, so hang out for a day or two before continuing north to Manzanillo, Gigante, Santana, and the well-known Popoyo. Popoyo can handle all of your surfing needs, providing playful inside sections as well as a notoriously mean outer reef that can handle double overhead waves without a problem for those looking to unleash their inner Laird Hamilton.
Typically cheaper and less developed than Costa Rica, Nicaragua provides travelers a less Americanized experience, so brush up on your Spanish and stay conscious of your valuables. The surf towns tend to be pretty safe, but the cities inland can be a bit dicier. That said, it’s cheaper overall, and will give you a better, more unique cultural experience. Don’t forget to hit up San Juan’s famous Sunday Funday for a wild and unforgettable all-day party with hundreds of other travelers (and locals too) from around the world.
So if a snow-based shred trip isn’t in the foreseeable future this summer, get your time off squared away and book your next surf trip down to Central America. They’ve been seeing awesome swells over the past two months, and you’ll surely score something if you spend a week down there. If you’ve got a longer time frame, continue on to check out parts of Panama and El Salvador as well. Or for first time surfers, send it over to Puerto Rico where the waves stay small through the summer, and learn to surf from the best at SASS’s own Rincon Surf School. We’ll have you ready for those closeout barrels at Hermosa in no time.