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The Best Surfing Destinations in Latin America

by Octavia Drughi

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If you’re looking for a place where fascinating cultures, chill surf vibes, delicious food, breathtaking landscapes, and quality waves meet, Latin America should be high on your bucket list.

With Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean coastlines, punchy points, gnarly reefs, and sandy beach breaks, this is the land of perfect barrels and unbelievably clean lines. Plus, a big chunk of Latin America is nestled between the tropics, which means year-round sunshine, balmy climate, and warm water.

From gnarly waves to mellow rollers, here are the best surfing destinations in Latin America:

 

Mexico

surf-baja-california-mexico

Even though it faces both the Pacific and the Caribbean, only Mexico’s west coast receives quality swell. From the Californian border all the way to Oaxaca, there are punchy points and barreling beach breaks, beginner-friendly rollers as well as some huge peaks, while the wind is constantly offshore.

Some of the best waves in Mexico can be found in Baja California. This is a favorite destination for SoCal surfers, which is why the spots to the north tend to get crowded. Luckily, the further south you go down the peninsula, the more deserted the beaches become.

On the central coast, prime surf spots include Mazatlán in Sinaloa, with long point breaks for both beginners and pros; and Sayulita in Nayarit, a hippie surf town with plenty of surf camps and waves for all levels.

surf-puerto-escondido-mexico

Image credit: Selina

But it’s Puerto Escondido down south in Oaxaca that draws all the attention. This small fishing village with sandy shores and azure waters has become a surfing mecca, all thanks to the legendary Zicatela, also known as the “Mexican Pipeline”.

Often compared to Hawaii’s flawless pipes, this is one of the world’s best beach breaks. These ultra-hollow and powerful waves are reserved for experienced surfers, but if you travel a bit further down the coast, you’ll find mellow waves for beginners as well.

It’s possible to surf in Mexico all year round. However, the best waves can be found between May and October, during the hurricane season, when powerful swells hit the coast. Beginners will find friendlier waves during winter.

 

El Salvador

surf-el-cuco-el-salvador

Image credit: Epic Tours El Salvador

This small and often overlooked country in Central America is a right-hand point break paradise. The surf is very reliable, the water is warm all year round, and as an added bonus, there are mango trees at every turn.

El Salvador may be tiny, but there are point breaks scattered all along its coastline. The surf spots are easy to get to and are uncrowded.

Punta Roca in La Libertad is one of the heaviest waves in Latin America and one of the best right-hand points in the world. It has a steep drop followed by a long and hollow ride, definitely not for the faint of heart.

Just outside El Cuco, Las Flores is a perfect right point that can hold a massive swell. Nearby, Punta Mango is El Salvador’s most famous barreling wave.

One hour from San Salvador, El Tunco is a small surf town with excellent left and right beach breaks. It’s also a great base for checking out the over a dozen great waves nearby, including Sunzal, El Zonte, and K59.  

The best time to go surfing in El Salvador is during the wet season, between May and October, when the waves are more consistent. You’ll also find good waves in March and April, as well as less rain.

 

Nicaragua

san-juan-del-sur-nicaragua

Nicaragua’s landscapes are hard to beat. Just picture wide-open beaches with consistent waves and 300+ days of offshore winds per year make for a surfing paradise. Furthermore, it’s a very affordable country and is less crowded than neighboring Costa Rica.

The country’s Pacific Coast is dotted with points, reefs, and beach breaks of all shapes and sizes, for all levels to enjoy.

For some truly remote surf, head to Northern Nicaragua, where you’ll find deserted beaches and a wide variety of waves. Near Chinandega, Nahaulapa Bay is the best beginner and intermediate surf beach in the area, while Boom is Nicaragua’s most famous barreling wave. North of Chinandega, all you’ll find in Aposentillo are quality waves and a handful of surf camps.

West of Managua, Punta Miramar offers both points and beach. A few hours south of Managua, Popoyo is one of Nicaragua’s most famous surf spots, a white sandy beach that receives waves of all shapes and sizes. The gnarly Outer Reef at Popoyo is the star of the show. It only breaks with a large swell, and can be accessed by boat or, on some days, by tow.

In the Southern Pacific region, Playa Colorado is a heavy beach break that throws some sick barrels. Nearby, Panga Drops is even bigger. Further south, Playa Gigante is famous for its epic beachfront sunsets. Nearby, Manzanillo is a fickle left point that peels against a picturesque cliff backdrop. When it works, it becomes everyone’s favorite wave, with wide-open faces and barreling sections.

surf-san-juan-del-sur-nicaragua

Image credit: Costa Dulce Retreat

San Juan del Sur is the most popular vacation destination in Nicaragua. Half an hour from town, Playa Maderas, Playa El Remanso, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Yankee have fantastic breaks for all levels.

It’s possible to surf in Nicaragua all year round. However, the best time to go for experienced surfers is during the wet season, between April and September, when powerful south swells hit the coast. The dry season, between November and April, has mellower waves and cleaner conditions for beginners.

 

Costa Rica

surf-costa-rica

With a rugged coastline facing both the Pacific and the Caribbean, year-round tropical climate, consistent surf, and contagious laid-back vibes, Costa Rica has been on the surfers’ radar for decades. It’s also one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America.

Surfing in Costa Rica is broken down into four surf regions: the North Pacific Coast, the Central Pacific Coast, the South Pacific Coast, and the Caribbean Coast.

The Pacific Coast is dotted with chic surf towns, quality waves, and a wonderful climate. To the north, the Guanacaste Province and the Nicoya Peninsula are home to some of the best waves in Latin America.

Only an hour’s drive from Liberia International Airport (LIR), Tamarindo is a major tourist hub. Its long beach receives year-round swell, and is one of the most recognizable surf spots in Costa Rica. It’s also one of the best places to learn to surf in the world and a great base to explore the more challenging breaks like Witches Rock and Ollie’s Point.

» Join a surf camp in Tamarindo.

Nosara is an emerging surf town, much quieter and less crowded than Tamarindo. Its unspoiled beaches are among the cleanest in the world and are blessed with some of the most consistent waves in Costa Rica. Just outside of town, Playa Guiones is an excellent playground for beginners and intermediate surfers.

surf-playa-carmen-santa-teresa-costa-rica

Towards the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is a charming little coastal town with white sand beaches and several waves for all levels.

In the Puntarenas Province, Jacó is the country’s biggest surf town, with remarkably consistent waves for beginners and intermediate surfers. South of town, Playa Hermosa is a great place to get barreled for the first time.

On the South Pacific Coast, Pavones is the longest left in the country.

On the Caribbean Coast, Puerto Viejo has Rasta vibes and a unique mix of Caribbean and Latin cultures. The waves cater more to experienced surfers, but there are a few beginner spots too. This is the home of the legendary Salsa Brava, a heavy and hollow reef break, the most challenging and biggest in the country.

It’s possible to surf in Costa Rica all year round. On the Pacific Coast, the most reliable conditions can be found between April and November. Beginners will find mellow waves during the rest of the year. On the Caribbean Coast, the best time to go is between December and April.

» Planning on riding the waves in the country of Pura Vida? Check out our complete guide to surfing in Costa Rica.

 

Panama

surf-bocas-del-toro-panama

Image credit: Selina

Another country in Central America facing both the Pacific and the Caribbean, Panama offers hollow tubes and long peelers, beach breaks, reefs, and points for all levels, but without the crowds. And thanks to the country’s narrow geography, you can score waves on both coasts on the same day.

The picturesque Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro has mellow Rasta vibes and numerous reef breaks and secret spots that can only be accessed by boat. There are some great waves for beginners too.

Off the island of Bastimentos, Silverbacks is heavy, fast, and powerful, which is why it’s called the “Hawaii of Panama”. Nearby, Red Frog Beach is great for beginners.

A six-hour drive south of Panama City, Santa Catalina is considered Panama’s best and most reliable surf spot on the Pacific Coast. There are several breaks, suitable for both beginners and advanced surfers.

Just outside the capital, Panama Bay offers a series of right and left beach breaks. Here, San Carlos is considered “Panama’s Waikiki”, only without the crowds.

surf-playa-venao-panama

Image credit: Selina

In the Azuero Peninsula, Playa Venao is home to one of the most famous beach breaks in Panama, offering something for all levels. Cambutal has higher waves.  

The best time to surf on the Pacific Coast of Panama is between April and November. The Caribbean Coast is best between December and March but works all year round except between September and November.

 

Colombia

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Image credit: Newtours Colombia

The only South American country with both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, Colombia has excellent surf on both sides.

The Caribbean Coast is more accessible to travelers. Most surf spots are user-friendly and closer to city centers, making this coast a good option for learning to surf, as well as for experienced surfers looking to get to the breaks faster.

Pradomar is the most popular surf spot on the Caribbean Coast, with very consistent waves for all levels, while the Cartagena Jetty is great for beginners.

» Looking to catch some mellow waves? Check out our beginner’s guide to surfing in Colombia.

The Pacific Coast of Columbia is harder to access than most surfing destinations in Latin America. But if you’re willing to make the trip, it’ll be all worth it.

On the remote Pacific Coast, Nuqui is not accessible by road; you’ll have to fly in from Medellin or take a boat. Here, Pico de Loro, Juan Tornillo, and Chocó have excellent waves with ultra-clean barrels, which you’ll only have to share with a handful of people at most.

Nuqui is also a good base for traveling down south on the Pacific Coast to spots like Gauchalito and Juanchaco. North of Nuqui, El Valle is a small surf town with some pretty intense waves.

The best time to go surfing on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast is December through March and July through September. The Pacific Coast has a slightly longer surfing season, between April and October.

 

Ecuador

surf-montanita-ecuador

Image credit: Tres Palmas

Although small, Ecuador has dozens of surf beaches offering contrasting environments. It is a great place to learn to surf, but also to catch some world-class waves alongside a friendly surfing community.

The northern coast is home to Mompiche, Ecuador’s premier world-class wave. The central coast has the most uncrowded surf in the country, while the south is home to the most popular surf towns and is the country’s party hub.

On the south coast, Montañita is a small fishing village turned party capital. It is the epicenter of surfing in Ecuador. Right next to the town, you’ll find a point break and several beach breaks. North of Montañita, Ayampe is a sleepy fishing village with laid-back vibes and uncrowded waves for all levels that work all year round.

In stark contrast, the Galapagos Islands are quiet, remote, and less reliable. San Cristobal, Puerto Chino, and Tortuga Bay are among the top surf spots in the area.

The best time to go surfing in Ecuador is between November and March, with the largest waves arriving between January and March. The best time to surf on the Galapagos Islands is between December and May.

 

Brazil

surf-brazil

The largest country in South America is not only home to some of the best surf spots in the world, but also to some of the best surfers ever born. There are waves everywhere along its long Atlantic coastline, with different climates, environments, shapes, and sizes. Surfing is a popular pastime in Brazil, which is why some spots can get crowded.

The best surf can be found in the South Region, which receives more swell and offers more variety than the spots up north. In Santa Catarina, Florianopolis has 40+ surf beaches, so you’re spoiled for choice. The most popular are Barra da Lagoa, Praia Mole, and Praia Joaquina.

» Join a surf camp in Florianopolis.

In Rio de Janeiro, Arpoador is considered the birthplace of surfing in Brazil. The state has several excellent surf spots, but most of them get crowded. On the northeastern coast, in Rio Grande do Norte, Praia da Pipa is a chic surf town surrounded by quality waves.

You can surf in Brazil all year round. For experienced surfers, the best time to go is between April and October, when the swells are more powerful. The waves are friendlier throughout the rest of the year.

 

Peru

surf-lima-peru

Image credit: Peru Surf Trip and Soul

Machu Picchu, cute lamas, delicious food, and a fascinating culture are just a few of the reasons why Peru is worth visiting. But the country also has long waves and consistent offshore winds, which make it a heaven for beginners and advanced surfers alike. Plus, it’s a very affordable surfing destination.

Peru is the land of the left-hand point break and, therefore, is a goofy footer’s paradise.

The North Coast is home to the best surf spots in Peru. Next to the Pan-American Highway, Mancora has excellent year-round surf and sunny weather, as well as a vibrant nightlife. It’s also a great base for exploring the legendary surf breaks further south down the coast.

Head to Trujilo for a vast selection of points and beach breaks. This is the home of Huanchaco and Chicama, the longest left-hand wave in the world.

There are quality surf spots near Lima as well, and the further south you go, the more deserted the coast becomes.

Thanks to its wide Pacific swell window, it’s possible to surf in Peru all year round. The most reliable conditions can be found between April and October. Between October and April, the water is warmer and the waves are top-notch, but they’re also less consistent.

*Cover image credit: Selina


Immerse in the Pura Vida lifestyle. Join a surf camp in Costa Rica and ride some of the best waves in Latin America!

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