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Tamarindo, Costa Rica is the place to go if you’re looking for a balance of exciting tours and lazy beach days. This once quaint beach town has turned into a hotspot for tourism, which brings incredible restaurants, a lively nightlife, and a variety of places to stay.
However, we think a trip to Costa Rica isn’t complete without catching a few waves! After spending a lot of time in and around Tamarindo, we think some of the best beaches in Costa Rica are right here. So if you’re looking for a great place to surf, this is it! Whether you’re newer to surfing (like me!) or are a pro at navigating the waves, Tamarindo is the perfect spot.
There are a ton of surf schools in the city, but we wanted to help narrow it down to the best. A good surfing experience can hook you on the sport, but a bad surfing experience can totally turn you away.
So we are making your search easier by picking out the 7 best surf lessons in Tamarindo so you can focus on learning how to surf – not picking a tour!
Our Top Choice
While there are so many great surf lessons in Tamarindo, our favorite is this 2-hour experience with Iguana Surf! They are local legends and have been giving surf lessons for over 30 years, so you know they are good at what they do. During the lessons, you’ll get confident at reading the waves, paddling, and popping up, almost like you’ve been doing it for years!
When you book online here, you can choose from group, private, or semi-private lessons that are offered daily starting at only $56 USD.
What makes a good surf lesson?
While the setting can certainly make a difference (and this is why we prefer Tamarindo for newbies) the surf instructor can also make or break your experience! It’s like any new sport you try – if you have a good instructor, it will be easier to learn.
The only way to really know if a surf instructor is good or not is from recommendations or reviews. We prefer to have smaller group sizes so the instructor can give one-on-one feedback and find it valuable when instructors find a good balance between explaining the basics and just getting into the water to give it a go. Any surf instructor I’ve had has been incredibly patient and encouraging, which is essential when trying a new skill!
This is why all the Tamarindo surf lessons on our list are well-rated and full of glowing reviews. Our top surf lesson recommendation has more than 1,700 5-star reviews!!! You can trust you’re going to get a stellar experience with that one for sure.
Unfortunately, bad instructors are out there, and they can seriously impede your chances of getting up. Sometimes the tours are too large or unorganized, or perhaps the instructor is simply bad at teaching. While it isn’t impossible to learn with these negative factors, they can certainly discourage you and possibly make you dislike surfing altogether. And we don’t want that to happen!
Booking tours through Viator makes it easy to read honest reviews and get a good idea of what to expect on your tour. If you simply show up to Tamarindo and book a tour through one of the companies in person, you won’t have the research and reviews to know how the instructors are. This is one of the main reasons we prefer to book tours in advance!
What are the best surf lessons in Tamarindo?
Surf Lesson with Iguana Surf
We think this is the absolute best surf lesson in Tamarindo, and with over 1,700 5-star reviews on Viator, we aren’t the only ones!
Iguana Surf is Tamarindo’s original surf shop and has been teaching young surfers since 1989. To say they are experts is an understatement! The real success of Iguana Surf is due to its instructors who are known for their patience and friendly, encouraging demeanor. They are also extremely well organized and get lessons as small as possible, so you can get individual attention from the instructors, which I think is essential when just starting out.
This 2-hour tour will start by giving some basic instruction on shore but quickly gets you into the water to get your feet wet in the sport (literally and figuratively!). You’ll practice paddling, popping up, and riding a break. The great part about having a small group is that if you are catching on quickly, you can move on to the next part of instruction and not have to wait for the rest of the group. The instructors will be there to guide you on technique and help you progress as much as possible during the 2 hours.
This tour is suitable for all ages and has multiple start times throughout the day. If you can book a morning tour, I highly recommend doing so as the instructors are usually more upbeat and lively earlier in the day. This tour includes a rash guard, surfboard, lockers to stash your belongings, and your instructor. Group lessons are $56 USD per person, semi-private lessons are $73 USD, and private lessons are $90 USD per person. Be sure to book this tour in advance, as Iguana Surf is the best in Tamarindo!
Shared or private surf lesson with Native’s Way
Native’s Way is another great tour provider that is centrally located near Tamarindo Beach. This two-hour beginner surf lesson focuses on basic surfing techniques and wants to make sure you have a fun time while learning too!
Over your two-hour tour, your instructor will customize your surf lesson to teach the most important elements of surfing. On shore, they will go over safety instructions, surfing etiquette, and how to read the waves. Once you have the foundations down, you’ll get in the water and learn the next steps: paddling, board position, popping up, and stance.
I’ve been surfing for quite some time now, and I appreciate how this tour takes the time to break down the foundational aspects, which is essential to mastering surfing down the road!
This tour can either be booked as a shared tour (up to 6 people) for $50 USD or as a private lesson for $75 USD. It includes a rash guard, surfboard, and your instructors. This is a great tour if this is your first time surfing or you have tried a few times! The guides are patient and excited to help you learn. I highly recommend booking this tour in advance so you’re guaranteed a spot!
Private surf lesson for you/your group with Salty Smile
What is better than a private surfing lesson? How about a 3-day or 5-day crash course of surfing lessons! Salty Smile is a local beach club located at the entrance of the Zullymar Hotel, which is right on the main street of Tamarindo, steps away from Tamarindo Beach.
This private tour is all about options and can be tailored to fit your group size and skill level, and is open to all ages. They focus on the basics of surfing, like paddling and getting up, and include all equipment needed for your lesson.
What is really unique about this tour, however, is that you can choose to have one private lesson, or take on more. If you are serious about learning how to surf, I highly recommend taking a multi-day tour. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and learning how to surf is more than a one-time thing!
You can select 1 private lesson for $70 USD to get a taste of it. Or upgrade to the 3-day mini-course which consists of 2-hour lessons, three days in a row with the same instructor, who will build on your skills each day. By the end of three days, you will have a good foundational knowledge and might be able to advance to another beach. This mini-course is $189 USD for 6-hours of guided instruction.
To really kick it up a notch, you can book the 5-day full surf course! This will really give you time to build on your skills and get comfortable in the water. After 10 hours on the water, you will have a good grasp of surfing! This 5-day surf course is $295 USD, which works out to about $29 USD per hour of private instruction.
Choose your surfing adventure and book this lesson (or multiple lessons) online here!
Surf Lessons in Tamarindo and Surf functional, Surf skate, Video Analysis
While each surf lesson brings about its own style and flavor, this one is known for its passionate instructors who bring a unique perspective to the art of learning surfing.
This 2-hour surf lesson out of Tamarindo takes extra time on land, going over concepts, and assessing each person’s individual skills before jumping into the water. They even have a digital presentation to break down the basics of surfing and have you practice on skateboards to understand the stance, balance, and maneuvering before you get on a surfboard!
The instructor will craft a learning plan just for you and then will take you to the water to implement everything you learned on shore.
The guide, Leonardo, makes it a point to connect surfing to lifestyle to make it a holistic learning experience. His passion for surfing and teaching really shows, and he has a gift for bringing people into his vision. This makes for a truly unique learning experience. By the end, you’ll have a new outlook on the sport, and new skills as well!
This tour includes a rashguard, surfboard, a locker to secure your belongings, and coffee or tea! It only accommodates 10 travelers, which is small enough to get personal instruction and make some friends along the way. You can reserve this unique surfing experience for $65 USD.
Surf Lessons in Tamarindo Beach with local Kevin
The best way to settle into the relaxed “pura vida” culture of Costa Rica is to hang out with locals! This two-hour surf lesson is run by Kevin, a Guanacaste local, who has been surfing along the coast of the Pacific his entire life. I couldn’t imagine a better instructor than one who is so familiar with the Tamarindo waves.
Kevin begins his surf lessons by teaching the basics and practicing on shore. You can think of this part as the most beautiful classroom you’ve ever been a student in! Kevin does a great job of tailoring the lesson to fit your skill level. So if you’re brand new to surfing or looking for an advanced lesson, he can accommodate both. Eventually, you’ll hit the waves and practice everything you learned on shore.
He gets into the water with you to give examples and pointers to improve your technique. By the end, you’ll be catching a wave on your own! Or if you’re more advanced, you can learn some new tips and tricks to refine your skills.
This tour includes 2 hours of instruction and a surfboard, and you’ll meet at the Villa Amarilla Hotel right on Tamarindo Beach to maximize your tour time. This tour is $50 USD per person, which is a pretty good deal for individualized surf lessons! You can reserve this tour online here.
Surf Lesson with Tuanis Surf
We love a family-owned business and Tuanis Surf in Tamarindo is no exception! It is made up of a fun group of international travelers who genuinely love surfing. I find this to be super important when finding a surf instructor, as their passion extends to those learning and it makes it an all-around better experience.
This is another 2-hour tour conveniently located in Playa Tamarindo. You’ll start out with a 30-minute tutorial on the beach going over the fundamentals of surfing and safety practices. Then after warming up, you’ll take to the water and spend about 1.5 hours catching waves. This will be plenty of time – you’ll be exhausted after it, trust me!
They focus on the core skills of surfing, but also make sure you’re having a fun time because that’s the most important part! All of the instructors are CPR certified and keep safety as the number one priority throughout your lesson. For those who are more advanced surfers, the instructors can tailor the lesson to work on new skills and improve your abilities.
This is a great tour for all ages. It includes a rash guard and your surfboard and is $55 USD per person. You can reserve this surf lesson online here!
Private Surf Lessons with Local Experts
Our final surf lesson on this list is a private tour because we love having the personal attention of the instructors. Regardless of your skill level, this is an excellent way to dive into the surf world. Not only will you have a fun day out on the water, but you will also get to enjoy the gorgeous coast and natural beauty that surrounds Tamarindo!
Your lesson will begin by learning the foundations of surfing and safety instructions. Once you hit the water, the main focus will be paddling techniques, balance, and wave selection. It’s valuable to have expert surfers sharing their insights, tips, and tricks that they’ve picked up throughout their years on the water. After about 2 hours of paddling and catching waves, you’ll be hooked on this sport, and also probably exhausted!
The local guides are the real stand-out on this tour, as their excitement and enthusiasm for surfing are captivating. I know after my first few surf lessons, I wanted to be as skilled and stoked about surfing as my guides were!
This tour meets at the Tamarindo Beach entrance near The Coast Hotel. I recommend leaving all valuables at home as this tour just hangs out on the beach. Your surfboard, rash guard, and lovely instructors are included in the price of $80 USD.
Be sure to book this experience in advance so it doesn’t fill up! You can reserve your spot online here.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Related Read: Another fantastic experience here that will have you soaring among the trees instead of in the water is a ziplining tour in Tamarindo! Or stay in the water by trying scuba diving in Tamarindo!
About Surfing in Tamarindo
There are so many amazing surf spots in Costa Rica, and Tamarindo stands out in the crowd! With its temperate waters and mild waves, Tamarindo is the best place for beginners to pick up the sport. There are almost always surfing waves, and the calm waters make it easy to learn the basics, stand up, and catch a wave.
Since it is such a popular surf destination, there are also a ton of surf lessons available every day of the week! So if you book one of these tours and fall in love with it, you can easily jump on another lesson the next day. We found a lot of great surf instructors or rental companies which made it really easy to go multiple days in a row. By the end of your time here, you’ll nearly be an old pro!
Tamarindo Beach is one of the best surf locations and it’s just a short walk from the main part of town. This makes it convenient to book a surf lesson amongst all of your other excursions out of Tamarindo, or to take a break from catching waves and stop at one of the many restaurants to refuel!
Luckily, Costa Rica has many amazing beaches with a variety of surf spots for any level. So after you master the basics in Tamarindo, you can head to other iconic spots like Jaco, Manuel Antonio, or Potrero Grande Beach in Guanacaste.
It’s also worth considering when you’ll be visiting Costa Rica, as there are two main weather seasons. The dry season (December to April) is the high tourism season and the best weather, which will make spending a few hours in the water quite enjoyable. The rainy season is from May to October, with the most rain in September and October. It usually only rains for a few hours a day and is actually the preferred time of year for die-hard surfers!
Is Surfing in Tamarindo Worth it?
Yes, Tamarindo is one of the best places in Costa Rica to learn to surf. Not only is the calm and warm water inviting, but the scenery around you is nothing short of amazing. Your two hours on the water will give you an entirely new appreciation for Costa Rica’s natural beauty!
If learning how to surf has been on your bucket list, Tamarindo is the place to do it. The waves are perfect for beginners. There are so many great surf instructors in Tamarindo (as you read on this list) so you can find the right one that fits your learning style and vibe. But, the most important part is to have fun, which you certainly will with any of these tours!
I love surfing for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that you can do it all over the world! So after you learn the basics in Costa Rica, you can take on other surfing beaches in Costa Rica and beyond!
Related Read: Check out another gorgeous beach town only 30 minutes from Tamarindo, by planning a day trip to Playa Flamingo!
Must-do Activities While You’re in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is a town filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re planning your trip here, make sure to check out a few more of our other favorite activities:
- Visit Rio Celeste – One of the most beautiful rivers and waterfalls in Costa Rica is within reach of Tamarindo. Rio Celeste Waterfall is a natural phenomenon where two rivers meet and cause the water to literally turn blue. Since it’s 2.5 hours away, unless you have your own vehicle, you’re going to need to join a tour. This specific tour includes everything from hiking to a swim in the turquoise waters and even a visit to a wildlife sanctuary to see sloths!
- Sunset cruise – One of the best relaxing activities you can do in Tamarindo is a cruise through Tamarindo Bay. Aboard this Sunset Catamaran Cruise, you’ll sail out into the ocean in search of magnificent views, wildlife, and of course, an epic sunset. You can choose to do the tour in the morning or afternoon (afternoon is better), and it includes an open bar, water activities, and a meal for only $90 USD!
- See turtles – Getting a chance to see turtles in Costa Rica is pretty amazing. Luckily there are some secluded beaches around Tamarindo where turtles come to lay eggs on the beach from November to April. This turtle nesting tour is an evening experience (that’s when turtles come ashore) and if you’re really lucky you’ll even see baby turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean.
- Adventure tour – If you’re craving a day bursting with fun activities, this Guachipelin Adventure tour delivers! It’s an epic full-day experience with ziplining, river tubing, horseback riding, a visit to natural hot springs, a volcanic mud bath, and a full buffet lunch. It’s so popular because, with all those activities, the tour only costs $135 USD for the self-drive option (what we did) or $149 USD for the included transport.
- Check out a local market – On Saturdays, the Tama Market is the place to be in Tamarindo! From 8 am to 2 pm, the market is bustling with stalls where you can do some shopping, pick up fresh fruit or veggies, or even grab lunch. We tried some excellent cold brew coffee here and I found a sunscreen I love made with natural products!
Where to Stay in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
You have so many choices when it comes to places to stay in Tamarindo. There are over 100 hotels and hostels in the downtown area catering to all needs and wants. To help you narrow it down, these are our favorites:
Selina Tamarindo – $
The Selina is a good option for budget travelers, and I have personally stayed here. It’s an upper-market hostel with a great atmosphere and pool. The location is also right near the beach, and the dorm rooms and privates all have AC.
Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel – $$
If you’d prefer a little more luxury, the Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel comes with gorgeous rooms, a large pool, and a very modern and sleek design. However, the location is slightly back from the beach, and it’s not for families.
The hotel’s terrace overlooks the property’s tropical gardens, and breakfast is served outside here from November 1 to April 30. Rates for a one-night stay begin at $160 USD. Reserve a room at Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel on Booking.com.
Hotel Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort – $$$
Those with a luxury budget should check out Hotel Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort. This is one of the most beautiful hotels in Tamarindo, and it’s not only located on the beach, but they also have a pool with ocean views.
All of the rooms have a seating area and a mini-bar. Prices for a room start at $224 USD per night. You can book Hotel Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort here on Booking.com.
Getting Around Costa Rica
How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level.
Renting a Car
Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.
One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.
Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.
Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.
You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.
If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.
Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)
To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway!
You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.
Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!
The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!
It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.
Invest in Travel Insurance
Paying out of pocket for trip interruptions or medical treatment will add to what might already be a stressful situation. We always travel with SafetyWing travel medical insurance.
The best part is that it costs only a fraction of what most insurance policies charge, which makes it perfect for digital nomads, long-term travelers (like us), and budget travelers. It only costs $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country. We usually purchase it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada from Colombia before the border closed!
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, Tamarindo is a fantastic place to do it! The waves here are totally doable for beginners and I really enjoyed taking surf lessons in Tamarindo. All the lessons on our list have fantastic reviews and great instructors who will help you catch a wave in no time!
To find out more activities you can do on a trip to Costa Rica, have a look at our blog posts or leave us a question below. Here are a few popular reads I think you might like: