SUP Vacation at Costa Rica’s Playa Guiones

SUP surfers will have lots to be excited about in Costa Rica. `Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Words by Rebecca Parsons

In 2015, a good friend of mine moved to Nosara, Costa Rica for a year to help a local school kickstart their science program. Three years later, he still hasn’t left. So I decided to find out what had been keeping him away from his favorite surf spot for so long. Eager to leave the California “winter” behind, my boyfriend and I booked a flight with hopes of waves and warmer weather.

Nosara is a village located on the Nicoya Peninsula, famous for yoga and year-round surf. But since the village is actually located a few miles inland, tourists typically stay in Playa Pelada, Playa Guiones or Playa Garza. After arriving late the night before, we awoke to sunshine and the calls of howler monkeys. After brewing a fresh pot of Costa Rican coffee, we headed to the beach and past the fresh fruit stands, coconut carts and organic cafes lining the streets. After a quick dip in the Pacific, our buddy hooked us up with a couple boards and gave us the lay of the land.

A walk to the beach past the many healthy food offerings. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Playa Guiones is a seven-kilometer stretch of beach with a number of different beach breaks that are ideal for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. At any given time, you can see an array of surf craft enjoying the waves, including SUPs, shortboards, longboards and even kayaks, although traditional surfing still remains the most prominent. If you’re looking for a more SUP-specific break, head to Playa Garza for a reef break almost exclusively visited by SUPs.

For flatwater options, Playa Pelada is a protected cove offering calm conditions and minimal waves. Rio Nosara and Rio Montana also offer a sheltered paddle through the mangroves. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bull shark or croc.

Paddling down a shaded rio. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Costa Rica was everything a paddler could hope for. The water was warm and waves were in no short supply. The food was fresh, often organic and always healthy. The people were friendly and the pace of life slow and relaxed.

While there were rain forests and waterfalls tempting us away from the coast, we decided to spend all nine days of our trip in Playa Guiones. We surfed in the mornings and evenings and sipped on tropical drinks under shaded shelters during the heat of the day. While we saw a lot, there is still so much more to experience in this beautiful country. Costa Rica is like a magnet; it will only be a matter of time before she pulls us back.

Paradise. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

There are a number of healthy and organic cafes to chose from. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, visit one of the local sodas for a traditional Costa Rican meal (Rosi’s was our favorite). La Luna at Playa Pelada is one of the only beachfront restaurants in the region and is well worth a visit. Lagarta Lodge is a bit pricey but is situated on a hill overlooking the beach and the river, offering the best sunset views in town.

Even if SUP surfing is your true love, a paddle down the shaded river is both breathtaking and a nice escape from the heat. At low tide, a visit to the tide pools on the southern end of the beach offers some fun snorkeling and exploration opportunities. Rent an ATV for the day and explore some of the nearby beaches. Ostional is a nesting ground for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and San Juanillo has a small reef, teaming with tropical fish. Get a “Surfer’s Massage” at Tica Massage—the property is gorgeous and the massage relaxing and refreshing. Rent cruiser bikes or sign up for a sunset horseback ride on the sand.

Playa Guiones has a range of lodging options from fancy hotels to funky hostels. The Harmony Hotel is a gorgeous space a short walk from the beach. The Beach Dog is a cute hostel located above the Beach Dog Cafe, a stone’s throw from the ocean. There are also a number of Airbnb’s located within walking distance from the surf. Do a little research and decide which option is best for you.

ATVs are an excellent way to get around in Playa Guiones. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

While there’s potential for waves year-round, it’s best to plan your visit during the dry season. Depending on where you’re staying, renting a car probably isn’t necessary but an ATV or golf cart with surf racks could be fun way to expand your options. Grocery stores are expensive, so pack some snacks and essentials so you don’t get overcharged. There are shuttle vans running to and from the airport but if you arrive or depart at an obscure time, it’s cheaper to do a one-way car rental and drive yourself.


Paddling Costa Rica’s shaded mangrove forests.

Watch: SUP surfing session from Costa Rica.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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