If you’ve ever watched Bruce Brown’s surf classic Endless Summer II, you may remember the scene shot in Playa Negra and its astonishingly perfect, uncrowded waves.
This beach is unarguably one of Costa Rica’s top surf destinations, if not the best, and at Playa Negra and the town of Los Pargos (Spanish for “the snappers”), where the beach is located, everything appears to revolve around the surf. Here you’ll find everything from board rentals, ding repair shops, surf shops, greasy food, ice cold beer, beach shack accommodations, happiness, and a very laid-back vibe.
“Negra” means black in Spanish, so you’d expect all the sand here to be black, but you can find different shades in different areas, ranging from white to crushed seashells to dark. Rock outcroppings extend out of the water throughout the shore and there is little shade to be found here, so get ready to roast!
Playa Negra – not to be confused with Playa Negra de Cahuita (or Puerto Viejo) on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast – is located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. It is approximately a 30-minute drive from the closest airport in Tamarindo, to the north.
Surfing Playa Negra: Get Stoked
If you’re into surfing, you’ll definitely find your bliss in Playa Negra’s warm waters. For such a world-renowned surf destination, you may find that it is relatively uncrowded – much less so than some of its neighboring beaches and other such destinations around the world!
Playa Negra offers right-hand barrels and occasionally left breaking waves that slam over a reef break, making it suitable for intermediate to advanced surfers. This place is surfable at all tides, and the yearlong swell here is remarkably consistent. Beginner surfers need not despair, though, south of the main break is a great area for testing out new surfing skills, and there are plenty of surf instructors to be found in town.
What the Weather is Like in Playa Negra
Playa Negra’s scorching, dry season temperatures can reach the high 30s (Celsius) or 90s (Fahrenheit). The dry season is referred to by Ticos as verano, or summer. Unfortunately, however, verano is not endless here.
As in the rest of Costa Rica, Playa Negra has two main seasons, rainy and dry. Verano runs from December to April, while the “green season” goes from May-August and the rainy season extends from September to November.
The dry season is also tourist high season, and because the town has developed quite a bit in recent years, you might find some company out in the water.
However, the waves get huge at this time of year and, apart from daily rain showers and occasional downpours, the rainy and green season provides enough sunshine to toast you to a dark brown, lobster red, or whatever color the darkest shade of you is. Plus, you’ll usually find green season discounts on tours and accommodation at this time of year.
As many central Guanacaste beach towns, the rainy season usually hits its peak in September and October, so a lot of places shut down over these two months, when many local expats head home to visit family or travel the world. The dirt road that leads into Playa Negra can get pretty messy during the wet season, so drive carefully!
The Simple Life: Activities & Things to Do in Playa Negra
Most visitors are drawn to Playa Negra for the surf, but a lot has changed in this town since the days of Endless Summer II. As in most of Guanacaste province, upscale gated communities have emerged, and restaurants, hotels, and tour companies have slowly popped up here and there, although development remains in check.
The good thing is that non-surfers and surfers who wish to engage in other activities after a day out in the water will find plenty of fun and entertainment in town and in the gorgeous surrounding areas.
Ok, so this does involve surfing. If you can’t get enough of great waves and want to experience all that the magnificent Guanacaste coastline has to offer using Playa Negra as your base, you’ll find several tour companies in and around town that offer day and even overnight boat trips to other world class waves such as Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point (also featured in Endless Summer II). These trips usually include lunch or snacks but you should bring your own board. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
A great option for overexerted surfers to stretch and relax, or for non-surfing partners to joyously while the time away while their other halves are catching waves, several hotels and retreats in Playa Negra offer yoga classes and teacher training. Some exciting yoga varieties include yoga on the beach and you’ll find SUP yoga here too! Relaxing massages and Reiki sessions are also available in Playa Negra.
Playa Negra is filled with endless possibilities for adventure. Here you can easily book a zip line canopy tour, horseback riding tours, a snorkeling or sunset cruise, ATV tours, waterfall hikes, SUP tours or rentals, sportfishing adventures, and much, much more!
Playa Negra could not have a better location between the gorgeous and quiet surfing beach of Junquillal and the slightly more crowded but equally beautiful Playa Avellanas, another amazing surf destination. Both beaches are a 15 to 20-minute drive from Playa Negra and certainly worth a day trip while you’re in the area.
If you’re starved for a bit of luxury and pampering, Hacienda Pinilla is immediately north of Avellanas, here you can wine and dine and even play some golf if that is your thing. If life in Playa Negra makes you start feeling like a castaway and you want to reconnect with the crowds, or need to run errands like banking or grocery shopping in a proper supermarket, Tamarindo is just a half an hour away.
In Playa Negra, you’ll find all the greasy food you need to refuel after a long day of surfing. Tacos, pizza, burgers, Mexican food, it’s all here. The Peruvian delicacies at Café Playa Negra are not to be missed, including causa, mashed potatoes stuffed with shrimp and tuna and ceviche. The pisco sour drink will leave you reeling!
Other top choices are the elegant Villa Deevena, a gem of a place that specializes in mouthwatering French food, Café la Ventana is a health food option that serves breakfast, lunch and amazing juices, and Kon Tiki for your pizza fix (the pizzas here will take you straight to heaven!)
Unless you’ve come to Costa Rica for the sole purpose to surf, we typically suggest visiting an interior area or two during your trip to Costa Rica. We often combine a few nights in Playa Negra with a visit to the rainforest, volcanoes and/or cloud forest regions of Costa Rica in order to experience the mountains, canyons, and rivers here. A visit to Playa Negra can easily be added as the beach location to our Costa Rica Collection or Rainforest-to-Beach itinerary.