This is a guide to the best surfing destinations in Central and South America, covering Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and Chile.Latin America is becoming an increasing mecca for surfers who are attracted by the potential for travelling on a tight budget, mixed with some great surf, wonderful beaches and buzzing nightlife. Plenty of surfing hotspots offer beach-front accommodation for $5-$10 per night. Where are the best surfing spots in Latin America?
Mexico has massive potential for surfing all year round, the the best months to visit are from June to September. The best surf is on the Pacific Coast, and there are near continous places of interest as one travels along the coast - ideal for a road trip then. In the South, near Oaxaca, there’s dozens of surf spots stretching from Santa Cruz to Puerto Escondido and further West. Puerto Escondido is an ever popular surf hotspot, and the best known destination in the South of the country. West further still and there’s dozens of surf spots on the coastline both East and West of Acapulco. From here Northwards the coastline is scattered with surfing spots all the way North to Baja California.
Costa Rica is a well established surfing destination, and also one of the most expensive countries to visit in Central America. Both Pacific and Caribbean coasts offer great surfing - best time to visit the Pacific is during the summer months, best time to surf on the Caribbean coast is during the winter. The North Pacific coast (around Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste) and the South Pacific Coast (around Puntaarenas) are the best places to surf. Trendy surfing towns to visit include Puerto Viejo, Tamarindo and Jaco.
There’s great surfing throughout the Pacific Coastline, but the most popular destination is Santa Catalina, one of Central America’s legendary surf spots. Legend has it that about 30 years ago, some avid surf dude hacked his way for miles through the bush as he was told about an amazing undiscovered surf spot (that’s what I was told at least). These days, the tourism industry is starting to boom. Elsewhere in Panama, Playa Venado (near Pedasi in the Azuero Peninsula) is almost as famous for it’s great surf.
Colombia’s Pacific coast has the country’s best surfing - as the region is getting safer, it’s also being discovered by the surfers. Nuqui is the epicentre of surfing on Colombia’s pacific coast as there are plenty of great surfing spots nearby.
Colombia’s Caribbean coast sees smaller waves but a consistent swell. The best base is Barranquila (where Colombia’s most famous carnival is held) - there’s dozens of popular surfing beaches nearby. Elsewhere on the Caribbean coast, the surf is a little lacking, though you could try Cartagena or San Andres Island.
Ecuador has a Pacific coastline offering great surfing between the Southern tip of the country and Manta to the North. This section of the coastline is called the “Ruta del Sol” (the sunshine route) - it’s full of great surfing spots, and travelling up the coast is easy. The most popular destination is Montanita, an increasingly popular backpacker and surfer destination with some fine beaches. North of Manta en route to Colombia, there’s only a handful of surfing spots. The best time for surfing in Ecuador is from November to April.
Peru’s an increasingly popular surfing mecca with some of the longest waves in Latin America. There’s lots of fine spots just South of Lima such as Herradura and Punta Hermosa, as well as many options in the North of Peru on the coastline between Trujillo and Tumbes, which is close to the border with Ecuador. Mancora is in northernmost Peru - this is the country’s top surfing hang-out.
Mancora, Peru - watching the surfers from the fine beach.
In the South, the coastline from Mollendo Southwards to the border of Chile also has plenty of surfing options. April to October are the best months with the most reliable waves in Peru.
Chile’s waters are cold, but with such a huge coastline, here the adventurous surfers will find plenty of great empty surfing beaches. The best surfing in Chile is in the North of the country around Arica, as well as the coastline between Iquique and La Serena. The further South you travel, the colder the water gets, so take a wetsuit.
Several of the worlds best surfers come from Brazil - the country has a huge and varied coastline, and surfing is one of the nations more popular sports. The South of Brazil sees the best surf - and Florianopolis (Santa Catalina Island) is one of South America’s top surfing hang-outs. The best time to for surfing in the South of Brazil is from April to September - it’s also the time the weather is coldest. Further North and there’s plenty of surfing beaches both in and around Rio de Janeiro - just don’t expect to have a lot of space as it can get crowded.
Northern Brazil is best visited from November to March if you’re a surfer. There’s a very long coastline with lots of surfing spots, one of the best being the idyllic island of Fernando de Noronha, home to Brazil’s most beautiful beaches.
Venezuela is not well known for it’s surfing, and there aren’t a huge number of great surfing spots, however there are options scattered along the Caribbean coastline, especially around Caracas.
Surfing is in part about the lifestyle - you get up, scope a surf spot, go surfing most of the day, chill on the beach, then have a beer with fellow surfers in the evening, before going to bed and doing it all over again the next day. Latin America is full of possibilities.