Surf Travel in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica

Surfers at sunset on Playa Guiones in Costa Rica

Playa Guiones is a fantastic destination for surfing or yoga, the two main activities in this town. The setting is stunning; it feels like you are in a nature reserve. The food is excellent, and the general vibe among locals and travelers is top notch. Below is my advice on where to stay, some local surf beta, and an amazing day hike to go on when traveling to Playa Guiones in Costa Rica

First, here is a useful map:

Map of Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada in Nosara Costa Rica
Map of Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada in Nosara, Costa Rica

Where To Stay

Town Orientation

It’s worth mentioning that Playa Guiones is often referred to interchangeably with Nosara, the nearest town inland a couple miles from the beach. Playa Guiones is also used to refer to the “town” near to the beach, as well as the beach itself. Not a big deal, but worth noting as it can be a little confusing if you’re not aware of this.

The “town” of Playa Guiones is spread out, with pockets of restaurants and shops mostly located in the north and middle part of town, and separated by muddy roads through tracts of jungle.  There are various houses and hotels interspersed in the north and middle regions of Playa Guiones, and many more places to stay in the southern part of town.

Distances on maps can be deceivingly far in person, and unless you rent a car or ATV, where you stay is where you will be spending most of your time.  If you are there to surf, I would recommend staying in either the middle or north part of Playa Guiones, as you will be within a reasonable walking distance of both the beach as well as places to eat. We rented ATVs for a couple of days at around $50 per ATV per day, and it was worth it in order to see more of the surrounding area. 

Recommendations

We found the best value on AirBnb in the middle price range for lodging options.  We were very happy with our small but clean apartment in the northern part of town.  We were close to a number of good restaurants for both breakfast and dinner, and it was incredibly convenient being within steps of the “Mini-Super” market to buy Gatorade, beer, or a snack.  Hot tip: the fresh baked banana bread was sublime, when available.

One should be aware that places located on or near the main road that parallels the beach, like the Selina Nosara hostel, are too far from the beach to be a reasonable place to stay for a surf trip without also renting an ATV every day.  Similarly, staying in the south part of town is beyond walking distance from most restaurants. If you stay at a hotel on the outside of town, such as the Blue Spirit, recognize you will be practically isolated from the main beach and restaurants.

Surfing Playa Guiones

Beach Orientation

Playa Guiones extends in a north-south direction for around 3 miles.  The north end is a point that separates Playa Guiones from Playa Pelada, and at the south end is a headland that separates Playa Guiones from Playa Bote.  However, a rocky shelf is present on the southern two-thirds of Playa Guiones, preventing surfing in this area and essentially concentrating people to the northern 1 mile of the beach.

The northern mile of Playa Guiones has three entrances which serve as useful landmarks, and are located in the north, middle, and south parts of town. The north entrance is accessed by taking the road down from the Guilded Iguana Hotel and past Juan Surfo’s Surf Shop.  The middle entrance is accessed by taking the road near Beach Dog Cafe.  The south entrance is a little ways away from the shops and restaurants in town, and is labeled as Baker’s Beach entrance on Google Maps.

Walking with a surfboard in Costa Rica next to a sign explaining no beach fires because of sea turtle eggs
No fires on the beaches in Costa Rica – sea turtles nest here!

Dangers and Annoyances

Rocks extend perpendicularly out into the ocean along the north end of the beach, creating a natural northern boundary.  While many people surf in the northern part of the beach, and we did at first, I would not recommend it.  There is a very strong rip tide that can form here, in the approximate location labeled on the map above.  I got caught in this rip tide one day and was swept out into the ocean in only a couple of minutes. Even knowing how to get out of a rip tide, this was not a fun experience.  Many locals and expats do not surf this part of the beach for this reason.

The surf in Playa Guiones is a beach break, with a long flat sandy bottom.  One word of warning is stingrays are present in the beach break, although you will not find signs warning of this.  If you watch the locals, most will either shuffle their feet while walking out or will start paddling early.  I would recommend doing the same in order to minimize your chances of being stung.

There is practically no shade on Playa Guiones.  We surfed mostly in the morning and at sunset, so this wasn’t much of an issue for us.  But if you are planning on spending time during the middle of the day on the beach, I would recommend bringing some sort of shade.

Flip flops are also known to “walk away” while surfing.  There are 3 options to prevent this from happening:

1. Bring a second pair of cheap flip flops to use when going surfing.  This is probably the best option.

2. Bury your flips flops in the sand.  This is commonly done, and can lead to some entertaining people watching as the buried location is easily forgotten on this homogenous beach.

3. Put duct tape on your flip flops to make them look broken and undesirable.  We came up with this clever hack after my friend’s flip flops actually broke and required a duct tape repair.

A flip flop with duct tape
Gild your flip flop with a little duct tape so they don’t get stolen on the beach

Recommendations

We spent most of our time surfing near the middle entrance to Playa Guiones, and had an excellent time catching waves there.  It is easy to orient yourself when in the ocean as there are 2 large palm trees near the middle entrance, so if you drift north or south you’ll know which way to paddle to get back to where you started.

If you didn’t bring your own board, I would recommend stopping by Juan Surfos near the north beach entrance.  There are good boards to choose from at fair prices, chill vibes, the location near the north beach entrance is very convenient, and Juan is an excellent source of information.  Juan Surfos also has a nice selection of cool stickers for your Hydroflasks back home.

Day Hike in Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada

If you are looking for a daytime activity between surfing and/or yoga sessions, I would recommend the following day hike:

Start on Playa Guiones and head north, walking through a stream.  Keep an eye out for cool shells on the beach (of course, please don’t take any).  Near the end of the beach is a small path that connects to Playa Pelada.  Pass this for now and go to the very end of the beach.  

Horses crossing the stream on the north end of Playa Guiones
Cross this stream at the north end of Playa Guiones. Horses not required.

Look to your right for a small spur trail to scramble up a hundred feet or so to a breathtaking viewpoint on a ridge between Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada.  Warning – this is not a maintained path and a fall from the narrow ridge/viewpoint would likely be fatal. 

Viewpoint of Playa Pelada Costa Rica
A curvy view of enchanted Playa Pelada

Scramble back down the spur trail and take the connecting path to Playa Pelada, a magical crescent shaped beach with a blowhole in the middle.  There is black and tan sand on this beach that the surf mixes in phantasmagoric ways.  Spend some time enjoying nature in this unique spot in the world.

Continue walking north along the beach, stopping by La Luna for a drink or a bite to eat if it suits your fancy.  Walk about a mile north to where the beach ends as a cove.  Turn around and look for a path inland near where the beach ends, on the north side of an estuary.

Once on the path keep an eye out for a small spur trail to your left as you walk inland.  This is only a couple hundred feet inland.  If you reach a sign that says Playa near a muddy intersection of trails, you’ve gone too far.

Charles Kosydar standing next to a Playa sign in Costa Rica
If you see this sign, you’ve gone too far

Once on the spur trail, continue uphill until you find another trail to your left that leads to a small viewpoint with a bench.  The waves that crash into the cliff below you create a spray that goes a hundred feet in the air, and is quite refreshing in the heat of the tropics!

After the viewpoint, continue on the trail north until you reach another small beach.  The jungle is in full splendor in this area – mighty old-growth trees tower overhead and the roar of howler monkeys will let you know you are in their territory.

The path curves inland from here to where it connects with a road.  I would recommend walking along the road for another 10-15 minutes to Lagarta Lodge, which makes for a fantastic place to have a refreshing drink or two after the long, hot walk in the jungle.  Take your time to enjoy the view over the Lagarta Biologic Reserve.  The concierge at Lagarta can also arrange for a tuk-tuk to take you back into town, for half the price and twice the fun as taking a taxi.

Lagarta Lodge view of the jungle and beach in Playa Guiones
The view from Lagarta Lodge, best enjoyed with an ice cold smoothie

Food and Drink

Rosi’s Soda Tica

A traditional Costa Rican restaurant, and great for a filling breakfast.  The huevos rancheros is excellent. Rosi’s is located across the street from the Gilded Iguana Hotel.

Al Chile

Frequented by expats, who would know where to eat in town.  The cocktails are quite good, and the chicken chalupa is stunningly delicious.  Al Chile is located across the street from the Harmony Hotel, which also offers exceptional yoga classes.

El Bar Nosara

A fun, friendly local bar to go for drinks and dancing once the restaurants in town shut down.  Just the right amount of crowded to fill the bar and dancing area without being too packed.  “The Bar” is located near Il Basilico on the main road above town.

Different hotels have DJs play on different nights, but these are not advertised.  Locals and expats are super friendly, and if you ask they will happily tell you if they know where something happening.  Make sure you have your own transportation if going out at night; the tuk-tuks can be practically impossible to find when you need to get home.

Speaking of music, if you are looking for your trip’s theme song, then check out Phlake’s Costa Rica. It’s kind of perfect.

Have a great trip, and please place a comment to help improve this post!

Published by Charles Kosydar

Radiologist in Portland, Oregon. Avid skier. Fair weather surfer. World traveler. French bulldog father. Oregon Duck fanatic.

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