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Palo Seco Surf Guide


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If you’re on your way from Jaco down the coast towards the surf of the Dominical area, you may be tempted to stop here at Playa Seco to check out the waves. My advice is just to keep going, since although there are some good waves here from time to time, wave hunters of nearly any skill level will be better served by waiting another hour or so.

Whiter Sand to the EastHowever, if you’re headed to Palo Seco anyway because you have a hotel or rental villa here, then you may be interested to know where the best spots to go are. First of all, let me say that on our trip scoping out every surf spot in the southern pacific coast of Costa Rica, we drove the entire beach of Palo Seco, all the way down to the very tip at the rivermouth. I think we may have been the first car in years to shove our car through the weeds to get out there, but we made it on a trail obviously meant for ATVs and motorcycles. Plus, there was no way to turn around once we started so we just kept going. In the end, we didn’t bother to unstrap our boards and instead just shot some photos, spoke to a few locals, and then returned to the main road to head south. However, since there seems to be almost no info about surfing here, I thought I’d report what we learned.

There isn’t much written about surfing this part of Costa Rica, and many guides wrongly write that the world-record snook/robalo was caught here on the beach. A bit of research shows that this monster fish was caught in a similar spot on the Rio Naranjo, on the other side of Quepos. However, the fishing at this rivermouth is reported to be great too.

How to Find It

It’s an easy spot to get to. From Jaco drive on the main highway to the south/east. From Quepos you drive north/west. Halfway between is the town of Parrita. On the east side of the river at Parrita, turn and drive through town and you will come out on the other side on a small road to the beach. Ask any local, like we did, and they’ll direct you to the correct way to the beach.

Surfing Playa Palo Seco

    Playa Seco Palms and ParkingPlaya Palo Seco Parking Area

    When you first arrive at the beach, the sandy area is huge, and there’s tons of shady parking under the palms. We found it deserted in mid day, but I’d guess that many people come from town to hang out on the weekends and holidays. The waves, at mid-tide, were closing out at small to medium size and it wasn’t worth it to paddle out. Apparently high tide is better. The beach is broad and flat, fairly dark sand, but not as black as other beach guides in Costa Rica report. There’s a large bar here that looks like it would be a fun spot during the weekends at night.

    Hotels AreaHotel at Palo Seco

    Driving to the left and heading east along this barrier-reef spit/island of Palo Seco, you’ll find a few nice hotels and rental villas on the left side of the road. On the right is the beach, and we were told by the locals that people surf in front of the hotels at high tide, finding good waves when the swells aren’t too big. The best waves, however, are at the mouth of the Palo Seco river farther down on the same road. Reports about Palo Seco often call it a black sand beach, which is wrong. It’s medium dark, and fairly light as you get to the east, especially in front of the hotels, as you can see by the photo on the right.

    Rivermouth and EstuaryPalo Seco Rivermouth Surf Spot

    At some point the road ends, as you can see on the Google map, but you can just keep pushing forward. We were there at the tail end of rainy season and found it already dry. The bushes got narrower and narrower, and the road almost impassible with our 4×4, but we kept going and it emptied out onto a broad grassy plain that reminded us of being in Africa. The place seemed extremely remote and deserted and we imagined we were in Costa Rica 50 years ago. We saw no people, no boats, no construction, etc.

    The waves were breaking nicely in the rivermouth, as such breaks usually do, but it was full of large tree trunks and stumps and seemed quite dangerous. We were willing to brave the potential crocodiles because a local fisherman had told us that this river only had small ones. In Costa Rica, where the locals have their kids playing, usually there are no large crocodiles because the men kill them. The second half of the video below shows what the rivermouth looked like.

My Video of the Estuary

Proof that we made it to the end… far past the end of the road:

Palo Seco Photo Gallery

Surfing Video Here


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