Surfing in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

Playa Colonia, the beach at Bahia Ballena lies within the limits of the Marino Ballena National Park, stretching from Playa Uvita, also referred to as Punta Uvita or the “Whale Tail”, all the way to the river mouth on the south end. Located just a 15-minute drive south of Dominical, Bahia Ballena is a little-known gem that offers visitors a relaxed environment where one can enjoy the outdoors away from the hustle and bustle found in the more-frequented tourist destinations.

The surf at Bahia Ballena is consistent, meaning you will typically find soft breaking waves which average about two to four feet in height (chest to head-high) and can offer ride lengths of up to 100 yards, pretty much any day of the year. In addition, the crowds are very mellow and safety risks are minimal. All these factors make Bahia Ballena a well-suited surf break for beginner and intermediate surfers to practice.

Playa Colonia is a beach break, which means that one can find waves along the entire stretch of beach, although the southern end, known to locals as “Playa Chaman”, is more consistent and frequented by surfers. At the north end of the beach there is a small river mouth, which occasionally will produce a sand bar with some waves, but this is not very consistent. The southern end has a larger river mouth which makes for good waves, as well as for some rip currents, so be cautious if you are a beginner. It is possible to find waves between these two river mouths, it just depends on the presence of sand bars.

Dominical Wave Information

  • Best swell size: Chest to overhead
  • Best swell direction: SW
  • Best wind direction: E
  • Best season: Waves are largest between May-September due to tropical storms, waves are cleanest between December and March
  • Type of break: Beach break with river mouth
  • Bottom: Sand
  • Consistency: Consistent, though not as consistent as Dominical
  • Best tide: Medium to high
  • Best suited for: Beginner and intermediate
  • Access: There are multiple entry points to the beach, two of which have vehicle access up to the palm tree line; the “community entrance” and southernmost entry is closest to the surf break. There is a $6/person entry fee for foreigners and a C1000 entry fee for non-community-residing Costa Rican residents and citizens (free for children under ten) because the beach sits within the Ballena Marine National Park.
    Crowd factor: Minimal except for on Costa Rican holidays (Christmas, Semana Santa)
  • Potential dangers: Stingrays, jellyfish, rip currents

Safety Information

Bahia Ballena is one of the safest places to learn how to surf in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. The topography is such that it creates a small bay (hence the name Bahia Ballena which means “Whale Bay”) which helps protect the beach from being completely exposed to the swells and currents of the open ocean. On the north end, the Whale Tail acts as a barrier, and on the southern end there are a series of islands which prevent South swells from rolling through unobstructed. As a result of these natural obstacles, beginner surfers will find favorable conditions that are conducive to the progression of their surfing ability.

Despite conditions being much safer than at other beaches, it is important that surfers remain aware of their surroundings and of potential threats. As with other beaches, the most common hazards at Playa Colonia are stingrays, jellyfish, and rip currents. It’s also worth pointing out that one very significant danger exists on land, and that is coconuts falling from palm trees. This is a particularly hazard during the rainy season when rain, wind, and lightning are more likely to cause coconuts to fall.

Like at most Costa Rican beaches, there are no lifeguards on duty at Playa Colonia. In case of an emergency, you may get some assistance from the park rangers that are on duty, but keep in mind that for the most part these individuals are without vehicles, and communicating via walkie talkie or cell phone.

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Surfing with Bodhi

When we first laid eyes on the beach in Bahia Ballena, we knew it would be an excellent place for people to learn to surf as it was consistent and would offer waves year-round, was safe for people of all ages and skill levels, and the topography of the beach would make for gentle waves. The founders of Bodhi have decades of surf experience and have travelled the world surfing, yet settled down in Bahia Ballena to start Bodhi Surf + Yoga in 2010 — because they knew it was the perfect place to facilitate the process of shaping independent surfers.

At Bodhi, you can expect to learn the fundamentals of surfing, including safety, technique, and theory — and to get hours of practice time under the watchful eye of a qualified and invested instructor. Our 7-day surf and yoga camps for adults have been designed to help you achieve your surf goals, regardless of previous experience or background. They also feature the grounding and balancing co-activity, yoga, which has been proven to benefit guests’ learning. Finally, they are just an all around awesome vacation for everyone, balancing comfort and rest, learning and experiencing, and fun and pleasure!

Why choose Bodhi Sessions

We believe that one of the greatest benefits of doing our Bodhi Sessions is the fact that yoga is not just an add-on activity, but a fundamental part of the surfing experience. Many of our guests arrive without having any prior surf experience, and without having had the time to prepare physically for five surf sessions in six days. The yoga provides much-needed balance (no pun intended) of physical strength-building and stretching, and is designed to complement the building crescendo of the surf sessions. More importantly, the yoga sessions address the more persistent challenges to learning to surf — refining the already-existing strength and mental discipline that every person has. As we mentioned, surfing is in large part mental, and yoga is an incredible tool to help us look inward and become more aware of our own thoughts and consciousness. Learn more about the benefits of combining surfing and yoga.

Surf breaks near Bahia Ballena

Already know how to surf? There are a number of surf breaks in the Costa Ballena region that offer something rideable year round and are suitable for surfers of varying abilities.

Playa Hermosa de Osa

Playa Hermosa is a beach break located 3km north of Uvita and is generally a great wave for intermediate surfers. On a higher tide, and with a smaller swell, the break is suitable for beginners. It is a popular beach on the weekends so be cautious of swimmers and other surfers. There are lifeguards on duty 7-days a week from 8am - 4pm.

Dominicalito

Playa Dominicalito is located 3km south of Dominical. The surf break sits in a protected cove and is a beach frequented by Dominical surf schools. For beginner or intermediate surfers this surf break is recommended on a higher tide as there are rocks scattered across the bottom. There are no lifeguards on duty at Playa Dominicalito.

Playa Dominical

Playa Dominical is a popular destination for surfers looking for good, consistent waves and a more laid back atmosphere. A beach break that offers the most consistent surf in the region (and possibly in the country) and when the swell gets good it’s known to offer up hollow and powerful waves. There are lifeguards on duty 7-days a week from 8am - 4pm.

Punta Dominical

Punta Dominical is a reef break located just south of Dominicalito. It gets good when the swell is too big for the beach breaks. On smaller days it's suitable for intermediate surfers looking to gain some experience at a reef break. The rocky bottom is a major hazard so be aware paddling out, in, and taking off on waves. There are no lifeguards on duty and beware of car break-ins.

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