Surfing in Costa Rica

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This small and unusually stable Central American country is fast becoming one of the world's most popular surfing destinations. Drinkable tap water, safe roads, a relatively low crime rate and easy proximity to the United States have all helped to attract high numbers of tourists, of which a startling 20%, around 200 000 per year, are surfers. And the figure is set to rise.

Playa Hermosa, near the busy resort town of < ahref="">Jaco, was picked to host the 2009 Billabong World Surfing Games, which has helped grow what is already Costa Rica's fastest-developing area.

Costa Rica's surf spots can be divided into four main regions - North, Central and South Pacific and The Caribbean.

Tamarindo, in the North Pacific, and Hermosa, in the Central Pacific, are probably the best-known and certainly the most-visited. The former is a fun resort town that offers good access, although often only by boat, to superb breaks such as Witches Rock. Full of North Americans, the town is home to an array of surf schools and a long, wide, consistent beach break at the mouth of an estuary. Great for beginners. Playa Hermosa, on the other hand, offers what is probably the most consistent surf in Costa Rica and is home to a small community of dedicated surfers.

Mal Pais, on the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula, gets good waves and is still comparatively untouched, with no nightlife.

Pavones, in the far south, is home to what is thought to be the longest left-hander in the world, although the break is literally in the middle of nowhere and can be flat for weeks on end.

Just as remote but a little more exclusive is the Drake's Bay area, home to a luxury resort that takes all its power from solar panels. Accessible only by boat this is a remote break with long, powerful waves adjacent to the Corcovado National Park.

On the Caribbean side, Puerto Viejo, just three hours drive from the capital, San Jose, is home to Salsa, one of Costa Rica's few legitimate big waves.