Often overlooked by the surfing masses, the swells of South America are gaining recognition, resulting in the area becoming a place to be to catch some of the best waves in the world. Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Chile all offer breaks to please the most seasoned of surfers, but for the best in surfing pilgrimages, most international surfers head to the Pacific shores of Mexico.
Mazatlan, Mexico: Branded as the original ‘surf safari’, Mexico’s Mazatlan has evolved as a prime surf destination since the 1960s when American traveling surfers first braved the waves here. This part of the coast gets great waves that attract many long boarders.
Copacabana, Ipanema and Florianopolis, Brazil: The vast 7,242km coastline of Brazil is legendary among surfers as practically the whole coastline can be surfed. Top of the pickings are the waves around Copacabana and Ipanema, and on the Atlantic side, Florianopolis.
Punta del Este, Uruguay: The best collection of surf breaks in Uruguay gather around the small city of Punta del Este. Here, a relatively high level of living standard has resulted in a generation of surf followers.
Rivas, Nicaragua: Now a politically stable country, Nicaragua has turned to tourism promotion to boost its economy and is now taking advantage of the many prime surfing locations to push forward the process. Most notable are the breaks around the Rivas province on the southwest Pacific coastline.
Herradura Beach, Peru: Peru has recently become a top surf destination with many popular world-class surf locations including Herradura Beach near Lima, Chicama in the north and Mancora, not far from the border with Ecuador.
Arica and Iquique, Chile: While the waters off the coast of Chile can be a bit cold (wetsuit essential), the Patagonian breaks around the north coast have become popular with die-hard surf travelers; the most notable is the surf around Arica and Iquique.
Montanita, Ecuador: The surf season in Ecuador runs from November to April when the waves are at their strongest. Montanita on the Salinas Peninsula is the place to be with the biggest surf scene.
Dominican Republic: The Dominican Republic gets less attention as a surfing hotspot than its neighboring Puerto Rico, but this is still a great place to catch good breaks. The best swells are found during the winter season (November to March).
Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica: The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is becoming a hotspot for surfers due to the world-class breaks that can be experienced here between the months of April and September. Most notable is the surf town of Playa Tamarindo, located just an hour away from the main international airport.
El Paredon, Guatemala: The best surf in Guatemala can be found along the 225km Pacific coast, particularly around the area of El Paredon. This lesser-known surf location is popular with those who like to keep the breaks to themselves!