Save The Waves is working with Conservation International to protect surf ecosystems and promote protected areas across Costa Rica.

Through SPANs, we hope to expand the scope of existing protected areas to include surf ecosystems and create new surfing protected areas in key regions.


Costa Rica has been an international surfing destination for decades. Despite its small size (51,100 km), Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines host many high quality waves that offer unique, year-round surfing opportunities. 

A 2018 survey by the National Surfing Federation stated that in 2017, almost 600,000 surfers visited Costa Rica to surf its waves (Fedesurfcr.com, 2018). This suggests that surfing is a pillar of tourism in Costa Rica and plays an important role in the country’s economy by directly contributing to 6.3% of national GDP and indirectly contributing 8.2% (ICT, 2021).

By creating SPANs in Costa Rica, surf conservation can become a vehicle to protect areas that wouldn’t be protected otherwise through classic biodiversity conservation. The combination of socioeconomic reliance on surf ecosystems, unique habitats and species they harbor, and influence of surfing in Costa Rica’s tourism sector positions surf conservation as a tool that can help strengthen the network of protected areas in Costa Rica.

In June 2022, Save The Waves dedicated Playa Hermosa as a World Surfing Reserve (WSR). As the first WSR in Central America, Playa Hermosa will serve as an anchor site to build a network of Surf Protected Areas.

Strengthening this alliance between surfers, local actors and the government will help the blue economy thrive while ensuring our marine ecosystems remain healthy for future generations to enjoy.

Ana Gloria Guzman

Executive Director of Conservation International-Costa Rica


The objective is to harness the power of surfing and the surf community for conservation efforts. Through SPANs, we hope to expand the scope of existing protected areas to include surf ecosystems and create new surfing protected areas in key regions. 

Beyond The Wave: Preserving The Surf Ecosystem

Tools for Biodiversity

Lesson sharing and capacity building will have special attention in order to replicate project approaches in regions and protected areas of Costa Rica that have foundational elements to allow for application of surf ecosystem management. This includes locations such as Santa Rosa National Park and Baulas National Park in Costa Rica, which have outstanding waves and globally significant biological diversity.

Lessons on Blue Economy

The project will be implemented in key surfing areas in Costa Rica where the protection of important biodiversity and critical ecosystems can reinforce blue economy benefits for local communities, creating a positive feedback loop for increased ecosystem management and motivate further ecosystem conservation. We will provide approaches and tools for decision-makers, local community members and other key stakeholders


Surf Conservation Index

A report produced by Save The Waves with support from Conservation International.

How will this report help protect surf ecosystems? It will:

  1. Identify activities that affect surf breaks and their surrounding environments. 
  2. Facilitate Coalition-building between different groups of stakeholders


Azores Regional Profile

The Regional Profile of the Azorean Archipelago is the first part of a six-step process which aims to protect critical surf ecosystems throughout the island chain.

It gives a detailed description of the surf resources in the islands, provides critical information on biodiversity and the unique geography that creates surf ecosystems in the Azores, provides important information on the socio-economic aspects of surfing, and assesses the opportunities for conservation of surf spots within the context of ongoing Marine Spatial Planning processes. Click to download.


Visiones de éxito en Chile: los esfuerzos colaborativos apuntan a un futuro para una mayor protección de las olas en todo el país

El pasado mes de Septiembre, miembros del staff de Save The Waves visitaron la Reserva Mundial de Surf Punta de Lobos en Pichilemu, y el Santuario Marino Costero Piedra del Viento en Topocalma y Puertecillo, dos proyectos que han sido el parteaguas para la conservación de ecosistemas de surf en Chile, y que han sentado un precedente importante para otras regiones del mundo.

Protecting Waves in the Azores: Where Are We Now?

From hosting youth engagement workshops at schools to attending high-level interregional governmental meetings and international conferences, our team has seriously been making waves in the Azores.

Continue To Explore SPANs

(Surf Protected Area Networks)

Protect the places you love.

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