RECENTLY, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) reported that amid the tourism boom in Guanacaste, 82% ofvisitors to this province head for the beaches.Makes perfect sense, what with this partof the Pacific coast’s beautiful stretch of shoreline, bathed year-round with warm air and water.
Given the international reputation of Guanacaste’s waves, it would figure that a good number of these visitors are heading to the Gold Coast to surf. Whether they are seasoned surfers looking for a perfect break, or neophytes who have heard all the hype and want to give the sport a try, tourists know this is the place for every kind of surfing opportunity.
In addition to substantial press coverage of the more notable surf spots in the area, such as Witch’s Rock, Ollie’s Point, Langosta, Grande and Avellanas, on the northern Pacific coast, anyone with a little gumption can pick up a Costa Rican tour book or plug “surfing” and “Guanacaste” into an Internet search engine to get a full rundown of the breaks.
And www.crsurf.com operate in the country, offering reports, predictions and links. Another result of the Guanacaste tourism explosion is that surf camps, schools and guide and tour businesses are popping up all along the coast, creating a mixed blessing: on the closed-in bays where beginners are given their first instruction, the water is often overcrowded with students and teachers, frustrating the more experienced surfer who has to dodge boards and bodies on the way down the line.
The upside of Guanacaste’s abundance of surf-related education and guide centers is that prospective clients are offered many options from which to select that one special private instructor or guide who can deliver the personal attention a Costa Rican surf vacation warrants.
The right guide can lead surfers to spots protected from the hubbub, outside the often crowded, safe bays populated by beginner’s lessons. Spending a little extra money for such services can result in a more enjoyable experience, especially if the surf lessons or tours last for several days and allow for exploration of beaches not on the maps or in the surf books.
Visiting surfers who initially contract local or native guides to take them to the better known beaches could end up at “secret spots” – the unnamed, unspoken-of breaks one learns about only through word-of-mouth.
A surf instructor and guide, Yefrey Rojas runs a two-year-old tour and taxi transfer company called Mop Adventures, in addition to being the head judge for the Circuito Nacional de Surf, the country’s eight-month-long, countrywide surf contest. He is also the only International Surfing Association (ISA)-certified judge in Costa Rica, so he is often required to attend ISA events outside the country.
Mop Adventures is based in Tamarindo, so its surf package prices are lower than those in other parts of Guanacaste because the company gets most of its clients directly from the area’s hotels, including Hacienda Pinilla Beach Resort, Hotel El Diria, Cala Luna Hotel,Tamarindo Vista Villas and Cabinas Las Olas in Playa Avellanas.
Full trips with hotels may be booked through www.premioincentives.com, or e-mail Rojas directly at [email protected], and he will put an entire surf trip together with lessons and/or guided tours, as well as hotels, depending on budget. Rojas has a strategy for beginners who long to get up and ride.
For a private lesson($50 solo or a group of no more than three people at $30 per person), the client is given a rash guard and longboard and taken to Playa Tamarindo for an hour and a half of instruction. The class begins with10 minutes on the beach, where Rojas or another Mop Adventures instructor gives direction for paddling and standing up.
“After they have a clue, I take them to the water,” Rojas says. “Playa Tamarindo has the best waves for learning because they are very smooth and slow, and beginners don’t have a hard time and get discouraged. They can stand up in the whitewater– after the wave has already broken– and, after a little while, they can catch the face of the little waves before they break. I don’t go longer than an hour and a half at a time; they get too sore from paddling.
”IF the client remains with Mop for a few days, Rojas will plan trips to other beaches, including the 20-minute drive to the beach break at Playa Avellanas (add another $25 to the fees above).“The wave on the sand (at Avellanas)doesn’t break that strong, there is no riptide ,and the break is very close to the shore,” Rojas says. “It’s a little faster than Tamarindo, but it’s still not as fast as Langosta (south of Tamarindo) or Grande.
”Playa Grande, across the river mouth from Tamarindo, offers a long, pristine beach break with lefts and rights, featuring consistent offshore winds. Avellanas can also be for the intermediate and advanced surfer (if Mop Adventures guides and drives, it’s the same prices as above).
That’s because the whole stretch is just a gorgeous choice of challenges, from Little Hawaii near the river mouth, with its right-to-the-beach breaks, to the point with left-breaking waves over the reef that you see as soon as you get out of the car in the parking lot. Just five kilometers farther south is Playa Negra, where, at incoming high tide, experienced surfers love the right pointbreak with fast waves.
MOST of the better surfers make the trip to Guanacaste with the intention of going to Witch’s Rock, inside Santa Rosa National Park. This geological formation acts as a point for some strong offshore winds, particularly from December to March, and creates beach breaks in all directions, which work best with the incoming high tide.
The park has now limited the number of boats that may enter the area each day,so it’s best to coordinate with an established surf company or one of the captainsin Playas del Coco to get out there (Mopcharges $230 for boat only, $380 for transferfor four to Coco, plus park admissionfor four with food).
When the tide goes low, hit the other famous break in the area: Ollie’s Point, a long, beautiful right that is even nice for beginners on a small day. AS for the aforementioned “secrets pots” excursion, be warned: Rojas will only allow “good surfers” to hire him for that one. “The waves are good, and not many people know about the places yet, which makes it more fun for my client,” he says.
The cost for this clandestine operation is steep – $100 per person or $50 per person with three or more – but guaranteed worth the price. ALTHOUGH Costa Rican pro surfer Andrea Díaz runs her surf camp and tour business, wavescr.com), out of Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, she often makes excursions to the southern tip of Guanacaste with her clients. She drives to Nosara for the hot sun and the white beach break that produces rights and lefts with some shallow-rock reef lefts that get barreling with swell. Here, her beginner and intermediate surfers can enjoy a change of pace for three days, out of a weeklong trip that includes four days on the Hermosa waves, just south of Jacó.
While the Roxy-sponsored championship surfer prefers Nosara, she will oblige her travelers and take them a little south, to another beach break called Playa Guiones, which has a left point. This is a more consistent year-round surf spot – better for the veteran – and is less crowded to boot.Wavescr.com offers the Nosara trip for$530 (with an additional $530 for Hermosa, but that part is negotiable) andincludes a stay in a private house, surf guide, transportation, breakfast, goody bag, yoga and a massage.
ALTHOUGH Díaz and Rojas are but two of the many surf instructors and guide savailable in Guanacaste, they are special because of their love for their native country ,and their desire to pass on the thrill of the wonderful sport of surfing.