5 Months of Surfing in Costa Rica: My Experience

This post has been five months in the making. Shaun’s been surfing his heart out here in Costa Rica, and I managed to convince him to write a little something about it. So, without further ado, take it away Shaun!

These past five months travelling around Costa Rica have primarily been spent along the coast. This is partly because we love the ocean and mostly because I wanted to surf. Kate was a champ in booking so many extended stays at the various surf towns. She also took a bunch of photos and twisted my arm into writing this post.

Most of the spots I surfed were fairly well known breaks on Costa Rica’s west coast. Sorry, there are no secret spots or unknown gems to be revealed here. I surfed the main breaks with everyone else. If you are looking for uncrowded surf maybe go with some buddies and get off the beaten path.

Grande 1

Playa Grande- South End

Playa Grande, Guanacaste

The trip started and finished with Playa Grande. I love this beach and wave. Every time we have visited Costa Rica in the past, we have spent at least a few days here. Usually I surf Casitas, which is on the south end. It’s close to Tamarindo which is nice because we often stay there as well. There was the odd time I would make the trek to the main break on the north end of the beach. The main break is a much better wave and usually has better size, but also has bigger crowds and its a much longer walk if you are staying in Tamrindo. I liked the south end as it has both good lefts and rights and is way closer. It was typically small, but fun. I found Playa Grande to be best at mid to high tide. And if you can get 3 to 4 feet of swell it gets pretty sweet.

Playa Grande- South End

Playa Grande- South End

Santa Teresa, Puntarenas

We were in Santa Teresa for about ten days in early December and there was some pretty decent swells at that time. It got big some days and there were some pretty nice waves and a fair amount of paddling. It is quite a big beach break so there are peaks up and down the beach, but it gets super busy. I found I preferred the mid to high tides there as it seemed to clean up a bit and mellow out. I also heard that low tide is quite good as the wave hollows out more. That being said it was a low tide surf the day I busted a board there.

Playa Grande- South End

Playa Grande- South End

Mal Pais, Puntarenas

We hit Mal Pais aka Playa Carmen for a week after New Years. This wave was mellower then its neighbour to the north, Santa Teresa and didn’t seem to have the same crowds. It was still busy enough, but had more forgiving waves. Again, I would surf the mid to high tides and typically went first thing in the morning when there wasn’t any wind.

Playa Grande- South End

Playa Grande- South End

Matapalo, Central Coast, Puntarenas

The biggest regret I have on this trip was not spending more time in Matapalo. We were only there for three days of which I spent a lot of time in the water. I didn’t know much about this wave and the day we got there it was low tide, big, and unsurfable. As the tide rose, the waves cleaned up and peeled nicely left or right. While we were there it was high tide in the morning and evening so I could put a few hours in at dawn when it was empty and glassy and then surf again at sunset. Where we stayed I could check the surf from my window with out even getting out of bed. Kate came out to take pictures one morning and ended up awestruck by the humpback whales that were swimming behind me.

Playa Matapalo

Playa Matapalo

Playa Guiones, Nosara, Guanacaste

Guiones is where we spent most of our time this trip. We were there for about a month and it was great. It is easily my favourite wave from our whole trip. It is a huge beach break that seems to pick up a lot of swell. Two to three feet of swell there translates into decent waves whereas elsewhere it would seem small. It was also the most consistent wave of the trip. It seemed like it worked on any tide and when it got big it held up okay and would not wall up too much. I had some of my biggest drops there and it felt pretty good.

We were there for most of March and it almost always blew off shore in the mornings then switched to on-shore mid morning around 9:30 to 11:00. By about 4:30ish it usually started dying down and it would be good for an evening session. It was quite busy in the mornings and evenings and usually empty in the afternoons when it was on-shore. It was often crowded, but manageable; it seemed like you could always find some space and get plenty of waves.

Playa Guiones, Nosara- North End

Playa Guiones, Nosara- North End

So those are the spots I spent time at. We hit a bunch of other beaches and towns, but usually only for a few days. As for wild life, I saw a ton of fish, a humpback whale, a shark, a bunch of flying sting rays, two eagle rays, and I nearly paddled into a six foot croc.

Again huge thanks to my lovely wife Kate for letting me surf so much this trip.


Black Turtle Tour in Costa Rica

I wanted to do something special with my Mom while she was here over Christmas, and after a little bit of investigating decided that a turtle tour would be perfect. I also thought it would be fabulous to have her tell you all about it! So without further ado…here is my mom!

(PS: She would like it known that she wanted this blog post to be called “Moonlight Magic”)


There we were, my daughter & I perched on a curb waiting for a shuttle to take us to see Black Turtles, otherwise known as Pacific Green Turtles, on a remote beach, in the dark…maybe. Well it was going to be an adventure to be sure. Bring it on.

We drove out of the town of Tamarindo where we are staying, into increasingly more sparsely populated  areas down super dusty roads that brought back memories of trips down farm roads on the prairies in the dry heat of the summer. Best not to be following too close behind any dust kickers ahead. Also good not to be watching the condition of the road ahead and the unpredictability of where it might be headed. Looking out the side windows exposed a glimpse of everyday family life as we drove past houses that are completely exposed to the outdoors, families sitting around fires, on porch stoops lit by Christmas trees just outside the front door, neighbours meeting in common spaces and Christmas lights of every colour, some flashing, some steady, some random scattered, but all delightfully festive. A bonus Chrismas light tour.

The beach that we finally arrived at was one of four. Our guide informed us that we were going to go to the next beach over which involved an amazing hike across a mountain trail in the dark. It was a single file hike on a narrow path on the edge of a slope of unknown height…yes it was very, very dark. We were advised to keep the light of our small flashlights on the path and not ‘into the hole’…translation…don’t look over the edge. It was a great trek rising higher and higher, concentrating on not tripping over the number of obstacles in the way and hearing the sound of pounding surf recede into the distance and get replaced by the sometimes deafening sound of the jungle.

We finally got to the next beach and all lights were extinguished to disturb the turtles as little as possible. As our eyes got accustomed to the moonlight, the stars began to flood the skies and the white foam of the crashing waves became more and more dramatic. It was moonlight magic.

We then hiked down the beach, to where a large turtle had dug herself into a huge hole in the sand and then dug a second hole into which she had begun laying her eggs. We watched as she lay some eggs then retreated a distance away to let her finish while our guide gave us more information about what is known and what is unknown about these particular turtles. We then went back to watch her cover her eggs before we left so that she wouldn’t see us when she turned around to head back to the ocean. I can’t even begin to describe how humbling it is to be able to witness such an event. An experience that absolutely makes me know why we refer to the ‘wonders of nature’.

Thanks Kate. You are my wonder of nature…xoxoxooooo to infinity and back.

Exploring Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Have you ever noticed that the length of a beach can be deceiving?

It looks like you are so close to the end of it, but it somehow magically keep going.

Well we certainly noticed that during our adventure to the other side of Playa Grande! (had we clued in to the name, we might have known what we were getting in  to!)

Playa Grande is right next to Playa Tamarindo, just on the other side of an estuary. Shaun heads there most mornings, because it’s often where the good surf is. During our last trip, we even stayed there for a week. Our goal was to not only get to Playa Grande, but hike all the way to the other side of the beach.

That is where we were heading!

That is where we were heading!

So, we packed up Titty Tonka with water and some energy bars, and headed off. First things first, get to the estuary, and find a boat to take us across.

There they are!

There they are!

For 500 Colones, or 1 dollar each they’ll take you across. When Shaun surfs in Grande, he usually just paddles over on his board. Sometimes when the tide is right you can wade across as well. But with a high tide, a backpack and no board, the boats were our only option.

Boat rides are fun!

Boat rides are fun, so are photobombs!

We got to the other side and started our trek.

The view from the Grande side of the estuary

The view from the Grande side of the estuary

The first thing I wanted to see was the house we stayed in last time we were here. Shaun had just proposed to me, the week prior, so I spent the majority of my time there reading Costa Rican bridal magazines!

There it is nestled in the trees, didn't want to go to paparazzi on the people staying there!

There it is nestled in the trees, didn’t want to go to paparazzi on the people staying there!

So then we walked…and walked…and walked. I’m not gonna lie, I may have been afflicted with a little bit of hot hanger mid way through. Despite my grumps, 6.5 km later, we got to the other end.

That's where we came from!

That’s where we came from!

We found a log to sit down on to take a much deserved rest. Shaun drank his warm beer while I ate my energy bar and played around with the panorama settings on my phone.

Looks shorter in panoramavision!

Looks shorter in panoramavision!

took this one while standing in the ocean!

took this one while standing in the ocean!

So, after quenching our thirst, resolving the hangry’s and reapplying suncreen, we started on the long trek back. Lucky for us we had a bit of cloud cover and a breeze on the way back so it wasn’t quite so hot. We made it back to the hostel safe and sound. Needless to say, we both slept very well that night!

Have you ever embarked on a journey that ended up as way more of an adventure then you thought?

Pura Vida!