Having grown up surfing the frigid and sharky waters of Oregon, I have a special fondness for the warm waters and sandy beaches of Costa Rica. My first trip in the spring of 2005 planted the seed for what has become a profound affection for the country’s diversity of surf, culture, and natural beauty. Since that first trip, I have gone on to explore and surf in Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, and Mexico, but I always find myself coming back to Costa Rica. Why? Because no other Central American country can offer what Costa Rica delivers to surfers and adventurers year after year.
QUANTITY and QUALITY
As far as surfing, there’s no other Central American country that can boast the sheer number of world-class waves. Ollie’s Point, Witch’s Rock, Playa Hermosa, Pavones, Matapalo.. and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg (there’s a whole other coast too, remember). Costa Rica has the best infrastructure in all of Central America and as a result, surf spots are relatively easy to get to. That’s not to say that you can’t get lost and find yourself free from the masses if you want to, but rather that all of Costa Rica is yours to enjoy once you’re there, assuming you can pull yourself away from one place long enough to see another.
The list of potential dangers can be somewhat long and alarming with certain Central American surf destinations. There’s the violent crime you’ve read about in El Salvador and the political instability rampant in the histories of Nicaragua and Guatemala (which often lends itself to anti-american sentiment). What’s remarkable though, is that you don’t find any of that in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a relatively non-violent history free of civil war and dictatorship, and this peacefulness can truly be felt when you’re traveling through the country, surfing new breaks, and meeting new people. The people of any country are often a reflection of the state the country is in and in the case of Costa Rica, you can ask anyone, it’s Pura Vida!
The jungle, the mountains, the cloudforests, a carribean side rife with culture, world renown bio-diversity…. there are so many treasures packed into Costa Rica’s 20,000 square miles it’s mind boggling. Cruising through Costa Rica you will not be faced with the extreme poverty, oppression, and third world economics of neighboring states, but rather with a country that has embraced it’s role as a tourist destination and profited tremendously as a result.
Ticos are proud people who love their country and seem to genuienly love sharing it with visitors. This might be the best part too. Because whether it’s the soda (cafe) outside of San Jose that welcomes you for lunch on your way to the local line-up at a given surf spot in Guanacaste, or the actual line-up itself, you’re likely going to find a handful of Ticos wherever you go that are as interested in you and where you come from as you are interested in enjoying and exploring their home.
Caleb McMahan currently resides in Honolulu, Hawaii where he is employed as a biologist for National Marine Fisheries Service. When not saving protected species on the high seas of the Western Pacific he enjoys pursuing his passions which include surfing, skateboarding, nature documentary film making, and last but not least Central American surf exploration.