If you’ve been coming down to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp since the beginning, or just started over the last few years, you know that we’re constantly evolving to keep our little piece of paradise known as the best surf camp on the planet! Being able to go through all of the old photos and taking a trip down memory lane has been so significant considering the current state of the world that has affected each and every one of us in it’s own way. This place sure has changed over the years but one thing that holds true, the community, owners, staff are the heart of the camp. We wish we could share all of our photos, but we had to pick the most significant ones that mark the incredible evolution of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp! For everyone who’s been part of the journey, Gracias & Pura Vida!
Joe had a dream… After seeing the perfect, uncrowded waves of Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point in Endless Summer 2 in the early 90’s, Joe and his father PK, bought and drove this school bus from San Diego to Costa Rica with 10 others adventurers. His now wife, Holly, being one of them.
Joe and PK quickly found this little six-bedroom beach shack in Playas del Coco and rented out four of the rooms to guests. They purchased a panga boat and ran daily trips to Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s point. They quickly met some key locals, like Rastin, Ricardo. As for the guests who wanted to learn to surf, Joe quickly learned about the perfect beginner waves in Tamarindo, and so the next chapter began…
In October 2001, Joe, PK and Holly, found the perfect beach house in Tamarindo where they opened a small restaurant and housed guests and staff who wanted to surf. Rustic is not even the right description of how rustic your experience truly was. Without the Liberia Airport, our guests could only fly into San Jose and either drive here themselves, or catch a puddle-jumper flight into the tiny Tamarindo airport which was only a gravel runway, where we would pick them up. Stall-outs, and brake failures were very common in the beginning. One time, our now reservation / sales office manager Shawna broke through the bamboo wall and crashed right into the restaurant after picking up our freshly arrived guests. Talk about door to door service. Listen as Shawna recounts the experience in the Get Out & Surf Podcast #44
Even back then, our vision was the same; to share the love of surfing! Seems the notion has really caught on. Here is Holly (owner) spreading the stoke to one of our beginner students in Tamarindo in the early 2000’s.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the 20 years of operation is our high-energy Friday night graduation! After a week of surf lessons and tours, we always congratulate and commemorate the week with an official graduation ceremony. And here is Niki, our energetic Englishman (now camp manager) back in his younger days. His role has slightly changed now, but his overflowing positive energy has not 😉
In 2003 we finally made the leap to start constructing our own hotel rooms. The goal was to create comfortable beachfront rooms with access to the best waves in town! Here are Joe & Holly admiring their Sunset Downstairs Room. Anyone stayed in room #1 or #2 before? Finishing off 12 rooms here and we still didn’t have enough space for all our guests! A few years later, we added on 6 more rooms for our current total of 18.
Our famous board cage has moved numerous times, always trying to find the most convenient spot for our clients to “grab and go.” What hasn’t changed is the man that runs it all, known universally as “Maxi Waxi.” Maxi has been with the camp since 2003 and is almost a permanent fixture here and definitely family. We just love him!
Maxi Waxi ~ King of the Board Cage ~
The front entrance has taken on many looks, but our guests always know where to find us. Just look for the “Nachos As Big As Your Ass” sign. Here is the front view of the camp and the entrance to Eat at Joe’s after the completion of our 18 rooms. The basic outside layout has not changed much since then.
Welcome to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp! Do you recognize our front desk and surf shop? This is where most of our guests start their vacation by checking in and taking their first seminar, the WRSC Orientation. The front desk is the true control center for the surf camp. With an unbeatable crew behind the desk, they are able to help you with just about anything. From lesson scheduling, to airport transportation, to booking adventure tours, the front desk is here to help!
And here he is, the legend who put Tamarindo on the map, Robert August. Since Robert starred in The Endless Summer 2 in 1994, Tamarindo has been a surfer’s mecca ever since. Robert joined the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp team in 2010 so he could continue spreading the love of surfing and meet people from all over the world. To this day, you can find Robert August shaping boards, giving seminars, and cracking jokes with all the camp guests. One of our most popular seminars is our Tuesday night showing of the original, The Endless Summer, in Eat at Joe’s. Robert is mic’d up and happy to take your question throughout the film.
In honor of the original bus, we created this outside display that captured the old-school essence of our business. Hotel, Restaurant, Surf Shop, Surf Camp, Lessons, Tours.. What else could you want? Maybe a Micro-brewery 🙂 Notice the “Nachos as Big as your Ass” still sends a bold message to the outside traffic.
Robert August and Joe Walsh doing the History of Surf seminar back when we had no seminar room. No Power-Point needed, Robert and Joe work as a great team when it comes to “off the cuff” presentation. This is the longest Joe’s hair has ever been for the record..
Volcano Brewing Company opens in Tamarindo in 2013! Joe’s dream of his very own micro-brewery on-site has come true. VBC is the only brewery in Tamarindo and serves up 4 delicious beers: Gato Malo Dark Ale, Witch’s Rock Pale Ale, our IPA, and our Magdalena Red Ale. So good that you’ll want to sample more than just one. These beers are exclusively sold at Eat at Joe’s, El Vaquero, the beachfront VBC tasting room, and the VBC warehouse up on the Tamarindo hill.
Who loves El Vaquero!? This rancho-style bar was opened back in 2012 and is the BEST sunset hangout in Tamarindo. Tasty food, Micro beers, and perfect waves right out front. Not to mention the live music on the weekends! This is Witch’s Rock’s second official restaurant and offers a tasty menu and the friendliest staff in town. Straight in from the waves and right into a cerveza.
The Friday graduation is still everyone’s favorite end-of-the-week celebration. We’ve now stepped things up a bit from Niki shouting from atop a plastic chair. All graduates from our camp now receive an one-of-a-kind WRSC diploma and are ordained surfers” from this moment on. The graduation ceremony is held in Eat at Joe’s where everyone is shown a nostalgic video recap of their unforgettable week on the big screen.
The surf camp and hotel have come a long way in the past 20 years. Here is a typical evening where guests and locals alike eat at Joe’s where they can enjoy a full ocean view and unbeatable service to wind down their “tough” day in paradise.
Witch’s Rock Surf Camp from a bird’s eye view. The bird is probably looking to make a swift landing on the Penthouse’s rooftop balcony. Or maybe he’s just waiting for the band at Vaquero. Either way, he picked the right place to hang out.
“Stay here, surf there” With the best location in town, why would you stay anywhere else? Joe and Holly’s dream has come an incredibly long way from their school bus days. Now with 18 rooms at Witch’s Rock and 30 rooms at our sister resort, Pueblo Dorado Surf Hotel, we can find space for you any time of the year.
Welcome to the family, sis! After years of being sold out at the original site, we decided to add Pueblo Dorado Surf Hotel to our family. Only 4 minutes walking down the road, the Pueblo Dorado has 30 more rooms for our guests and hosts a very similar experience. If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation with your own head space and the ability to social only when you want to, Pueblo Dorado is the best of both worlds. BTW, it’s perfect for last minute surf trips.
Adding to the overall convenience factor, we opened Dawn Patrol Coffee and Bakery to appease all the early birds. If you have an early morning surf tour or you’re a sunrise beach walker, a banana bread and artisan coffee will satisfy your soul. Our menu features authentic Costa Rican coffee, desserts, pastries, deli sandwiches, locally produced chocolate bars, and much more.
The Get Out & Surf Podcast takes off in January 2019. Everyone and their mother is now in the podcast game, so why not us? We’ve had the opportunity to go deep with fascinating guests like Robert August, Hawaiian charger Pancho Sullivan, Grant McCarthy from American Ninja Warrior, crocodile attack survivor, Jon Becker, star surf instructor, Pako Vega, and many more. Joe, Niki, and Pat have made 50 episodes and they’re guaranteed to entertain.
August 2019, Volcano Brewing Company opens up the production warehouse and bar on the hill in Tamarindo. This is where we make our delicious IPA, Witch’s Rock Pale Ale, Magdalena, and of course, our famous Gato Malo Nutbrown Ale. The VBC warehouse has large concrete floors with ping pong tables, cornhole, a kids’ play area, and an 18-foot wide mini ramp for skateboarding. It’s perfect for a rainy afternoon in green season or a mid-day relinquishment from the heat. We also serve mouth-watering burgers and appetizers to enjoy alongside your craft brew.
By popular demand, we started our All Women Surf Retreats with Andrea Diaz back in 2019. Andrea Diaz was one of the pioneering female surfers in Latin America in the 1990′. She was crowned as the Women’s National Champion in 1999 and is known as a legendary Costa Rican surfer as well as an amazing ambassador for the sport. We did a full podcast with Andrea if you’d like to get inside her world. The women’s surf retreat is ideal for any woman who is a little hesitant to travel and want to be comforted in a supportive female group from start to finish. We are currently holding 1 female surf retreat week per month so let us know what week works for you and we’ll do the rest.
The Witch’s Rock Demo Shop with premium high performance boards was the final missing piece to our puzzle. With over 50 brand new boards in our quiver, you’ll now have an unparalleled selection of Firewires, Sharpeyes, Al Merrik, Slater Designs, and more. These boards are available to all our surf program guests and our expert instructors will dial you in. Now there is really no need to bring your board from home. Just another way Witch’s Rock Surf Camp alleviates the stress from your vacation.
Located right next to the new surfboard demo shop, we’ve opened up the Tamarindo Mini-Super. No need to get into a taxi and guess which market has the lowest prices or best options, we’ve got you covered with all the essentials less than 50 meters from your room. You’ll find anything and everything from fresh produce, to canned goods, to gallons of filtered water, to bread, milk, beer, soda, hygiene products, you name it, we’ve got it.
This is our least favorite part… The COVID-19 days. Costa Rica recognized its first case on March 6, 2020 and international flights were stopped on March 19th. Witch’s Rock Surf Camp had no choice but to halt operations starting on March 25th for the foreseeable future. As I’m writing this, we are currently in the midst of this pandemic and Costa Rica has implemented strict regulation to flatten the curve. We know this is just a small part of our history and will be back in full swing shortly. We can’t wait for all our guests to get back down here so we can add more positive chapters to this blog 🙂
Want to be part of our next chapter? Help us by booking your future stay! We want all of our family members back to us ASAP! Contact us at 1-888-318-7873 to get started.