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Big Trip: Costa Rica

horse Sense: Playa Esterillos Este

Horse Sense: Playa Esterillos Este. Photo: Chad Bassett

Although it cannot lay claim to the biggest waves on the planet, Cost Rica does promise consistent breaks year round. For surfing purposes, you can break the country up into 4 regions—the Pacific North, Pacific Central, Pacific South (Osa Peninsula) and the Carribbean (West Side). Renting a car is probably the most efficient way to explore the place because it allows you total independence. You can choose a quaint surf town as your home base, explore nearby breaks for a few days and then move on (or not) when you’re ready. Renting a 4WD vehicle will run you anywhere from $300-600 per week so it definitely adds to the cost of a trip, but it gives you flexibility that is key when while pursuing sick waves.

Chase the Surf

During the dry season (December to April), perfect wind and swell directions combine to create ideal waves along the Northern Pacific Coast. For a more remote experience, camping and all, head to the breathtaking Santa Rosa National Park and ride one of the best breaks in the country at Playa Naranjo. Further down coast, Tamarindo, an energetic town full of hotels and restaurtants is a popular basecamp with the surf-saavy crowd because it provides great access to popular breaks along the length of the coast, including Playa Negra and Playa Grande and well-known reefs like Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point. And still further south, Samara offers an alternative to crowded beach towns. This laidback village offers the best of both worlds—a great place for beginners to learn and secret spots accessible only by 4X4 or boat.

Puerto Viejo, the surf hub of the west side, is home to “La Salsa Brava” a huge tubular wave that begins in deep water and curls over a shallow reef to form Costa Rica’s biggest break. There’s tons of other great surfing in this region so be sure to check out Playa Bonita, Isla Uvita and Manzanillo for some powerful, fun, fast rides.

Never surfed before? Take a lesson or attend a surf camp. Witch’s Rock Surf Camp offers a range of classes for total newbies to almost-pros. They also offer surf tours if you want a local guide to show you the best spots to ride.

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