Surf Camp in Costa Rica

Recently I decided to do a solo trip to an all women surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica with Pura Vida Adventures.  After I booked the trip, I was apprehensive to say the least.  Once I arrived, my apprehension faded fairly quickly and now that I’m back home, I wish I could go back.  Read on!

Day 1:

Getting to the camp was an all day event.  It is on the southwest corner of the peninsula on the west side of Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula.  The difficulty is part of its appeal though because it keeps the area from being overrun with tourists.  I flew out of Newark (not my favorite, but direct flight and best price for this trip) at 7:30AM.  I arrived at the San Jose airport in Costa Rica a little before noon, went through customs, and then back through security to catch my Nature Air flight to Tambor.  There are two airlines that have flights within Costa Rica – Nature Air and Sansa Air.  Nature Air had a slightly better safety record, so I went with Nature Air.

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This was the plane…I was terrified.  Luckily the flight to Tambor was only 25 minutes.  It is a 6 hour drive with awful pothole-filled roads, ferry rides, and fording rivers (we had taken a trip to the area a few years back) – so the flight was a better option.  At least the view out the window (below) was great.

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I arrived at the Tambor Airport where there was a taxi waiting for me to take me to the Hotel Tropico Latino in Santa Teresa where the surf camp was held.  A 45 minute drive later over gravel roads and I arrived at the Hotel Tropico Latino where I was greeted by the
“camp hostess”.  The camp hostess’ job was quite literally to be a hostess for the camp – she organized breakfasts and lunches, as well some of the dinners and let us know when surf lessons and yoga were to take place.

I opted to do the Private Accommodation with a shared bathroom.  I had my own bedroom and there was another bedroom on the other side of the wall and we shared a large bathroom.  My suitemate and was wonderful (as were all of the women – more on that later).  By the time I dropped my stuff and had a quick tour and a chat with Sara (camp hostess) about what to expect for the week, it was 4pm.  Dinner was at 7pm but before dinner we were all meeting at the yoga pavilion to meet our surf instructors (and each other).

Dinner at the hotel that evening was a great way to start the week – the food was good and it was nice to be able to get to know everyone on this adventure.  After dinner, it was early to bed because yoga the next morning was bright and early.

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Day 2:

Morning yoga on the first day of “camp” was at 7am.  As a quick side note, yoga really wasn’t my thing – I thought I’d go to one or two of the yoga classes and skip the rest if I didn’t like it. I had to force myself to go to this early session, but afterwards I was glad I did.  The yoga instructor was incredible.  She was also a surfer and every day knew exactly what we needed to stretch our surf weary muscles.  After a week of yoga with this instructor, I decided that I would give yoga another try once I got back to New York (I’ll keep you posted on how that one goes…).

After early morning yoga, we had breakfast at 8am.  Breakfast was at the hotel every morning and included fresh local fruit, yogurt, and some sort of starch and protein (eggs, rice, beans, breakfast burritos, etc).  Always with fresh coffee and a new fresh juice (papaya, watermelon, mango, some combination thereof).  While at breakfast, Sara, the camp hostess briefed us on the day.  We were to meet at the surf board garage at 9:30 and then off to our first surf lesson.

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We met at the surf garage and helped load the surf boards onto the roof of the yellow van.  two of the instructors drove the van (with boards) down to the surf break and the rest of us walked down the beach (a 5-10 minute walk).  We got to the surf break and helped unload the surf boards.  The instructors also brought a big water cooler, snacks, sunscreen, zinc and a fairly extensive first aid kit.  We set up in the shade and had a dry land lesson on the basics.  The instructors were phenomenal.  Helen – the lead instructor – knows more about surfing than anyone else I have encountered and she was a wonderful teacher.  After practicing paddling and popping up on the sand, we were ready to go.  The first day, those of us who were beginners (most of us) were put on slightly larger boards.  We were split up into groups – 2 students to one instructor.  Each instructor had a different style of teaching and emphasized different things.  Luckily, through the week, we were able to work with all of them in our small groups.  We got out and our instructor helped us choose a wave.  At first, she pushed us off and we just needed to pop up (which is harder than it sounds).

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My first wave, I got halfway up and fell.  My second wave I stood up for a minute and fell.  My third wave, I rode all the way to shore.  While I was riding my third wave looking at the beach, three wild horses ran down the beach and I thought that it couldn’t get much better than this (yes that actually happened – just like that.  It was one of those absurdly perfect moments).  By the end of the day, we were beginning to paddle more while our instructors pushed us off less and less.  We were encouraged to take breaks whenever we needed to and drink plenty of water.  I stopped halfway through the lesson to get water and reapply sunscreen.

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Lunch was at the hotel – I had something with shrimp, quinoa and fresh vegetables.  It was delicious.

That afternoon I had my massage.  It was wonderful after a tough first day of surfing and to make it even more relaxing, the massage cabana was near the beach so the entire time I could hear the waves crashing.  Dinner that night was at Habaneros – a restaurant on the beach.  The fresh seafood was wonderful.  By 9pm we were all exhausted from a day of surfing and being outside and we had an early morning surf session scheduled for the next day.

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Days 3-6

Honestly, a day by day run down wouldn’t be particularly interesting.  Suffice it to say the next four days were filled with amazing yoga sessions that were always just right to stretch our sore muscles, great surf lessons with women cheering each other on and good food.  Each day we improved and by the end of the week we were paddling out on our own and surfing more difficult waves.

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A few highlights:

  • Surfing different beaches.  The advantage of having the van was that we were able to drive to where the surf was the best for our level (and a few truly beautiful beaches).
  • Time spent in the hammock reading.
  • Getting to know the fabulous group of awesome women who came on this surf adventure.
  • Paddle school – we went to a protected cove to work on our paddling and other surf maneuvers.
  • The sunsets.
  • Surf camp awards on the last night! (I won the energizer bunny award for always being ready to go back in the water and try again!)

I can’t wait to surf again.  The worst part of the week was leaving.  If you ever get a chance, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

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