Costa Rica Surf Trip – Jungle Roads, Waterfalls, and Torrential Rain

“Real long shot here but any interest in a Costa Rica surf trip 5/23-5/30’ish? Friend is prob backing out last minute.”

“Man that sounds fun. Let me see if I can move some stuff around to make this work. I’ll give you a more solid answer by tomorrow night.”

“…We’re ON.”

Sometimes the best trips are the ones with the least planning. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, the least planning done by ME. That’s exactly how this Costa Rica surf trip came together. I grabbed a ticket less than a week before, with very little idea of what I was getting myself into, although my buddy Nick had done a phenomenal job putting all the logistics  together. Now two months down the road, I’m thinking of it as one of the best impulse decisions I’ve ever made.

Flight from Atlanta to San Jose.

The trip started with a redeye from Portland to Atlanta, and I was very grateful to have packed one Range bar in my carry on. Having the world’s best high calorie meal bar on hand made the headache of international travel a bit easier, or at least tastier. After a quick Starbucks pitstop in Atlanta, I hopped on a flight into San Jose, and then endured a 2hr customs line, before finagling my way through the public bus system with elementary level Spanish.

Crossing the Gulf of Nicoya via water taxi.

I arrived in the coastal town of Jaco at about 8:00PM, ~24 hours after I left PDX. It was raining, and per my conversation on the bus (“hace lluvia toda dia?”, “si, en la manana y a la tarde”), rain was going to be a part of my trip. Turns out they weren’t kidding about the WET season. After checking into a hostel, I took the opportunity to explore the town a bit while I waited for Nick to arrive. We called it a night relatively early, as we had a water fairy to catch the next morning.

First session of the day, in front of our bungalow.

We caught our ferry the next morning. Two hours later we had crossed the Gulf of Nicoya and were taking a shuttle for the final leg of our journey, arriving in Santa Teresa around 1:00. Our bungalow was perfect for the trip, and most importantly, had air conditioning. It must have been 85 degrees and 90% humidity, and our PNW bodies were working hard to keep up.

Crossing a small river on a jungle road.

Each day of the trip was unique, but had some similarities. We’d wake up, and usually I’d have a Range bar and as much water as I could down for breakfast. Having meal replacement bars on the trip was a game changer as it got me out the door super quick each morning. After the quick breakfast, we’d get a surf session in right out front of our bungalow. The surf was relatively large for most of our trip, and more punchy than I’m accustomed to in Oregon. It was surprising just how much power each wave packed, and I frequently found myself pinned to the sand when I got caught inside.

Our favorite surf break, my first time surfing a reef break.

After our morning surf session, we’d usually go find coffee in town, and a snack not long after that. One place in particular had some phenomenal poke bowls. We’d typically pass another hour or two reading, or scoping the surf conditions. In the early afternoon we’d get our boards back in the water within walking distance, or by throwing them on some quads and driving ~15 minutes to explore new breaks.

View on the water.

After thoroughly exhausting ourselves on the second session, we’d grab dinner at a local restaurant, crush some Imperial cervezas, maybe polish off a bit of tequila, and call it a day. Typically it would also start raining HARD around this time, which made it pretty natural to throw in the towel. It was an extremely simple lifestyle, and a refreshing departure from the daily routine of zoom calls that I had left at home. Additionally, the surf, although a bit above my pay-grade, was pushing me to become much more confident very quickly.

Santa Teresa traffic. Anything goes.

Throughout the trip Nick was scoring some phenomenal rides, and every so often I’d get lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. By the end of the trip my paddling skills had progressed significantly, my confidence had soared, and I was totally hooked on the simple surfing lifestyle. This may have been my first time exploring Costa Rica with a board in hand, but it will certainly not be my last. Pura Vida.

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