Costa Rica
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It was merely a matter of time before Costa Rica would make a splash on the surfing scene. Its waves have helped the tropical country gain a reputation as one of the top surfing destinations in the world, or to use a different name “the Hawaii of Latin-American surfing”. The country has experienced an increase in travelers due to its focus on ecotourism and by promoting a lifestyle as green as the land itself, known as Pura Vida (Pure Life). The small country is located on the Central American isthmus, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea on the east. Both sides offer equally idyllic settings for surfing with access to thousands of breaks and 700 miles of sandy coastline. The Pacific side provides surfers with rivermouth breaks and the Caribbean experiences reef breaks. In true surfing spirits, there are surf and gear shops, rental shops, bars, restaurants and hotels that help create the appropriate chill vibes and laid-back atmosphere along the coasts.

The water is constantly warm all year-round, yet is never too overcrowded enough to make you miss the perfect set. Although there aren't monster waves to conquer, there are plenty of good-sized waves that approach you consistently. This setting gives beginners an excellent opportunity to start learning how to surf and for those more experienced riders, a chance to perfect their techniques. Most tour companies offer all experience levels surf packages that can take you to any one of the great spots around Costa Rica.

There are four main surf spots: North Pacific, Central Pacific, South Pacific and the Caribbean.

When it comes to the North Pacific region, the best season to surf it is between November and March. One of the destinations to go in the area is Ollie's Point, which is only accessible by renting a boat in Playa del Coco, and is known for it's fast hollow right point break. Surfing Witch's Rock in Playa Naranjo is on the top of most surfer's lists with the desire to catch a wave in Costa Rica. Like most spots, catching the high tide is better than the low. You can drive and camp to the area, or if you have a group of fellow wave-riders, renting a boat is also an option. Other popular surf spots include Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Langosta, Avellanas, Playa Negra (can become crowded due the consistently powerful and playful waves), Nosara and Mal Pais.

The Central Pacific region offers up a hefty variety of waves for surfers between April and November. Boca Barranca can satisfy short or long-boarders with its wave that is considered the second-longest in the country. It breaks right in front of a rivermouth and is best to catch early morning (easily accessible) as it is known to attract a crowd. Beginners will enjoy tackling the left and right peaks at Jaco Beach, which is only a two-hour drive from the capital of San Jose. Travelers can hop off the airplane and jump onto a surfboard in the same day. Other notable wave-catching spots are Puerto Caldera, Playa Tivives/Valor, Playa Herradura, Playa Escondida, Roca Loca, Hermosa, Estrellos and Boca Damas.

In the South Pacific region, it can be a bit difficult to find what you are looking for but once you do, it's definitely worth the catch, especially between April and November. In Pavones, the longest-wave can provide a ¾ mile ride on blue waters. However, if you have time to chill and wait, this is a good spot, otherwise it is not the most consistent area. For a simple fun day of hitting waves, Playa Dominical is sure not to dissapoint those who show up to catch the peaks and breaks that are good for any skill level. If it gets a bit crowded, which doesn't tend to happen since there is enough coast to spread out, take a break to hike to the Nauyaca or Pozo Azul waterfalls that are nearby. Other wave-catching spots are Quepos, Playa El Rey, Drake's Bay, Cabo Matapalo and Punta Banco.

On the eastern side, the Caribbean Region has a tropical atmosphere with clear, turquoise waters. Experienced surfers can find the biggest waves in Costa Rica during a swell in the Puerto Viejo (Salsa Brava) area. Be careful as it is only accessible by paddling through a reef. The Westfalia spot is known for its year-round consistency of left and right beachbreaks. Other surfing destinations in the area include Manzanillo, Cahuita, Isla Uvita, Playa Bonita, Portete and the North Caribbean Coast.

By Allison Carlton

I am. a traveling bard. a word warrior. who is. pursuing a search. a mission. an adventure. a quest. a voyage. a journey....

19 Oct 2010

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