Oh, the good ole days. When you could find a cabina with a fan and mosquito net for $10 right on the beach, get $1 Pilsens, and $3 casados with the freshest fish. Now those places have been replaced by hotels charging over $200/night with loud a/c blasting artificial air all night, $7 craft IPA brews, and $30 a plate for a filet of yesterday’s catch.
Rather than argue which route is better, budget versus luxury, I’ll give two examples of each—perfect surf trips (this would be experienced surfers).
Fly to San Jose, since with more flights the airfare is cheaper. Bring your surfboard as there is only one surf shop in Pavones—Sea Kings—and their board selection is limited. Take the bus to Pavones and camp right on the point (find the bus schedule at centrocoasting.com). The paddle out is right on the sand to the south and you can sit out front of your tent and stare at perfect lefts coming through all day. Walk up to the supermarkets in town to get your food and stop by the fisherman’s camp to see what fish they caught. Buy some 6-liter bottles of water as you will need a lot of water to drink. Remember the mosquito repellent and the rain tarp.
Fly to San Jose and then take a local flight to Puerto Jimenez. Bring your shortboards but keep the board back under 7 feet for the smaller plane restrictions. Then pick up the Prado rental and drive to Encanta La Vida resort or your own private villa. Drive or walk between Cabo Matapalo and Pan Dulce, surfing whichever spot is working best depending on the swell direction and tide. Enjoy your meals by the pool, prepared by the restaurant or your own private chef.
Fly to Liberia if you find a deal, and take a shared shuttle ride to Tamarindo for $20. Stay at La Oveja Negra hostel for $12 pp per night and share a space with up to 7 new friends, but at least you have hot water and a safe place to stash your supplies. Go to the supermarket to stock up on food and use their kitchen for cooking. Surf low tide at the river mouth, high tide in front of the Diria, or walk to Playa Grande or Playa Langosta for some more size. Or pitch in with your new friends on a car rental and head to Avellanas, Negra, or Marbella to catch some waves, leaving at 4:30 a.m. so you get it before the masses. Take the bus back to the airport.
Fly to Liberia and have your private transport drive you straight to Playa Flamingo. Hop on board the Serendipity, a 50’ sailing yacht with four cabins and cruise up to Ollie’s Point. Spend the next six days getting Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s all to yourself for the first two hours of sunlight and the last two hours after the last visiting boat has left. Remember Ollie’s for lower tides and Witch’s for higher tides. Explore the other mysto-surf spots that go unridden for most of the year.
And let’s not leave out the Caribbean side. You can take a bus to get to Puerto Viejo, stay at a hostel in front of Salsa Brava and get barreled all day. Or fly to Limon, take a premium SUV up to your beachfront castle and then charter boats to get you to Isla Uvita if you like left reef breaks, or Punta Uva if rights are more your style. Anything is possible in Costa Rica. You can surf on a budget or go all out in luxury, and still catch incredible waves either way. Vamos!