Greg GordonSurf CR

My First Surf Trip to Costa Rica

Surf CR logoIt has been 26 years since I first visited Costa Rica. I had been surfing in Cocoa Beach, Florida and was ready to take on some larger swells. I flew down with my friend Ron and we rented an SUV with U-haul Car Rental (the name sounded respectable). Our first stop was the Caribbean coast.
We made it to Puerto Viejo and ran into Johnny Futch who had been an expat in Costa Rica for many years. He showed us how to get out at Salsa Brava and helped us find a boat to Isla Uvita. Hurricane Cesar just passed through and the Caribbean Sea was filled with small branches and wrack from the storm. We were nervous about the boat driver as he had two sea turtles tied upside down in his shed and he dropped us off in the middle of nowhere with giant tankers passing by. The waves were way bigger than I had ever surfed and we were lucky to make it back alive, as the captain used the swell to ride right over the shallow reef back to shore.

Our next stop was back to San Jose and we drove up to the top of Volcan Irazu. It was so cold at the summit that I had on every piece of clothing I brought for the trip. And on the way down our rental skidded off the slippery road and we almost tumbled 7000 feet in to a ravine. One small tree saved us from certain death, and within minutes there were a dozen locals and two tractors that showed up to pull us back on to the road. Luckily we only had two small dents in the vehicle, but those dents ended up costing us $1,100 in damages (U-haul turned out to be a poor choice of rental company – and ultimately led me to becoming a travel advisor – to help others avoid poor rental car decisions).

From Irazu we drove to La Fortuna and we ran into a group of Ecology students from a college near our hometown. Since Ron was friends with some of them, we partied with the group while watching the Arenal Volcano spill lava down its sides, lighting up a patch of previously untouched forest like matchsticks. It turned out we would see this group again in Manuel Antonio.
After a few nights in La Fortuna, we drove down to Dominical, but due to the poor condition of the coastal highway at the time it took forever to get there. The waves were giant and stormy, and we caught it good only one morning when the winds and tide were just right. We had heard that the beaches were more protected up by Manuel Antonio so we drove back up the bumpy coastal road, crossing dozens of bridges made of nothing more than old iron railroad ties and planks of wood.
We stayed at a cabina located close to the surf break at Playitas. It had been raining frequently and the road down to the beach was often washed out so we ended up walking to the surf. Surprisingly we ran into the same group of students from Florida and ended up partying with them again. I remember skinny dipping at night with one woman who had a hurt leg, and thinking I may drown since I was trying to help her with chest high waves breaking over us. The guaro shots and Imperials I had drunk did not help either.
Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime and in those moments, I fell in love with Costa Rica – its natural beauty, amazing waves, and friendly locals. I knew that I wanted to move there and so planned to take a year’s leave of absence from teaching. I would learn Spanish, surf every day, and immerse myself in the culture, trying to find a way to stay as long as possible. But that is a story for another day.

Send me a note and I will tell you three of my favorite places to hide money. You can find the tide charts on our website for the whole year, Safe travels!