Warm water, year-round waves, and Costa Rica’s relaxed “pura vida” spirit have made this Central American country one of the most popular surf destinations in the world.
As Costa Rica’s surf scene has exploded in the past 20 years, so have the number of surf camps catering to all levels of surfers, from first-time novices to experienced wave-riders who want to bring their skills to the next level.
Wherever you fall on that range, there are a few things to keep in mind when booking a surf camp. There’s surf nearly all year long in Costa Rica, especially on the northwest Nicoya Peninsula, where the wet season (May to November) brings the biggest, most consistent waves. While the majority of surf breaks and camps run up and down the Pacific coast (where all of our top picks are found), it’s notable that some of the most powerful waves occur on the southern end of the Caribbean coastline during the hot, dry months between December and March. (Keep in mind that surf camp operations there tend to be subpar and more limited in supply.)
Because surf camp options abound—from family-friendly hotels to luxury all-inclusive accommodations that throw in yoga sessions, massages, cultural excursions, and gourmet meals—we’ve narrowed down a list of five of the very best surf camps that Costa Rica has to offer.
Best luxury camp: Kalon Surf Resort
Altos de Miramar, Dominical
If your idea of surf camp is stepping off of the beach and into the lap of luxury, Kalon Surf Resort’s got you covered. Whether you’re a rank beginner or a shredder who wants to fine-tune some moves, Kalon tailors its coaching to help you attain your goals, including choosing the right surf breaks for you—all while piling on the creature comforts. Each of the six guest rooms features balconies with sunset-primed ocean views over the central Pacific coast, luxury linens, and rain showers. Get a beer or glass of wine and a snack from the open kitchen, stroll the six-plus-acre property (including an organic garden), chill by the infinity pool, or enjoy a massage. And at the end of the day, sit down to a farm-to-table dinner, featuring sous-vide or molecular-cooking preparations of wagyu beef and fresh seafood, among other delights. kalonsurf.com
Best camp to hone your skills: Surf Simply
To get an idea of what sets this state-of-the-art surf camp apart, look no further than how seriously the owners of Surf Simply considered its elegant new accommodations, opened in the fall of 2018. It was designed by the same San Francisco architects responsible for the original Apple stores and Facebook HQ, as well as the Seoul Incheon Airport. Surf Simply brings the same level of detail and commitment to its surf coaching, not just to beginners but to experienced surfers as well. The team believes that even people who’ve been surfing for years will benefit from their highly individualized approach, with a strong emphasis on physics, theory, and video analysis. The teaching ratio is nine coaches to 12 students, guaranteeing highly personalized attention. The gleaming but understated 10-room resort is nestled alongside a nature preserve, where a short path leads to the waves at Playa Guiones, near Nosara, on the Nicoya Peninsula. surfsimply.com
Best women-only camp: Surf With Amigas
Whether you grab a girlfriend or two or go solo, prepare to experience the full power of sisterhood at Surf With Amigas, founded and operated by U.S. pro surfer Holly Beck. SWA conducts one-week surf camps with accommodations at three different locations on the southern Pacific coast (as well as one in northern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica), all of them near the world-renowned break of Pavones, and all taught by women. Its low-frills Jungle Retreat eco-lodge, accommodating 10 to 12 guests, is surrounded by jungle and is a short walk to two surf spots. The somewhat more upscale Pura Vista house (for eight to 10, with air-conditioning and an infinity pool) overlooks the ocean and jungle, and surf sessions are held at beaches a short drive away. The Longboard Surf House, on par with Pura Vista accommodations-wise, is actually two guesthouses (housing 12 to 14 guests combined), with shared or private rooms near a left-breaking point, perfect for beginners and those wanting to improve their longboarding skills. surfwithamigas.com
Best kid-friendly camp: Peaks and Swells
Peaks and Swells couldn’t make it any easier—or more fun—for families who want to learn to surf together. Because of its location on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, as opposed to the exposed Pacific side, the waves are more gentle and riptides aren’t a concern (with surf breaks on both sides of the peninsula a short drive away). The camp is limited to three families at a time, each in one of three comfortable chalet-style villas that share a pool, all right on the beach. The homes are extremely private, but they’re only a 10-minute walk from the bustling town of Montezuma. And although Peaks and Swells realizes you’re there for a family surf adventure, they recognize the value of a little adults-only time, too: While mom and dad enjoy a late-afternoon yoga class or siesta, PAS organizes kids’ activities like waterfall hikes, beach games, or a walk to town for ice cream. Each weeklong session includes a midweek “day off” for excursions, including zip-lining, stand-up paddleboarding, or visiting a turtle sanctuary or nature preserve. surfcamppeaksnswells.com
Best camp for solo travelers: Witch’s Rock Surf Camp
You may arrive at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp by yourself, but you won’t be alone for long. WRSC, whose 18 midrange rooms can accommodate as many as 70 guests in shared and private quarters (upgrade to one of two penthouses with a private roof deck for the plushest digs), estimates that nearly a third of its weekly guests are solo travelers. Located right on the beach in the surf town of Tamarindo, with more than 50 restaurants and 15 bars (and plenty more nightlife spots), it’s the perfect location to connect with other like-minded surfers both in and out of the water. Even better, WRSC has its own microbrewery, two restaurants, coffee shop, and surf shop, creating its own little resort atmosphere. Surf camps include daily instruction for beginners and intermediates; advanced surfers can opt for surf tours, too, which include trips to some of the biggest and best spots in the region (although sans instruction). There’s a great break right in front of the hotel, and a dozen more close by, so you’ll never have to go far to find waves. witchsrocksurfcamp.com
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