10 year-old Oli Lawrence Spurway takes a surf trip along the Pacific coast of tropical paradise…
Costa Rica is a dream destination for all ages. Running along the path of scorching sand, I peered through the swaying bushes to see a set of peeling waves running into the bay. It was a hot, sticky day and we had just arrived in Costa Rica from Nicaragua. Getting across the border had been a sweaty and chaotic experience. The sun beat down on us like a heavy wave as we dragged our heavy board bag through the security gates. But soon we were in cruising towards Playa Grande in an air-conditioned taxi.
RipJack Inn is a stylish hotel nestled on the edge of Playa Grande – a vast, surf-lashed beach just north of the famous surf town of Tamarindo. As well as being a surf Mecca, the beach is also one of the most important nesting sites for the leatherback turtle. The waves are consistent A-frames and fun for all levels, with barrels that come with offshore South swells.
RipJack was established in 2004, when owners Dave, Annie and Luli renovated a dilapidated tree-top bar with a few rooms underneath, luring surfers to eat and stay beside the firing surf. But when the surfers returned with their girlfriends and wives, they wanted a few more luxuries. So they added bigger rooms and a yoga studio. Fast forward a few years and RipJack has been transformed into a stylish little hotel with family suites and a bungalow to accommodate the growth of surfing families.
The perfect set-up for family surfing holidays
With two swimming pools, expert surfing tuition with Frijoles Locos, a daily yoga timetable and lip-smacking food served in the tree-top bar and restaurant, it’s an amazing location for a family surfing holiday. On our trip in December the waves were two-foot every, and I surfed from sunrise to sunset for the duration of our five-day trip.
Jumping out of the shuttle in Nosara, I couldn’t wait to cool down in the swimming pool I’d clapped eyes on. I dropped my board outside and poked my head round the door of the lush room we were going to stay in for the next week. It had a huge double bed, two single beds, a kitchenette and marble bathroom with a huge shower that looked perfect for after those long surfs. I bagged the bed closest to the window and went and jumped in the pool. After that we strolled straight to the beach – about 300m walk. The sand was golden and the surf was buzzing. All I could think about was getting my surfboard and going for a few waves.
Nosara is a family surfing paradise
The waves sometimes lack power, but the surf is consistent and easy-going. It gets busy but there are lots of peaks to spread out along. Just remember to shuffle your feet as you get in and out of the water to avoid stingrays. The best time for surfing was sunrise and sunset, out of the glaze of the midday sun. We had a dawn surf here on Christmas day. It’s also a fantastic spot for star gazing at night as there is no light pollution on the beach.
Sunset Shack is a small and friendly with just eight rooms around the swimming pool. There is a popular bar and restaurant, Al Chile, which serves delicious burritos and chocolate churros. You can often spot iguanas climbing trees while you’re eating your breakfast. After a week in this beautiful place, we moved down the coast to Santa Teresa…
Casa Azul, Santa Teresa
After a five-hour drive on a shared shuttle, I helped mum with the board bag as we bumped along the track to our little casita. It was a bright blue and the inside was amazing, with a kitchen, huge beds, massive shower and a verandah with a fire pit and hammock. We could see the surf on Playa Carmen from the swimming pool at the bottom the garden – it was pumping. Sadly we had no time to get our boards unpacked and put the fins in before the sun went down, so we sat on the sand and watched surfers getting barrelled in the sunset.
Playa Carmen is an awesome location for a family surfing holiday
Casa Azul had a lush saltwater pool with iguanas running wild around it, and you can watch the waves from a sun lounger in the shade. The swell was a 3-4 feet during our 4-day stay, which was a bit big for my little brothers, so we didn’t paddle out as much as I wanted to, but I got a few sessions in at Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa.
We got around on a 4WD quad bike, zooming along the dusty roads with the boards and all of us onboard. You don’t really need transport if you stay on Playa Carmen, as it’s only a few minutes walk to a supermarket, surf shop, cash machine and loads of great places to eat including The Bakery. We were stoked to have the quad bike for a few days, so we could go exploring to some amazing rock pools, a secret beach for snorkelling and other surf spots dotted along the coast.
Osa Clandestina, Osa Peninsula
After crossing the Nicoya Peninsula by speedboat and travelling the length of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast (with a break at Uvita), we finally made it to the Osa Peninsula – one of the most bio diverse places on the planet. I hopped out of the truck and into Osa Clandestina, a stylish, off grid hotel that’s been built so that the outside can come inside. The open-air restaurant is surrounded by garden and forest, so you can see blue morpho butterflies, spider monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaws and howler monkeys while you eat.
Wildlife and waves
Our room was a private cabin, with a balcony and hammock overlooking the jungle surroundings. It was about three minutes’ walk to the paradise beach, where there is a reeling right-hand point break. But we’d just missed a big swell and the surf was flat, so we headed straight back to the restaurant for a delicious Costa Rican style lunch. All the meals were made fresh from their own produce – from organic rice to coconut-fed pork.
Osa Clandestina is in one of the wildest places I’ve ever been. We went on jungle walks, swung from tree tops, saw snakes and scorpions and surfed and swam on the deserted beaches. The nearest town, Puerto Jimenez, is around 20 miles away, and nearby the owner has two farms where he grows much of his own produce. We could walk from Pan Dulce, Backwash and Matapalo beaches, all of which are home to reef breaks, so are perfect for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Arenas Del Mar, Manuel Antonio NP
We finished our trip in the Manuel Antonio National Park at Arenas Del Mar – an amazing place for families with waves on the edge of a National Park where you can see all sorts of wildlife including sloths (you can also spot these in the hotel). Arenas Del Mar is an upmarket, eco-friendly hotel with surf instructors, a swimming pool and lots of personal experiences including tree planting and tortilla making. The open-air restaurant is right beside the waves on a private beach. It’s a blissful experience, and some of the rooms even have their own hot tubs overlooking the ocean. Being less than 3 hours drive from San José international airport, it was the perfect place to end our trip through Costa Rica and have a final surf on the beach break before packing our boards to go home.