Excuse the surfing binge, this post is for anyone trying to decide where to learn to surf, or where their kids might learn to surf.
It struck us that Playa Samara in Northwest Costa Rica, might be about as perfect a place to learn to surf as you’ll find. The reasons…
- Small, consistent waves. This is the most important factor. You need small waves not so much for surfing as for trying to paddle (or walk) out. There is a reef offshore which apparently moved in an earthquake 5 or so years ago. It disrupts the big swells and limits the wave size as they hit the shore. The result? Waves are usually 1-2 foot in height. They are very consistent, meaning you don’t have to wait hours or days for the right conditions to turn up.
- Warm water. This one is self-explanatory. Surfing is easier and more fun without a wetsuit.
- Shallow water you can walk out in. This is great, it means you can ‘walk’ the board out rather than paddling out, and paddling is exhausting.
- No strong currents. This makes it safer and less tiring.
- No rip tides. Ditto.
- No jelly fish.
- Great weather. We are here in June, the so-called ‘green season’ (which means rainy season). It is probably about 26-30 C. Currently it is rarely raining during the day, and if it does it rains for a few hours not all day.
- Good instructors. There are lots of (laidback) schools and our teacher Didier at C and C Surf School has done a really good job with the kids.
- Beautiful environment. You want a crescent-moon shaped beach, with palm trees lining the shore and green hills in the background? This is it.
- Safe and friendly country. We have never felt threatened and the locals so far have been very relaxed and friendly and helpful.
- Not too expensive. The lessons are the most expensive part of being here, relatively speaking. The rack rate is $45 for a private 1.5 hr lesson; you can haggle for more lessons or more people.
Note: we are not good surfers, we are not even close to ‘intermediate’, but we do know a thing or two about being beginners and getting trashed and pummeled by waves that are out of our (literal and metaphorical) depth. A few days ago we were learning in Santa Theresa and this is chalk and cheese: the waves at ST are about 20 x as powerful as Samara.
Where to stay? We are at Villa Kalimbas, just back from the beach. The houses have 2 bedrooms, 1 floor and a kitchen. Very friendly staff; the rooms are a bit dark if anything and we don’t have any beach view. The Samara Tree House looks great, right on the beach.
Getting here: 1 hr by asphalt road (normal tarmac) from Nicoya.
If you are serious about learning, spend a week at Samara and go out twice a day. By the end of the week you’ll feel very comfortable in the water and you’ll be ready for bigger challenges.
If you are a ‘proper’ surfer who can get up on green waves, then Samara is not for you, head up the coast to Nosara or down the coast to Hermosa / Theresa / Mal Pais.