For the past two years my friends and I have gone down to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Playa Tamarindo. This is the camp’s backyard. Not bad, eh?
After spending nine days in SoCal, I’m off to Costa Rica for another a week of surf, beer, and nachos at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. More on that trip (and North Korea, China, Central Europe, and London) when I return. In the meantime, I’ll be posting photos from Costa Rica on my Twitter account.
So, back to my Costa Rica trip, which I returned from over a month ago.
We stayed at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, a beachfront hotel run by surfers, for surfers. WRSC was founded by Joe Walsh, a Californian who decided to move to Costa Rica following his graduation from UCSD. He bought an old school bus, convinced some friends to accompany him on the trip, and eventually ended up in Costa Rica. Thus, Witch’s Rock Surf Camp was born.
The perfect location – right on the beach
I loved everything about WRSC. The staff members were incredibly helpful and the guests were laid back (Well, of course they would be. They are surfers, after all). The great thing about WRSC is that it caters to surfers of every skill level, from someone who has never been on a board in their life to a surfer who has been catching waves since he was a kid. All beginning and intermediate surfers receive daily lessons (in groups of 2-3 people) while the advanced surfers spend their days traveling by boat or van to different breaks in the region. Since I am not skilled enough to even think about surfing some of those breaks, I was content to take my daily lesson with the WRSC instructors, many of whom have surfed, or still surf professionally. I learned a great deal from these guys, who helped me break some of the bad habits I have managed to pick up over the years. I caught some great waves and also had some spectacular wipeouts that would make you grimace. I’ve always thought that if you’re not going to make the wave, you should at least go out in style.
“And today, we will work on your turns.”
My lesson group
The view from my room. The rooms at WRSC are very simple…bed, bathroom, chair, nightstand, and framed surf posters on the wall. If you are looking for a flat screen TV with on-demand movies, room service, and 1200 thread count sheets, then this is not the place for you. But if you could care less about all of that and just want to surf with a great group of people, then WRSC is where you want to be.
Best shower design ever
The view you enjoy while eating breakfast/lunch/dinner or just drinking beer. Another great thing about WRSC is the free breakfast at the camp’s restaurant, “Eat at Joe’s.” When I hear the phrase “free breakfast”, I generally think of the lackluster selection of pastries you typically encounter at an early morning business meeting. At WRSC, however, you can select any of the breakfast plates on the menu. I usually opted for the eggs, bacon, toast, and gallo pinto (rice and beans), drenched in salsa verde with a cup or two of coffee on the side. It was definitely a great meal to have after a 6am surf session.
This damn bird stole a piece of my bacon
Looking out towards the main street of Tamarindo
I love nachos. I really love a plate of nachos as big as your ass. When we weren’t eating dinner at a place down the street, we were at Joe’s. You really couldn’t go wrong ordering something here. The nachos, tacos, burgers, sushi, and smoothies were all great, and the beer was always ice cold. Seriously, the WRSC crew should be incredibly proud of the food they are serving.
Entrance to WRSC/surf shop/board storage area. WRSC has a huge collection of surfboards, and if you are a student there you can check one out anytime. I mainly surfed a 9’2″ or 8’6″.
Rian and I
These guys were everywhere
Listening to Tico Hendrix.
No matter what time it was, you could always go downstairs to Joe’s and find someone to have a beer or nachos with.
For our last night, the WRSC staff threw a “graduation party” and served up a delicious feast.
Happy camper. Literally.
I had such an incredible time at WRSC and met a lot of great people there. I think about it often while I am sitting at my desk here in DC, working on spreadsheets or whatever. I have a feeling I’ll be back there sometime next year.
One morning, rather than sitting around drinking cheap beer and waiting for the surf to roll in, we hired this dude to take six of us on a real life jungle cruise of the Tamarindo River (Disneyland is for amateurs).
Where the river meets the ocean
He took us through some very narrow and shallow areas of the river to get a closer look at the wildlife living on the riverbank. The humidity became incredibly oppressive, much like what I imagine the swamps of Florida feel like.
Announcing that he knew where some monkeys were located, he moored the boat and we scrambled up the muddy riverbank and began walking through the forest.
We also kinda scrambled over this barbed wire fence. We were like “Ehhhh…” but our guide didn’t seem too concerned. (“Venga, venga!”)
After walking on a “trail” for a few minutes we came across this group of sleeping monkeys.
Our guide, of course, would have none of this sleeping business and decided to wake them up by making various monkey noises. Some woke up, and some didn’t. And while I can’t say I am an expert in deciphering monkey howls, the ones who woke up were definitely not happy. So we decided to leave the area before we were attacked by the monkeys or shot by an angry property owner. On the trip back, we also saw a crocodile but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera.
Back to camp
As a warning, you probably shouldn’t view this post if you are extremely hungry due to all the gratuitous food photos.
I can’t recall having a single bad meal in Costa Rica. We ate a lot of meat, seafood, plantains, guacamole, rice and beans (I never thought of rice and beans as a breakfast dish, but it was surprisingly good), and grilled veggies. And, of course, drank a lot of beer. Luckily, we met some fellow WRSC guests who had been to WRSC the previous year and took us to some great (and cheap) restaurants in Tamarindo.
Pick your steak from the counter display and these guys grill it for you. Biggest filet mignon I’ve ever had.
Stuffed. We also had the entire restaurant to ourselves.
The next place we went to was Pedro’s, a small shack located on the beach (my previous post had a photo of it during the daytime). I opted for the jumbo shrimp, caught that day, and then breaded.
Rian’s seafood platter
Another meal at El Sabor de la Vida, across the street from WRSC:
I had the shrimp plate (by now you have already figured out that I love shrimp) and it was probably around $5.
The next day, Andrew bought some fish and shrimp from fishermen while he was out on a surf trip. He dropped them off at El Sabor de la Vida and the woman there grilled them, made ceviche, and put on an amazing spread with sides of guacamole, chips, plantains, and rice. For all of this, she charged us about $4 per person. Needless to say, we gave her a very nice tip.
I arrived back in DC last night. I’m covered in various scrapes and bruises, one of my toes is probably sprained, and my neck is killing me. But man, was that a fun trip. Costa Rica is amazing. Met a lot of great people, ate a ton of excellent food, surfed a lot, and am already planning a trip back there next year. I’m currently in the process of sorting through all my photos and acquiring others from my friends. Here are a few of Playa Tamarindo that I took while on an early morning walk.
The area directly in front of our hotel. Not a bad location, eh?
Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, our hotel and playground for the week (more on WRSC later).
My favorite trees
Pedro’s…serves amazing seafood caught that day!
Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Costa Rica and will be there for a week. I’m meeting my friend Rian (from GWU) down there. Yes, this will be a normal vacation with a beach, surfing, etc. There will be no landmines, tours of nuclear disaster sites, or heavily armed police escorts. Admittedly, this feels kinda strange.