Category Archives: Costa Rica

Surfing Camp: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

2.3.15

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Nancy and I have had one thing in common from the first day we met, and that is we both love to be in the water. So what better way to kick off our lives together as newlyweds than to attend surfing camp! We both like a challenge and love the thrill of speed so now that we will no longer be able to participate in our beloved sport of Autocrossing back in the States, we thought surfing could help to fill that void.

From a very strong recommendation by one of Nancy’s colleagues who has surfed for years and has attended a handful of different surfing camps in Central America, he recommended we spend a week at Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica,so we did and had an absolute blast…new thrill hobby found!

Witches Rock Surf Camp -- Easy to find, close to the center of town on the main drag.

Witches Rock Surf Camp — Easy to find, close to the center of town on the main drag.

We made reservations in September of 2014 before leaving on our European excursion so we’d be ready after our short return to the states. The reservation process was a delight with the Witches Rock staff — they were extremely helpful with the many questions we had, and they were very responsive in an impressively timely manner. We booked one of the Penthouse rooms,  deciding to splurge a bit since this was also our honeymoon and we’re glad we did because we shared a rooftop deck with the Penthouse next to us so not only was the view spectacular, but we met some nice surf camp attendees.

Home for the next week!

Home for the next week!

Our room was very clean and completely adequate; kitchenette with fridge, microwave and hot plate, double sink bathroom with large walk in shower which had a clothes line inside so drying out our surfing garb was a snap!

His and Hers = harmony :)

His and Hers = harmony 🙂

The Witches Rock staff had a lovely tropical flower arrangement waiting for us congratulating us on our recent marriage and thanking us for choosing Witches Rock Surf Camp – a very nice touch that was appreciated and not expected, we enjoyed viewing the floral arrangement all week.

A very thoughtful gift.

A very thoughtful gift.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, flying into Liberia International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. After making our way through the beautiful new airport and customs, just as the reservation staff said and confirmed before we left, a driver was waiting outside with a sign. We joined the other surfers and had a pleasant 40 minute ride to Tamarindo in a comfortable, air conditioned shuttle. Our driver was very personable and extremely helpful, he even lugged our really heavy suitcase up to our room! There is no need to pack a lot for your stay here, we did though as our tickets were “one-way” so we had some additional items that one would normally not take. We could tell the driver was looking at us a little funny as he lifted the very heavy and oversized suitcase, we just looked at him and said “thank you and that we weren’t going back with a smile on our face”…he then understood.

Arriving later in the afternoon we were tired from our flight so we appreciated very much the two onsite restaurants, they even have a micro brewery with their own signature creations. We sat downstairs at Joe’s and had a bite to eat along with some cold cervezas.

View from Joe's every morning as we enjoyed our free breakfast.

View from Joe’s every morning as we enjoyed our free breakfast.

When we did eat at the on site restaurants we were always pleased with the quality of food we received, they even have sushi. Hailing from Seattle, WA where we have lots of quality sushi at our disposal, the sushi at surf camp was absolutely acceptable and was an appreciated menu choice. We were also impressed that breakfast was included in our surfing package and this was no typical hotel buffet fare – we got our choice of anything on the breakfast menu, real food that tasted great! After lunch we went to the main reception area where the staff explained in detail to us how the week would progress. They showed us the daily updated board which stated what time our surfing lesson were for the day, who our instructor was and who was in our group. Additional information on the board consisted of who is arriving to surf camp and who is departing and at what times. It was very organized.

Beach Club Restaurant on the South side of the camp.  Fun to sit and have a tasty lunch while watching the surfers and beach people come and go.

Beach Club Restaurant on the South side of the camp. Fun to sit and have a tasty lunch while watching the surfers and beach people come and go.

Sunday morning, 11:30 am, day one of surfing lessons! We made our way to the surf cage behind the hotel on the beach/water side and met our instructor and other classmate. The student/teacher ratios appeared to be kept low for obvious reasons, any more than 3 to a group would be too difficult, 3 students was a perfect size and some groups had only 2 students. Our instructor had our surf boards all ready so he instructed us to pick them up and follow him to the beach, so we did like the good little surfing lemmings we were. Our first lesson was on what to expect out in the surf, our instructor was very focused on everyone’s safety and expressed what his expectations were of us when we are out in it, this safety talk was firm and very appropriate. Before heading into the surf we learned and practiced many times the all-important “Pop-Up”, which is the motion you do to stand up after you have “caught” the wave. Nancy and I cheated a little bit by watching some youtube videos weeks before we arrived and made part of our daily gym routine practicing our pop-ups. That and the conditioning we did before arriving to surf camp really did help! After about 30 min of group and individual instruction on the beach we attached the surf board leashes to our ankles and ventured into the surf. It became clear immediately that we will be getting beat up by the waves, carrying an 8-10 foot surf board into the surf was no easy task at first, but after a bit you start to learn how to negotiate crashing waves coming over you while you basically carry a sheet of plywood! The waves at Witches Rock Surfing Camp are perfect for beginners, not too big but big enough that when you do catch a wave, you are truly surfing. It was exhilarating the first time we successfully caught a wave and rode it in. We enthusiastically paddled back out for another! Each day’s lesson was 1.5 hours and that was plenty! We were all tired and it felt so good to retire to our room, change into dry clothes and sit on our upper deck enjoying a frosty one while we reflected on our first ever surfing experience…life is good 🙂

The Surf Cage filled with boards of every kind.

The Surf Cage is filled with boards of every kind.

As the days went on we progressed. As our skill set increased so did the quality and performance of our surfboards. Witches Rock has a ton of surfboards to choose from — beginner to advanced, they have them all. They rent all of their boards too, although our surfboards were included in our surf package and we could go get a surfboard anytime outside of our scheduled lessons if we wanted to practice on our own. During the week we had changing weather conditions, which affected the quality of waves. We also moved up the beach to some bigger waves as we got better at surfing. It was great to experience different areas and different surf – a lot like skiing, conditions can and will change day to day.

Our boards laid out for us each day and an easy walk to the surf.

Our boards were laid out for us each day and it was an easy walk to the surf.

The quality of instruction was great, the instructors know their stuff and in a positive way they were firm with us in their instructions and expectations. I appreciated this because you could really tell they wanted us to learn and get better, you could tell when they were proud of us with their wonderful, loud yelling of approval when we did something right.

A surfer newbie catches a wave!

A surfer newbie catches a wave!

The lessons were not limited to the water only, Witches Rock has a classroom on site where we attended seminars on things like Surfing Etiquette, Surfing History, and photo/video recap of the days lesson which I particularly enjoyed as we all got to be together as students and see what we look like, lot’s of fun and many laughs were had!

This seminar we attended was how to choose a surfboard and what the different types are.

This seminar we attended was how to choose a surfboard and what the different types their are.

Topping off our week, the Witches Rock staff had another unexpected surprise for us. Learning this was going to be a honeymoon trip for us, they planned a special beachside, linen clothed table dinner for us complete with romantic tiki torches. They explained before the dinner night of our choosing to let them know what we would each like for dinner and they would prepare it — anything, even something special that was not on the menu if we wanted! This was such a romantic, special evening, we had a dedicated waiter just for us while we enjoyed sushi appetizers, whole fresh red snapper, prawns, dessert and generously flowing wine! We were absolutely blown away by this unexpected act of thoughtfulness, it truly capped off a memorable week.

Our memorable beachside dinner

Our memorable beachside dinner

The meal was amazing in both taste and site!

The meal was amazing in both taste and site!

So, bottom line…if you have ever wanted to or are planning on attending a surfing camp, you really can’t go wrong with Witches Rock Surf Camp. From quality, accommodations, location and price, they really are hard to beat. Plus you will walk away with a new skillset that you can improve upon if you wish, which is exactly what we will be doing as we unfold and discover our new lives in Central America, and…we can come back if we choose to attend intermediate and advanced classes that they offer, I know we will be back!

Coming in for a cold cerveza...ahhhh :)

Coming in for a cold cerveza…ahhhh!

The relaxing infinity pool was so refreshing.

The relaxing infinity pool was so refreshing, a great view too!

 

Just outside our room was Juan Julio, our private guard Iguana.

Just outside our room was Juan Julio, our private guard Iguana.

You will never tire of the view....We didn't!  We look forward to coming back for intermediate lessons.

You will never tire of the view….We certainly didn’t! We look forward to coming back for intermediate lessons.

Taco Tuesday at FT’S — Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1.22.15

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Another economical noteworthy establishment to share.  FTS Restaurant, Sleep and Surf is right across the street from our hotel, we have actually eaten here three times now as the food is very well prepared, fresh and reasonably priced.  We have come to the conclusion that dining out is either inexpensive and value oriented or overpriced and a bit disappointing.

FT’S gets two thumbs up for us though!  Taco Tuesday’s you can choose from Steak, Chicken or Fish tacos, we had 5 tacos total, guess who had 3!  The steak was really yummy and tender. The beef we have experienced so far is lean and tasty, no doubt local and grass fed.  The fish was my favorite, Sea Bass — I actually had Sea Bass filets for dinner here the other night in a garlic sauce that was cooked perfectly and the portion was very generous.  The tacos were generous in size too with fresh slaw and guacamole, the tortillas were certainly not factory produced.  The cost for all this; tacos were $3 each and the 2 for 1 strong margaritas $6, so 5 tacos and 4 margaritas set us back $31 USD and again, tip was included.  FT’S also offers up hostel style rooms so if you are traveling on a budget this place could be for you!?  The staff was very friendly and attentive, clean environment and we really enjoyed hearing the resident Iguana scuttling about the edge of the roof while we dined one day.

Stay tuned for more Tamarindo info like our upscale Spa experience, courtesy of our good friends Mickey and Rebecca for a wedding gift, and our econo spa treatment since it was coming out of our budget minded travelers wallet 😉

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Our Taco's spilleth over with fresh yumminess!

Our Taco’s spilleth over with fresh yumminess!

Cut this guy off and tell him to put down the Iguana ;)

Cut this guy off and tell him to put down the Iguana 😉

After dinner Big Screen TV channel surfing...I love this channel!

After dinner Big Screen TV channel surfing…I love this channel!

We Scream for Sushi!!! — Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1.20.15

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Today we had an awesome lunch experience for something we’ve been craving…Sushi, good Sushi, and we found it!  If you are planning on visiting Tamarindo, Costa Rica and you are a Sushi lover you must put Bamboo Sushi Club on your list.

Hailing from Seattle, WA, Nancy and I have some pretty darn good Sushi places to choose from and have eaten at many of them.  So, that being said, we were absolutely satisfied with the fresh, large and very affordable lunch we had here.  The atmosphere was extremely inviting.  Bamboo Sushi Club resides on the main drag through Tamarindo but is set back a bit from the moderately slow but busy road.  As you walk into the restaurant, you pass through a bridged tunnel with river rock walls that have lightly cascading water flowing over them.  After passing through you arrive in a wonderfully landscaped courtyard, the feeling is one of being in an Asian jungle.  Although I have never been to an Asian jungle this is what it felt like to me.  We had our choice of sitting in the landscaped area with loose rock underfoot or in the wood floored seating area which is where we sat — open air dining of course.

It was 2 for 1 Mojito Tuesday so we opted for a round of those and they were great! — traditional Mojito flavor with a hint of Mango.  These Mojito’s were more slushy than liquid, very welcomed on a typical warm and sunny day in Tamarindo.  Our server was pleasant, curteous and attentive which is always appreciated.

After looking over the menu we opted for Salmon, Tuna and Shrimp Nigiri along with an order of Shrimp Tempura.  The food was absolutely to our liking; beautifully presented, fresh, tasty and filling.  We were very impressed by the quantities as we are typically accustomed to 2 or 3 pieces to an order back in Seattle.  Our Salmon and Tuna Nigiri cam with 7 pieces each.  The pieces were about 2/3 the size we get back home which we really liked as they were very easy to eat.  Typical accompaniments of wasabi, thinly sliced ginger and two kinds of soy were available.

The cost for all this yummy bounty?….$40 USD which included tip!  In Costa Rica, restaurants automatically include a 10% service fee(tip) so when you have a satisfying meal eating out and your bill is more than reasonable, well, that just makes for happy travelers!

This was just a little taste of our time so far in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  We are in the middle of our stay at a surfing camp so stay tuned for a detailed write up on that along with more details of the town of Tamarindo.  After surf camp we are crossing the border into Nicaragua so stay tuned and sign up for blog alerts!

Until later, we say as the Costa Rican’s say… “Pura Vida”, meaning “Pure Life”, which is certainly how it’s done down here!

A typical walk into town...hug the side of the road and walk!

A typical walk into town…hug the side of the road and walk!

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Pleasing eating environment of Bamboo Sushi Club

Pleasing eating environment of Bamboo Sushi Club

Main dining area, family friendly establishment.

Main dining area, family friendly establishment.

Cold, yummy Mojitos.

Cold, yummy Mojitos.

Linens too!

Linens too!

The bounty swims to our table.

The bounty swims to our table.

Local shrimp on steroids...huge, tender, juicy and tasty!

Local shrimp on steroids…huge, tender, juicy and tasty!

Happy Sushi Girl :)

Happy Sushi Girl 🙂

After lunch aperitif ;)

After lunch aperitif 😉