Why Surf Camp is Perfect for Solo Travel!
In April 2014, I was flipping through a Vogue magazine, & an article about a women’s-only surf camp in Costa Rica caught my eye, called Pura Vida Adventures. I’d heard great things about Costa Rica, I wanted to learn how to surf better (though it kind of scared the crap out of me), & I had an upcoming week off work. This could be a perfect match, I thought.
Only one problem….I didn’t have anyone to go with. None of my friends had the same week off. So I had a choice: Option #1, I could miss out surf camp (something I really wanted to do). Or, there was Option #2:
I Could Go By Myself!?!
Would I Be Okay on My Own?
I started weighing my options. I’d personally never been to Costa Rica, but from everything I’d heard, it was a fun, safe, adventure-filled country; everyone I knew who’d been there raved about it. Then I started reading reviews online for the surf camp itself…& WOW. I was bowled over. These women made it sound like going to surf camp was one of the best things they’d ever done. And the funny thing was: most of them had gone alone.
But it was reading the words of Pura Vida founder, Tierza Eichner, that pushed me over the edge, & made me realize that I was going with or without a friend:
Our quest in Costa Rica was finding a beach town with endless waves. When we arrived in Malpais, I thought that I found a little piece of heaven and realized I had never felt so alive and present in my entire life. My type “A” personality stood no chance in Malpais where I learned to slow down and enjoy every moment of life. I also learned so much from the local Costa Rican people. They taught me to appreciate exactly who I am, and focus on the positive aspects of my life instead of what I perceived as faults.
–Tierza Eichner, Founder, Pura Vida Adventures
Tierza’s words totally spoke to me, & after reading them, I knew I’d regret not going. So I bought my ticket, called my mom & broke the news to her (she was a little nervous, but because I’d be with a group of women ~ she thought it sounded alright), bought my Costa Rica guide book, & started doing some research about Costa Rica & just exactly what I was getting myself into! My first question: where the heck are we going to be surfing, anyways?!
Map of Costa Rica Surf Camp
Santa Teresa Beach
Next Step = Getting Prepared!
There wasn’t too much time before my trip (I’d barely squeezed into a last minute spot), & I knew a couple things for sure: I needed some darn cute swimsuits since we’d be in the water every day, & I also needed the strongest, chemical-free sunscreen I could get my hands on! With Costa Rica so close to the equator, & with us constantly in the water, that was a recipe for serious sunburn. Thus, super strong sunscreen was a must.
Because of the potential dangers involved with surfing, as well, Pura Vida required that all travelers purchase travel insurance prior to the trip, which made perfect sense. After shopping around, I chose World Nomads because of their willingness to cover all types of “dangerous” activities ~ including surfing.
So now came the fun part….a little online shopping to prepare for my trip! Requirement for swimsuits: 1) Be super cute & colorful, & 2) Be sturdy enough NOT to fall off when I (inevitably) wipe out & fall off my board! These suits needed to stand up to the surfing test…
Fringe, Tribal, Boho….Oh My!
Flying in to Costa Rica…
I was all set: I had some new, cute swimsuits & the strongest sunscreen I could find ~ I was ready to go! After flying in to San Jose International Airport (San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica), one of Pura Vida’s drivers was waiting for me as I exited the airport.
And that’s exactly one of the reasons why surf camp is perfect for solo travel: if you’re worried about traveling alone, or about how you’re going to get from Point A to Point B ~ when you go as part of an organized group tour like this, you don’t need to worry about things like transport. They take care of it for you. You literally just show up at the airport, & everything is handled. So, along with two other surfer gals & our driver, we headed due west, for these amazing Costa Rica beaches we kept hearing about…
Meet & Greet…
I checked into the hotel a night early ~ & thought, I could get used to this. Set right on the sand, Hotel Tropico Latino is the base where everything happens during the Pura Vida retreat, & where we all stayed. Yoga is offered at 7AM every morning in the lanai, followed by breakfast outside on the patio, surrounded by tropical flowers & good surf.
The first morning of camp, our Surf Camp coordinator (the darling Josie ~ & incidentally, stellar surfer), welcomed us all over breakfast, got everyone introduced, then gave us a run-down of our schedule for the next week. It turns out that almost every single girl in our women’s-only retreat had come to Costa Rica solo! This surprised me. I guess more people than just myself agreed that surf camp is perfect for solo travel.
Though we were all a bit shy at first, between practicing yoga, surfing, & eating nearly every meal together ~ that initial shyness didn’t last too long. Within a day or two, we were all laughing, cracking jokes, & helping each other out.
Time to Surf!
Now that we’d met each other ~ it was time to meet our surf instructors, & actually get in the water & surf. (Scary!!!) We had no less than 3 surf instructors each day + Josie, so with about 8-10 of us in the group, that meant plenty of personalized instruction. Brett was our lead instructor, Andrea was our hottie female teacher, & I don’t remember anymore the name of our young, hot male instructor. But I do remember that all of them were AWESOME.
After breakfast, we got ourselves organized, put on extra sunscreen, grabbed our boards & hopped into our bright yellow surfer van. Every day, the instructors checked the surf report, & for all us beginners ~ they made sure we went to the best beach for our ability level (more advanced surfers went with a different instructor to a “harder” break). Though surfing & the ocean in general can be a pretty scary thing, I felt like we were in great hands. The instructors were not only beside us in the water to offer helpful tips (like telling us when to “PADDLE!!!”), but they also gave lessons on the beach about balance & weight distribution on the boards. Overall, the lessons were very thorough, & led by people obviously passionate about the sport of surfing.
So, for four hours every day that week, from about 9AM-1PM, we surfed. All of us solo traveling gals from all over the world, came together to laugh, learn, & occasionally get our butts kicked out in that great big ocean. By the time 1PM rolled around, we were all hungry, exhausted, & SO ready for the best lunch of our lives.
And Santa Teresa did not disappoint. Every day, Josie introduced us to some new, fabulous lunch spot ~ with fresh, delicious, healthy, local food. In Central America, they don’t have to advertise that the food is “local.” It just is local.
Sunsets on the Beach…
Every night, more than pleasantly tired, we all convened outside our rooms, some of us in hammocks, others at the bar, while some of us walked along the beach together ~ pulled outside by the phenomenal Costa Rica sunsets. The only other place I can recall seeing so many great, consecutive sunsets is in Cozumel, Mexico. Night after night, just outside our rooms at the Hotel Tropico Latino, we sat back & just enjoyed.
Why Surf Camp is Perfect for Solo Travel
Three years later, I still keep in touch with almost all my surfer buddies through Facebook & Instagram. Michelle just won an award for her writing, & my former surfer roommate, a wonderful artist, always posts her new paintings, which I love seeing. The reason surf camp was so perfect for all of us was because it gave us a chance to meet other fun, adventurous, outdoorsy gals from all over the country.
Which is why I think surf camp is perfect for solo travel ~ & I think it’s an especially great idea for your first solo travel adventure. Heading to surf camp is a great way to get your feet wet in the solo travel arena, because even though you’re starting out alone: you won’t be alone for long.
Viva Surf Camp!
So embrace your inner Gidget & give surf camp a try! Even if you get your butt kicked repeatedly in the waves (like I did ; ), those few, great waves you catch will give you such a thrill ~ you just have to see for yourself! And I love the entrepreneurial gals over at Pura Vida Adventures ~ I know you’ll be in good hands with them, especially if it’s your first solo trip. They welcome solo travelers all the time. So, just because you don’t “have someone to go with” ~ who cares! Go by yourself & have the time of your life! The world is your dang oyster, girl!
And finally, if you need a little more swimsuit inspiration, check out some of my fave new boho swimsuit options below….soooo cute!! Perfect for surf camp & solo travel ~ & SO cheap! Happy shopping, surfing, & solo travel planning…
Why I Use World Nomads
Whenever I travel ~ especially if I’m traveling solo, I always buy travel insurance. It gives me the peace of mind to go out and have all kinds of adventures, because I know someone’s got my back. Who do I use? World Nomads. They cover more ADVENTURE activities than any other company ~ from sky-diving to spelunking to volcano-boarding. They’re not your average insurance company. Read more about travel insurance here.