Why Surf Camp is Perfect for Solo Travel!
Welcome to my thoughts on, “Why Surf Camp is Perfect for Solo Travel!” In April 2014, I was flipping through Vogue magazine, & an article about a women’s surf camp in Costa Rica caught my eye. The name of this awesome-sounding surf camp was Pura Vida Adventures. I’d heard great things about Costa Rica, & wanted to learn how to surf (though it also scared the crap out of me), & I had an upcoming week off. 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: Either I could miss out on 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 never been to Costa Rica, but from everything I’d heard ~ it was fun, safe, & adventure-filled; everyone I knew who’d been raved about it. Then I started reading reviews for the surf camp itself…& WOW. I was bowled over. The women writing the reviews 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 & realized I had never felt so alive & present in my entire life. My type “A” personality stood no chance in Malpais, where I learned to slow down & 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, & focus on the positive aspects of my life instead of what I perceived as faults.
–Tierza Eichner, Founder, Pura Vida Adventures
Tierza’s words 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 research on Costa Rica!
My first question: where the heck would we be surfing, anyways?!
Map of Costa Rica Surf Camp
Santa Teresa Beach
San Jose International Airport
Next Step = Getting Prepared!
There wasn’t much time before my trip (I’d squeezed into a last-minute spot), & I knew a few things for sure: I needed cute swimsuits, since we’d be in the water every day, & the strongest, chemical-free sunscreen I could get my hands on! With Costa Rica being so close to the equator, & with us constantly in the water: that was a recipe for serious sunburn. Strong sunscreen was essential.
Because of the potential dangers involved with surfing, Pura Vida also requires that all travelers purchase travel insurance prior to the trip. After shopping around, I chose World Nomads because of their willingness to cover all types of “dangerous” activities ~ including surfing.
Flying in to Costa Rica…
I was all set: I had cute new suits & SPF 70 sunscreen ~ what could possibly go wrong?! After flying in to San Jose International Airport (San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica), one of Pura Vida’s drivers greeted me as I exited the airport.
And that’s exactly why surf camp is perfect for solo travel: if you’re worried about traveling alone, or how you’ll get around ~ when you’re part of an organized tour like this, you don’t need to worry about pesky things like transport. They take care of it. You just show up at the airport, & these details are 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 retreat’s 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 Pura Vida’s retreat, & is where we all stayed. Yoga is offered at 7AM every morning in the lanai, followed by breakfast outside, surrounded by tropical flowers, amazinggg food, good company & good surf.
The first morning of camp, our Surf Camp coordinator, Josie, welcomed us over breakfast, got everyone introduced, then gave us a run-down of our schedule for the week. It turns out that almost every single girl in our women-only retreat had traveled to Costa Rica solo! This surprised me. I was clearly not alone in thinking that surf camp & solo travel are an ideal pairing.
Though we were all somewhat shy at first, between practicing yoga, surfing, & eating nearly every meal together ~ that initial shyness didn’t last long. Within a day or so, 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 leader, Andrea our hottie female teacher, & others rotated in. ALL of them were awesome, & definitely inhabited the “Pura Vida” vibe.
After breakfast, the routine was: get organized, put on extra sunscreen, grab our boards, & hop into our bright yellow surf van! Each day, our instructors checked the surf report, & for 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 thorough, & led by people clearly passionate about the sport of surfing.
For four hours every day that week, from 9AM-1PM, we surfed. All of us solo traveling gals from around the world came together to laugh, learn, & occasionally get our butts kicked by the ocean. By the time 1PM rolled around, we were 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 delicious & incredibly fresh 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 convened outside, some of us in hammocks, others at the bar ~ drawn outside by the phenomenal Costa Rica sunsets. The only other place I can recall seeing so many great sunsets is in Cozumel. Night after night, just outside our rooms, we sat back & enjoyed the show.
Why Surf Camp is Perfect for Solo Travel
Three years later, I still keep in touch with my Pura Vida friends through Facebook & Instagram. An opportunity like this is the perfect way to get your feet wet in the solo travel arena. You’ll be in good hands with Pura Vida, especially if it’s your first solo trip. They welcome solo travelers all the time, & I know you’ll have the time of your life.
Read Next: Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica Travel