What to know Before booking a boat trip to Witchs Rock / Ollies Point
Commercial boat operators bringing surfers to Witch’s Rock (aka Roca Bruja or Playa Naranjo) and Ollie’s Point (aka Potrero Grande) must have a valid permit issued by the MINAE / ACG (the Costa Rican ministry of national parks and conservation in Guanacaste). All boats (commercial and personal) must purchase the tickets required to enter the Santa Rosa National Park waters where these breaks are located for every passenger on board.
Santa Rosa National Park fees are now $15 pp/day to enter by boat, whether for a personal trip or with a commercial operator. The fee for those adventurous (and well-equipped) enough to enter by land is $10 pp/day. (These rates are for “non-nationals”. Costa Ricans and residents pay 1,100 colones to enter by boat.) These rates went into effect January 14, 2008.
Every passenger on every boat in park waters must have a $15 ticket, whether surfing or not.
At this time there are only 9 boat operators with the aforementioned MINAE permits. (This is according to the director of the MINAE, Alejandro Masis, and Freddy Salazar, Coordiandor or the Sector Marino Protegido, ACG. His office number is 011-506-2666-5051 ext 238.) Simply asking someone if they have the proper permits is no guarantee - tell the operator that you will want to see your tickets before you depart. (Even some legitimate operators have been known to pocket the ticket money and take the chance that the MINAE rangers won’t patrol that day.)
Even if you have a Costa Rican friend with a boat who wants to take you surfing on a “personal trip”, tickets must be purchased in advance. The boat owner must first write a letter to the MINAE requesting permission to buy tickets before they can do so. This process takes up to 3 days and the request may be denied, depending upon availability of tickets.
The MINAE only sells approximately 35 tickets for surfers to enter the national park each day. Each boat can bring up to 5 surfers. During the “dry” season they give priority to surfers going to Witch’s by land, reserving 20 of the tickets for them and only 15 for those entering by boat. During the “wet” season, surfers entering by boat are given priority. It is not typical for all tickets allotted for “landlubbers” to be sold, in which case the MINAE will usually go with the spirit of the law and sell more to boat operators -- but there are no guarantees, so it’s always a good idea to book early.
In order to purchase tickets, every boat operator must first provide the MINAE a list of every passenger’s passport information. (It may seem odd, but it’s true.) If a boat operator does not request this information from you, it is the first indication you’ve hired an illegal boat. Any boat without tickets for every passenger will be kicked out of park waters immediately when caught by the MINAE’s patrol panga.
To ensure you hire a “legal” boat to take you to Witch’s and Ollie’s:
1) Only hire from the list of operators below. (You can call Senor Freddy Salazar at 011-506-2666-5051 ext 238 to find out if any new permits have been issued since October, 2008)
2) Tell the operator in advance that you will want to see your tickets before the boat departs.
3) Provide the operator with the following information for each passenger: name on passport, passport number, date of birth and date of passport issue. If you are never asked for this information or are told that it is not necessary, do not hire that operator.
4) The morning of your trip, have the captain show you the tickets that were purchased for you.
This is the list of operators with permits from the [MINAE] ACG for surfing operations in our marine zone:
BOATS / OWNERS:
Sea Raven I / Damaris Pérez Avilés
Sea Raven II / Omar Navarrete Noguera
Sea Raven III / Aleida Vílchez Pérez
Albatres / José Méndez Gutiérrez
Mavis / Víctor Moraga Rodríguez
Sea Horse / Wilberth Pérez Avilés
Joshua / Luis D. Chacón
Chiquitita, 3M, Reeling Good / Olman Solís
Aquadesiac (Giuseppina), Esperanza / John & Beth Clarke , Costa Rica Surf Charters
Please pass this information on to anyone you meet who is considering surfing at Witch’s and/or Ollie’s. Help us support Costa Rica ’s national parks and keep these world-famous breaks uncrowded by those who would rather save $15 than help preserve this country’s natural resources.