When you are crossing the Gulf on Nicoya on the ferry watching the sun setting over uninhabited islands covered with nesting egrets, it almost feels like you are about to enter another realm. As the engines cut off, you are greeted by a chorus of howler monkeys and the stars and moon above are the only lights in the sky to guide you from the ferry over the mountains and down to the Pacific Coast. After a week of criss-crossing the country, I needed to find some sanctuary, and it was only an hour and a half away in Santa Teresa - Blue Surf Sanctuary.
Since there was no rush to arrive, the evening breezes made it easy to keep the windows down and drive slow. The ride to Cobano is paved, but has a number of potholes to keep drivers alert. Then after the small town the road goes to gravel and dirt which can make it a little dusty, or muddy if I was to arrive in the rainy season. Thankfully, the biggest downward slope had also been paved, making the journey to the coast even more pleasant.
Another big surprise from my last trip was that the road parallel to the coast was also now paved, running from Mal Pais up past Santa Teresa. At the bottom of the hill I turned right and headed north to my destination now only two kilometers away. The sign to Blue Surf Sanctuary was easy to find, and when I arrived the night watchman helped me with my bags, gave me the keys to my room, and helped me find an open restaurant to get in a late dinner. My first thoughts of the room were has spacious it was and how quickly the A/C could cool the room, although I wouldn't need it for the rest of my stay.
After dropping off my things, I walked the hundred yards to the beach where I found the Roca Mar Restaurant. There was only one other group there relaxing with some wine, so I introduced myself and joined them for some conversation. Tom and Chip were from South Carolina visiting for their first time, and Brittany lived in town working as a yoga instructor. The company was great, and my dinner of curry chicken over a bed of Fettucini with an ice cold Pilsen to wash it down made for a perfect end to the evening.
The next morning I awoke to slivers of sunlight shining through the soft white curtains of my suite, named La Sirena. I gazed around admiring the teak shelves, the custom stone sink, the very hard to leave queen orthopedic mattresses, high ceilings and quiet fans, imagining that I could spend the rest of the year in this corner of paradise. Just outside of the room was a small plunge pool with a Buddha statue resting below the hibiscus. A few steps away was the fully stocked kitchen where I met Miriam who had just finished preparing some coffee for the guests of the hotel. I asked for a cup and strolled with it to the beach for a surf check.
The beach right out back has a great mix of waves for every level of surfer. Right in front of the beach access is sandy beach, best at high tide for beginners and intermediate surfers. To the north there is a rock ledge with heavier waves breaking over it, best for the advanced surfer. If you walk south for a few minutes there are also other intermediate to advanced breaks. And there are other pockets of sandy beaches to explore if you are just learning. For the non-surfer, just inside of the rock ledges are tidal pools filled with calm waters and colorful shells at low tide.
After seeing how fun it looked I chugged the rest of my cup of java and jogged back to the hotel. Pia, the hotel manager, had just unlocked the storage room holding at least two dozen rental boards and gave me a chance to pick out whatever board suited me and the waves best. I chose a 6’8” stringerless OceanTech thruster, which looked like it had the volume to float me well yet had plenty of rocker for hollow waves. And within five minutes we were both back on the beach, strolling south to one of her favorite peaks to surf head high waves with a few bigger sets. While out there I met two other Blue Surf helpers, Sofii who worked as a host part of the week and Esteban who was their resident surf instructor.
By the time we paddled in my arms were noodles and I picked up a nice ‘redneck’ tan from a combination of my rashguard and not enough sunscreen. I went back to the suite and enjoyed the spacious walkin shower and after a little aloe treatment, decided it was time for a siesta on one of the custom hammocks shaded from the afternoon sun. The only plans I made for the rest of the day was to find a tasty affordable restauarant for a late lunch and enjoy the sunset from a hilltop perch. Pia recommended the Zula Restaurant which turned out to be the best food on the trip. Where else can you find a lemonade, coconut, and mint smoothie with a plate of hummus and fresh baked pitabread?
When returned, I spent a little time talking to some of the other guests at Blue Surf Sanctuary. Two rooms had families from Sweden who returned every year to relax with their kids and share stories of their adventures outside of Costa Rica. Another suite was occupied by a newlywed couple from New York, it was their first time visiting Santa Teresa but were already looking into a return trip. Having only four suites allows the guest to enjoy plenty of privacy and if they wanted company, the shared kitchen and living area made it feel like home. Behind the large teak table were shelves stacked with board games, books to borrow, and brochures with details on day tours and nighttime parties. The kitchen had two fridges, one for shared items like sugar, milk, jugs of filtered water and ice. The second had room for the guests to bring back all the ingredients for a stay at home dinner, which the families enjoyed since they loved to cook and the kitchen had all the pots, pans, and dishes needed for most any creation.
That evening I dined on the biggest Ribeye I’ve ever seen outside of a butcher shop, while taking in the scene and sunset at Vista Las Olas. There they bring to you the raw meat, and you get to cook it to your liking, served with a full salad bar and baked potato. Combine a big dinner with a few Imperials and a shot of Guaro, and I was passed out by 9 p.m. That was fine though since I hoped to do a dawn patrol the next day at Playa Carmen. Easing into the soft sheets back in my room, my last thoughts were of uncrowded lineups and turquoise blue lips.
The second day I awoke right at dawn and was surprised to see that Miriam was already there and had the coffee ready for the guests. I filled up and made the two minute trek to the beach where the wave size had stayed the same through the night. I met up with one of guys from South Carolina, strapped his longboard to the roof of the rental, and drove the five minutes south to the main entrance at Playa Carmen. When we pulled up there were only four guys out so we stoked to get it so good. Paddling out was a breeze since Carmen breaks a little more mellow than Santa Teresa, but also break farther out giving surfers longer rides. As the sun rode higher in the sky, the lineup filled in a little, but they were mostly beginners or intermediate surfers on funboards and longboards, so I still had plenty of set waves to myself. Plus a little rip current pushed some of the less experienced surfers past the best peaks.
We made it back to Santa Teresa around 11 a.m. and the incoming tide had brought a new swell with it, so the call was made to paddle back out for a second session. It was pure bliss to enjoy such fun surf, surrounded by nice people in a tropical setting with light offshore winds to groom the wave face. Sadly my dream trip was coming to the end and my flight plans made it impossible to stay another day. After packing my bags and taking a few more photos of the suite and surrounding scenery, Pia, Sofi, and Esteban met at the front gate to wish me a safe trip home. I assured them that I had the most relaxing visit, met some great new friends, and I would be back again soon.
If a traveler is interested in reserving a suite at the Blue Surf Sanctuary, it’s easy to do. You can visit their website, www.bluesurfsanctuary.com, and just fill out their contact form. They also have a Facebook page that they update frequently. As an official Billabong Surf Camp, they host an annual surf retreat for women – complete with yoga, surf lessons, board rentals, and transportation. If you want to come to Costa Rica to find a sanctuary, it's right there in Santa Teresa.