What are the Papagayo Winds and Why Should You Book a Costa Rica Surf Trip This Winter?

Intermediate waves in Costa Rica

While many serious surfers choose to travel to Costa Rica during the swell season, there’s a strong argument to be made for taking a Costa Rica surf trip in the offseason. Thanks to Costa Rica’s tropical latitude, we’re blessed with warm weather and board-short-friendly water temperatures all year. Despite our tropical location, we still have seasons, just not the same seasons you’re accustomed to in the United States. Instead of summer, winter, spring, and fall, we have a rainy season and a dry season. Just like the visible change in greenery during our two distinct seasons, the surf during each season differs vastly thanks to the Papagayo winds. Continue reading below for What are the Papagayo Winds and Why Should You Book a Costa Rica Surf Trip This Winter?

What is Costa Rica’s Surf Season?

just another Safari Surf School day at the beach

Costa Rica has a distinct swell season that falls in line with the rainy season, which lasts from May to September. During this window, large winter storms form off the coast of Antarctica and travel north to the Americas. These large south swells travel for thousands of miles before hitting Central America. During that time, they organize into long interval swells, so when they collide with the various points, sand bars, and reefs in Central America, they produce world-class waves. Large swells are typical for most of the rainy season. If you’re on a Costa Rica surf trip during swell season, you’ll find the best surf in the mornings and late afternoons when the winds are light. During the dry season, smaller south swells produce user-friendly waves and the occasional large north swell can bring fun surf. If you’re visiting during the dry season, you’ll likely be able to surf all day since the winds blow predominately offshore. 

When do the Papagayo Winds and When do They Blow? 

costa rica surf map
Blank physical map of Costa Rica.Equirectangular projection

The Papagayo Wind or Papagayo Jet is a weather phenomenon that affects Costa Rica and the surrounding areas during the dry season. This localized weather phenomenon occurs in the Gulf of Papagayo, located in Northwest Costa Rica in northern Guanacaste, but affects areas north and south along the coast. The strong offshore winds that blow in this region during the dry season are a result of a high-pressure system that forms in the Caribbean and forces air through the mountains in Central America, where it picks up speed in valleys and canyons before hitting the Pacific Coast. The Papagayo Winds are most prominent from December to April, lining up almost exactly with the dry season. The Papagayo winds blow straight offshore and groom waves, creating epic and often hollow conditions. These offshore winds typically last all day, allowing surfers the freedom to surf all day without worrying about the winds changing. 

Why Take a Cota Rica Surf Trip During the Off-Season 

surfing nosara

Rainy or dry season, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise with year-round swell. If you do find yourself traveling in the dry season, you’ll enjoy days of cloudless blue skies with all-day offshore winds and fun-sized waves. The dry season is often preferred by beginner and intermediate surfers who favor small to medium-sized waves. 

If you’re a new or intermediate surfer who wants to make the most out of the fun, clean surf in the dry season, head to our website and book your next Costa Rica surf trip. 

The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Intermediate Waves on the Planet

Slow breaking wave

Not all waves are created equal. While there’s no denying that there are good and bad waves, it’s not always binary. What may look like a fun wave to one surfer could be impossible to surf to another. Every surfer is different, and depending on their skill level, not all surfers are looking for the same thing. While the waves that make magazine spreads and dominate your Instagram feed may look visually stunning, they’re usually highly difficult to surf. Sure, there is a caliber of surfer looking specifically for steep, hollow waves that hold serious size, but most surfers in the water just want an open face to do turns. If you’re an intermediate surfer, don’t spend your surf trips chasing waves that are too difficult or dangerous for you to ride. Instead, look for waves that will help you progress. Continue reading below for The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Intermediate Waves on the Planet.

Intermediate Waves in the US

Upper Trestles- San Clemente, California 

Upper Trestles

Lower Trestles is the pinnacle of high-performance surfing in the US. The wave offers an open wall to carve, launch airs, and hack. It’s not unusual to spot pros in the lineup, going toe-to-toe with the best young up-and-coming surfers. Uppers, just north of the famed Lowers, offers a similarly long-walled wave without the competitive lineup. Compared to Lowers, Uppers is a mellow, slow-breaking right. You’ll find a wide variety of skill levels in the lineup on all different types of boards. 

Intermediate Waves in Latin America 

Playa Guiones- Nosara, Costa Rica 

Intermediate waves in Costa Rica

We couldn’t make a list of the best waves on the planet without including our home break—Playa Guiones. Playa Guiones is a 4-mile-long beach with dozens of reliable sand bars that help disperse the crowd. The wave at Guiones breaks slowly and has a gently sloped face that makes it user-friendly at any size. 

Playa Venao- Pedasi, Panama

Beginner Waves Playa Venao

Our other home break in Panama offers a similar ride to that in Guiones. Playa Venao is a crescent-shaped cove that faces completely south. While the beach does pick up a ton of swell, the sides of the cove always produce smaller, weaker waves that are ideal for learning. The middle of the cove has a fun right and left peak that beaks quickly and is favored by advanced surfers. 

Chicama- Peru 

Chicama Peru

Northern Peru is home to some of the best waves on the planet. There are world-class barrels, long reeling points, peaky beach breaks, and much more. Chicama is home to the longest left in the Western Hemisphere. It takes a massive northwest swell to begin breaking, so most people travel there from other waves nearby rather than take a trip to Chicama. The wave peels for multiple kilometers and is so long that it’s physically impossible to paddle back against the current. Instead, surfers are ferried back to the peak by boat. 

Intermediate Waves in Asia 

Lazy Lefts & Right- Weligama, Sri Lanka 

Lazy Lefts Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a great destination for intermediate waves. While the Indian Ocean island nation receives ample swell, many of its most celebrated waves are longer points, not top-to-bottom hollow waves. Two great examples can be found in the southeast corner of the tear-drop-shaped island, right next to each other— Lazy Lefts and Lazy Rights. Lazy Lefts and Rights are complimentary points separated by a wide bay that breaks towards each other. The right is a slow-breaking, long ride, and the left is a bit faster and steeper. The combination is ideal for progression and allows surfers to build confidence on the right and work their way towards the left. 

Old Man’s – Batu-Bolong- Canggu, Bali 

Old Mans Canguu

Bali is one of the world’s most popular surf destinations for a reason—it’s full of world-class waves. While the iconic lefts off the Bukit Peninsula may be well suited for advanced surfers, there are still plenty of intermediate waves on the island. Old Man’s is a cruisy right-hander that bends around a lava reef and forms a picture-perfect wave for longboarders and new surfers. 

Intermediate Waves in Europe 

Baleal Island- Peniche, Portugal 

Portugal Waves

Portugal is Europe’s wave mecca, and Peniche is home to one of the country’s many crown jewels, Super Tubos. Super Tubos is the European Pipeline. It’s a beach break that packs a serious punch and produces some of the best tubes in the Old World. Just down the road from this barrel haven is a mellow beach and reef break that peel perfectly and offer ample room for turns. 

The best way to progress your surfing is to travel. Join us in Costa Rica, Panama, or Ecuador to surf our favorite intermediate waves. Head to our website to book your trip today!

The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Beginner Waves on the Planet

Beginner Waves Playa Venao

If you’re a new surfer, looking to improve your fundamentals with professional coaching, or trying out surfing for the first time, taking a surf trip and immersing yourself in the surfing lifestyle may be the best thing you can do. Nothing beats traveling to a far-flung corner of the world where the water is warm the sun shines bright in the sky, and palm trees sway effortlessly in the breeze. You be under the impression that surf trips are for experienced surfers chasing massive swells at advanced breaks, but there are thousands of waves around the world ideally suited for progression. If you’re on the fence about pulling the trigger on a surf trip as your next vacation, continue reading below for The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Beginner Waves on the Planet.

Our Favorite Beginner Wave and Home Break: Playa Guiones- Nosara, Costa Rica

surf Nosara

Our home break, Playa Guiones, is a wide-open sandy expanse that stretches for nearly 4.5 miles in front of a backdrop of dense mangrove forest and tropical jungle. Unlike many of the beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Guiones is bordered by state-protected land, meaning that there’s nothing built on the sand. Instead, the beach is lined by massive trees that are bisected by a trail system. The wave at Playa Guiones is ideally suited for new surfers. It has a gently sloping face and, even at size, breaks rather softly. Additionally, the four miles of sand bars allow surfers to spread out.

Playa Venao, Panama

Surf school in Panama

Home to our second Safari Surf School, Playa Venao, on Panama’s Pacific coast, is the perfect beginner wave. Playa Venao is a south-facing, crescent-shaped cove that picks up an enormous amount of swell. The sides of the cove, however, are sheltered. So, even when overhead waves are breaking on the sand bars in the middle of the cove, the sand bars on either side of the cove provide gentle peeling beginner waves.

Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki Surfing

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and Waikiki is steeped in surf lore and tradition that dates back centuries. As the birthplace of modern surfing and the home of the iconic Waikiki Beach Boys, surfing at Waikiki is like riding a wave through time. The wave at Waikiki is soft and peels for what feels like an eternity. While there’s definitely a crowd, there’s no denying that Waikiki is one of the best longboard and beginner waves on the planet.

San Onofre, California

San O Surfing

San O was once the most coveted wave on the California coast. Back when all surfers rode single-fin logs, and getting toes off the nose was the pinnacle of high-performance surfing. Now, San O is to longboarders and new surfers what Trestles is to the high-performance crowd. Located in Camp Pendleton, just outside of San Clemente on the northern edge of San Diego County, San O provides surfers with plenty of room to spread out and practice the fundamentals. The main peak is best suited for intermediate and advanced surfers.

Lagos, Portugal

Lagos surfing
Algarve Where to Surf – Best Surfing Beaches in the Algarve

Lagos, located in the south-facing Algarve region of Portugal, is perhaps Europe’s best beginner wave. Tucked away in the southern reaches of the Western Iberian Peninsula, Lagos’s main stretch of coast is protected from Europe’s large northern swells. Instead of producing pumping surf in frigid water, like the rest of Portugal, Lagos is home to gentle peeling waves. The water is still a bit chilly, but the air temperatures in Lagos are much warmer than the rest of the European continent.

Beginner surfers rejoice. Safari Surf now has three locations across the globe where our expert coaches share their passion for surfing with students in Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador. To book your surf trip and discover the best beginner waves on the planet. Click here.

Meet Our Safari Surf Ecuador Team

Safari Surf School Team

If you’ve visited us before, either at our Costa Rica Surf School or in Playa Venao, Panama, you have an idea of what separates Safari Surf from other surf schools, resorts, and hotels. While our surf schools are located in beautiful, tropical locations with world-class waves, it’s our staff that makes the Safari Surf experience so special. Every year, guests return to our Costa Rica surf school, not because we’re nestled in the jungle of Nosara with direct access to Playa Guiones, but because our coaches and managers make a lasting impact on every guest they interact with in Costa Rica, Panama, and now in Ecuador. After searching far and wide for the right crew to man the helm in Ayampe, Ecuador, home of our newest surf school, we have found the perfect duo. I sat down with Safari Surf founder Tim and the Ecuador team to learn about the new Safari Surf location in the wave-rich Ayampe, Ecuador. Continue Reading for our interview with our new Safari Surf Ecuador team, Trisha and Caesar.

Trish and Caesar, tell me a bit about what led you to Ayampe. 

Trisha: Caesar and I while studying in Hawaii in 2016. I’m from the States, and Caesar is originally from Ecuador. After getting to know each other, we realized they wanted the same things out of life—mainly to find a piece of land somewhere beautiful where they could pursue their passions and live sustainably. 

Caesar: I’m originally from Ecuador. I moved to the States when I was 17. I would always go back to Ecuador on surf trips, and after living in Maui, we decided it was time to go back to my roots. Surfing is my passion. I’ve been surfing since my childhood, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

 Tim, tell me a bit about what drew you to Ecuador and Ayampe specifically. 

Tim: One of my goals with Safari is to offer my clients a variety of places to learn to surf. I worked with Nico in Costa Rica before he moved to Ayampe. After a visit to see Nico and his wife Tam, my wife and I fell in love with Ecuador and Ayampe. I see Ecuador as an off-the-beaten-path option for clients, especially experienced surfers. 

What’s the wave like in Ayampe? What can Safari Surf guests expect on an Ecuador surf trip? 

surf Ecuador

Caesar: Ayampe is exposed to year-round swell. It’s a small town near the popular surf mecca of Monatanita. Unlike Montanita, which is a popular backpacking and party destination, Ayampe is more laid back. The wave in Ayampe is a powerful beach break. North and South of Ayampe, there are dozens of waves. The surf travel potential on this coastline is insane. Ayampe prefers north swells but will still break during the south swell season. 

What can travelers expect from Ecuador weather-wise? 

Ayampe Ecuador

Trisha: The high season is from December to mid-May. During the high season, expect sunny skies and tropical temperatures. The period of mid-May to mid-December is known as Garúa. During Garúa, Ecuador experiences perpetual gray skies and cooler temperatures. 

What can Safari Surf Ecuador guests expect beyond the surf? 

Trisha: Ecuador has a bit of everything. There’s obviously the mountains and the Galapagos. In Ayampe, we have whale watching, jungle tours, surf trips by car and boat, hiking, mountain biking, and more. Ayampe has grown a lot in the last five years. When we first got here, there were only a handful of restaurants, and most of them closed seasonally. Now, there are lots of places to eat and stay, but it still has that small-town feel.

Whether you’re a new surfer looking for a bit of adventure or an advanced surfer chasing swells in South America, our Ecuador surf school has everything you need for the trip of a lifetime. Book your Ecuador surf trip here.

These Waves Put Costa Rica Surfing on the Map

barrell

Over the years, Costa Rica has become synonymous with surfing and surf travel. Like Hawaii and other famed surf destinations, the reputation of Costa Rica’s waves is far-reaching. If you tell friends or family you’re traveling to Costa Rica, they’ll likely ask if you plan to surf or take surf lessons. While surfers first arrived in Costa Rica searching for waves in the 1960s, the sport didn’t take off in the country until decades later. Movies like The Endless Summer II popularized Costa Rica’s iconic waves and introduced the world to a country with year-round swell, warm water, and too many world-class waves to count. If you’re wondering why so many surfers call Costa Rica paradise, continue reading below for These Waves Put Costa Rica Surfing on the Map. 

Our Favorite Wave in Costa Rica Surfing: Playa Guiones

Costa Rica surfing

We couldn’t write an article about Costa Rica’s fabled waves without mentioning our home break, Playa Guiones. Located in Northern Costa Rica in the Guanacaste Province, Playa Guiones is a 4.3-mile stretch of sandy perfection. With reliable sandbars scattered up and down the beach, there’s room for surfers of all levels to spread out and make the most of a swell. Playa Guiones faces slightly southwest and works well with a south or southwest swell and an east wind. While Playa Guiones can hold serious size, it’s not a particularly heavy wave. The take-off is easy, and the wave’s face is sloped, making it ideal for progression.

Pavones

pavones surfing

Pavones is one of the longest lefthand point breaks in the world. Located in the Puntarenas province of Southern Costa Rica, Pavones attracts surfers from all over the world. With a proper south swell, the wave at Pavones peels for what feels like an eternity, offering surfers rides up to three minutes long. The wave begins breaking at the river mouth and continues along for several sections. Each section has a distinct personality. Some sections are hollow and speedy, while others are fat and sloping.

Witch’s Rock

surfing Witch's Rock

Witch’s Rock, named for the foreboding rock formation that sits just behind the surf lineup, is one of Costa Rica surfing’s most recognizable waves, in part due to Endless Summer II. The Wave is easiest accessed by boat since it breaks in a protected Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste. Witch’s Rock is a beach break with a reliable, picture-perfect left and right that breaks in front of the iconic Roca Bruja. There are other peaks along the beach (Playa Naranjo), but none are as perfect as the wave that breaks in front of the rock.

Ollie’s Point

surfing Ollie's Point

You can’t have a conversation about Costa Rica surfing and leave out Ollie’s Point. Ollie’s Point is located by an abandoned CIA airfield and named for the Notorious US Lt. Col Oliver North, who spearheaded covert military and CIA operations in the Nicaraguan Contra. Like Witch’s Rock, Ollie’s Point is located in Santa Rosa National Park and is best accessed by boat. This rocky point break reels down a jungle-clad coastline mimicking Santa Barbara’s Rincon but without the crowds. This famed right-hander takes a massive southwest swell to break into true form, but when it does it’s well worth traveling halfway around the planet to surf.

Salsa Brava

Surfing salsa brava

Located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, Salsa Brava is a fearsome reef break with a reputation for breaking boards and manning surfers. Salsa Brava breaks during the winter with a solid north, northeast, or east-by-northeast swell. Salsa Brava is easily Costa Rica surfing’s heaviest wave. This hollow, thick-lipped wave breaks over a shallow reef shelf. If you stick the steep drop and pull in, you’ll score the barrel of your life. If you miss it, you may take one of the worst beatings a wave can dish out.

If you’re considering taking a surf trip, head to the best surf school in Central America to get the most out of your Costa Rica surfing experience. Head to our website to book today! 

How to Take Your Surfing to the Next Level with These Intermediate Surf Tips

Panama Surfing

At Safari Surf School, we teach hundreds of new surfers every year. For many guests, surfing becomes, not just a lifelong hobby, but a passion. We have guests return year after year to further improve their surfing. Playa Guiones isn’t just the ultimate beginner wave, it’s a great wave for progression, where intermediate surfers can learn to generate speed, carve, and turn. If you’ve learned to pop up, bottom turn, and ride cleanly down the wave, it’s time to take your surfing to the next level. Our team at Safari Surf School has put together a list of surf tips to help you achieve your goals in the water. Whether you’re gearing up for a surf trip, prepping for winter swell season at home, or just looking to improve your overall surfing, continue reading below for How to Take Your Surfing to the Next Level with These Intermediate Surf Tips. 

Intermediate Surf Tip #1 Surf the Right Board for Your Skill Level

Happy smiling faces of the Safari Surf crew

One of the worst things a surfer can do for their progression is to ride the wrong board. Our number one surf tip is for surfers to spend ample time learning before changing boards. While it may be tempting to jump on the latest shortboard model once you have mastered the basics. You still have a long way to go. Shortboards lack the float and stability that new surfers need. We teach our new surfers on beginner-friendly soft top surfboards. Eventually, those students progress to traditional longboards that allow them to trim, turn, and carve. If students have a desire to downsize further, they then progress to a mid-length, which has plenty of stability and float with increased maneuverability. Once a new surfer has learned to generate speed, carve, and turn on a longer board, they’re ready to move to a high-volume shortboard.

Look Down the Line

Team Inara

Intermediate surfers who struggle to ride on the upper portion of the wave’s face can do so by looking down the line. This surf tip will help surfers who struggle to make fast-breaking waves. When you’re surfing, your head and shoulders essentially act as a steering wheel. Where you look while riding dictates where you go. So, as you get to your feet during your pop-up, turn your head and shoulders and look down the line. Where your head and shoulders face, your hips will follow, and you’ll be riding cleanly down the line.

Surf With Your Whole Body

surfer pumping down the line

As you progress as a surfer and begin to ride shorter boards, you’ll need to learn to generate speed. Surfers generate speed by climbing up and down the wave’s face, finding pockets of speed in the wave’s steeper sections. The most effective way to pump for speed is to utilize your entire body. As you drop into a wave and come off your bottom turn, throw your weight towards the wave’s face by extending your body and arms up towards the wave. This shift in positioning and weight will pull you up the wave face. As you rise up the face, compress by bending your knees to lower your center of gravity and descend the wave face with ample speed. 

Lead Your Turns

surfing turning

Just like when generating speed, turning requires our whole bodies. Doing a proper cutback requires several steps. Step 1: compress and shift your weight towards your back foot. Step 2: Start your turn by leading the turn with your hands. Move your leading arm in the direction you want to turn by rotation at the hips and shoulders. Step 3: Follow your lead arm with your gaze, turning your head as you rotate. Step 3: Engage your outside rail as your board rotates through the turn. Step 4: rebound off the white water and continue surfing in the packet.

Surf on the Top Two-Thirds of the Wave  

surfing in Ecuador

The top two-thirds of the wave contains 90% of the wave’s speed and power. As an intermediate surfer, you want to increase your time riding on the top two-thirds of the wave. When you surf on the lowest third of the wave, you can’t generate speed or climb the wave face, and the wave will often outrun you. Surfing on the top two-thirds of the wave allows you to use the wave’s power and steepness to generate speed and set up maneuvers.

Whether you’re new to surfing or an intermediate surfer who wants to continue improving, our surf coaches in Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador have what it takes to help you accomplish your surfing goals. Nothing is better for your surfing than an immersive surf trip to a world-class wave. Head to our website to book your trip today!

Surf Forecasting 101: How to Know When to Go

Perfect Wave

Have you ever looked at the surf forecast that you thought was favorable, grabbed your board, and raced to the beach only to find onshore slop? Surf forecasting isn’t the guessing game it was decades ago before the likes of Surfline and live stream beach cameras, but it still takes a well-trained eye to make sense of the data you’re presented in a typical forecast. Whether you’re looking at the surf forecast of your next surf trip destination or your local beach break, it pays to know how to decipher the science behind the forecast. To learn the basics of surf forecasting, continue reading below for Surf Forecasting 101: How to Know When to Go.

The Many Components of Surf Forecasting

surf forecasting perfect wave

Whether you use Surfline or one of the many other surf forecasting providers, you’re likely looking at some combination of the same forecasted data either taken from government weather data or calculated from that weather data. A typical surf forecast will display surf height, swell height, swell direction, wind spend, and wind direction, along with primary, secondary, and tertiary swell info. While all that information can be overwhelming, once you know what to look for, it will help you understand your home break on a whole new level.

Surf Height     

         

surf height

Surf height is an approximate measurement of the face of the wave. Surf height differs from While surf height may seem subjective, depending on where you’re traveling. A two-foot wave in Hawaii and a two-foot wave in California are drastically different. For the sake of surf forecasting, however, surf height is an objective measurement of the wave’s face from the top of the cresting lip to the trough of the wave.

Wind (Direction & Speed)

wind speed

Besides, swell height, wind direction, and wind speed are two of the most critical variables in surf forecasting. Ideal winds for surfing are gentle, between 0 and 5 kts, and blowing directly offshore. Surf forecasting platforms present both the wind direction and the speed, which can give surfers insight into the wave’s current and future conditions. If you’re surfing the west-facing Playa Guiones in Nosara, a gentle east wind is preferred. If you’re surfing a sheltered cove or a jetty break where a landmass blocks the wind from one direction, you may be able to find clean waves with a cross or even onshore wind.

Swell Size, Interval, & Direction

swell interval

To create the surf height metric, forecasters use a combination of the swell size, swell interval, and swell direction data points. The swell height is the measurement of an open ocean swell from the crest to the trough. The Swell interval is the distance between two swells and is given in seconds. The swell direction, given in North, South, East, West, or a combination of directions, tells surfers which direction the swell is traveling from. Surfers generally seek out solid-sized waves with longer intervals. The longer the interval, the bigger the surf. For example, a 2-foot swell at an 18-second interval at Playa Guiones will produce overhead surf. Where a 2-foot swell at 9 seconds could be barely chest height. The longer the interval, the more powerful the swell, and the more time the swell has to build in size. Each break has a forecast that brings it to life in its best form. A combination of the perfect swell direction, an ideal interval, and a swell height that’s just right will create perfectly sculpted waves without a drop of water out of place. Learning to read a surf forecast and knowing a spot’s preferred conditions takes an enormous amount of time and effort, but it pays off dividends when you score the waves of your life at your favorite break.

Take the guesswork out of surf travel by booking a trip to Safari Surf School in Nosta, Costa Rica, Playa Venao, Panama, or Ayampe, Ecuador. With friendly instructors, world-class waves, and accommodation for any budget, a trip with Safari Surf is the ultimate form of surf travel. Head to our website to book today!

The Safari Surf Guide to the Ecuador Surf Season

Ayampe Surfing

Surf travel is not the adventure into the unknown that it was just a few short decades ago. With today’s advanced surf forecasting and the modern ease of travel, a willing surfer can spot a swell online, book travel, and be halfway around the world surfing within a day. Still, even with today’s comforts, planning a surf trip to a new destination can feel a bit overwhelming. With all the available resources online, how do you know who to trust? Despite advancements in surf forecasting, every spot is different, and sometimes, forecasts are just plain wrong. When planning a surf trip, it’s improtant to know what time of year the waves are best. It always helps to talk to fellow travelers who have been to your desired destination to get a feel for what the place is like before you commit to a trip. If you’re thinking of planning a surf trip, we’re here to help. Beyond our surf school in Costa Rica, we have surf schools in Panama and Ecuador that are ideally located by world-class waves. If you’re looking to shake things up and head somewhere new for your next surf trip, head south to Ecuador. Continue reedling below for the Safari Surf Guide to Ecuador’s Surf Seasons. 

Surfing in Ecuador

Ecuador surfing

Ecuador is known for its charming backpacker towns, towering mountain peaks, and the Galapagos Islands. Few of the travelers who make the journey to Ecuador are there for the waves, but for those in the know, Ecuador is a premier surf destination with a diverse selection of quality waves. Ecuador has four surf regions: North (Mompiche to Bahia de Caraquez), Central (Manta Zone), Baja Manabi, and South (Las Salinas to Montanita). Our Ecuador surf school is located in the Baja Manabi Zone, just south of Parque Nacional Machalilla. Ecuador has comfortable water temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and sees year-round swell, so you can likely leave the wetsuit at home for your Ecuador surf adventure. 

Best Ecuador Surf Season for Beginners

jungle surf with Safari Surf

While Ecuador has year-round swell, there’s a definitive surf season from December through April when Northwest swells are dominant in the Pacific, and winds are predominately light and offshore. Beginner and intermediate surfers may find it preferable to surf in the offseason from May through November. During this time of year, the winds can be predominately on shore, but the mornings are still glassy. With thin crowds and glassy, smaller surf in the mornings, May through November is ideal for new and intermediate surfers. 

Where to Surf Year-Round in Ecuador 

surfing Ayampe

While most of the region’s waves crave the northwest swells and offshore winds that prevail during December through April, there are plenty of breaks that work well with south swell and even a few that work with either swell direction. Ayampe, home of our Ecuador surf school, is a tranquil hideaway on the coast, located in the Baja Manabi zone with a reliable wave that breaks year-round. 

How to Get to Ayampe

Ayampe, Ecuador Travel

Ayampe may be off the beaten path, but it’s well worth the trip. To get to Ayampe from the States, you’ll first fly into Quito. From Quito, you will connect on a domestic flight to Manta. From Manta. you can take a bus or a taxi to Ayampe. The journey may be long, but it is well worth it. Ayampe reminds us of what Nosara was like 20 years ago— quaint, charming, and full of natural beauty. 

If you’re considering taking a trip to South America, visit our Ecuador surf school in Ayampe for a once-in-a-lifetime surfing experience. Head to our website for more information. 

Safari Surf Presents the Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide

Ecuador Travel

Ecuador is a one-of-a-kind travel destination that needs to be seen to be believed, home to the Galapagos Islands, towering snowcapped mountains, charming colonial towns, world-class surf, and the dense Amazon jungle. While Ecuador is one of our favorite surf trip locations and home to the newest Safari Surf iteration, our Ecuador surf school, there’s much more to the country than just the waves. If you’re looking for a buck-list trip that’s full of adventure, good surf, and friendly locals, head to Ecuador. Continue reading below as we outline the ins and outs of Ecuador travel in Safari Surf Presents the Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide.

How to Get to Ecuador

Flying to Ecuador

Ecuador has two major international airports, Quito International Airport and Aeropuerto Simon Bolivar in Guayaquil. Most major international airlines fly to Ecuador via Quito. Once you’re in Ecuador, traveling around the country is easy by plane, especially if you plan on visiting the Galapagos islands or the Amazon. Regional flights can be booked through TAME, LATM, Avianca, and a few other regional airlines.

Where to Travel in Ecuador

Mountains in Ecuador

If you’re looking to travel to Ecuador, you’ve got options. Ecuador has it all, from surfing and mountain climbing to scuba diving, historic colonial towns, and the Amazon Rainforest. Ecuador offers a diverse selection of travel experiences that are unique to the country, and it would truly take a lifetime to tackle them all. If you’re traveling to Ecuador, pick a region or activity and dive deep.

To Discover Darwin’s World

Galapagos Islands
Image Credit: Travel & Leisure

Ecuador is perhaps most famous as the home to the Galapagos Islands. Located roughly 600 miles off the Ecuadorean coast in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago of 127 tropical islands that house some of the world’s most unique endemic species, like the Galapagos Penguins, Giant Tortoises, and Sea Iguanas. The many endemic species across the Galapagos Islands helped Charles Darwin propose his theory of evolution in 1859.

To Conquer Mountains

Cotopaxi
Image Credit: Much Better Adventures

While most people think of Ecuador as a tropical paradise and home to the Galapagos Islands, it’s also one of South America’s premier mountaineering destinations. Ecuador is home to 1,289 named mountains, the tallest and most prominent of which is Chimborazo (6,268m/20,564ft). Ecuador’s tallest mountains can be found within the Sierra region of the country, which includes the provinces of Zamora Chinchipe, Loja, Azuay, Cañar, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Napo, Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Bolívar, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and Los Ríos. Cotopaxi National Park is one of the country’s most popular mountain areas offering hiking and mountaineering. Parque Nacional Cotopaxi contains eight mountains, the highest of which is Cotopaxi, standing at a whopping 19,347 feet.

To Explore the Amazon

Ecuador Amazon
Image Credit: Explorers Away

To explore a wealth of biodiversity deep in the Amazon jungle, head to the Yasuni National Park, located in Napo and Pastaza provinces. The Ecuadorian Amazon sits at 1300 feet above sea level and stretches over a vast swath of the eastern part of the country, spanning six provinces and 40% of the entire country. The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Visit the Peruvian Amazon between December and May to see the region with slightly less rainfall.

To Surf Ecuador’s World-Class Waves

Ecuador surfing

It’s no secret that Ecuador is home to several world-class waves. Travelers planning on going surfing in Ecuador can choose from four surf regions: North (Mompiche to Bahia de Caraquez), Central (Manta Zone), Baja Manabi, and South (Las Salinas to Montanita). Our Ecuador surf school is located in the Baja Manabi Zone, just south of Parque Nacional Machalilla. While Ecuador has year-round surf, the primary season for surfing in Ecuador falls between December and April, when northwest swells are abundant in the Pacific. Winds during the swell season are predominately light or offshore, making it the ideal time of year for clean conditions. Our Ecuador surf school is located in the tiny, charming town of Ayampe, where lively tropical waters collide with stunning beaches, a dense jungle, and friendly locals and ex-pats. Ayampe is an idyllic laid-back surf town in the Baja Manabi Zone that is home to one of the country’s most consistent beach breaks. Ayampe reminds us a lot of how Nosara was 20 years ago. The wave at Ayampe works well during both north and south swells, making it the ideal destination for surfing in Ecuador at any time of year

To learn more about our Ecuador surf school, head to our website. Stay tuned to the Safari Surf blog for more surf and travel news. 

Panama Surf Seasons: Decoding the Best Time of Year to Surf Panama

playa venao surf camp

Surfers have been chasing waves in Central America for decades. The sliver of land that connects North and South America has two dualling coastlines that each produce flawless surf and attract traveling surfers from all over the world. While most travelers focus their wave hunting on Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Panama has proven to be a worthwhile surf trip destination with world-class waves on both the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, friendly locals, an incredible amount of biodiversity, and some of the most immaculate beaches in the world. While Panama has quality surf all year, each season brings something different. If you’re wondering when you should plan your Panama surf trip, continue reading below for Panama Surf Seasons: Decoding the Best Time of Year to Surf Panama. 

Best Panama Surf Season for Beginner and Intermediate Surfers 

Panama surf classes for kids

If you’re traveling to Panama’s Pacific Coast to learn to surf, visit during the Dry Season, which falls between October and April. During the Dry Season, you can expect cloudless blue skies, gentle offshore breezes, and small to fun-sized surf. While there’s still plenty of swell during the Dry Season, you’re unlikely to encounter overhead and above the surf, which would sideline most beginner and intermediate surfers. In addition to friendlier wave sizes, the Dry Season also sees cleaner wave conditions, thanks to the gentle offshore breeze that blows nearly all day during the height of the Dry Season. If you’re after learner-friendly Panama surf, head to Panama’s Pacific Coast during the Dry Season. 

Panama Pacific Coast Swell Season 

Surf School Panama

If you’re a high-level intermediate or advanced surfer looking to make the most of the Panama surf, head to Panama during the Rainy Season to chase large south swells on the Pacific Coast. The Rainy Season falls between May and September and is considered Central America’s official swell season. During the Rainy Season, powerful south swells form in Antarctica and travel up the Pacific Coast to Panama’s south-facing coastline. Premier waves on the Pacific Coast, like Playa Venao and Santa Catalina, come to life during the summer months. New surfers traveling to Playa Venao during the Rainy Season won’t be out of their league, thanks to the protected corners of the cove that have learner-friendly waves all year long. 

Panama Caribbean Coast Swell Season

Bocas Del Toro Surfing
Image Credit: Surfline

Panama’s Caribbean Coast is home to the world-renowned surf destination, Bocas del Toro. Bocas Del Toro is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, home to white sand beaches, pristine coral reefs, and world-class waves. Bocas Del Toro is an ideal surf destination for advanced surfers looking to chase warm water barrels that break over lively reefs. Bocas is an island community where you travel by water taxi to and from different islands and waves. Because of its location in the Caribbean Sea, the swell season in Bocas coincides with the Dry Season and the North American winter. During the winter, storms form off the coast of Canada and travel down the coast of the United States before reaching the Caribbean Sea, where they collide with the reefs in Bocas to form world-class surf. To chase Panama surf in the Caribbean book a winter trip and follow a swell down to Bocas del Toro. 

To book your Panama surf trip and learn more about our Panama surf school in Playa Venao, head to our website. Stay tuned to the Safari surf blog for more surf and travel news. 

Everything You Need to Know About Surfing in Ecuador

Surfing in Ecuador

Known as the “Heart of the Earth,” Ecuador is home to a diverse landscape that includes towering mountain peaks, dense jungle, tropical beaches, and some of the best waves on the planet. Our Ecuador surf school is located in the tiny, charming town of Ayampe, where lively tropical waters collide with stunning beaches, a dense jungle, and friendly locals and ex-pats.

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The Safari Surf Guide to Where to Surf in Panama

Surf School Panama

At the bottom of Central America, Panama winds and weaves between the powerful Pacific Ocean and the electric blue Caribbean for a combined 1,547 miles of dualling coastlines. Between the Caribbean and the Pacific coasts, Panama possesses dozens of world-class waves that each break in warm, tropical water.

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Safari Surf Presents Wave Riding 101: A Beginners Guide to Learning to Surf

surfing in Costa Rica
surfing in Costa Rica

If you’re reading this, you likely have never surfed before, but something about wave riding has piqued your interest just enough to do a bit of research. If learning to surf is on your bucket list, but you have no idea where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Safari Surf School has been in the business of teaching surfing for nearly three decades. Our surf school doesn’t just cater to tourists on the beach looking for a photo op. We create lifelong surfers who develop a deep passion for wave riding and continue to progress along their surfing journey long after they depart. If you have a passion for the ocean and are ready to begin your surfing journey, continue reading below for Safari Surf Presents Wave Riding 101: A Beginners Guide to Learning to Surf.

What is Surfing?

surfer paddling

Surfing is the act of riding breaking waves using a specifically designed board in the ocean or other large bodies of water. Unlike other popular forms of wave riding, surfing involves standing while riding along the face of the wave. Surfers paddle into waves in a prone position and pop up to their feet as the wave catches them. No matter how progressive surfing becomes, the majority of surf maneuvers are designed to keep the surfer in the pocket of the waves, right in front of the breaking white water moving laterally along the wave’s face.

Learning to Surf (the Right Way)

Learning to surf

Every day, hundreds (if not thousands) of new surfers paddle out to lineups all over the planet. Surfers who have never ridden waves before, taken a lesson or been schooled in proper surf etiquette all too often find themselves surfing amongst experienced surfers at advanced waves. To the outsider, surfing may seem insular or even exclusionary, thanks to concepts like localism. These concepts, however, exist to keep surfers safe. If you’re learning to surf, follow these simple steps to ensure you’re learning to surf the right way.

  1. Surf at the Right Wave for Your Skill Level

Too often new surfers paddle out to waves that are well out of their league and endanger themselves and those around you. Avoid this situation by paddling out to a mellow beginner wave. A beginner wave should have a gentle slope, break in a protected cove or beach with relatively small surf, and be far removed from advanced surfers.

2. Use the Right Equipment

New surfers should paddle out on soft top boards that allow them to learn to surf safely. Using a foam board, rather than a traditional fiberglass board, will allow the surfer to surf carefree without worrying about injuring themselves or anyone else when they fall.

3. Take a Lesson

Learning to surf can be a long and difficult process, especially without proper instruction. Taking a surf lesson with a qualified surf instructor will not only keep you safe during your first session, but it will also give you the skills and knowledge you need to progress as a surfer.

4. Learn Surf Etiquette

Surf Etiquette is critical and universal to all lineups. From Indonesia to California, surf etiquette is the same. Learning proper surf etiquette will allow you to seamlessly enter any surf lineup that’s suited to your skill level.

Finding the Right Surf School

Not all surf schools are created equal. The Ideal surf school should take you to a perfect beginner wave, have ISA-accredited surf instructors, and, above all else, have a deep passion for surfing. If you’re serious about learning to surf, why not immerse yourself in it with a surf trip? Surf trips allow you to go all in on surfing for the duration of your trip with a visit to Safari Surf in Costa Rica, Panama, or Ecuador. During your stay, you’ll travel to an exotic location with warm water and surf perfect waves for a week or more under the guidance of the best surf instructors in the business.

Kickstart your surfing journey with a stay at Safari Surf. To find out more about our surf school and what it takes to learn to surf, head to our website. Stay tuned to the Safari Surf blog for more surf tips, travel news, and all things Costa Rica.  

Surf Etiquette 101: Decoding the Unwritten Rules of the Lineup

surfer paddling
women's surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica

Learning to surf can feel intimidating. Navigating the politics of a surf lineup and understanding its unwritten rules isn’t something that comes naturally to most surfers. Surf etiquette is something that is taught and learned. Surf Etiquette is something that every surfer should take the time to understand, and something every surf school should implement into its teachings. While the unwritten rules of the lineup are often overlooked in surf lessons, we at Safari Surf believe they are vital to surf progression and our student’s safety in the water. If you’re new to surfing, take the time to familiarize yourself with the unwritten rules of the lineup by continuing to read below.

Surf Etiquette Rule #1: Understand Priority

Safari Surf School guests having a great experience

Understanding priority in surf lineups is fundamental to surfing in crowded lineups. Without a priority system, every wave would be flooded with surfers all vying for their chance at a clean ride. Thanks to the system in place, it’s universal that one surfer rides each wave. When vying for position while paddling for a wave, the surfer closest to the peak of the wave has priority. Those outside of the peak, or down the line must yield to the surfer at the peak. If the wave is an a-frame and has both a right and a left, surfers closest to the peak may split the peak.

Always Be Aware of Your Equipment

surf etiquette lesson

While the ocean may feel dangerous at times, the most dangerous thing in any given surf lineup is the other surfers and their surfboards. Proper surf etiquette dictates that surfers must always be mindful of their boards. Being mindful of your board means not ditching your board in a crowded lineup when an incoming set approaches or kicking out of a wave and launching your board in the air. Do your best to stay in control when duck diving, turtle rolling, and kicking out of waves.

Don’t Snake/ Back Paddle

surfer paddling

Having the inside track to the peak of the wave guarantees you priority, but snaking/backpaddling someone to get there is a serious violation of surf etiquette. If you have to loop around another surfer to get to the peak while paddling for the same wave, the wave belongs to the other surfer. Snaking is a surefire way to get on an entire lineup’s nerves and can even get you sent to the beach with a few stern words.

Respect locals

Safari Surf Schools instructors are all certified surf coaches and lifeguard certified

If you’re traveling to surf, understand that you’re a visitor. Locals will be more than happy to share waves if you show them respect. Respect the locals by not paddling straight out to the peak, waiting for your turn patiently, and giving off positive energy with smiles, hellos, and good mornings. As a visiting surfer in a new lineup, it’s always a good idea to watch a few sets before paddling for a wave to get a lay of the land.

Know When to Paddle Out (and when not to)

surfing getting barrelled

As a new surfer, it’s critical to understand your place in the lineup and your own limitations. Every surfer, even those with years of experience, has limits and knows when to stay on the beach. If the waves are out of your comfort zone, there’s no shame in not paddling out. Paddling out in conditions that far exceed your skill level will not only endanger yourself but those around you as well.

At our Costa Rica Surf School, surf etiquette is an integral part of our surf lesson program. We are in the business of creating lifelong, passionate surfers, not vacation photo ops. If you’re ready to learn to surf, head to our website to book your stay. Stay tuned to the Safari Surf School blog for more surf tips, travel news, and all things Costa Rica.

The Best Nosara, Costa Rica Tours and Activities for When You’re Not Surfing

catch your own dinner in Panama
catch your own dinner in Panama

If you’re visiting us in Playa Guiones, chances are, you’re here to surf. As much as we wish we could spend our entire days in the water surfing, it’s just not feasible. Fortunately, there’s a lot to do in Nosara and around Playa Guiones to keep our guests busy. There’s something for everyone here in Nosara, whether you want to explore Costa Rica’s abundant natural wonders, shop the Nosara boutiques, or have an adrenaline-filled adventure. To find out more about what to do in Nosara, continue reading below for The Best Nosara, Costa Rica Tours and Activities for When You’re Not Surfing.

Costa Rica Tours for the Adventurous: Nature Tours

Costa Rica Wildlife tour

Costa Rica is known as a nature lovers’ paradise. Our small country takes up only 0.3% of the earth’s surface but contains over 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 species. With over 900 species of birds, four monkey species, both two and three-toed sloths, a plethora of crocodiles and caiman, and more, it’s easy to see why people travel from all over the world to experience Costa Rica’s wildlife firsthand. For a quick trip into the exotic, head to the Nosara Biological Reserve for a hike. This 90-acre private nature reserve lets you explore mangrove wetlands and dry tropical rainforests, where you’ll find howler monkeys, iguanas, coatis, and hundreds of species of birds. If you want to explore Costa Rica’s wildlife further, head to Palo Verde National Park.

Costa Rica Tours for Anglers: Deep Sea Fishing

Captain Alonso on Safari Surf Schools Vilocity Boat

If you’d rather spend your time off a surfboard exploring the depths of the Pacific by boat and trolling for trophy fish, you’ve come to the right place. Safari Surf can set you up with Nosara’s best ship captains and fishing boats for an unforgettable day on the water. Fish for Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and even Blue Marlin. The waters off the coast of Guanacaste are some of the liveliest in all of Central America. Costa Rica’s sport fishing is world-renowned and well worth trying. Catch your dinner and spend the day on the water!

Snorkeling in Nosara

Costa ica Snorkeling

Playa Guiones may be known for its world-class surf, but there’s plenty to do in the water beyond just surfing. If you’re interested in exploring the world beneath the ocean’s surface, we’ll set you up with a snorkeling charter where you’ll head to the crystal-clear waters offshore to explore lively reef systems.

Whale Watching & Dolphin Tours in Costa Rica

swim with dolphins in costa rica

Another great way to spend a day on the water apart from surfing is to charter a dolphin and whale watching tour. Our Costa Rica surf school sits right on an active stretch of the Pacific Ocean where migrating Humpback and Pilot Whales are frequently spotted. Dolphin and whale watching tours leave from Garza Beach and head 6 to 8 miles out to sea to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals. Chances of spotting dolphins and whales are high year-round, but your best bet is to go when Humpbacks migrate through the region during August-October and December-April.

Take a Sunset Sail

surf and relax trip

End your day on the water with the wind in your hair and a cold drink in your hand. Daily sunset boat tours are available for groups of up to 8 people. With a sunset boat tour, you’ll receive to and from the boat launch, beers, margaritas, waters, snacks, fruit, and an

Inflatable floating lounge.

Explore Nosara and Playa Guiones by ATV

get lost ...Nosara, Costa Rica

Take a 4×4 excursion in Nosara to explore the nearby jungles and rivers. Navigate the country roads around Nosara by ATV and get up close and personal with the surrounding jungle. There are several ATV tour options, including coffee tours, jungle tours, and more.

Whatever adventure you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Nosara. Join us in Costa Rica for surf lessons and so much more. To book your Costa Rica surf lessons and your Nosara vacation, head to our website.

The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica

Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica
Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica

Eating in Costa Rica has changed a lot in recent years. Costa Rica has always been known as a hotbed for Latin cuisine that is dominated by fresh fruits, abundant fish, and classic dishes like Gallo Pinto. In the last 10 years, Costa Rica, and Nosara specifically, have undergone a cultural revolution. Nosara has become one of the world’s most desirable health and wellness destinations, and with that title comes a whirlwind of international influence that’s most noticeable while roaming the dirt roads around town looking for a meal. If you’re planning to visit Nosara, bring your appetite. Continue reading below for The Safari Surf Guide to the Best Restaurants in Nosara, Costa Rica.

Best Restaurants in Nosara for Casual Dinning: Beach Dog Café

Beach Dog Cafe Nosara

Located just before the path to Playa Guiones down the road from the Sunset Shack Hotel, Beach Dog Café is one of Nosara’s most iconic restaurants. Serving casual yet delicious meals like burritos, fish tacos, burgers, and more, the Beach Dog Café is perfect for a quick lunch or a laid-back dinner. With live music on the weekends and an extensive cocktail menu, it’s easy to kick back and stay for a while.

Best Coffee in Nosara: Olo Alaia Surf & Brew

Olo Alaia Surf & Brew

If you’re in Playa Guiones searching for a pick-me-up, head to Olo Alaia Surf & Brew. While it’s technically not a restaurant, Ola Alaia still makes our list of the Best Restaurants in Nosara thanks to its killer combination of great coffee, unique surf crafts and supplies, and trendy clothing. Ola Alaia is one part craft coffee shop, one part surf shop, and one part boutique clothing store. Whether you’re looking for a cappuccino or a new board, Ola Alaia’s vibe and service cannot be beaten.

Best Local Meal in Nosara: Rosie Soda Tica

Rosie Soda Tica's Nosara

If you’re looking for an authentic Tico meal, you can’t go wrong with Rosie Soda Tica. With two locations in the Playa Guiones area, Rosie Soda Ticas has become a staple of the community through its delicious local offerings with backpacker budget-friendly prices. Try a traditional Gallo Pinto for breakfast or fresh fish for lunch. Rosie’s is open from 8 AM – 3 PM each day and is the perfect post-surf stop.

Best Restaurant with a View: La Luna

La Luna Nosara Costa Rica

La Luna offers guests exceptional views with beachfront dining and a sophisticated menu featuring brick oven pizzas, decadent salads, fresh seafood, and an extensive international wine list. As one of the only on-the-sand dining options in Nosara, La Luna is the ideal spot for date night or sunset cocktails.

Best Cocktails in Nosara: Howler’s Beach Lounge

Howler’s Beach Lounge

For craft cocktails and a relaxed yet refined atmosphere, head to Howler’s Beach Lounge. With a tropical ambiance and elevated cocktails and tapas menu, you won’t be disappointed. Meet friends for an evening cocktail, or head there for a post-surf snack. Howler’s Beach Lounge is a great spot to meet friends for a drink, bring a date, or just relax and people-watch with a good book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. 

Best Pizza in Nosara: Guiones Brew

Guiones Brew Nosara

Just because you’re in the jungle doesn’t mean you can’t find good pizza. Head to Guiones Brew, where you’ll find the perfect combination of fresh ingredients and innovative menu items. Pick from classic Italian favorites like prosciutto and pesto, or sample something different inspired by local flavors like honey and cashew. With arguably the best pizza in the Guiones area and a stellar craft beer menu, Guiones Brew is a must-try for pizza lovers in Nosara.

Work up an appetite with surf lessons in Nosara through our Costa Rica surf school, Safari Surf! Stay tuned to our blog for all things surfing and Costa Rica.