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Costa Rica: Shaka Surf Camp review by Shane Deringer
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Shaka Surf Camp
Shaka is located on the rainforest covered south western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. The nearby towns of Mal Pais/Santa Teresa are more tourist oriented areas but to truly experience Costa Rica requires a little bit of effort even being as little as less than half an hour travel from most towns. The surf camp is a 20 minute quad ride from Santa Teresa which I would highly recommend as the drive is an enjoyable experience. Shaka is more appealing to the traveler and surfer that wants to escape the tourist areas and "surf" scene in Santa Teresa to the quiet and very unpopulated beach of Playa Hermosa. The part owners of Shaka welcomed me in and my visit with them in the days following added immensely to my experience in Costa Rica. To find a paradise less than half an hour from where I was staying in Santa Teresa was such a surprise and absolutely what I needed to end my trip.
Chris and Krista Mo’e are part owners and caretakers of the new and quiet surf camp. Chris, from Hawai'i has traveled throughout the world and has found his dream in Costa Rica with the stunning beaches and year round surf. With two-a-day surfs and being from Hawaii you'd expect him to be good which I witnessed first-hand at his local break. Krista is a fellow Canadian from Edmonton and seems to be tireless as she was constantly keeping the camp clean while chasing her son and daughter around. The desire of the owners is not to exploit these beautiful areas but with the help of locals allow visitors to enjoy and explore Costa Rica.
Shaka is wonderfully setup to accommodate families, backpackers and even people with disabilities. As strong supporters of "Life Rolls On" and "Wheels for Humanity" the camp is designed to be wheelchair friendly and fully ADA compliant. This is obvious with the layout of the camp including ramps and open floor plans of the cabanas. There are 4 cabanas with a house being constructed for rental part of the year which will be able to allow for the perfect number of visitors for both the camp owners and the guests. The cabanas themselves are immaculate and very spacious allowing for between 2-3 people per room in each. The 2 cabanas I saw were setup with queen beds and one with a single above the queen as you can see in the photos. When I was visiting the camp was still being fitted with all the conveniences you will need including A/C that will be a necessity in the dry season where the humidity and heat will have you dreaming of your cabana. Each cabana is also going to be fitted with a small refrigerator and all of them have a safe where you'll be able to lock up valuables. At the end of each day there is a nice porch where you'll be able to put your feet up and enjoy the shade and breeze in your hammock for an afternoon siesta.
At the heart of the actual camp is the rancho. It's high ceiling and open walls is relaxing, especially while half napping in the hammock. The kitchen is also located here where meals are prepared for guests by Grettel, the head cook. Shaka provides ALL meals with their packages. Unfortunately I never had a chance to eat there but next time...Also if you have a chance to hang out with Grettel's son Albert you will for sure have some great eats and cervezas and hopefully he'll bust out some home-made salsa and chips. It was an awesome night drinking Guaro, cervezas and just relaxing listening to the ocean in the distance. At night the feeling in the rancho is serene with just the pathways illuminated and total darkness around. I could easily find myself laying in a hammock in the rancho but don't think that every night has to be low key though.
Shaka also provides activities for guests to join in. Bonfires, pizza nights, quadding and surfing will keep you busy. As guests Shaka will provide you with surfboards for your 2-a-day surf lessons at the deserted beach of Playa Hermosa. An ideal place for beginners to learn with a sandy bottom and without the pressure of hoards of people around you. The instructors are all experienced surfers with safety being their priority and they will have you riding in no time. You can see from my photos the number of people you'll be competing against in the waves and for space on the beach. Empty except for maybe one other umbrella. The beach where lessons are given is really different from where I had been surfing in Costa Rica. The long flat beach, and clear water was amazing and not at all what I had found while I was in Santa Teresa. Don't be fooled by the lack of people into thinking the surf here isn't any good. I would say the opposite is true. In Costa Rica empty beaches can take the smallest amount of effort to reach.
Day trips from the surf camp could find you in a number of beautiful places on the peninsula. A ride north will take you to a small authentic Tico fishing town with beaches that are absolutely empty. You may find some fishermen with some local wave knowledge that will prove invaluable if you have some willingness to explore. The beaches up there are stunning, especially for the sunsets. I had an opportunity to head up there and hang out with some locals including Alejandro and a friend of his, an ex-pat from Massachusetts. The hospitality is something I won't soon forget and have to say the sunset with some cervezas, ceviche and plantains made the evening. Meeting locals is vital to the traveling experience and some basic Spanish will definitely enhance your trip. Another day trip to Cabo Blanco National Park is a must do where you will find howler monkeys, white faced monkeys and lizards throughout your hike. Another place worthwhile is Montezuma. It is a small tourism driven town where you'll find a nice hike to the waterfalls. After that you can do some quick shopping and send some postcards home. Shaka Surf Camp can easily organize various activities including snorkeling, canopy tours, fishing and horseback riding if you find yourself too sore from surfing.
While not for everyone, Shaka surf camp is the type of place I can take my family, which I will. If I had found Shaka earlier in my trip I would have without a doubt spent a good portion of my time there. It is an environment where you and your friends or family will thoroughly enjoy all the gifts Costa Rica has to offer. If you are looking into an all inclusive surf vacation it would be worth your while to scope out their website at shakacostarica.com and the reviews at www.tripadvisor.com.
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