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Exploring Costa Rica – Witches Rock

As I sit on the plane enroute to the San Jose airport in Costa Rica, I have no idea what is to happen in the coming days. On my previous trip to Costa Rica I briefly met a couple locals. After contacting one of them, he said that his friend will be able to meet me. So I contacted this Costa Rican, Rey, who said that he would be able to pick me up at the airport a few hours after I land and take me on a little surf trip. I was stoked to start off the trip with a local guide.

Once I landed in San Jose, I had about two hours to waste while I waited for Rey. I met him on the last trip, but only for a couple minutes and hardly remembered him. So as I waited, I wondered what kind of experience this was going to be. Was it going to be a ghetto adventure, or one of more luxury? Not knowing what kind of vehicle Rey would be driving, I waited patiently for him to find me.

At right about the time he said, a very nice Toyota Hilux pulled up and Rey hopped out to greet me. I was relieved that it was not an old beater car. I now had a feeling that this was going to be a great trip! As I hopped into the truck, Rey told me the plan. We were to pick up a couple of his friends, drive to Jaco to buy me a surfboard and then head to Playa Hermosa to surf. After Hermosa we will drive up north to Witches Rock, an epic surf spot that is only accessible by either boat or a rough 4×4 road. And, the trip began!

Jaco is what I call a tourist trap. Tons of gringos, tourist shops, and a very busy little town. We were able to grab a board at the first shop we stopped at and get out of town before too long. Once in Playa Hermosa, we drove down a dirt road looking for an uncrowded surf spot. The waves were weak, but because it was Sunday, there were tons of people enjoying the beach. Finally we found a spot and hopped in the water. As I stepped into the water I felt the lukewarm water touch my feet and was thrilled. After the chilly water of San Diego, this 85 degree water felt amazing. It was so nice to be in the water after traveling for so long.

From Jaco to Witches Rock, it was about a 6 hour drive. Because of it’s remoteness, we stocked up on supplies for the 3 days that we’d be there. The road was all that it was hyped up to be. We jostled back and forth over the boulders, rivers, and crevices for about 45 minutes before arriving at the camp site. As soon as we arrived, we picked a camp spot, unloaded the gear, and checked the surf. It was small, but we all wanted to get in the water. So after setting up some tents, we grabbed our boards and headed to the break, which happened to be about 2 miles away. It was not an easy trip to Witch’s Rock by land, but it was absolutely worth it. The beach and landscapes were incredible. Not to mention the beautiful rock just off the coast.

The swell was supposed to start coming in the next day, so in the morning we grabbed food, water, and surfboards and made the walk once more to the surf break for a full day of surfing and chilling on the beach. During the day we watched the waves slowly build and everyone was able to get some fun waves. During sunset we noticed a fun right coming from the river mouth a few hundred yards down the beach. So we all paddled out to see how it was. A strong current instantly started taking us out to sea and down the beach so we all paddled back to about knee deep water and started to shuffle our way back to the beach. About 50-75 meters from the shore I looked over and less than 4 meters away I saw the one thing that everyone fears in Costa Rica: a crocodile!

I yelled out “Crocodile!!” and we all ran as fast as we could to the safety of the beach. Three of us made it, but Rey was still fighting against the current back to shore. We no longer saw the crocodile, but knew it was still out there and Rey was still in danger. We didn’t know how to warn him, but as we tried to warn him he suddenly burst into a full on sprint back to the beach. He made it safely back to dry land and as soon as he caught his breath he said that he also saw it, less than 2 meters away from him!

The next day was our last day at Witches Rock. We had not seen any spectacular waves yet, just some fun sized beach break barrels. The constant 20+ knot offshore winds really shapes the waves into a clean little barrels. In the morning, I made the trek to the surf break with one other friend that was with us for a short session before having breakfast and packing up our stuff. We noticed that the swell had picked up and were excited to catch few waves. We were treated with the first great waves of the trip. Chest to head high fun, fast waves that if you did it right, you could get a barrel. We both caught several awesome waves, but weren’t able to get into the barrels.

After a long walk back to camp, we had a quick breakfast, packed up all the gear and then headed back to the surf. Once we arrived at the break, we saw a fun low tide wave. For the rest of the day the swell filled in as the tide rose, but so did the people. The waves became epic! 4-8 foot faces with epic barrels. It became too much for me to handle, but watching the waves and people surf was a thrill in itself. Before they closed the park, we headed back to the car and made the 6 hour drive back to San Jose. I didn’t know where I wanted to go to next, but during the drive we looked at the surf forecast and everyone convinced me to head to the complete opposite side of the country to Puerto Viejo.

 The first few days in Costa Rica were truly an adventure. Thanks to Rey Jurado for his hospitality and knowledge. I actually just found out that he is working toward being in the tourist industry, taking people on surf, diving, and other adventure trips in Costa Rica while also working on his photography, which from what I saw is stellar! I was extremely lucky that he was able to take time to take me on an amazing trip.

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This is Dan Costa