Closeouts and Coke, Burritos and Bugle, Coconuts and Cocaine…
Ok, so in true internet click bait style I’ve lured you in with a bit of classic alliteration mixed in with some drug reference regarding Central America’s Jewel of The Crown, Costa Rica. Truth be told, I stayed well away from the booga sugar and was running a surf and yoga camp in Vancouver’s Malia; Santa Teresa but underneath the roots of the picturesque palm trees shadowing perfect beach breaks, the San Diego ex-pats and their art cafes spreading the love with $10 smoothies and the pura vida lifestyle, lies a vicious little vortex intent on sucking you into the killer vida deathtrap.
Bit harsh actually, and only those with open eyes can see the seedy underbelly as you are blinded by the physical beauty of the country and only those with dark intentions will get sucked in. You’ve seen the perfect marketing pics used to promote holidays selling the “last few spaces” on surf and yoga camps and you’ve heard the term “Paradise” used in countless social media posts to describe the sleepy surf towns, but Cocaine capital of Central America aside Costa Rica is beautiful, its truly a place that you have to visit, to understand, appreciate and feel pure life; Pura Vida.
You step out of the airport and inhale a large lungful of the surprisingly unhumid and gloriously fresh air, you see that you are surrounded by the lungs of the earth; there are rainforest all around you, surrounded by active Volcanos towering into the clouds extending as far as the horizon. It’s all really breathtaking stuff and you’re only in Alajuela, sweating in the Miami style sun with thirty Tico Taxi touts offering their services in Miami Vice accents.
Usually being a budget conscious surf traveler you would wave off such hassle with your Lonely Planet Guide but there’s no need to be so dismissive, on the contrary, from the moment you step out of the plane, you are in welcome arms, so enjoy the embrace. I’ve been in arrivals at San Jose Airport half a dozen times and every time I’ve used this genuine service of getting guided to a legit taxi from an enthusiastic Costa Rican who doesn’t even expect, let alone ask for a tip.
But don’t get me wrong, Costa Ricans can hustle and are seemingly pretty good at business as their country boasts the strongest economy in Central America, but they are also very helpful, kind and proud people who welcome responsible tourism, as the old saying (that I think one of my Wavelength brethren made up) goes; “act as a guest and you’ll be treated like a local” and to quote myself “master the vocals hang with the locals”, so welcome arms are always outstretched for respectful travelers.
I’ve been in contact (en Espanol) with the friends I made out there over the past few years to ensure that the 2015 Surf & Yoga Adventure we were running was the best it could be for our crew, whilst working with the local community and ensuring we put back into the local economy, meaning everyone’s happy. So we worked with four local surf coaches and hired boards from the local shop 360 instead of taking our own guys and gear and we rented apartments at the original Santa Teresa Surf Lodge. To be respectful of the worries the locals have on tourism growth, instead of selling to the masses and getting the margins high, we set a limited amount of spaces (just ten per trip) and only run one trip per year due to the airports proximity to the rainforest, thus giving a handful of Errant customers the true Pura Vida experience. With the demand for Costa Rica being so high, this may not make great business sense, actually it doesn’t make great business sense as my bosses pointed out but Costa Rica is a very precious place but it isn’t there to be exploited and I respect that.
Pura Vida is the national saying, it means pure life, which basically means love; love to the land, the ocean, the environment and the people. Fair enough there’s some seedy antics but for a country that doesn’t have an army, the hostility is low, the vibes are good, the people are passionate, friendly and welcoming oh and the waves are really really good.
So yeah the waves, think Fistral at it’s best, every day and 29 degrees. We couldn’t really get our shit together to get shots but there’s are a few from a morning after a few too many bananas the night before.