It’s the question on any first-time visitor’s mind, is Spanish necessary to get by? Costa Rica’s primary language is Spanish so it would really help if you could churn out a few words. If you’re travelling for a standard family surf vacation, you can probably get away without learning Spanish. Many expats get away without ever speaking a word of the language.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to pick up a few words of the language. It opens far more doors and enables you to explore the country more intimately.
In destinations like Montezuma you won’t need to speak Spanish. It’s a popular tourist destination and all the locals speak English to communicate with the passing trade. This is especially true in the shops and beach bars you’ll encounter. The same thing applies to surf camps and yoga retreats high in the country’s forests and mountains.
Since this is a country which relies so much on tourism, the locals have taken up English as it’s the standard language shared between most visitors.
You’ll have few problems interacting with younger people. Schools actively promote English lessons as they acknowledge it’s such an important part of the country. Foreign investment in surf & yoga in Costa Rica makes up for a large portion of the nation’s total income. Without the ability to speak English, it would deter many of these tourists from visiting.
It’s the older generations you’ll have problems dealing with. English study in the national curriculum is recently new. Older people won’t have grown up with the language and will have little desire to learn it now. You might need a translator if you’re dealing with them.
There’s so much more to Costa Rica than Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. These are the destinations everyone knows about. If you want to dive deeper and get closer to the heart of the country, you have to explore the villages and small communities in the interior. It’s what makes the experience so magical.
These villages don’t rely on tourism and still focus on agriculture and handcrafts. They aren’t primitive or backwards, they just have little contact with foreigners because most stick to the coastline and major urban areas.
You should expect to learn some Spanish if you want to visit these places.
The good news is most English speakers will find Spanish one of the easiest languages they can learn. It doesn’t have lots of different tenses and conjugations and it isn’t difficult to pronounce. Most of the words roll off the tongue and even broken Spanish will endear you to the locals.
Many of your hosts will speak Spanish as well as English. Be proactive and ask them to teach you a few words of Spanish. Most will be delighted and appreciate the effort on your part. Even learning the basics like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can do a lot for you. You can let lots of pointing take care of the rest!
For a country famous for its beaches and forests, visitors often find the sheer number of environments surprising once they get to Costa Rica. You need to prepare for each of these environments so you can feel comfortable and ready to experience your next unforgettable travel moment. Using our experience residing in this country for many years, we’ve developed a list of the most important points you need to know about each area.
At our surf school, you’ll be doing all your learning on white sandy beaches. Costa Rica is just north of the equator and has very hot and humid days. A swimsuit is what most people wear. Dress very casual and don’t be afraid to dress light and casual. It’s normal for Ticos, so there’s no need to worry about offending anyone. Check out our packing tips for more information.
The only thing you should watch out for is the mosquitoes. Wear some mosquito repellent during your time on the beach. You can find it for sale practically everywhere during your stay.
San Jose and Central Valley
The capital of Costa Rica and the surrounding area are roughly 3,000-5,000 feet above sea level. If you venture into this area of the country, bring lots of sun protection. Wear a hat, rub cream over yourself, and dress in cool and airy clothing. From late May until November, you’ll need an umbrella as it’s rainy season.
During the ‘green season’ you can expect it to rain regularly in these areas. It rains almost constantly here due to the high elevation.
Monte Verde, Lake Arenal, and the Arenal Volcano are well-travelled parts of the country. Horseback rides, camping, and hiking are common here. If you’re taking a break from your family surf vacation, take a varied amount of clothing. The Highlands have temperatures ranging from scorching to cool and rainy.
To make it easier for you, take both your Central Valley and beach outfits along with you, as well as some sturdy hiking boots.
Dress VERY light in the rainforests. It’s the most humid place in the country. You’ll get just as soaked as you would at our surf school here. Take a poncho with you to protect your clothing as much as possible. To prevent insect bites, wear repellent and long trousers.
Don’t wear anything scented as this will just attract everything to you. Wear a strong pair of walking boots and a hat to protect your head. It can feel uncomfortable with the high humidity, but Costa Rica’s rich ecological systems make trekking through the forests a must.
We recommend you buy some basic clothing in Santa Teresa or Playa Hermosa. When you learn to surf in Costa Rica you’ll find lots of surf shops and independent dealers. Most of the stuff will be cheaper than back in your own country. Support the local economy and cut down on your travel costs by buying local during your vacation.
Plus, it gives you the chance to interact with some of the locals and try out your Spanish skills.
Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding your stay at the Shaka beach Retreat
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with lots of prime surfing opportunities. Only Hawaii is more popular than Costa Rica. If you’ve never been abroad on a surfing trip before, you might worry about the condition of your surfboard by the time you return home.
Choosing to stay in a dedicated surf camp in Costa Rica is the best way to ensure your board will be well taken care of, but if you’re more of a free spirit use these tips:
Cover it Up
A chip or a crack makes a board less responsive and poorer to ride. Most of the damage caused to a board doesn’t happen in the water. It happens on the ride to and from the beach. Public transport in Costa Rica is the way to get around some of the more remote areas.
On a bus ride, just throwing your board in the luggage compartment isn’t going to cut it. Don’t rely on the staff to take care of it or do anything other than chuck it in and lock it up. A surfboard bag can keep a board pristine for many years.
The waters of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais have been kissed by the sun. As much as you love the sun bouncing off your skin, your board doesn’t feel the same way. Heat damage changes the dynamics of the board. You won’t notice these subtle differences, though. Always keep your board in a shady spot.
On a crowded beach, hide it under your bag or a small covering. On isolated beaches you could use the forest covering at the back of the beach.
Dealing with Crowds
You’ll find no end to the crowds in some of the more popular surf spots. Everyone is competing for a wave and you always have a few greedy people who don’t want to give others a turn. How you handle the crowds defines what condition your board will leave the beach in.
One option is to simply wait for an opening. Most surfers are upstanding sportspeople who know about etiquette. If the beach is totally overloaded, don’t risk your board. Losing your board or colliding with another surfer can leave cracks and dents which can keep you out of the water for days. Surf safety should always be your top priority.
There’s no shortage of beaches in Costa Rica. Find a different one if you have to surf right now. Alternatively, come back another time. Try to arrive in the late evening or early morning. There’s a bigger risk of encountering jellyfish and crocodiles, but it’s when there are fewer surfers and you’ll have a lot more beach to yourself.
This country has a very low crime rate. A murder or an assault is almost unheard of. Hippie towns like Montezuma have a population of laidback residents and friendly backpackers just passing through.
The one crime which is still rampant near busy tourist towns is petty theft. If you have an expensive surfboard it could disappear whilst you’re out on safari somewhere. Keep it hidden and locked away. If possible, ask if someone can keep it safe for you. Some friendly surf shops will store boards from tourists for a small fee.
Ideally, you shouldn’t bring something you aren’t prepared to lose. If the loss of your board would crush you and ruin your holiday, leave it at home and settle for a cheaper board. There’s also no shortage of rental stores available.
We’ve had such a busy season, with so much going on, I haven’t had much time to write. The past couple of blogs have been a whirlwind of experiences that all took place within a few days of one another. With all of the excitement, I neglected to announce the most exciting news! The newest addition to Shaka….the brand new, yoga studio….the yoga rancho!
Beautiful….all hand done teak, from floor to ceiling! She’s nestled under the jungle canopy….a stones throw away from the original Rancho…the heartbeat of Shaka. Her energy is sweet and inviting, welcoming the next group of adventurists to grace her with their presence.
No walls to contain her, allowing the sounds of the ocean and the jungle to mix and mingle with the energies of the class. Nature appears to be bursting at the seams, an ecstatic expression singing itself into creation! The high pitched hum of the locusts, a continual pulsation holding the space. A rich layering of information, woven together with a myriad of melodies…all singing to the beat of their own drum!
In addition to the sounds of nature, you will also experience the sights too! My favorite characters are the howler monkeys….to watch and to hear! I spent the whole morning in the studio today and was accompanied by a troop of monkeys! They were literally twenty feet from the studio! I’m not sure who was watching who! They seemed to be as fascinated by us, as we were them!
I love teaching and practicing in the new space, it feels good under my feet….and my hands…..connected and rooted to the earth….in the middle of the jungle….with the sound of the ocean in the background…..Gracias!
Om Mani Padme Hum
The powerful and hungry ocean
Surfing and yoga
The quad tour
The football field
More fun to write
Our purpose and our gift
La Vida Loca
Find the good
I’ve been a part of the collective at Shaka Beach Retreat for almost four months now. It has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate artistically and share space with such a wonderful group of people.
The Heartbeat of Shaka
A Sweet, Simple Life
My humble abode
It’s been a minute since my last post, as I have been busy settling into my new life in Costa Rica. I finished with my volunteer position at Shaka the first of December and moved in next door to my new place. A little casita, a studio with a bed, a refrigerator, gas stove, sink and a bathroom. All the necessities covered, my favorite part of my humble abode is the porch where I am lying in my hammock writing this.
The snooze button
I am surrounded by tropical flowers and a menagerie of critters…dogs, cats, roosters, chickens, birds, and of course howler monkeys. Between the monkeys and the roosters, there is no need for an alarm clock, they will begin to wake you at about 4:30 am. At least they are kind enough to allow you to snooze for about ten minutes between intervals of their good morning celebration!
Stepping into the flow of the jungle
The good news is around here you tend to sleep with the natural rythyms and pulsations of life, stepping into the flow of the jungle! Another great reason to wake early is to head over to Shaka and begin my day there. I am extremely grateful and excited that they have asked me to continue on as a part-time volunteer. I will be helping out with guest relations, cooking with Cristelia and begin teaching regularly scheduled yoga classes there this week.
New roof for the Rancho
We will be practicing in the Rancho (which just had a new thatch roof put on it this week!) until the yoga platform construction is complete. I was amazed how quickly the roof was rebuilt and have been informed the yoga platform will be finished by the end of January. It will be nestled behind the existing structures, closer to the beach and under the jungle canopy. It is going to be so amazing, as if it isn’t already enough!
Launching the new website
The other really awesome news is that I am launching my new website solalunaretreats.com, where we will be offering yoga and surf Amazingness! An extension of Shaka, these retreats will include yoga classes, surf lessons and delicious, healthy cuisine. I am filled with delight to be a part of this expansion!
Free downloads, healthy recipes
I am also thrilled that this will keep me in Costa Rica on a more permanent basis…I have fallen hard for this place! Please stay connected and keep your eyes open for the new site. We will be up and running for 2013 and ready to start this new year off with a bang! I will be offering free downloads for tasty, healthy recipes and some get fit quick yoga routines, etc.
Have a good time, live a simple life
I think what has been most appealing about my experience at Shaka, besides the breathtaking beach and jungle landscape is the feeling that I am with family…a real collective..a bunch of great people who like to have a good time and live a simple life. What more could anyone ever ask for? Well, maybe some really good chocolate! Haven’t found that here yet! A sacrifice I am willing to make for paradise! Until next time…..