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.

Tourist Destination

discopalace / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Younger Generations

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.


smilla4 / Foter / CC BY-NC

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.

Easy Language

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!

everywhereATonce / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


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Categories : Costa Rica Interest
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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.

The Beaches

surf school

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

Captain Kimo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

The Highlands

-stëve- / Nature Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

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.


-stëve- / Water Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Buy Here?

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

Categories : Costa Rica Interest
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surferCosta 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 Sun

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.

The Locals

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.

A guest post from Geoff McCabe, eco-friendly entrepreneur and owner of the Anamaya Yoga Resort in Costa Rica


Anamaya Yoga Resort in Costa Rica

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The Yoga Rancho

Posted by Apr23, 2013 Comments (0)

yoga studio3

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.

yoga studio


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!

yoga studio 2

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Something Lost and Something Gained

Posted by Apr18, 2013 Comments (0)

Om Mani Padme Hum

A couple of days ago I was helping Mo’e with a surf lesson, a very nice family from Seattle. I was giving the little boy a send off when my beloved bracelet was caught in the leash and torn from my arm. This wasn’t just any bracelet….it was a gift from a dear friend and longtime student back in Denver. He had purchased it in Tibet, it was solid silver and had the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum inlaid upon it.

The powerful and hungry ocean


I had worn it everyday since he given it to me almost two years ago. I was heartbroken and trying my best to let it go….”svaha” a Sanskrit term, meaning throw it in the fire. What was done was done, yet another thing lost to the powerful and hungry ocean. Where does all that stuff go? There is probably some underwater pawn shop that is killin’ it!



Later that evening, I was talking to Moira, one of our guests, a film producer from Ireland. She is here filming the Irish television show called ” In Your Shoes”, a reality based show, where they pair up two teenage kids, one disabled and one able bodied. They are here with the “Ocean Healing Group”, Shaka’s non profit organization for kids with disabilities.

Surfing and yoga



The kids and crew are touring around the world and have different adventures at each destination. While they are here in Costa Rica, they are surfing, quading and zip lining. The first two days were spent on Playa Hermosa where they all learned to surf! I am continually amazed by the courage and trust these kids have! Imagine surfing blind, or without the use of your legs….I get scared out there myself!! In addition to these more daring activities, the kids also did yoga with me, a wonderful and powerful practice that everyone can benefit from!

The bracelet


So back to Moira, I was telling her how I had lost my bracelet that day and was pretty bummed. She then begins to tell me that she has the exact same bracelet, only not in silver but in bronze and she said she would like to give it to me. I was like….really?!? Wow! Gracias! Not exactly something you see everyday….kind of an obscure piece of jewelry….very interesting. I was then adorned with a new bracelet and a new friend.

The quad tour


The following day the group was heading up toward Manzanillo for a quad tour. The film crew including Moira and myself were waiting for the kids to come by for their first shoot. We were standing on the hillside along the beach road and right after the kids and chaperones passed by….Moira took a bad fall and had appeared to have broken her leg…tibia…fibula?

Emergency response


Frank and Grant, who both have training in emergency response, quickly splinted and iced Moira’s leg. Keep in mind that we are in a very remote location on the Southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula….no cell service….no hospital…the closest clinic is in Playa Carmen, which is about eight kilometers away.



We get Moira ready for transport and I am her driver, Kate her nurse while we make the journey to the clinic. We now have the task of driving on the rocky, bumpy roads to get help. That thirty minute ride seemed to never end….every bump I cringed, as Moira’s pain escalated. Kate was in the back seat, also with emergency response training….she sat with Moira and continued to help us all remain calm and kept a close eye in our patient.

A lifetime

We finally arrived at the clinic after what seemed to be a lifetime. We got Moira in and they began to treat her. One of the other things we don’t have down here is an X-ray machine….and we are still a few hours form the nearest hospital…by car anyway. So, the doc says we need to be airlifted by helicopter to San Jose and get Moira to Cima Hospital.

The football field

Kate and I run back to camp, gather the important items and we race back to the clinic. We make the arrangements to be airlifted to the hospital and I will accompany my new friend on her journey as Kate heads back to camp to care for the kids. We load into the ambulance and drive to the football field where the helicopter lands. The sweet nurse Wendy rides with us to monitor Moira and also to catch a ride back to San Jose, which is where she lives.

The helicopter


Juan Carlos escorts us all onto the helicopter and I am immediately relieved by his calming energy and obvious experience. Our flight from Santa Teresa to Cima Hospital in San Jose takes us about forty minutes. We arrive safely and they quickly admit Moira, take X-rays and determine that she has broken her tibia and her fibula…no bueno…she needs surgery.



I make all the needed arrangements with the help of Frank and Allen and get Moira all set up. She is a tough woman to endure that kind of pain and difficult transport…not to mention selfless…as she was more concerned about her kids, crew and any inconvenience she had caused anyone. I assured her that she was loved and certainly not an inconvenience…there is never a good time for something like this to happen…it’s just life….svaha!



As the were preparing her for surgery I said my goodbyes, as it was getting late and I needed to catch the six am bus to camp. So, here I am on the bus writing this, looking at my new bracelet and wondering about my new friend. I don’t have a phone and no wifi around on my trek back. I am eagerly awaiting to hear how Moira is today. I hope that she is recovering well and throwing this one into the fire….Svaha.
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La Cocina

Posted by Apr14, 2013 Comments (0)


I decided to write about La Cocina, which is where it all goes down….The Kitchen at Shaka. When I left Colorado six months ago, I was trying to leave La Cocina….been in La Cocina since I was sixteen years old. The last Cocina that I worked at was an amazing French Bistrot in Denver called Z Cuisine……. similar….but differente.

More fun to write

I figured this story would be much more fun to write and much more entertaining to read, than the work I have been compiling for five years regarding the Sanskrit alphabet, the orbit of the moon around the earth and the orbit of the earth around the sun….boring…right?

Many faces

It’s funny how life pulls us away from the things that we feel we were put on this planet to do….or does it? The truth is, we have many faces, the cook, the housekeeper, the yoga teacher, the dishwasher, the food server, the maintenance man, the surf instructor, the mom, the business owner, the financial planner, the web designer….the list goes on.

Our purpose and our gift

The point being, is that we all have roles to play…whether we like them or not. Continually being pulled away from the things that we feel are our purpose and our gift. Por que? No se… slow us down I guess! To make us realize the value in those many faces and what each contributes?

La Vida Loca

La Cocina is where I learn Spanish, traditional Costa Rican cooking, local natural medicinal remedies and of course laugh my ass off with my friends, talking shit about everything that goes down around camp and living  La Vida Loca!!

La Jefa

The best thing about La Cocina is la Jefa….the boss…Cristelia….my best amiga in Costa Rica. She is bonita… addition to cooking, she also has many roles. One of which is my Spanish professor….tough job….but somebody has to do it! My first day in La Cocina, my Spanish consisted of…Gracias…uno mas cervesas por favor….and donde esta el bano. Ahora mi espanole es mucho mejore…malo, but mejore.

Spanish lessons

The Spanish lessons I have received during my many hours of washing dishes have saved my ass time and time again. I realized the value in these lessons during a recent trip to Nicaragua….bus to taxi, taxi to border, border to taxi, taxi to bus, bus to ferry, ferry to taxi, taxi to mi casa….gracias por ayuda mi! Nessacito yo hablar espanole….muy importante!

Find the good

These lessons are worth their weight in gold, dish by dish… by day. This is where the yoga comes in….find the good and recognize the benefit of being pulled away from the things that you think are most important. Life has a funny way of giving you what you need, as opposed to what you want….trust in the process and remember that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should!
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The Heartbeat of Shaka

Posted by Feb20, 2013 Comments (0)

Hola Friends,

 The Collective


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


The community here is strong and stretches beyond the Rancho which is the heartbeat of Shaka…..the commonplace where all the happenings take place. We share meals here, surf lessons, yoga classes, movies, tarot card readings, just to name a few…and of course the WiFi which is our connection to the rest of the world while we play here in Paradise!

A Sweet, Simple Life


I had been dreaming about this for a long time, to be with like minded people, near the ocean, teaching yoga in a beautiful setting, surfing, and living a sweet, simple life. Well, I made it…here I am…and it most certainly is sweet!

Mmmmmmm….Raw Cacao


Sweet, like the gooey, fresh, raw cacao I feasted on this past Sunday. I sat on my porch with my neighbor and two new friends and ate one of the most delicious foods I have ever experienced. The cacao is encased within a hard brown shell, the inside is filled with little, vanilla flavored triangular seed pods and in the very center of the creamy pod, a little cacao bean…soft like milk chocolate that melts in your mouth….but a million times better!

Quality Time


The sweetness of sharing quality time with your neighbors, your friends, your family, your guests is truly what life is all about. You’ve got the peas….I’ve got the carrots…well stated by my friend Desi a few years ago. When we come together and give our gifts, we also learn to receive the gifts of others. We all desire to contribute, to feel connected and to be welcomed.

Good Company


That’s why I love it here, we offer a space for people to do just that! To enjoy good company, in a picturesque setting, away from the normal distractions that pull us away from the simplicities of life! Come check it out and see for yourself!
Pura Vida!!
Megan Panchinin
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Costa Rica Yoga and Surf Amazingness!

Posted by Dec14, 2012 Comments (0)

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, 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…..

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