Camaronal Surfing - Playa Camaronal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Latitude: 9° 50' 60 N, Longitude: 85° 25' 60 W)
Playa Camaronal is about 20 minutes drive south of Samara on the Nicoya Peninsula. You can get there by either flying into Sámara and renting a car, or by driving in from San Jose (6 hours), Liberia (4 hours) or Tamarindo (3 hours). To get there, you need a 4 x 4 and the shortest route will take you through rivers. In the rainy season, be prepared to drive a longer route because the rivers will be impossible to cross. Make sure to speak with locals for current river and road conditions before starting the trek. Fuel up on gas before and bring along all the supplies you’ll need.
Playa Camaronal is of greyish sand and stretches 3 km between the mouth of the river Oro at the west, to the cliffs called Point Camaronal at the southeast of the beach. It has strong to moderate waves with a lush vegetation composed of madero negro, gumbo-limbo, wild plum, bastard cedar, stinking toe, spiny cedar, yellow cortez, gonzalo alves, red berry, terciopelo, mahogany, espave, canelo, balsa wood and white cotton. This beach is very apt for camping and fishing. During the green season, the leatherback and Pacific ridley turtles lay their eggs here.
We camped in a designated park area about 50 meters from the beach behind the shore scrub and bushes. The closest hotel-type accommodations are in Carillo or Samara. Although we were allowed to have a small fire ‘for cooking’, no dogs are allowed in the park as it is a major turtle nesting beach. The site has showers, bathrooms, and potable water (US$4 a night)
Local surfers from Sámara and Carrillo rave about its strong and consistent left and right beach breaks, but it remains almost completely unknown by travelers who opt for more-touristed and accessible surf spots. In fact, it is not unusual to be the only person there.
The waves were big...really big, and were coming in from the South / South-South West. Some sets were over 10 feet (3 meters), and there was a massive rip. This is definitely not a place for beginners, and even if you think you are a good surfer...make sure you are in great swimming shape. Some of the locals say that the waves reach 20 feet (6 meters) some days...
We ended up surfing on the Eastern end of the beach, where it was a little more protected and the waves smaller. We found that the best surfing was on the outgoing tide, but again, be prepared to paddle hard to stay on the line. FYI, I spent my 43rd birthday there. One of the best times of my life.
There were very few surfers out there, and we were the only campers except for the park volunteers who were all young women from the USA, Canada and Germany. Volunteer opportunities are available at the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Camaronal. Contact either Julian Garcia or Dominica Alarcon (8332 3339).
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