Our first full day dawned in Costa Rica with the sound of barking dogs and howling offshore winds. I woke up rested, and was pleased to see that no strangers had invaded in the night – human, scorpion, or otherwise. Of course, my first mission every morning is simple: Find coffee. Drink it. This morning was no different, and after throwing on a bikini and tank, (welcome to the no pants party), and rousing my sweet husband, we walked over to greet our hosts properly in the daylight.
Bob Hay & Margaret Valverde have had Marvel Bikinis and cabinas in Playa Negra for about eight years, and you could not ask for a nicer couple to stay with during a visit to the norther part of Costa Rica! Bob is a chatty and hilarious dude who spent thirty years in commercial diving in Santa Barbara before retiring to the warmer climate and waters of Costa Rica. His wife Margaret is a Tica – local Costa Rican – with a sweet smile and seemingly shy disposition – don’t let it fool you, though – once you get to know her, Margaret is even funnier than her husband, and the woman can sew just about anything! Her shop is on-site – for $20 you can score a custom rash guard, and for $40, you pick the fabric and a custom bikini is ready in about two hours.
During our stay I may have slightly over-indulged in the custom bikinis – how could you not, with it right in our own backyard? Margaret was so awesome, and took the time to help me pick just the right fabric and shape for my body. I got a gunmetal gray cross back surf bikini, a black tank style rash guard – which I LOVE – and some scandalously cut bottoms, so I could work on tanning my uber-white bum. If you’re in the Playa Negra area, do not miss Marvel Bikinis. Finding great surf bikinis is such a chore – I’ve long been a fan of Local Honey and Nalu Swim – so it’s awesome to have another ‘kini fave to add to the list.
Bob & Margaret hooked it up with some coffee since we’d yet to make it to the store, and invited us to come back later in the day for some soup, a custom bikini fitting, or a round of ping-pong. In the light of day, the ominous feel of the area dissipated entirely, and we were surrounded by the warm golden light, bright green jungle, and friendly offshore breezes which led us down a short dirt road to Hotel Playa Negra and the main surf break out front.
Playa Negra is a reef break – renowned for it’s fast, consistent right that when it’s working, has a perfect barrel section right out front. It’s a fun wave to surf – or a fun wave to watch while relaxing in the shade of the beach trees.
That first morning in Negra, the tide was high and the surf wasn’t looking so hot, so we enjoyed a mellow breakfast of panqueques and huevos at the oceanfront hotel. After getting la cuenta, we agreed that the $30 breakfast was definitely overpriced – though the service and the view were delightful. I suggested hitting up the store to stock up on essentials, and returning to the beach for a surf check later in the day when the tide might have improved it.
So we set off for the house, scooped up our rental car and drove over to Las Tecas market, where we secured vital provisions like Imperial (Costa Rica’s local beer), almond milk, vodka, ginger ale, chips, ice cream sandwiches, tortillas, beans and cheese. Fortified, we returned to the cabina to unload the groceries, then grabbed our boards and went straight back to the beach.
As our feet touched the sand, we ran into an old friend carrying a big old log down to the water – Trevor from Castaway Concepts, whom I’d met during a yoga retreat to Playa Negra two years past. The wind had switched onshore, but Trevor gave us the heads up that some small, fun waves were still cruising through down at what the locals call “Sandy Beach” – a section of beach break with a sandy bottom just a few meters south of the main break of Playa Negra.
Armed with a backpack of beer and sunscreen, we followed Trevor and set up camp in the treeline at Sandy Beach. The surf that day was unremarkable, but being in the warm clear water was the perfect way to settle into the mellow, easy rhythm of the Pura Vida lifestyle. That evening, as the sun sank over the Pacific, we enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal of burritos and rice, and washed it down with vodka-ginger-pineapple juice. Swinging in our porch hammock, I let out a big sigh and with it, let go of all my responsibilities for the next nine days. Time to take it easy and let the cares of the world wait for a while.
The next few days we found our daily routine in Playa Negra – wake up, coffee, surf, breakfast, beers, surf, lunch, beach time, yoga (or surf), dinner, lounge time with old friends and new. Negra is home to the Peace Retreat, which is an awesome place to get your daily yoga fix – donation classes every day at 7AM are open to all levels, and it’s a short walk through the jungle from the main town area. Life is pretty mellow in Playa Negra. With no TV and no wi-fi, it’s easy to have no worries. Our evenings were spent chatting on the porch and swatting mosquitos, trading surf tales and plotting new adventure.
Jeremy (called Bear) and Lauren arrived on Monday, and together we explored the popular beach break of Avellanas, which sits just north of Playa Negra, and even ventured south a few hours to scope the scene of Marbella – another renowned break in the Northern region. Avellanas offered barrels that looked scary but were actually like the gentle kiss of the ocean. Marbella was not working so well when we checked it, so we skipped it and headed back north instead.
One of the awesome things about surf trips is making new friends – during our sessions at Playa Negra and Avellanas, we were stoked to connect with a pack of guys from Carlsbad who’d come down to score some waves on an impromptu surf trip. Kurtis, Jeremy, and Pat were the embodiment of stoked – hooting and cheering for each other in the water, and shredding lettuce on their classic nose riders at Negra. The awesome shapes they were riding were Kurtis’ own creations – scope them here at Woodin surfboards.
We connected with the crew post-surf and found out that they were planning to take a boat trip to the world famous breaks of Witches Rock (Roca Brujo) and Ollie’s Point (made famous in the film Endless Summer) on Friday – the day that a new south swell was forecasted to hit the region.
Naturally, we only had one question for them.
“Can we come?”
Stoke begets stoke, and with a more-is-merrier attitude, they welcomed us to cruise with for an epic surf journey in the protection national park region only accessible by boat. Friday couldn’t come soon enough.