by <a href="http://www.marlisekast.com/" target="_blank">Marlise Kast</a>
For the average tourist, Costa Rica triggers images of slithering iguanas, swaying hammocks, smoldering volcanoes and waves that curl like the peel of an apple. Ever since the film Endless Summer put Costa Rica on the map in 1966, surfers have flocked to its travel book destinations such as Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa and Jaco.
Those once-deserted spots have become the McDonald's of surfing, leaving remnants of plastic boards, drive-thru sessions and processed tourism. The previously unclaimed waters have gained popularity through marketing to those willing to pay for a chance to dance on water. With so much exploitation, is it possible that secret surf spots still exist in this proverbial land?
That question can be answered on the Nicoya Peninsula where unlimited surfing hideaways await. Surfers can easily access several world class spots on the Peninsula by using Samara as a base. This laidback village offers a refreshing alternative to crowded beach towns.
Samara can be reached via the paved road from Nicoya or by taking one of the daily busses from San Josť. There are also flights leaving to and from Carrillo's small airstrip, located eight kilometers south of Samara.
Travel books label this tiny dot on the map as "a sleepy fishing village." Those who have surfed nearby, consider it to be paradise in its rawest form. On the streets of Samara, residents outnumber tourists and English is seldom heard. Known as one of the safest and most appealing beaches in the country, Samara Half Moon Bay is dotted with coconut palms and welcoming faces. Protected by a coral reef, the wide beaches and shallow waters make it an ideal playground for children.
Samara's main drag leads directly down to the beach where vendors offer fruit-filled platters and chilled milk poured from freshly cracked coconuts. Bars and restaurants feature sandy floors and authentic dishes like locally-caught seafood, rice and beans. Guests are invited to lounge and dine while enjoying the view of tangerine sunsets and silhouette surfers. For the after-hours crowd, Samara's Las Brisas dance club offers an assortment of cocktails and a local deejay who spins music until the early morning.
For the adventurous surfer, Samara's greatest appeal is the town's proximity to secret spots accessible only by four-wheeler or boat. Samara itself offers several small beach breaks that are ideal for beginners. Outside reefs, such as Isla Chora at the south end of the bay, provide some of the best waves in the area. This scenic island in the bay is also popular with swimmers and windsurfers and can be reached by boat.
Just south of Samara is Playa Carrillo. In the mouth of the bay lies a reef that pitches seven to eight foot waves during a good swell. These fast and snappy rights line up decent barrels for the experienced surfer with the added bonus of a beach break for those who like to stay close to shore.
Further south is the secluded beach of Playa Camaronal, accessible by four-wheel drive. Here, epic waves can only be reached during the dry season by crossing the River Ora. Once past the river, one must follow the dirt road to a cow pasture which overlooks the water. Building up the biggest and most consistent waves in the area, Camaronal peels from both sides and can peak up to twenty feet during the season. Seldom crowded, these clean lines hold their shape and never close out, no matter how big the size.
South of Camaronal is Punta Islita, where smaller waves break to the right just inside a cove. The best time to surf Punta Islita is during a south swell when the rights are peeling off the reef. During September and October, the waves are best at high tide when they average six feet and break off to the left.
Nearly thirty kilometers from Samara is the desolate Playa San Miguel. This long stretch of un-crowded beach break offers a punchy wave, peaking at eight feet during a swell. Playa San Miguel can be located by looking for the endless rows of trees lining the shore.