Greg is the owner of CR Surf Travel Company. Greg grew up surfing the East Coast of the United States. He's lived in New York, Virginia Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Miami Beach Florida, and so understands the value of having good, clean waves since they didn't come that often. He has also lived close to Swami's and Santa Cruz in California so he understands the value of having uncrowded waves and warm water.
Greg made his first trip to Costa Rica in 1996, has lived there for more than 5 years and has made over 40 trips back and forth in between. He has surfed both coastlines extensively, planned hundreds of trips for clients and friends over the last 23 years, and has written surf travel articles for Surfline, The Inertia, and the Tico Times. When he is not surfing, writing, or helping clients, he is helping out at beach cleanups, playing guitar, and just enjoying and appreciating the natural beauty around him.
Topics of Podcast:
- Why Costa Rica?
- What do you love about Costa Rica?
- Favorite part of Costa Rica?
- What are the top 3 things people should not miss?
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Nauyaca Waterfalls
- Arenal Volcano
- Community Carbon Trees
- Where can you find uncrowded surf these days?
- How different is the East to the West?
- What are some things you don’t like about CR?
- What about Panama, any tips?
- Have you ever thought about living there full time?
- What services do you provide?
- Describe your first surfboard?
- What is the best wave you have surfed?
- Your favorite surf trip?
- Did we miss anything?
Social Media Profiles:
- IG: https://www.instagram.com/crsurf/
- FB: https://www.facebook.com/CRsurf/
- Website: https://crsurf.com/
Location: Right now in Virginia Beach, otherwise Costa Rica
Listo! Welcome, Greg to Saltwater High. Greg, how are you doing, bro?
Hey, I'm doing great. How about you?
I'm doing good, man. I'm doing good. You catch some waves today?
Yeah, we had some leftovers from Hurricane Teddy that passed by for the last couple of days and surfed in Virginia Beach. That's where I'm hold up right now. So there's a place called Croatan and paddled out yesterday. It was about chest ahead and pretty thumping.
Didn't catch too many waves. There were some late take-offs and definitely lots of closeouts. And then today, went back down there and surfed in the morning and then went to a place called 1st Street Jetty and caught a few more waves and came home in time to do this.
Cool. How is it different surfing there compared to Cali? Well, you just tell me.
Well, for one thing, the wave consistency is a lot less. There are tons of knee-high days here and then most swells when they do come in, it's often wind chop. So you could see the desperation on the local surfers' faces here versus California where they're pretty laid back, "Oh, I'll skip today because I know there will be waves tomorrow" kind of attitude. For crowds though, in Virginia Beach, for the most part, there's a huge stretch of beach that's really not surfed by many people. But then in the main peaks, the ones that are most consistent, you'll see 50, 80 guys and a couple dozen women too, that are out there fighting over 1 or 2 peaks. So usually I just try to hang out at the edge of those breaks and then catch my own little sets and I seem to be doing okay.
I'm coming home with a smile on my face.
Oh, dude, you always have a smile on your face since I've known you.
I'm trying. And the big smile has been coming about because in 2 weeks, I'll fly back to Costa Rica.
Yeah. Been here since March 11th.
Oh, so you've been here during the pandy?
Yeah, I kinda got stuck. It's an interesting story that a couple of days before, I was gonna go on a surf trip to Morocco, I busted my knee and my foot open.
From the same rock surfing down in south of Dominical in Costa Rica. And I needed 15 stitches and it put the kibosh on the Morocco trip. And so instead I decided to fly halfway to D.C. to see my brother and heal up bigger in the cold weather would be better than the tropical moisture. And a week later they shut down all the borders. So I've been stuck in Virginia since mid-March.
Wow. I didn't know that, dude.
Yeah, it's been a blessing and a curse. You know how it goes.
Yeah, definitely. So how long have you been down there this stretch before you were...?
Oh, I left Oakland, California in September of 2017.
I was teaching full time in Oakland and my last year, I was teaching third grade and I really burnt out on the kids. They were great in the class, but it was just all the stuff that they had to go through outside of class that they brought into the classroom. And it was too much. Plus, the cold water and the traffic of the Bay Area, I was just kinda over it.
So I flew down with my cat, a surfboard bag, 1 suitcase, and got a sweet place to rent that I'm still in right now. It's about a mile off the beach in about 5 minutes drive north of Dominical.
And just been holed up there for the last 3 years. And I do have some property down there. It's like a little over an acre, pretty much my little finquita. I'm growing fruit trees on it and trying to grow pineapple plants and assorted veggies and herbs and stuff. But...
In the same area or pretty close?
Yeah, it's about, I'd say km north of where I'm living.
So it's pretty good, too.
And has Dominical changed much in the last couple of years?
Not too much. So if you remember it takes 3 hours to get there, driving west to the coast from San Jose and then about an hour and a half south of Jacó. And the town changed only during the peak of the high season. And then also in February, they have this music festival now called Envision. It's been going on for 10 years, but it really got popular the last 4 years. So you'd have 5 to 7000 more people show up in Uvita, just south of Dominical. And that kind of put the town more on the map and it would really fill up really between February and March. And then the rest of the year, it's about the same, it's pretty quiet, super nice people that live there. The Hacienda Barú Reserve, I mean, it's still a reserve. So you look north of the Barú river and it's just all rainforest. So that part is nice. And that's why I love it so much. It's like a little piece of paradise.
Yeah, for sure. When was your first trip to Costa?
Well, I went on this crazy trip with this guy Ron back in '96, and we spent 3 weeks there and we first hit the Caribbean right after a hurricane. So we got to surf Isla Uvita off the coast of Limón. And then we drove to Arenal and got to see the lava shooting out of the volcano because it was still erupting back then. And then we went down in Manuel Antonio and had some adventures with some college friends of ours. And that's how I fell in love with the place, just seeing all that natural beauty, all these awesome waves. And then I went back there in '98 to study Spanish, and story's been told from there.
And then when did you start the business, the Costa Rica Travel?
Oh well, in '98 I went to this Spanish school on the beach in Dominical and I finished the school and I wanted to stay so I got a job in a hotel that wanted me to do some spreadsheet stuff for 'em. And then after I did that, they kept me around to do some website stuff for 'em. And this is '98 before...
...Google. Before it's American Online, I think. It's still rough.
You got mail.
So they wanted me to do SEO work for 'em, which was brand new and link exchanges. So what I was doing is 'cause I wanted to know what was going on with the surf back in '98, I would call up different surf shops around the country, find out what the waves were doing. And then I had this little Canon portable printer, so I'd print out the surf report along with the forecast and then the Noah model and put it up around town, like at San Clemente Restaurant when that was around just for anybody to check out.
And then so in '99, I started emailing more. So I'd email the report out to different friends, different businesses in Costa Rica. And that's when I started the website, the CR surf site. So it's basically, it's just a way to get people to know what was going on around the country for surfing.
That's amazing. And now what's the primary service that that site offers or that you offer?
Well, I try to say, it's the best place to see what's happening, check the surf, and then plan a trip. So see what's happening around the country, I got community news, environmental news, surf contest news, travel news, concerts that are coming up. I try to post as often as I see it what's happening in Costa Rica. And then for the surf, I do a weekly surf forecast at the tides going out through 2021.
And then people still send in--some of the same surf reporters from '98 still send me surf reports every week about what's going on in Playa Grande, Louis at Las Tortugas, Chuck at W.O.W Surf Shop. Those guys are super consistent and they surf there all the time so they know how to give a surf report so you can check the surf there. But since 2009, not the best time to start a travel company, but that was the year that I started planning trips for people and I got licensed as a travel agent.
And so now, the third and the biggest part of the site now is planning trips for people, whether it's just like a hostel and a bus ride all the way up to all-inclusive and a private yacht to stay right on the break alley's point.
Basically, I'll set up any kind of trip for any kind of budget for any size group.
I love that. And so my first trip to Costa was late 80s, actually bro.
Early 90s and it's different. Let's say there are a lot of places that look a lot like Orange County, I would say in some respects. And there are others that aren't. If someone wanted to get away from the rat race and go somewhere that was uncrowded, where would you recommend? East Coast? West Coast?
Well, there's still a ton of hidden gems there. The built-up towns are Nosara, Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo. They're built-up, but they're still nice surf breaks right there in town and built-up is nothing compared to Southern California or Virginia Beach or even Cocoa Beach, for the number of surfers. But for uncrowded spots, my personal favorite's the Osa Peninsula. You have Matapalo there, and it's a group of 3 right point breaks. You got howler monkeys shouting at you from up in the trees and scarlet macaws flying overhead all the time. That's a true paradise. Across the bay is Pavones, one of the longest lefts in the world. And that place is still uncrowded unless there's a swell and it's a weekend and then you got 70 to a hundred guys on that.
But really right where I live is a stretch of beach. This is between Dominical and Quepos and it's all beach break with some river mouth. But I'll paddle out and I won't see anybody for 3 or 4 miles in either direction.
Wow. That's amazing, bro.
So there's that stretch. You got the stretch from Quepos to more or less Esterillos. Those beaches are really uncrowded, like Bejuco and Palo Seco. You won't--you might find a few surfers, but hardly anybody. And then also the stretch south of Samara going all the way down to Playa Hermosa, the one that's north of Santa Teresa. That stretch is super uncrowded and that has reef breaks, too. So I could say, "Hey, this stretch is great and uncrowded."
I'm not worried about next year, everybody showing up and the locals getting pissed saying, "Hey, why did you tell them about it?" Because these breaks are kinda they're hard to get to, they're tide dependent so you got to know what the tides are doing, the winds can change. Usually so there's only a small window to surf it, and so I'm not worried about these spots getting crowded at least over the next 5 years.
And then on the Caribbean side, we hadn't even talked about that. But south of Limón all the way down to Cahuita, there's a stretch called Westfalia, and that's all beach break as well.
Such a different vibe over there, too. People who haven't been to Costa Rica probably don't realize but it seems to me, when I was there, it seemed like 2 different countries.
Yeah, it's definitely a Jamaican vibe. What happened was, is that the Jamaicans came over in the early 1900s to build the Panama Canal because they weren't getting malaria, like all the Brits were or the Americans. So after they got done building the canal, there wasn't really work for 'em. So they decided to resettle in that part of Costa Rica. And they were there for a long time even before that. You hear about Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line, that ship that was gonna go to Liberia in Africa was going to leave from Limón on the Caribbean side.
So there's a heavy Afro Caribbean vibe there. And unfortunately, there's also a heavy cocaine vibe there. They're not tied together, but because Colombia is so close to Costa Rica, you just got Panama right there, that there's a lot of submarines and speedboats that cruise through those Caribbean waters and if they're getting chased by some Coast Guard vessel, they're going to dump the cocaine and it ends up washing up on the beach and then usually, you have some shady characters that are going to look for that cocaine. And then it gets into a violent situation which adds to the sketchiness. And plus, cocaine is a pretty addictive drug. So the people that are on it, they will commit crimes so that they can keep doing it. So I would say there's that issue over on the Caribbean side more than the Pacific side.
It's not like it's not there on the Pacific side, the petty theft, and that cocaine trafficking and the gangs that might be associated with it. But really, if you're not around that crowd and you're not going to stand out super late at night all the time and you're just trying to surf and have fun, you're not going to really see any of that. The worst you might see is some petty theft that somebody breaks into your car while you're out surfing. I mean, that's going to happen anywhere in the world but that's really the only hassles that you'll have while you're in Costa Rica.
Yeah, dude. I totally agree.
But the Caribbean side's beautiful because you also got scuba diving there when it's flat. The people are also super friendly. There's a lot of nature there. And then there's also the indigenous group, the Bribri tribe that's over on that side. So usually I tell people, "Hey, if you only got a week, maybe 2 weeks, maybe save the Caribbean side for your second trip. But if it's your second or third trip, definitely check it out, because it's definitely a unique culture." And Salsa Brava is one of the best breaks in the country.
Such a good wave.
Super hollow, it's got a kinda easy takeoff. It's got 2 sections and a left, and I wouldn't say, it kinda gets crowded, but it's not crazy. And then you have Cocles just to the south of that, which is a great beach break. Cahuita's got some reefs and then you got other reefs to the south, like Manzanillo and Punta Uva.
So if you're an advanced surfer, it's definitely a place to put on the list. And then as a beginner surfer, you could surf Playa Negra and Cahuita and Cocles on a smaller day. And it's a lot--it feels less like American touristy there. There's a lot more European tourists there than, I would say, in relation to Americans, but it's super laid back and that's why I like going over there.
Yeah. The other interesting thing is, if you're in Costa Rica, you have 2 window--2 swell exposures, right? You have access to 2 oceans within maybe what, maybe an 8-hour drive, depending on how fast you go. But I can remember a trip where we were on the Pacific side and the swell drop and then it was macking on the Caribbean side. So we just packed everything and we went over there and just had such a great trip. So I think a lot of people don't--they don't think about that. It's rare that there's not going to be surf somewhere on the Pacific, but it does happen. And so that's another, I think, really great thing about Costa Rica is within a relatively short time, you have access to 2 oceans. And this is another reason I love Cabo is that you have the southern exposure on the Eastern Cape and then you have all the northern exposure on the Pacific side, kind of a similar situation, but you're much closer and smaller area. But there aren't too many places in the world like that, bro.
No. They have 2 oceans. It's pretty insane. The Pacific wave window is mostly the south swells. So if it's winter in South America and Australia, then you're getting all those winter storms that push up so those will hit Costa Rica between early March all the way to late September. And then luckily, the Caribbean side starts showing--really blowing up in between November when you have northeast swells going off the East Coast. And it makes this wind pattern that filters underneath the Lesser Antilles and then blows right into Costa Rica.
So the swell isn't necessarily long period. It's maybe 10 or 11 seconds, but it can be double, triple overhead if the storm is big enough. And that season lasts until mid-March. So when swells hit Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, it'll hit the Caribbean side. So it's great for year-round surfing if you're looking for bigger waves.
Now, what about Panama? I know if you're on the Pacific side around the southern part, then you're exposed to some of the Panamanian waves. And then the other--I've never actually been to Panama, so I don't really know what the setup's like.
Okay. I've been twice and on the Pacific side, like Pavones is one of the more southern breaks in Costa Rica, and then the far south one is called Punta Burica. That's a long stretch of beach with mountains just inland. And then it's a lot of mangrove and hard to access beaches on the Pacific side of Panama almost all the way to this break called Santa Catalina, and that's the big wave spot of the Pacific side of Panama.
But when I went there, it took forever. I would say from the border of Costa Rica, I'm gonna guess maybe 6 or 7 hours. And this was 2002. So I'm sure the roads are better now, but it still takes some distance to get there. And then the next break on the Pacific side is around this beach called Playa Venao, which is a lot closer to Panama City. So those beaches will pick up the same swells as Costa Rica's Pacific side does.
And on the Caribbean, you got Bocas del Toro and that, you take a boat taxi, to. So you actually would want to drive to the Caribbean, cross the border south of Puerto Viejo and then, you take another taxi to the boat, and then the boat taxi takes you over to the main island. I think it's Bastimentos. And then there are all these little islands around that you could just take boats to. And then there are reef breaks off of those islands. And that's..
Yeah, that season is December to March. So...
I haven't been to that side either. So when you're ready to...
Yeah, dude! We've got to do it. I love it.
I have some friends who have been and I've made some business contacts there, but I haven't been over there myself. And plus I've got to get back in shape. I've been doing a lot of longboarding and eating a lot of pizza and ice cream here in the US. So...
It won't take long once you get back down there.
Walk us through when you're down there. What is a typical Dominical day for you?
Well. So it gets light out at 5am. So my life basically is based around the tides. Dominical is a heavy beach break. It's not Puerto Escondido ever, but it may be half the size or a third the size and at the low tide, definitely the same kind of thumping power. But mostly, unless it's under head high or maybe overhead on some days, it's mostly a high tide break. So our higher tide break. Let's say high tide is 8am, which would be ideal. I'd get up at 5, make myself a fruit smoothie. There's always some papaya or mango or something that's growing right outside or just went to the farmer's market so I got a basket of stuff. So I'll make some kind of smoothie or fruit bowl with some granola, wolf that down, get some coffee and then drive to the beach in Dominical and check it.
Also the second thing to factor in Dominical, the winds. So during rainy season and most of dry season, the winds switch on shore by 9:30 or 10 o'clock. So I definitely want to be in the water before then. So I'll drive up to where the lifeguard stand is and hop out and then check it, maybe see a couple of friends. I'll try to do a live surf report I'll post on Instagram. If I have my camera, I will take some photos of some of the locals that are out there and then I'll paddle out. Hopefully I'll get a good session. I'll come back and then so where I live it's in a Tico town. So it's not--there are really zero tourists there. And so I'll go back, I'll work on the--do some social media work, work on the website, answer some questions about trip planning and then try to see some friends in the afternoon and we'll go out and do something like a hike or we'll go biking.
Maybe we'll just meet up on the beach and do a bonfire for sunset. And then generally, I crash pretty early because I'm just wiped out by the end of the day and...
If it's during the rainy season, it can start raining by 3 and then it'll just almost rain all night, especially in September, October months. So on those nights, I don't really wanna go out and be driving around at night. And then in the high season, sometimes there's a cool bar called the Jolly Roger that is really good, like wings and burgers and they'll show all the football games.
So I'll go there and see some friends. And then there's another place in Dominical called Fuego, which has a brewery right downstairs. And they have 2 big screens and they'll show surf videos and they'll have live music, like a salsa night and stuff. So sometimes...
...I'll go there. Yeah, I've got to work on my mood.
Nice, dude. And are you hanging out with Ticos or is there expat, pretty good expat community there? What's your friend time like?
Well surprisingly, a lot of the friends I have now are all the way back friends I made back in '98 and 2001. So in 2001, I was down there and I was running a Spanish school. So I got to meet a lot of the local community because we were doing tours with the students that were coming there to visit. And so, the neighbors that lived around there, they're expats. Most of them are from the US, a few are from Canada. But the people I surf with, it's like 50-50 expat and Tico. So I'll switch to Spanish just depending on who I'm talking to. And then there are some local or Ticos that have businesses in other parts of Costa Rica. So when I'm visiting Jacó, I'll stop by and visit my friend Carton there and we'll hang out. So it's a mix but I would say some of my best friends are expats that have been there for 20 years.
Yeah. And did you ever envision that you would be living in a foreign country? Was this something you thought about as a kid or just something that happened over time?
Well, I would say--so what's crazy is when I grew up, I love the ocean and the water, my dad was in the Navy, so I was always by an ocean. But when I was in Virginia Beach and I told you that waves are not that good here most of the year. So I started skimboarding just because my friends were doing it and I got a nice skimboard that I could actually ride out to the wave and ride down the wave a little bit and it was more--the waves break better for skimboarding. And then when I moved to Cocoa Beach, that's when I got into surfing and it was actually '94 that I moved there. No. Yeah, '94. So I got a teaching job.
And then that's really when I got into surfing. And from there, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, it seemed like everybody was talking about Costa Rica. Everybody wanted to move down there and get a piece of property and resettle there. They were all tired of the States. Cocoa Beach has got the same wave, lack of wave problem that Virginia does, maybe a little less so, and the water's warmer. So it's nicer. So when I went down there in '96 and I fell in love with the place, I think that's when I was like, "Wait a second. I could do this. I could live in Costa Rica and have this lifestyle there." And that's why I went to learn Spanish. And then I got the property in 2010. So I was all getting ready to go there full time at that point. And I was like, "All right, I did it." And the convenience of Costa Rica for me is that it's not too far from the US. So I do have a lot of close friends here, still tight with friends from college, and I'm tight with my parents and my cousins, my brother. So I want to see him at least once or twice a year. And so Costa Rica offers a way I could get back to Miami in 3 hours and be back in Virginia in 6 or be out in California in 7 hours versus if I move to Peru or Bali or South Africa, other great wave locations.
So that's why I pick there. And that's why I was like, "Yeah, I could do it."
Over the years, I've had a lot of buddies that they always maybe the thought about and actually going to Costa Rica, moving down there and leaving the whole American dream or not dream behind, right? And I think, people have this fantasy of what it's like and then they get down there and they realize it's not the fantasy that they thought it was going to be. Can you talk a little bit about some of the difficulties of living there and...
Oh, yeah, sure.
...maybe burst the bubble of some people that are listening to this thinking, "Oh, I'm leaving next week, bro."
Do you know what a torsalo is?
I don't. No.
Okay, if you drink tequila, right, and some of the bottles of tequila have this worm that's at the bottom. So imagine that in your body, under your skin. And it hasn't happened to me but it did happen to my dog where he ran away for a few days and he came back and he had all these bumps on him and it turned out he had--we, my friend Henry and I just like we had some beers and we were popping these torsalos out of the dog like full-on gusano worm sized things. So there's that. I had a thing called papalomoyo, which in Spanish means "Daddy sucks it". And it was on my ankle.
Don't try that at home, kids.
Right, bro. So what it is, it's the sandflies. If you have an open cut, they will lay eggs in the cut and then use the white blood cells to fertilize eggs.
Right. So it look like this little mini volcano on my ankle. And it wasn't incredibly painful, but it definitely kept me out of the water for a while. So you have the random bugs, you have the poisonous snakes, pretty, pretty deadly.
You have crocodiles.
Not too many sharks. I have yet really to see a shark in any of the lineups I've surfed. So that's some good news. You have, like I was talking about earlier, the petty theft on the beach. I have heard probably more stories than others because I check the news often, so I hear about drownings, I hear about thefts of people's homes. And because even though Costa Rica could be called Second World, there's a lot of poverty there.
And as I said, there's gang activity there. So I've heard some pretty awful stories. And then it's just like the day to day life like I have a '87 Toyota truck and so there's always seems to be some part on it that I need to get fixed.
Right. It's rusted off.
Right, exactly. So luckily it's a Toyota and that is the recommended model because most of the parts stores will have a replacement part. But there's something going on with the truck a lot. I would say...
What about the police and the politics of the country?
Yeah, I was talking to a guy today who wanted to move to Costa Rica, and I told him that I hope you like paying taxes because they like to tax everything. Costa Rica wants to get out of debt and they want lowest interest loans from the IMF so they have to prove that they could pay these loans back. And to do that, they did start up a value added tax at 13 percent, so that's pretty much...
...on everything. And the problem, because they have so many public sector jobs and as people retire, all those public sector job employees get pensions, they have this recurring debt that won't go away. So they're talking about taxing financial transactions now like even if you use a debit card at a ATM, they'll add on a little tiny, tiny tax, point one, two percent. They'll tax that. There's annual inspections that have taxes. Like me, I have a corporation in the US, so I pay taxes here and I also have a business in Costa Rica, so I pay taxes there as well.
And then, of course, there's annual property taxes. There is you buy or sell something, you're gonna be paying another tax on that. So there's the extra financial stress. But the police, for the most part, I've learned to be inconspicuous.
So for that part, like the police in Dominical, I see 'em all the time and they're always driving up and down the beach road and they see me doing beach cleanups and working with the local kids and stuff. So they're super friendly. The ones that you see, the Transitos that you see pulling people over and giving them tickets, I haven't had that issue in a while because I got that '87 truck. It doesn't go over 60 miles an hour.
That's downhill. So I haven't had that. In the rental cars, I have had to pay bribes before. And one crazy story is as I was driving home from Pavones and I passed a car on a double yellow line and the cop was at the bottom of the hill and he pulled me over and he saw the surfboard on the roof and he said "He was this local surfer." So we were talking about the local brakes and he told me, "Hey, look, just buy some limones from this guy next to me. He's been trying to sell these all day, and those are my favorite impulsive buy fruit." So I bought 3 bags of them. And I'm like, "Hey, man, no problem." So he didn't even write me a ticket.
You do have to watch out, though. Now, in town, there's no parking signs, but supposedly you can't park on the road. You have to have 2 tires off the road. And if you don't and there's farmer's markets and the road is there's no parking lots, really. But the road is you'll see cars there and the Transito will come by not only write you a ticket, but they'll take your license plate off the car. And that's been the new thing that's really been upsetting people because it's hard to get that license plate back. You have to actually go to the police office, which could be in a whole another town and it could be a week or two before it gets there, and then another week or two before you could get it back and the whole time you can't drive.
Dude, I just had a great idea for a new business down there. Super gluing the license plates onto the car.
So the cops can't get it off.
Yeah or have some kinda license plate locks.
Yeah, dude. That would be awesome. Love it.
They would--I've seen them really bending it back and forth, trying to rip them off. And it's just another way that they're trying to make money so that they could pay their salaries and everything. But the corruption they're like, "Hey, let me just give you 50 dollars now and waive the ticket." There's a lot less of that now because they're kinda cleaning house.
And that's a good thing. I recommend that people just do the speed limit and enjoy all the natural beauty that's around them.
I have my windows down driving and I'll hear monkeys, I'll see different birds flying around. There's over 600 species of birds there in the country.
You see sloths up in the trees if you're going slow enough, little waterfalls are hidden right behind the first row of trees. So it's really better to just drive slow...
Slow down, yeah.
...and enjoy the trip and give yourself a lot of extra time to get where you're going.
That's great advice.
That's what I'd recommend.
Yeah. Cool, man. So what would you say are the top 3 things people shouldn't miss if they're going to Costa Rica, if you got a little extra time. Besides the surf, obviously.
Oh besides the surf, well even though it can get super crowded during the day, I love Manuel Antonio Park. I try to get there right as soon as they open the park, I think it's 7am or what I've done is actually I've stayed like I get there at 3:30 and they close the park at 4 and then everybody's leaving and then I'll just stay as long as I can until they kick me out. And then at that time I also can have the park almost to myself.
But earlier is better. You're going to see a lot more wildlife. You're almost guaranteed to see howler monkeys and white face monkeys, you'll see some sloths. And then what's cool about the monkeys is that they--maybe it's not cool because they've been acclimated to human interactions but they'll come right down to the beach and be 3 feet away from you hoping that you're going to feed them something.
And you're not supposed to. And I don't. But it's like being in a zoo without walls, basically. And that's super awesome. And the beaches right there are very beautiful. So I'd say that. Second spot, at least one spot, another spot I really love is Nauyaca waterfalls. Any of the bigger waterfalls are absolutely amazing to go visit. They're not overcrowded, you could jump off some of them. Others, like the Rio Celeste has a waterfall that's like a aquamarine blue. It's just gorgeous to look at. But I like going in Nauyaca because you could do this hour hike all the way through the rainforest to get there and then cool off, and then hike back.
There's another one almost right across the road, but you're talking about a half an hour driving each way. But across the road, there's a new one called Eco Chontales that a friend of mine has reforested. And it is a 150-foot waterfall, and then a big pool, and then another mini waterfall and another little natural slide, and then this rock face that you could jump off of into another pool.
And that place really just opened up, I want to say, 3 years ago. So that place is really uncrowded. And this woman named Jennifer Smith has this group called Community Carbon Trees. And so she was hired by these brothers who owned the property to change the whole property from cattle farm into rejuvenated rainforest.
Wow, it's amazing.
Yeah, she did an incredible job. And she's the one that I support locally by like a 70 books a trip, I will sponsor a tree in their name.
In the client's name. And that means that she'll plant the tree or she'll have local fairly paid labor, plant the tree and then they'll maintain it for 4 years just to make sure it's growing without any health issues. And she's been doing that for the last 20 years. So...
Yeah. So that's really one way I try to get back locally.
Nice. I'll put that on the show notes. People can check it out.
Yeah. Community Carbon Trees. And so I gave ttwo the waterfalls, Manuel Antonio.
How about Arenal? Are people still going down there?
Yeah. Arenal Volcano is awesome but really any of the volcanoes are cool. Poás Volcano which has this sulfuric acid in the crater and you could look down and it's like really bright green. You have Rincón de la Vieja which has these hot mud pits that you can check out, there's some hot springs near there. The hot springs near Arenal are awesome. Turrialba has been spouting ash lately. That's about an hour east of San Jose.
And then right in San Jose, there's this Vulkan Irazú which, it's so cold that when you get to the top, it's so high up, you get to the top and you've got to put on every piece of clothing you brought on the trip to stay warm.
Yeah, I think I remember that place.
It looks like a landscape that you would see on Mars once you get to the top. There's no trees, there's no scrub. It's just volcanic rock and soil maybe some lichen, just growing there.
And a funny story was back in '96 on my first trip, my friend Ron went up there and I went up there and we're driving down, listening to Smooth Operator by Sade, and we go round this curve a little too sharp and there was some moisture on the road and we start sliding off the road.
And we're still way up at the top of this volcano and there's a good 5000 foot drop. So we're sliding off the road, we're now on the gravel, we're off the gravel, we're starting to tilt all the way off the road. And this one tree just happens to be there and it stops us...
...from tumbling all the way down the volcano.
Bro, Smooth Operator.
Yeah. So we're like, "Holy shit, what happened?" So we climb out through the driver's side. And there was nobody around when we went off the road, but in 2 minutes, there was 30 people crowded around, all the locals came out and then these 2 tractors showed up and they totally pulled us back going to the road. And then the cops showed up and they were like, "Okay." They wrote us--we didn't get a ticket, but they wrote up a report and it only had 2 little dents, 1 at the front quarter panel and 1 on the back.
And so we're like, "All right, that's cool. Let's just get this fixed so we don't have to tell the rental car agency about it." So we paid 200 bucks and get it fixed. We get back to the car rental agency and then they still charge us 1100 bucks.
So I was like, "Oh man." That was our first trip to Costa Rica.
But you didn't die, bro. That's a good thing.
Yeah, that was a good thing. And I don't tell all my clients that story, but I've rented a car in Costa Rica at least 40 times and I've rented hundreds of cars to clients. And really, I can even count on one hand how many people have had issues because I only work with rental car companies that are trustworthy and reliable. That's the biggest hassle when you go to Costa Rica is renting the car because they want to charge you the extra insurance and you might have coverage on your credit card.
But then you got to pay a higher deposit like a few grand. And then if something happens to the car, you've got to pay everything and then deal with your credit card company to get the money back.
Yeah, that's a great segue. I would say, anyone who's traveling to these countries, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, don't ever have the insurance--don't say "It's on my credit card." Because you'll get screwed in the end. Just pony up, buy the extra insurance that the local insurers is offering because it'll always come back to haunt you if you do that.
Right. You don't have to get like the cover everything unless you know you could driving through some rivers or some sticky spots, but at least get the basic. And the way Costa Rica is set up is they'll charge you a lot for the mandatory insurance, the third party liability, but then the collision coverage, at least with some of the companies only 5 or 6 bucks a day. So if you're going for a couple of weeks, it definitely makes it worth it to not have that hassle with the credit cards.
And that's lessons that I've learned over traveling, just like you have with going through Mexico so often.
Yeah, for sure, man.
Describe your first surfboard. Your very first one.
I had one when I was 16. This was a 6'6 Ultralite and then I had to sell it a few weeks later because I got a speeding ticket. I got a lot of speeding tickets. First year driving.
Says the guy who says go slow in Costa Rica.
Yeah. At that point, I had this giant Pontiac with the big engine and I was 16.
That board doesn't count. And I went to--I was skimboarding for a bit, but the first board I got in Cocoa Beach, Florida, was another 6'6. Not the ideal size for a beginner, but it was a 6'6 Ocean Juice shaped by this guy, Mike Daniels, who also shapes for WRV or Wave Riding Vehicles.
And it's was one of those boards that Kelly Slater would have ridden, maybe, super skinny, skinny nose, not enough foam. And that year in '94, they were 19 named storms.
It was crazy the number of hurricanes that were passing through Cocoa Beach. So what I learned to do that year and the next was duck dive and how to fall without getting injured, basically, because I fell a lot. But that was a dream board. I think I bought it for like 50 bucks and traded it up and then eventually got a new board.
So it wasn't a magic board or anything, but it got me started. And then luckily, Cocoa beach had plenty of drift and plenty of closeouts. So I got used to that and then got to appreciate when I did finally get to surf a good wave like a point break or a nice reef break.
I wish when we were kids, we had the board knowledge that we have now because imagine how many days we surfed on those little potato chip boards and didn't catch any waves and it was mainly because of the board. We didn't have enough foam or wasn't thick enough. We couldn't paddle it.
Yeah. If I had a longboard in Cocoa Beach, it would have been a lot easier to learn and get used to it. Instead, I was just falling for the first 2 years. I barely even stood up.
It was a little bit crazy.
I know you've been a lot of places and we've actually been on a couple trips together. What's your favorite trip that you've done the last 10 years outside of Costa Rica?
We had a great time at K59.
That was a beautiful, beautiful wave.
That was a great trip, bro.
And it's awesome there too, that they got the locals on the beach shooting and then in the water shooting photos. So at the end of the trip for 60, 80 bucks, you got pretty much a whole highlight reel of all your best waves.
It's El Salvador for anyone out there that doesn't know what we're talking.
So that was fun. I got to go to Bali 4 years ago. I went by myself and then I went from there over to Lombok on 1 trip, and then I went back the next year with 3 super good surf buddies.
And then that trip was gonna be a boat trip which was gonna be awesome. We were going to go to Sumbawa and surf Lakey's Peak and go by the desert point, aim to the boat off of that. But half a day out from Bali, the captain tells us that there's something wrong with the rotor. And they wouldn't be able to even go fast enough to beat the rift. So...
Yeah. So we park it to Nusa Lembongan. So that spot.
And then we just took ferries and rented motorbikes and we ended up going all the way to Sumbawa and I can't remember the name of the spots we surfed there. And then we also stayed in Lombok for a week. So that was awesome trip. South Africa was pretty amazing. Got to surf some Jeffreys Bay and then we drove from Jeffreys Bay all the way to Cape Town and surf some spots along.
Super fun trip.
Yeah, that's the garden route, I think it's called.
Yup, that's right.
And then I'd say those are the big ones. Because once I'm in Costa Rica, it's like I'll take trips down to Pavones or I'll go up to Witch's Rock, and those waves are just a joy to be surfing. And they're just not that crowded yet, which is super nice.
But I'd still--God, I was really ready to go to Morocco and I'm sure as soon once the borders start opening up and I get some money saved, that'll be my next trip.
Nice. Yeah, I've actually done that trip. That's a good one. We can talk more about that offline.
But yeah, dude. So did we miss anything? Is there anything you want to say or give a shout out to your website so people can...
...can hook you up and book you and...
Oh, thanks. The website's crsurf.com and I'm on Instagram with the same name and Pinterest and Facebook. Feel free. You can just send me a message and ask me any question that you want about going to Costa Rica. It could be your first time, it could be your 100th time. And I am a licensed travel agent. So if you want to surf anywhere in the world and just want somebody that you could call up in case something goes wrong or help you get the best price on a place, that's my full time job.
So I'd be happy to help you do that and if it helps, I'm a 1% for the Planet member. So we donate 1 percent of our profits to this group called CREMA that protects sharks and sea turtles in Costa Rica. And I told you about Community Carbon Trees, which I also support. And I'm also pretty active with the Surfrider Foundation just as a volunteer. So...
..when you're contributing and helping me out, I try to get back to the community and the planet.
Yeah. And I'm just going to throw in there that Greg is, he's a top notch dude, too and I couldn't think of anyone else that I would want on my side if I were going to Costa Rica or somewhere else. He's just a good guy, fun surfer. And yeah, dude. I look forward to us taking a trip again sometime in the future, maybe Costa Rica, maybe Panama or someplace else. And super stoked to reconnect with you, bro.
All right. Yeah, you too. I haven't been to Cabo yet either, so that's...
Well, there you go. I'll take you somewhere and you take me somewhere. How's that sound?
All right, that sounds good. And I got to give a shout out to Wave Tribe, too. Your product is definitely the ideal product for helping the planet. They're durable, they're made from hemp and recycled plastic. I'm still using your leashes. I got your cork pads on a couple of boards. And I think I left my single board bag with a friend, but it's still being used. And I just thank you for showing that entrepreneurial spirit and sticking to it.
Appreciate that, dude.
Small time entrepreneurs have to work together so that we're all successful and doing what we love to do.
Absolutely, bro. Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Greg. Appreciate it, man. Have a good one.
Okay, great talking to you, Derek.
We'll continue this post podcast.
All right, later.