Costa RicaCosta Rica

Nicoya Peninsula Day 8: Surfing and the Sunset

Destination: Mal Pais

Surfing in Mal PaisVincent and I left Montezuma early for our next destination: Mal Pais. Mal Pais is a catchall name for the small town and it's adjacent sister-village, Santa Teresa. While technically everything to the left of the dead-end road from Cobano is considered Mal Pais, and everything to the right is Santa Teresa, the two beach towns are both located along a connected street. Their beaches, restaurants, and businesses are jumbled together, and for all intents and purposes, the two towns have merged into one well-functioning community.

The area has all the comforts of home: four supermarkets, two banks with 24-hour ATM machines, a gas station, and high speed internet nearly on nearly every corner. Mal Pais also has some of the best surf breaks in the country. Having tried the sport in very tame environments, I was excited about Santa Teresa's larger and more consistent breaks.

Between the four beaches of Mal Pais, El Carmen, Santa Teresa, and Hermosa, there are plenty of waves -- even for a horribly unskilled and inexperienced surfer like me. I was ready to get serious, and rented a board for the day from a local surf shop. Here, I invested in my very own surf shirt to keep my top from flying off, feeling that this should somehow automatically improve my ability. I was wrong.

For the first 45 minutes the waves weren't in my favor. It was low tide and they were small, always crashing too far left or too far right of where I was situated. As high tide neared, the waves grew and began coming my way. After another 45 minutes of floundering about like a rookie, a few seasoned surfers gave me some pointers. Ironically, the best advice came not from a pro but from a Canadian named Doug, who had a mere four days worth of experience more than me.

Doug recommended paddling with my arms for two-to-three strokes after I was pretty sure I caught the wave, before jumping up on the board. Using this tip, I immediately began catching breaks, even if it was only for a few short seconds. Under Doug's counsel I began to surf.

Two things I learned about surfing by myself are to respect the ocean and to know your limits. When the waves get too big for your skills, pack it in before you drown, even if there are others still going strong. The same goes for when your body gets tired. Exhaustion at sea is synonymous with disaster, so I returned my board early and rested at our Mal Pais hotel, The Place. I put the air conditioning on high and used their wireless Internet connection to check in with my family in the U.S.

At dusk I walked two blocks north to the area's most popular beach, El Carmen. En route, I bought a young coconut and savored it's revitalizing juice. Somehow the delicious coconut juice maintains a cool temperature despite the hot Costa Rican sun, making it by far the most refreshing beachside beverage.

People were buzzing around, all witnesses to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. I wondered if a person could ever get used to such beauty. Do locals' senses build up a tolerance? The sound of the ocean washed away all the thoughts in my head and I sat in silence until dark.

Nicoya Peninsula Day 8: Surfing and the Sunset in Pictures