I recently used a well-needed break from work to travel south in search of warmer waters and better surfing conditions. I wanted to take advantage of the lessening travel restrictions and the southern hemisphere swell. season. So I jumped on an overpriced flight to LIR, grabbed a 4x4 truck rental, and drove for about an hour to my favorite spot in the province of Guanacaste, CR. It's just west of the town of Paraiso in the eco-friendly jungle paradise of Playa Junquillal. This area is not really known as a popular surfing destination... mainly because the surf breaks in town aren't very user friendly. But if you're looking for a tranquilo-vibe, that's just a short drive to some world class surf breaks, this beach town is a great option.
While a lot of spots in the northern region of Costa Rica need less water, Playa Junquillal can be fun on mid to higher tides. During the past 25 years or so I've seen the sand shift from visit-to-visit, but whenever it's working the waves in town are generally the same. And under the right conditions, this can be a good option without the crowds of the nearby beaches in Tamarindo and Avellanas. The north end of Junquillal has multiple peaks as it bends around slightly, to a small river mouth. The peaks can get hollow and steep as they unload on the inside, breaking mostly right onshore. The shorter period swells do a lot better than longer ones. The south end can potentially have a few inside sections between the rocky point and the Eco Lodge. There are submerged rocks to lookout for, but that's the price you pay for an uncrowded lineup. Respect the locals. If they take up all the parking spots, either walk in or don't surf there.
Generally, the wave in the Junquillal area is a wedging freight-train that jacks up on the inside sand bar and then heaves on the shore... so even at waist high size the extremely steep drops can be challenging, but also a lot of fun. I call the south end "The Cove", and the north end is "The Wedge". I'm not sure what locals call it. Close by is Playa Negra, which is world-class. Don't surf at Negra unless you're at a pro level. Even if you're experienced, you won't get waves when it's good. This is an extremely competitive spot. Fact.
If you think you're a local in Junquillal, and this blog exposure amps you up, just try and chill. Like 30 people might read this blog. But seriously, the road is now paved all the way into town, Liberia-Tamarindo-Junquillal. Progress is happening brothers, whether you like it or not (And I say brothers because I never get angry females emailing me about my surf blog). So while I did manage a couple of crowded sessions at Avellanas, as well as a crap mission for blown out surf down in Guiones, I scored the best sessions this trip, all by myself, right in town. Below are some pics I snapped when tide, winds, and swell direction combined for some fun surf sessions.
The surfing conditions were XL when I first arrived. I'd like to say I was out there charging triple overhead barrels at Playa Negra. Yeah no. The SSW swell was strong, and it stayed in the 8-12 foot range for the beginning three days of my trip. So like most other average surfers that happened to be traveling that week, I sought the protection of local river mouths and reef breaks. The conditions thankfully chilled in the 5-8 foot range for the rest of my time. The energy coming out of the southern hemisphere during this time of the year should not be under estimated. I actually felt under-gunned and unprepared to surf these conditions with my wider and higher-volumed boards... but I made the best of things by sticking to the nooks and crannies in town that offered up some shoulders. Overall, it was still a very successful surf mission. While I didn't score a quantity of waves at the well-known spots, due to swell size and crowd numbers, I did get plenty of quality in the rides that I did have in town. I had to be more patient, but I was content with the rewards. Here's a couple of sessions where I wore the watch and tracked my waves using the Dawn Patrol App.
I'm back in the states now and looking forward to a potential wind swell for the 4th of July timeframe. Special thanks to my Costa Rican family, their amazing accommodations, and the amazing memories they send me off with each time that I visit. I can't wait to go back. It was also nice to see some other familiar faces from my days down in Southeast Florida, I hope it's not another 17 years until we cross paths again! Here in the Northeast, it looks like we will get a couple of days of weather/wind followed by a day or two of waist high+ surf. Fingers crossed. Well, I hope you're catching waves wherever you are and I'm looking forward to blogging more this month. Peace out :)