The main goal of my trip to Costa Rica was to go in a surf camp again. After looking through a lot of possibilities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I decided to book at the School of the World in Jaco. I chose this location mainly for the price but also for the set up of the school – same group of people for the entire week, surf lessons (but also a choice of yoga, Spanish lesson, GoPro and photography lessons), with a complete kitchen for our use, shared accommodation, pool, and possibility of booking for tours. I also had a great service when emailing for information, tours, bookings, transportation, etc.
The school is similar to a mini-resort, with a private backyard with hammock, nice common areas, 2 Spanish classrooms, one yoga studio, one pool and one outdoor lounge at the reception. They call it a ‘learning vacation of travellers’, and that is definitely accurate! It is about 1 minute walking distance from an amazing Fruteria (fruit and veggies store), and also to a SODA, which is the ‘costa rica fast food’ which offer really cheap meals throughout the day. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the Main street, and maybe 10 minutes to walk to the beach.
The town of Jaco itself is a bit controversial. It is mainly considered as a surf town, and it is really touristic. The beach isn’t the typical white sandy beach with clear blue water, but that’s not what you would expect of a surf beach anyway. The safety in Jaco is also debated quite a bit. From what I’ve seen, it really depends on the area. I know for sure that it isn’t recommended to hang out around the beach after sunset (which is 6:30pm pitch dark), however as the town is quite touristic, the main street is always crowded and stores open quite late. I never felt unsafe in the town, but tried as much as possible to walk with someone when it gets dark. I was on a budget so I mainly cooked my breakfast and lunch every day, but went out a few times for dinner with the other students. There is quite a variety of food (both local and international) in Jaco, but except the local restaurants, I have find the meals to be quite expensive (same as back home, or more expensive). There is a few bars there too, but we didn’t go out much because we were exhausted at the end of the day (usually in bed by 9:30-10pm, as we were up sometimes at 5 for the sunrise surf!). We did go out at Swell on Friday night, where one of our surf instructor was DJing. It was a nice little surf bar, with soccer tables, pool table, etc. I probably would have taken the time to go out for a bachata or salsa evening if I stayed longer, but I couldn’t make it. I also got a kind of cold/sinus infection when I was there which limited a bit my energy levels!
The school was really amazing. I remember walking in and touring the property with the program coordinator and being like : HA! THIS IS AWESOME! Little paradise for the week! From what the other students said, the yoga classes are really good (and really difficult!), and the Spanish lessons are divided in two parts: first a classroom lesson, and the second part is a ‘Lab’ which is more playing games or interactive activities for the students to practice. Some groups also had cooking sessions with their teachers and went to the market. As I was doing the surf intensive, I didn’t try any of these, although I could have taken drop-in yoga for 10$.
The surf sessions were of course, my favorites (and the only ones I have taken). There was 2 surf sessions a day (from Monday to Friday). Each session is 2hrs, although this includes the travel time to the beach with the school van and the trailer with the boards. The classes are schedules based on tides, so some days we had the 2 lessons back to back in the afternoon, and sometimes we had a 6am session (sunrise) and a 4pm lesson (sunset). In the end, I would say it leaves us an average of 3 hours maximum in the water per day, which is not a lot compared to some other surf camps where the time in the water is actually 4hrs total per day. The surf instructors are really good and really technical – they really try to focus on fixing the little things we do wrong so we can have fun and go surfing on our own later. I think the set up is perfect for beginner, lower intermediates and higher intermediates who want to go back to their basics and refine their technique. However for more advance surfers or those who want to spend as much time in the water as possible, this might not be the perfect school for you!
We surfed both in Jaco and at Playa Esterillos (about 20-25min drive from the school, South). The waves were bigger and better in Esterillos, but depending on the overall strength of the students in the group, we couldn’t go to Esterillos all the time because as the paddling out is much harder and can be challenging at high tides. The waves were about 4-6 feet at Esterillos, and between 3-5 feet at Jaco depending on the time and the day. It wasn’t a week with really big waves, although I know that the following week the waves at Jaco got bigger (heard that most of the students couldn’t paddle out and decided to stay in the white water!).
My favorite moments were definitely the sunset sessions, but also the sunrise ones at Esterillos. The waves were great and there was a bunch of pelicans flying around the waves, following the shapes of the waves and flying around us surfers in the water. It was a pretty amazing moment that I can’t really describe nor forget.
The water temperature of the ocean is warmer than the shower in general – same thing for the pool! The weather at this time of the year is usually sunny or partly cloudy with highs of 30C, although with the sun I think it might have been more around 40C. Basically, between 9am and 3pm, I couldn’t do much more than standing in the shade, read in the pool (because being outside of the water was too hot), and chill. I know… hard life. Perfect for surfing, though! It made me enjoy it even more, considering that I tend to overbook my schedule all the time. It was a “forced” rest (with ONLY 3hrs of surfing a day… wink wink ;-)!!)!
I stayed at the school for the entire week, and then headed back to San Jose to fly back home… It was a short 9 days in Costa Rica (my second time, the first time in 2010 when I visited Tamarindo, Arenal, La Fortuna and Monteverde), but long needed and surfing is always good for my soul! If you are looking for a great beginner surf school in Costa Rica, School of the World might be just what you are looking for!