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By Michael Grady

By now everyone knows that Costa Rica is an excellent destination for adventure travel. What they might not know is that two of the best ways to see and experience the most fascinating parts of this special country is through horseback riding and surfing.

SURFING

Warm waters, beautiful beaches and clean surf breaks from every coastline in Costa Rica. The country is not known for costa rica surfersoffering tremendous size in its waves, but rather, consistent head-high surf at any time of the year. With so much good surf and so many beaches to choose from, it’s hard to mention every worthy break, but the destinations listed below are some of the most accessible and popular surfing spots in Costa Rica.

Tamarindo in Nicoya Peninsula – Northern Region:

Witch’s Rock  – This is one world-class wave. Rock is a consistent two-mile stretch of beach break with hollow sand bottom beach, offering lefts and rights. Take off can be steep, however the shore generally keeps the wave open and easy to surf.

Ostional is a wildlife refuge south of Marbella. It’s one of the world’s most important nesting sites for Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Here you can see thousands of turtles on the beach and surf amazing waves. This is a wave for advanced and intermediate surfers.

Playa Negra offers a rock-reef right break that is fast and hollow at low tide, creating a picture-perfect ride. Negra will pick up swell from many directions, and crowds can be a factor, but it is still one fantastic break.

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The view from Villa Paraiso, one of Costa Rica’s finest luxury properties. The town and surf-mecca Montezuma sits below.

Mal Pais and Santa Teresa in Nicoya Peninsula – Southern Region:

Playa Hermosa is a long sandy beach with easygoing beach breaks, both lefts and rights, well-suited for beginning surfers. This beach is also popular with kite surfers. El Carmen is another good option. It offers a long right and a shorter left, surfing over sand. It is the best break for beginners learning to surf.

Playa Dominical – This is a fairly consistent strong beach break.  The northern end of the beach offers bigger sets, while the southern end is better for intermediate surfers.

Montezuma in Nicoya Peninsula – Southern Region:

Playa Grande with the long expanse of white-sand beach, it is the best spot for surfing in Montezuma.  Fun for beginners and intermediate surfers the rides are smooth and long.

HORSEBACK RIDING

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The well-appointed stables at Villa Paraiso. Riding is a great way to explore the property or spend an afternoon leisurely working your way up the scenic coast. 

Costa Rica is blessed with a tremendous variety of ecosystems from the Caribbean to the Pacific, and a high percentage of it is given over to national parks. The biodiversity is tremendous and goes from coastline to highlands to volcanic peaks. This lush landscape paints a perfect canvas for exploring much of the country on horseback. In a short time, you can change from a gallop on the beach to walking along a trail through the tropical forest with its lush jungle life. It is common on each ride to run into the vast diversity of animal life here, such as monkeys, tree frogs, lizards, butterflies and turtles. Being on horseback allows you to get close to your surroundings and experience them in an intimate, relaxing way.

The horses used for the ride are primarily Criollo and Paso Costariccense – the gaited horse of Costa Rica, a cross between an Andalusian and a Peruvian Paso. These beautiful, smooth-gaited horses help make horseback riding in Costa Rica a memorable pleasure.

There are a variety of options for where to stay, but for the full surf and horseback experience, nothing beats returning again and again to your own private Costa Rican home. A great example is Villa Paraiso, a private oceanfront compound VillaParaiso07made up of a Spanish-style main home, stables, coach house, garage, heli-pad and swimming pool. The breathtaking estate sits on 13 lush tropical acres of the Nicoya Peninsula, close to many of the scenic spots mentioned above, so you can surf to your heart’s content and explore the backcountry and beaches on horseback, making the most of the natural wonderland that is Costa Rica.

View more photos of Villa Paraiso here.