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Omaha Magazine

Costa Rican Surf Retreat

Feb 13, 2019 11:34AM ● By Jillian Dunn

Editor’s note: Neighborhood Offshore—a boutique board shop based in Omaha—takes retreat groups to Costa Rica for surfing and yoga every year.

Shop owner Kristen Macdissi invited Jillian Dunn (digital sales manager at Omaha Magazine) to join a May 2018 trip to the Nicoya Peninsula in northwestern Costa Rica.

Dunn didn’t know how to surf. Luckily, Macdissi had her covered. It’s not unusual for Neighborhood Offshore customers to learn how to surf during the trips.

Costa Rica is a small Central American nation—located between Nicaragua and Panama—with lush rainforests and coasts along both Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches, in particular, are famous for surfing.

The base rate for Neighborhood Offshore’s surf/yoga retreats cost $825 (for six nights and seven days) in the spring or fall. That includes yoga, surfing, a surf lesson with a local pro, surf gear rental, a welcome reception with food and drink, and a shared room. Essential travel within Costa Rica is covered, but international flights must be purchased individually. Popular add-ons include a meal package, children’s surf camp, and private accommodations.

Closer to home, Neighborhood Offshore also provides travel concierge services for retreats for Colorado camping and paddle retreats (rafting and stand-up paddleboarding) with local guides. These Colorado trips are coordinated at-cost for the shop to develop more local enthusiasm for paddleboarding in Omaha.

Here is Dunn’s travelogue from her May 2018 retreat to Costa Rica with Neighborhood Offshore. Personal scheduling limitations prevented her from staying for the full duration of the trip, which focused on surfing without the yoga sessions that are typically part of a Neighborhood Offshore surf retreat.

Read more about the shop's owner in the article "Way, Way Offshore: Boarding with Kristen Macdissi."

Day 1 (Tuesday, May 1):

My flight arrives in the northwestern Costa Rican city of Liberia around 1 p.m. After linking up with the Neighborhood Offshore crew, we take a two-and-a-half-hour van ride to a private house in Nosara, a tropical beachfront community in Guanacaste Province. En route, we stop to pick up fresh fruits, avocados, and local beers.

Our lodging looks like a giant tree fort. After checking in, we all pile into golf carts and drive to the beach for our first Costa Rican sunset. Next comes an authentic local dinner of fresh seafood with hosts Kristen and Adam Macdissi. A moonlit walk on the beach follows, and a noisy chorus of monkeys, frogs, and jungle creatures do their best to keep us up late into the night.

Day 2 (Wednesday, May 2):

The crew wakes early to enjoy the Costa Rican coffee. We make the short walk to Coconut Harry’s Surf Shop & Surf School, where we each pick out a surfboard and meet our instructor (a friend of the Macdissis). Who better to have a private lesson from than a local Costa Rican, Luigi Zuñiga, who grew up surfing?

After our one-hour lesson, we continue riding the waves until lunchtime. Back at the house, we take the golf carts into “downtown” Guiones—a sleepy main street near the beach—for lunch and fresh juice at Rosi’s Soda Tica. More surfing follows a lunch of chicken, beans, and rice, and the night brings another wonderful sunset with drinks and dinner near the surf shop.

Day 3 (Thursday, May 3):

We are at the beach by 7 a.m. The early morning waves are perfect for our beginner level, but the ocean grows rough by 10 a.m. The waves are tossing me. I am struggling to maintain balance on my board. I was riding every wave the day before. Maybe it was beginner’s luck?

Sore and ready for a break, a group of us take a golf cart to visit a cave on the seashore. We admire the beautiful rock formations. I try joining a few of our surfing companions at the beach in the evening, but the waves are still too choppy for me to get up on my board. 

Day 4 (Friday, May 4):

With another early morning, some of the novice surfers in our crew upgrade to smaller (more advanced) boards. I decide to keep on my beginner board, as I only had one more day to surf. The rest of the group had three more days in Nosara.

Around lunchtime, we jump in golf carts and buzz around town looking for a place to eat. But everywhere seems to be experiencing a power outage. After the electricity comes back, we return to the house for a siesta. A local friend of our hosts, Paulina Diaz, joins us for another traditional Costa Rican dinner. We invite our surf instructor friends to join, put on some beachy music, and Paulina teaches us how to make empanadas, baked fish, and homemade salsa. 

Day 5 (Saturday, May 5):

I’m getting used to the early morning routine. After a day of surfing, fresh coconut water on the beach, and an afternoon nap, we’re ready for a night of dancing and drinking with the locals. We grab some sangria to go and zip off in a golf cart looking for a restaurant with good music and fresh ceviche. Our choice features live music, hula hoops, foosball, and good food. We chat and reflect on our time in Costa Rica before my departure.

Day 6 (Sunday, May 6):

Time for me to catch my flight and head home. Make sure to plan for extra time getting to the airport. I wait about an hour for a hired van to pick me up. He is lost. Evidently, many houses in Costa Rica don’t have addresses (I’m not sure how anyone finds their way, but that is the system). When the driver finally finds me, we spend another 30 minutes searching for another traveler—but we end up leaving without him—before rushing to the airport. A cattle crossing stalls traffic en route, adding another delay to the 2.5-hour drive. Upon arriving at the airport, my flight is delayed four hours. So I sit back and relax before the four-hour flight to Dallas and onward home (6.5 hours of total airtime). 

Pura vida! It translates to “pure life” from Spanish. But this phrase is used by Costa Ricans as both “hello” and “goodbye.” I hope to someday visit Nosara again. Pura vida y hasta luego!

Jillian Dunn seaside in Costa Rica

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This article was printed in the March/April 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe. This online version has been modified from the print edition. 

Jillian Dunn with surfboard on beach