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“(Mostly) ups and (few) downs of Vista Guapa”

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Vista Guapa Surf Camp
Ranked #3 of 29 Jaco B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
A TripAdvisor Member
boston, ma
14
Reviewed 21 May 2005

All the other reviews are entire accurate, so read them, and I largely second everything that was already said.

About my experience - I went alone + it was fun. None of my friends wanted to try surfing, but I wanted to, and I don't regret it. There were other campers there my week - 4 girls + I quickly made friends with them all. We all hung out together, went out to town, dinner, and to drink one night. So don't be intimidated if you are travelling solo - - - but check ahead to make sure others will be there. I think it would have sucked if I was the only one there, and some weeks there are just one or two people - or none at all.

The lessons are great. Very individualized. They push you hard. You will learn. The water is warm, clean, and safe - no dangerous animals or really intense waves.

The other reviewer is right - Alvaro is quiet. I rode to the airport with him, and it was a struggle. All the other instructors are very personable - VERY personable, and go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. Ismael is awesome - great teacher and great to hang out with.

Bring stuff to do - as beginners surf just 2 hrs a day, and there is a LOT of down time.

My biggest gripe - while the rooms were beautiful, my room was without hot water all week. Same with another room, and we told them, but they never tried to fix it. Also, there are BUGS in the rooms - its unavoidable in Costa Rica, but be prepared. I got freaked a couple of nights and had trouble sleeping. Spiders, ants, etc. The BEST strategy for dealing with them, I learned at the end of my stay, is use the indoor light sparingly once the sun goes down. Go down to the house if you want to read.

Overall, I'm happy I went... but be prepared - its nice... but its not like staying at a hotel in the US.

email if you want more info

  • Stayed: May 2005
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111 - 117 of 124 reviews

Reviewed 2 May 2005

My son & I just stayed for several days at Vista Guapa Surf Camp, and had the most unbelievable time! Staying for several days was not enough, and next time we will definitely stay longer.

First off, the surf.....absolutely unbelievable! The camp is well situated to hit a number of very high-quality, often uncrowded (or empty), and beautiful breaks. We surfed small waves to overhead, point breaks to beach break, within a few days time. Our host / guide Ismael was extremely knowledgeable about the Costa Rican surf scene (also a great surfer), and delivered what we were looking for. You cannot go wrong with the surf from Vista Guapa. If you are a beginner (we aren't), I am sure they can provide the right waves for a great learning environment.

The camp consists of several bungalows situated up on the hill above the main house. The main house is the central focus of the camp, where you check in and out, eat breakfasts (more later), and generally hang out. At the main house there is also a great pool, which was a very refreshing break from the hot sun.

Each bungalow holds two rooms, which are immaculate and well-appointed. Good bed, bathrooms (wonderful soap and shampoo in the large tile shower), and cool AC (again, welcome from the heat of Costa Rica). Each day, the maid service would provide new towels, seemingly folded into "origami-like" shapes, decorated with fresh flowers, which also were used throughout the room. No TV in the room, but hey, who needs it???? You're on vacation, not here to hang in your room!

Meals were included in our basic package (both of us already know how to surf, so we didn't have lessons included). Each night is a different off-site restaurant (we were driven by our host / guide, who joined us each night). Every meal we had was excellent, and great dining choices. Food was great! Most memorable was the tuna at Jungle Surf in Jaco, but we also really liked the restaurant in Herradura on the waterfront (can't recall the name, sorry!). But the "meal highlight" of the trip were the breakfasts served each morning (on our schedule) in the main house. They were simply fantastic!!! The smoothies are unbelievable, and really hit the spot after a morning surfing. Fruit (much of which I believe is grown on the site) is also great, but really, it all was unbelievable! Regardless of what you were doing that morning before breakfast (surfing, in particular), the breakfast was phenomenal!!

The grounds are immaculate (as are the buildings), and lovely due to the flowers, fruit trees, and many birds. A busy staff appears to work quite hard to keep things that way. Add in a couple of cute dogs (wish we could have brought one home with us....), and it really was great.

The camp is not directly on a beach, but has an even BETTER location in that it sits on a hilly ridge overlooking a beautiful view (ie, "vista guapa") that includes the ocean and a rocky point (that can be used as an indicator of swell - in fact, we could hear the waves in the early morning). The high location of the bungalows provides wonderful breezes to cool off with while lying in the many hammocks present.

Facilities aside, the BEST thing about Vista Guapa is the people there. We only stayed a few days, but when we left, we felt like we were leaving home! The staff is great! We cannot say enough about them! Since we did not take surf lessons, we cannot comment on them; however, we surfed daily with Ismael, our host/guide (who quickly became a good friend), and I cannot imagine him, or anyone else at the camp, being anything other than a fantastic surf teacher (and, he's an unbelievable surfer!!!). We surfed with him, Kimba, Jorge, and Alvaro, and they are all fantastic surfers who I am sure would be great teachers. All were warm, friendly folks. We also spent a lot of time with Ismael, including all meals, and he is really a wonderful guy! Joice, who "runs" the camp, is also very friendly, warm, and easy to talk with. Really wonderful folks, who really make Vista Guapa a great place.

Should you go here if you're not a surfer? Absolutely!!! They can arrange anything else you want to do, and you cannot find better facilities or staff.

Should you bring your entire family, or is this just a "surf camp"? Vista Guapa would be enjoyable by all, for any reason. I intend to return (soon, I hope) and will bring my entire family, which includes several non-surfers. I know all will love it.

Long report, but I wanted to let you know that we loved it at Vista Guapa, and really do look forward to a return visit as soon as possible. If you're considering something in Costa Rica that has the "Pura Vida" charm, isn't mass produced like a big resort, isn't quite "roughing it", and is warm, friendly, and accessible to all, this is the place for you!! (and, for what you get, the price is quite reasonable!).

I have included my email to this review. If anyone has any questions about Vista Guapa, send me an email!

Go to Vista Guapa!!

  • Stayed: April 2005
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13  Thank SurfTravelGuy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
Wilmington, DE
18
Reviewed 31 March 2005

This spring my sister and I spent a week at Vista Guapa learning how to surf. The camp itself was amazing. There were gorgeous views, delicious food, and most importantly a wonderfully friendly and helpful staff. I think I was most amazed by the surfing lessons. The instructors were excellent. We’d go out with a group of beginners, but not matter how many we had, they made sure to have almost as many instructors. It was like having private lessons. My sister and I were standing-up by our second or third try each. They also helped us plan our trips outside of the camp. The only disappointment was how fast the week seemed to fly by. It was our first experience in Costa Rica, but I am officially addicted. It was a beautiful country and Vista Guapa had the perfect mix of American amenities, like air conditioning, and Costa Rican culture. We highly recommend it!

  • Stayed: March 2005
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8  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
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A TripAdvisor Member
Manhattan
18
Reviewed 21 March 2005

I would like to respectfully disagree with the member from New York City who wrote that Vista Guapa ("VG") is not for beginners. I have just returned from a week at the camp and I can tell you that Alvaro, Ismael, Kemba and Jorge (the surf instructors at the camp) cater to all levels of surfing. I would agree that Alvaro is not the most gregarious man on the planet, but he knows surfing and he knows how to teach. When first learning the basics of surfing, the key is to get in the water and start catching waves. Before you get in the water on the first day, Alvaro and the gang give you a brief overview of how to paddle into a wave, how to get up, where your feet need to be and how to balance. After that you go out and get busy learning by doing. The instructors will give you feedback about what you are or are not doing correctly and they are happen to answer any question you may have that they have not addressed. Not many other camps offer the instructor to student ratio that is the norm at VG. The camp's max capacity is twelve guest and there are four instructors at your disposal, so you do the math. At most there are three students for every instructor in the water. And all four are in the water with you for the entire session. For those who are having trouble catching waves (a common problem for beginners), the instructors will assist you with a little extra push, so you can work on the wave riding part of the learning process even while you are still trying to learn how to catch the wave properly. For those of you who already know how to surf, the camp offers packages that include trips to different surf spots in the near vicinty that present more challenging conditions than the smaller sets for the beginners.

As for the rest of the amenities, I would wholeheartedly agree with everyone else's comments. The home cooked breakfasts are incredible (watch out for the pancakes that are the size of hubcaps!). The town is less than a five minute drive from the camp (just over $2 by cab). There are plenty of opportunities to pursue other outdoor activities while at the camp, including deep sea fishing, canopy touring, and jungle exploring. Just speak with Joice cuz she can pretty much arrange anything you can think of. The living quarters are new, clean and air conditioned! Basically, once you arrive you will not want to leave. And once you leave, you immediately begin thinking about the next time you can get back to VG. For anyone stuck in the "rat race" that is life, I highly recommend this adventure. I have not felt this relaxed and recharged in years.

Pura Vida

  • Stayed: March 2005
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8  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
UK
17
Reviewed 17 January 2005

My wife and I had a brilliant MONTH at VISTAGUAPA.

Our one year old daughter learnt to walk on the beautiful Costa Rican beaches. My surfing improved by a huge amount with the help of Alvaro/Ismael and the crew, who work tirelessly to ensure that you are getting the most out of the lessons. My wife learnt to surf, and spent hours out with the lads on Hermosa and Jaco beaches. The early morning lessons are fantastic, with glassy seas and no winds (the time of the day that you surf depends on the tide times).

The camp itself is very special. Clean rooms with views, yoga decks, swimming pools, acres of gardens, fresh fruit smoothies every morning etc etc. We bought some bicycles to ride into Jaco town (10 minutes), so feel free to use them!

After a month of improving our Spanish and surfing, we left for the UK feeling great. The camp is not the Four Seasons, so wont appeal to all sorts. But if you have a desire to throw yourself into the culture (and waves!) of beautiful Costa Rica, then get on the phone to Joice right away.

7  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
Chicago, IL
17
Reviewed 11 January 2005

To anyone seeking an adventurous vacation I have the spot for you. Three ladies in our thirties went to Vista Guapa over the holidays. Vista Guapa is a surf camp in the perfect place (Costa Rica) that reminds you of the important things in life (pura vida - pure life and the love of adventure - surfing in this case),

Much has changed about the camp since 2001 when ten of us trekked down to Jaco, Costa Rica for the grand unveiling of Vista Guapa Surf Camp.

If any of you thought that the camp had a long and potentially impossible road (I know I did) I can tell you Vista Guapa is a really
special place that attracts adventurous, open minded, inspired and interesting people. We were planning on staying at the camp one week and then touring around the next but we extended as did 4 of the five other campers while we were there - so we were not alone in our love of this place!

I will begin with the visual changes since 2001 - in no particular order:

1) FLOWERS FLOWERS FLOWERS - all up and down the road from the main building to the bungalows, on the lawn outside the bungalows, and a beautifil garden care of Alvaro, one of the partners of the camp and the national surf champion of Costa Rica.

2) POOL - a beautiful blue mosaic tiled pool outside the main house designed by Ash and her dad. Perfect for the post-surfing rinse off, quiet time in the sun, and star gazing at night.

3) MAIN HOUSE - breakfast, fridge for drinks, great surf wear but most importantly hammocks on the deck and the place where the campers hang out and talk about the day ahead as well as happy and funny
adventures.

What has not changed in the facilities is the immaculate and new feeling. There is not a mark on a tile or in the grout nor any wear and tear in the bungalows that I could find. Credit goes here to Joice, one of the camp owners, and her impecibly high standards for cleaning.

The more important parts of Vista Guapa are the intangible things of course.

1) The people - the staff which begin with Joice and Alvaro and their daily care and vision for the camp and the experience of their campers. The instructors (Ismael, Kemba, Jorge and Alvaro) are encouraging, give great feedback and make sure that everyone enjoys surfing, the sport they all love. The fellow campers all bring interesting stories and
adventures to the experience, are up for anything, are fun to be with, and become co-cheerleaders with you as you take on the new challenge of surfing.

2) The place - I cannot say enough about both the camp itself which is heavenly and relaxing and the country of Costa Rica as a place I have come to envy for its values - an emphasis on literacy, no military, and the preservation of its ecology make it a place worth exploring if not living! If Costa Rica's motto is "Pura Vida" then I am afraid ours is "Where's the closest ATM?"!

3) The sport of surfing - it is the perfect combination of individual sport (when you catch the perfect wave to shore) and group activity (when you get to shore due to the push onto the wave from your instructor!) Even if you have a bad day you are spending the day in perfectly warm water and getting a surfer's tan (read: big white stripe on right ankle
from leash + rash guard tan lines!)

All three XMas vacationers are returning are returning in March for Mango season!

7  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 November 2004

OK, here we go, I booked a week surf camp at Vista Guapa on November 14, 2003. First the Good: The accommodations at the camp are first rate nothing less. You will rest with the wonderful sounds of the Ocean in your ears and by the end of your stay, in your heart. Alvaro's wife/staff and happy dog one and two (two of the most super fun always happy pups you will ever have viewed) are golden gems and will cook some of the best food and treats you have ever had in your life. Truly wonderful down to earth people. So what then is the problem? Well, I know that Alvaro is a nice person (I think) and I know he loves animals and can surf like the devil himself, yet can he teach? I came here knowing nothing about surfing and left a week later feeling that I hate surfing. Thank God I have friends who have shown me the wonderful fun you can have on a board. My main problem with Alvaro is, "HE DOES NOT TALK." You will be lucky if he says more then two words to you a day, not my way of learning how to do anything. I think if I would have gone with a group rather then by myself, or if I would have already knew a little about surfing, I would have had a much better time. So with that in mind I can't recommend this place for anything other then an advanced surfer, or maybe a group of people who will as a group be able to enjoy the wonderful land of Costa Rica. By the way you should know that the camp is about a 40 min walk (which you would never do) or a 10 min cap ride (which is only about $3) from the town of Joco. The town is a surf town nothing more nothing less. Watch you stuff and yourself at night as you would anywhere. I will surf again this time with my friends in Maui. So bottom line, a poor introduction to surfing, but was lucky to get over it and if I could do it over I would not go to Alvaro again for my first instruction to the greatest feeling in the world. Riding a Wave..... DO IT!!!!!!!!

  • Stayed: November 2004
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12  Thank Kidney20A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Vista Guapa Surf Camp

Address: Las Lomas de Jaco, Jaco, Costa Rica
Region: Costa Rica > Province of Puntarenas > Jaco
Amenities:
Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Shuttle Bus service Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 29 B&Bs / Inns in Jaco
Price Range: £78 - £136 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Vista Guapa Surf Camp 3*
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Our Eco-Lodge features lovely guest bungalows all with an unobstructed view of the ocean, each with two individual rooms with private baths, air conditioning, two Twin beds or one Queen-sized bed and large decks with hand-crafted, native-wood furniture and comfortable hammocks for relaxing. The decks are ideal for enjoying the breeze, watching the sun rise over the hills and set over the Pacific Ocean, or taking in a visit from the family of macaws living near the property. Our bungalows are equipped with small safes for the storage of valuables, small refridgerators for snacks and drinks, and coffee machines for that morning wakeup. We do look to promote a relaxing environment and for you to "unplug", therefore our rooms do not have TVs, telephones or Internet connections, enabling our guests to enjoy the Pura Vida of Costa Rica. We do offer business center servies and free WiFi in the main house. We have a lovely pool and two Yoga decks which also serve as our massage decks, one of which looks out over the ocean, the other over the pool. Our massuese can also offer services on the deck of your bungalow or in your room, and couples massages are available as well. Other spa services such as manicures, pedicures, and haircuts and styling can be arranged. Our concierge is available 24 hours a day to meet all of your needs including shuttle services into town, tour bookings such as camopy tour, horseback riding, ATV, crocodile and much more, private fitness and Yoga instruction. Our staff of professional surfers and SUP surfers are the #1 rated in Jaco for surf and SUP lessons. We currently staff a 5-time National and Central American Champions, as well as other top-ranked professional surfers and SUP surfers. All staff members are certified by the International Surf Instructor Association (ISA) and are certified in CPR, First-Aid, and Open-Water Lifesaving Techiniques. We also currently staff a veteran Beach Lifeguard that worked in Texas, Hawaii, and California, with EMT and Big Surf Rescue training. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Vista Guapa Surf Camp Hotel Jaco
Vista Guapa Surf Camp Costa Rica/Jaco

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