Costa Rica Travel article and photos by Carmen Schaffer.
I have never been one to be known for camping. The idea of staying in a nylon tent while sleeping in or on a sleeping bag directly on the ground has never really appealed to me nor has the idea of lugging along all of the supplies required to prepare and cook the food ~ outside. The other downside of camping for me was outhouses or the lack there of and having to forge my way into the dark of night to relieve myself freaked me out. Nope, as Mother Earth loving as I am, camping has never been something I’ve appreciated.
When the concept of glamping (glamorous camping) crossed my path, my interest piqued. I liked the idea of tents that were already set up with everything I would need for a cozy nights rest along with a bit of ambiance given by cool lanterns and oriental rugs. THIS is my idea of camping! The other part of glamping that interested me was that it was run like a hotel/resort ~ complete with planned activities such as surfing and yoga and meals that were prepared for me by someone else!
I came into contact with the owner of Dreamsea surf camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Dreamsea is a surf camp that offers the surf lessons and surfing opportunities in not just Tamarindo but in Portugal as well as in France. Travelers stay in tents that are just as I had described above and spend their days learning to surf or practicing their surfing skills with a group of worldly travelers and worldly surf instructors. I had to see what glamping was all about and the owner of the camp graciously offered our family the opportunity to check out Dreamsea surf camp in Tamarindo, so I gratefully took him up on his offer. Learning how to surf has been on my bucket list for a long time and seeing as though this year is the start of crossing off bucket list items, I figured I’d cross this one off!
Dreamsea surf camp is not on the beach as the name may imply. It is located about 10 minutes out of Tamarindo in the forest. When we arrived in Tamarindo, our GPS could not locate the camp so I called the camp and within minutes, this big Jeep like vehicle rolled up with surf boards on top, a Dreamsea decal on the side of it and two very earthy looking “kids” inside of it. My first thought was, “Geez, I am way too old for this.” but my second thought was, ” Awesome!!” We followed the Dreamsea jeep through dusty, gravel roads until we pulled into the parking lot of the camp.
My heart instantly soared as I looked into the camp and saw tents ( more like Yurts) scattered throughout the property. As we walked into camp, we came upon THE spot to be at camp, The Chillout tree. It is a huge mango tree with a deck ladened with cushions, pillows and hammocks. There is a second and third story of this tree which provides campers a secluded place to get away from it all and be one ( literally) with nature. Global beats came from speaker somewhere making this a nirvana for me.We were introduced to the trees resident porcupine who came out from time to time only to have another creature move in while the porcupine was out. Everyone loved the porcupine and at times, I would find campers and staff just staring into the tree and smiling at the little guy. I decided that the Chillout tree was to be my new favorite spot on earth.
We were guided to our tents, one with a full size bed and one with two twin beds in them. Decorated with cool lamps, incense burners and simple bedding, it was all one would need for a good nights rest. There was also a fan in the tent which we found to be an integral part of a good nights rest as the tents are sealed up tight with vent holes on the side which didn’t allow for a whole lot of air movement, so the fans were MUCH appreciated. Our kids were a little less than thrilled with the idea as there were Daddy Long Leg spiders in their tent that they did not appreciate. If you’re afraid of insects, this may not be the place for you, however I must say that the staff is quick to get the bug spray to kill any less than desirable insects you may have in your tent.
As we’d arrived in the afternoon when the tide was right, we hit the beach to try our hands at surfing. A gaggle of people and one of the resident dogs, Tito, loaded up in the jeep which was affectionately and passionately called “La Chancha” (Spanish for ‘pig’) . We followed the crew to the beach where we were guided to a hut in the shade where the preparation for our surfing adventure would take place. Campers from Germany, the U.S, and Australia greeted us with big smiles and welcomed us as though we were family. Dennis, one of the Dreamsea staff, gave us our surf lessons on the beach. We were given the basics of surfing and my heart was screaming as I clumsily “got up” on the board on land and wondered how the hell I would get up on the waves. I trusted my instructor and my abilities and went with it. We grabbed our boards and headed out into the waves. We were guided into the waves and instructed to firmly hold on to our boards at all times .
I cannot stress the importance of this! In my moments of capturing vibes in the air and staring off into space, I spaced out and a wave caught my board and flipped it out of my hands and the fin on the board stabbed me in my leg and pubic bone. Yes, had I been a man, this hit would have leveled me. I was riveted by the pain and almost threw in the towel BUT I came here to learn how to surf and surf I would do!I pulled on my big girl swim shorts and headed out with the instructor to try my hand on getting up. He’d lead me out to a wave, turn me around and shout, “Go!” I’d struggle, flail my arms around like a windmill in a hurricane and would fall. After about 4 times of this, I had seen an older man who got up on his board and I was driven to get up on mine, after all, if he can do it, so can I. Dennis told me to get out of my head and “feel it” and just go with the flow. This is good advice in most situations and especially true when surfing. His wise words coupled with a proposition for a passion fruit margarita if I got up, fueled me and with one push onto the wave and a “go!” I got up and rode that surf board all the way to shore. Waiting for me was Dreamsea surfers who were applauding with high fives and big smiles. If I could bottle the feeling of accomplishment and bliss and sell it, I’d be a millionaire.
Our bodies were tired and rashed up from the surf boards and the sun was setting so we headed back to camp where we all fell under the hypnotic pull of the Chillout Tree. We talked with fellow campers of their world travelers, stared into space and watched surfing videos on a white sheet rigged up between trees while dinner was being prepared. Dinner was served under a tree that had tables jutting out from three sides of it and the chairs were logs and benches. Lights illuminated the campground and the dining area where the food was served. To my amazement, dinner was chicken cordon blue with mixed vegetables and fruit kabobs with chocolate fondue. This was some of the best food that we had had in Costa Rica to date. Dennis is not only a surf instructor but he’s a chef who studied culinary arts in Costa Rica and he is darn good at what he does ~ both in the sea and in the kitchen!
Night time at Dreamsea was blissful. The heat of the day had subsided and a slight breeze graced our presence as we sprawled out under the Chillout Tree. After heavy duty lounging under the tree, campers and staff alike all headed into town to enjoy a night out at a bar where live percussions infused d.j music lulled and inspired the crowd. All of my new friends from the camp and I thoroughly enjoyed our night out. We talked liked we’d known each other for years. Age wasn’t an issue like I’d previously thought about. There is a certain kind of person who visits a surf camp and these type of people tend to be non-judgmental and very accepting of everyone. Our night ended with a bumpy ride in “La Chancha” back to camp where again, folks re-grouped under the mango tree and made their way back to their tents.
I woke up to the sounds of bird and howler monkeys. By the sounds of it, they were right outside of our tent. Howler monkeys are not big by any means but they have a serious howl that leads you to believe Godzilla may be coming for you! As you can imagine, breakfast was a divine palate pleaser of gallo pinto ( rice and beans), eggs, sausage and fruit. A balanced and healthy menu is key here. No one ever goes hungry at Dreamsea.
Our time at Dreamsea was an incredible experience. I have yet to walk into a place where we were welcomed so graciously and treated like family from the get go. Our children were treated as equals as they carried on conversations with travelers from around the world. There was a sense of belonging on everyones behalf and that is 100% due to the attitudes and vibes of the Dreamsea surf staff.
If you’re in the market to get away from it all and immerse yourself into an atmosphere of “oneness” with yourself , others and the world around you, I highly encourage you to check out glamping at Dreamsea surf camp in Tamarindo. For me personally, my experience has left a profound impact on my soul. See for your self at Dreamsea.
For more Costa Rica travel stories by Carmen visit her Viva La Vida travel blog.