There's a good reason the classic (and campy) surfer movie Endless Summer II was filmed at Witch's Rock, Costa Rica. The same reason that tens of thousands of surfers clock to this Central American nation each year. Simply put – the surf is superb. The secret got out years ago, not least thanks to Endless Summer. But the past few years have witnessed a tsunami of surfing aficionados arriving in search of the perfect wave. And with it a bunch of new surf camps have opened up.
I've always been fond of Mariana Nogaro's Hostel La Botella de Leche , in Tamarindo. But in 2008 she relocated her black-and-white-painted (think Holstein cows) "Hostel Bottle of Milk" anew. It's still run to exacting standards but the accommodations are much improved, with three dorms plus six private rooms for up to four people. Plus there's Internet in the cozy lounge with lockers and surfboard storage and rental, and Mariana's son Wences offers surfing tuition.
Meanwhile, in Malpais, Wavetrotters Surf Hostel  is a brand new, Italian-run backpackers' digs centered on an atrium lounge soaring ceiling. The four all-wooden dorms with lockers are upstairs. In a hurry? You can descend to the lounge via a firepole! It rents surfboards. I love the more upscale, Argentinian-run Blue Surf Sanctuary , with four gorgeous villas and an open kitchen-lounge with hammocks and sofas. There's a plunge pool and surf school.
On the Caribbean, Rocking J , continues to improve and has added a treehouse, plus suites, and a three-story house. It also still has its tent sites, and "hammock tent." And now there's an upstairs bar with live music. Rocking Js can't rest on its laurels, however, as the German-run Pagalu Hostel  opened in August 2008, bringing a whole new panache to Puerto Viejo. This post-Modernist beauty has a beautiful contemporary design. Rooms have lots of thoughtful extras. It makes great use of space, with a huge open-air lounge with kitchen. One room is wheelchair equipped. There's secure parking. And the rates begin at only $9 per person for dorms. Cool!
To read more about these and additional surf camps, order my Moon Costa Rica .