- What types of payment are accepted in Costa Rica?
Bring cash (USD) for whatever you are not absolutely certain can be paid for by credit card. U.S. currency is accepted everywhere, but change will usually be given in Costa Rican colones only. Major credit cards and debit cards are accepted by some businesses, but not all. (VISA cards are your best bet. American Express and Diners Club are accepted in some places. Surprisingly, Master Card is not yet accepted by many vendors, even those who take Visa.) Travelers Checks and personal checks will NOT be cashed by most banks nor accepted by most vendors!
Note: Make sure all of your U.S. dollar bills are completely intact; no tears or missing corners! Any US bills with even a small tear on the edge will not be considered legal tender here -- even in most banks. Inspect all of your bills carefully!
- Can I use my U.S. bank cards to get cash from ATM machines and/or banks?
You can use some of your major credit and debit cards at most ATMs and banks here, but BEWARE!! There are very few ATM machines in this area. Even when you find one, many machines are often out of order or simply out of cash, especially during the "high season". Credit card withdrawls via teller usually involve long waiting periods. During major holidays, banks and ATM's often limit the maximum amount each person may withdraw to approximately $100. Please plan accordingly to have enough cash on hand for whatever you are not absolutely positive you will be able to pay for by credit card.
- What is the $15 National Park Ticket fee for ? Is it mandatory?
Witch’s Rock (aka Roca Bruja or Playa Naranjo) and Ollie’s Point (aka Potrero Grande) are located in waters of Santa Rosa National Park, which is regulated by the MINAE / ACG (the Costa Rican ministry of national parks and conservation in Guanacaste).
MINAE park fees vary, according to location. Santa Rosa National Park fees are now $15 pp/day to enter by boat, whether for a personal trip or with a commercial operator. The fee for those adventurous (and well-equipped) enough to enter by land is $10 pp/day. (These rates are for non-residents. Costa Ricans and residents pay 1,100 colones to enter by boat. Current rates went into effect January 14, 2008.)
Every passenger on every boat in park waters MUST have a $15 ticket, whether on a commercial or private boat, whether surfing or not.
Every commercial boat entering these waters must also have a current MINAE permit to do so. At this time there are only 9 boat operators with these permits (including CRSC). Without this permit, a commercial operator may not purchase the required tickets to enter park waters.
Any boat without tickets for every passenger can be forced to leave park waters immediately when caught by the MINAE’s patrol panga. When this happens, refunds are rarely given. You can lose your day of surf and have no recourse to get your money back.
Simply asking an operator if they have the proper permits does you no good, as most assume you will not check up on them. To make sure you hire a legal boat, follow the recommendations below – especially making sure to see your tickets before you depart.
Even if you have a Costa Rican friend with a boat who wants to take you surfing on a “personal trip”, tickets must be purchased in advance. The boat owner must first write a letter to the MINAE requesting permission to buy tickets before they can do so. This process takes up to 3 days and the request may be denied, depending upon availability of tickets.
To ensure you hire a “legal” boat to take you to Witch’s and Ollie’s:
- Ask us for the most current list of legal operators and only hire a boat from that list.
- Tell the boat operator in advance that you will want to SEE your tickets before the boat departs. (Book in advance to ensure tickets are available. Only about 35 tickets are sold for each day.)
- Provide the operator with the following passport information for each passenger: name on passport, passport number, date of birth and date of passport issue. * *The MINAE requires this info to purchase tickets. If you are never asked for this information or are told that it is not necessary, do not hire that operator.* *
- The morning of your trip, be sure to have the captain SHOW YOU the tickets that were purchased for you.
Please pass this information on to anyone you meet who is considering surfing at Witch’s and/or Ollie’s. Help support Costa Rica’s national parks and keep these world-famous breaks uncrowded by the kind of kooks who would rather save $15 than help preserve this country’s natural resources. Tens of thousands of dollars are lost by Costa Rica's already under-funded national park system each year due to illegal operators. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM! We are more than happy to provide the list of boat operators with valid MINAE permits so you don’t end up getting kicked out of park waters and losing a full day of your surf vacation. Even if you don’t book a charter with us, we want you to have a great time while you’re here so you’ll keep coming back!
This information may be confirmed by Mr. Freddy Salazar, Coordinador for the Sector Marino Protegido, ACG. His office number is 011-506-2666-5051 ext 238.
- What are the best months for surf in Costa Rica & Nicaragua?
The great thing about Costa Rica and Nicaragua is that there is good surf virtually year-round; you just need to know what part of the country to go to during which months!
- The months which historically offer bigger surf on both Costa Rica and Nicaragua's Pacific coastlines are between April and August, when the larger S/SW swells are in abundance.
- Sept and Oct usually still have good southern swells, but the wind direction can be less consistently offshore and you should keep in mind that those are also the two most rainy months of the year. (We’ve often have several sunny days in a row during which there is little or no rain, however, and when it's on, it's on.)
- November usually enjoys some strong south swells as well, and the return of the consistent offshore winds can make this an especially good month along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
- December through February have the WNW swells which are perfect for much of the Nicoya Peninsula and many breaks further south on Costa Rica's Pacific side, so there’s usually excellent surf during those months in those areas. Breaks that only work on southern swells tend to have smaller surf between December and March when those swells subside, but with the consistent offshore winds during these months the conditions can still be very clean and fun at breaks like Witch's and Ollie's. Between January and March, the Papagayo Gulf (in which Witch’s and Ollie’s are located) experiences 1 to 3 very windy days every week or two, but these “Papagayo winds” are not a factor on the Nicoya Peninsula.
- Nicaragua, on the other hand, historically has near gale-force winds between December and March, so you're better off sticking with the Nicoya Peninsula or Witch's & Ollie's during those months.
- On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, December through March are the best months for surf, with a short mid-season in June and July.
- Are surf photography services offered?
We will be happy to take surf photos of your group for an additional fee. The hourly fee varies, depending upon the number of people in the group. For the initial minimum fee we'll shoot a couple of hours during the session or two of your choice, charging an additional hourly rate after that if more photography is desired for longer charters. You’ll get a CD with all of the photos taken, to do with as you see fit. John shoots with a Canon 20D from the beach and our panga, or we can use your video or underwater camera to shoot your paid photography sessions, if you prefer.
We can do a couple of group shots on the boat for you, but you should bring your own cameras for those “candid on-board photos”. You will be able to charge cameras and iPods, etc. on board (either 110v or 12v chargers).
If you would like to hire another professional photographer or videographer to shoot the entire trip that’s fine by us, but you will have to pay their full charter fare and all related fees (in addition to whatever the photographer will be charging for their services). We do not trade photography services for a discounted charter fare for photographers, so please do not be convinced by a photographer who tells you they’re sure we’d be happy to let them come along in exchange for promotional photos.
- Do you offer surf instruction?
Costa Rica Surf Charters is available for one-on-one or group surf instruction, so whether you are a first-year surfer who's not sure if you should make the trip with your more experienced friends, or a family that is looking for the ideal activity to keep you healthy and close to the ones you love, give us a call.
-I don't have (or I've lost) my passport. How long will it take to get one (or a replacement)?
Below is the number to call for all the information you’ll need to get a passport (whether your first one or a replacement for one which has been lost or stolen) in as little as ONE DAY!!
National Passport Info Center: 877-487-2778 >>> Press 1, then 2, then 2 again for a LIVE PERSON (The recording will tell you those options are to make an appointment, but you can just get whatever info you need from the person who answers, if you’re not ready to actually make the appointment when you call.)
Hours: Mon-Fri 8am -10pm, EST (closed federal holidays)
- Is it true that I have to have a certain type of birth certificate to get a passport?
Yes! You must have the newer version of what the US Gov’t now considers to be an “official certified birth certificate”, which is a full-page (8.5” x 11”) document with a seal. If you need to get this current type of official birth certificate (or are unsure if the one you have is the correct type), you can call the Vital Records or Public Health Department office for your state (see number for CA below) for information on how to obtain the required type. Contacting Vital Chek (below) is a faster option, great for when time is of the essence:
Vital Chek: www.VitalChek.com 800-255-2414 : US Government-approved agency from which you can obtain official certified birth certificate in as little as 5 days for approximately $40 or within three weeks for a lower fee.
California Vital Records Dept. : 916-445-2684 (Avg. wait time 12 weeks)
Note: the above information is accurate to the best of our knowledge through June, 2009. Please call or e-mail to ensure the most updated info.