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Costa Rica Camping - Sleep Where You Surf!

Trying to save a buck? Want to get off the beaten path? Camping is an alternative that you can consider. Rates are generally $5-$12 at campgrounds, and most of the state parks I know about provide some level of facilities. Costa Rica beach camping is free, but weigh the risks before you hunker down… I will explain in a minute.

Ive camped at Mal Pais Surf Camp for $5/night, and also on the beach in different areas. So, I can tell you first hand, there are pluses and minuses.

First things first. It’s getting harder and harder to camp on the beaches. Dont expect that you can just plunk your tent down wherever you want. That goes for inland as well. I was once woken up in the middle of the night (stoned out of my mind) by an irate farmer with a shotgun who was yelling something that sounded like the equivalent of “this is private property - who the fuck are you and do you want to die?” He ended up letting us stay for the night in the end, but trust me, your Spanish wont flow so smooth if you end up like I did. So, it’s best to make sure it’s cool before you set up your campsite.

Here are some good places that you can camp: Santa Rosa National Park, Barra Honda National Park, ChirripĆ³ National Park, Corcovado National Park, La Amistad Park.

Then the practical considerations. Safety. You can easily get robbed while your out for a surf. If you’re at a campground, ask them to lock up your valuables (usually a small fee). Or, if you do get a spot on the beach, hide your essential stuff somewhere. Last time I camped for a month on the beach - 1998 - we made a little place up a dry riverbed to keep our passports and money. We got lucky.

Shlepping. Dont forget about getting from A to B. if you plan to move around, carrying your gear and a couple boards on top of that can be a freakin’ drag. Plus, if you’re really cheap, you might have to deal with the bus stations/stops, which a great place to get ripped off - especially when you’re distracted while you’re trying to load up all your stuff. If you rent a car, then camping can seem a whole lot better.

The Sun. Do you like to sleep in? Well, forget about it. I can pretty much guarantee that your tent will be 100 degrees by 7 am, even if you build your “survivor style” palm frond sunshade. As your tent super heats throughout the day, your mid-afternoon siesta will be more like a mid-afternoon sweat-lodge.

One last point - you can probably find a cheap room for $20/night. It’s worth it. Showers, toilets, bug screens and ceiling fans are worth $20, at least for part of your trip. You cheap bastard.

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