This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Introducing Erica Hartnick, a Californian native truly living her salt gypsy dreams. Fresh out of a season in Costa Rica, she took some time out to talk story and share her experiences. All I wanna know now is when can I book my ticket to get me some of that famous ceviche in Pavones!

In her own words….


live simply

Costa Rica!  Dreamy waves, abundant wildlife, virgin rainforest, beautiful people, delicious fruit, pura vida – pure life.  I hear many people talk about how Costa Rica is over-Americanized, or played out. In some spots of the country maybe yes, but there are still many untouched lands that are waiting to be explored. I first travelled to Costa Rica ten years ago and it had me at hello. This year I decided I wanted to work a season in the tropics so I put my mind to it and was fortunate to score a work exchange gig at Encanta La Vida, on the Osa Peninsula in Matapalo.

There are infinite opportunities all over the world. You just have to tune in to what you really want and go for it!  Like many international surf travel destinations, Costa Rica has a lot of opportunity for volunteer jobs and work exchange.  There are many visionaries who have started sustainable living areas who are looking for a hand in the garden or with building and there are many hotels that are often looking for help in their hospitality side or looking for yoga teachers or massage therapists. All you have to do is seek them out. “Google” your dream job and there is a good chance it will come up! Or go for it yourself, and use that entrepreneurial spirit to start your own creation.

I helped out at jungle lodge, Encanta La Vida, “for the love of life,” from December to May. This is the dry season aka. the busy season, in many areas of Costa Rica (probably the easiest time of year to acquire some sort of work). At the lodge I helped with the nightly management of the office, restaurant, and bar, and was the resident Yoga Teacher. In exchange I was offered a room and board.

Aside from being set in primary rainforest and in front of world-class surf breaks, this place has an amazing ocean view yoga deck. Anyone looking to bring a yoga retreat to be in the jungle of Costa Rica, be surrounded by wildlife, and ride great waves should come here!  It is the ultimate yoga retreat experience.

Lodging in the Matapalo area can be pricey, so if you are more of a budget traveler (like most of us surf travelers), you may want to camp. Get all your supplies in Puerto Jimenez and journey out to Matapalo to set up your ocean front nest. This is a beautiful area, with no stores and really not much but nature, so come prepared with surf equipment, food, and water.  You can usually find fresh water in the rivers but sometimes March-May can be extremely dry. And you really don’t need a car. Hop on the local “colectivo” bus that runs a couple times a day.

The beauty of Matapalo is its real simple living so night life can be nonexistent. But once a week, on Friday nights, there is a market and social gathering at the local bar, Martina’s.  Everyone comes out of the jungle to meet for some dancing and drinks. Matapalo is a unique community filled with characters that will inspire you and call you back.

December to March you can expect less rain, more sunny hot days, and somewhat mellow seas.  You can get lucky and get waves all year but the south swells usually start picking up in April and the best time to ride bigger waves is April-August. Within a kilometre there are numerous right hand breaks that you can walk to. There are tons of places to explore, but I will let you find them on your own. That is the fun part about surf travel, right?

Because this area is SO pristine and special, there are many people dedicated to preserving and saving the area’s pure natural lands and waters. There are numerous environmental causes in which one can become involved.  One amazing woman I met, Natalie Fox, is living the dream of an international surf traveller while dedicating her life to protect the oceans and whales.  She did this in Costa Rica this year and is continuing on her worldwide journey.  Check out her inspiring lifestyle and cause and get involved!

Across the gulf in Pavones, epic surf can also be sought and found.  This side of the Golfo Dulce is a bit more crowded, but has heaps of fun surf, and is very friendly for the budget surf traveller.  And lefts, lefts, lefts!  I suggest you befriend local Harley Rios, (you can probably ask anyone in town to track him down).  He is an excellent surf guide and can help you out with all your surf needs.

After a long surf, you might want to take an hour ocean front walk south of Pavones (or you can rent a bike, or hitch a ride), for the best ceviche I have found in all of Costa Rica at Brisas Del Mar. It is owned by a local family and they know how to prepare delicious food. Be sure to go with friends and share plates, their portions do not disappoint.

Into growing your own food, eating delicious vegetarian meals, and meeting other open minded world travellers? Go a few kilometres down the road to Punta Banco and visit The Yoga Farm. The most gracious and adorable couple in the world, Pat and Christie, run the place in the busy season and are extremely enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge of gardening and sustainable living. They often have volunteer spots available. They have even been so motivated to create their own natural homemade sunblock: SEACAT!!!  Any sun lover must get some!

Erica Hartnick is a yoga instructor and surfer from Northern California. Check out her blog, Fresh and Salty, and FB page for more updates on her adventuring. Yoga shots were taken by Angelo Regalbuto at Osa Dreams Photography. Thanks for sharing your pics and experience with us Erica. We look forward to sharing a lineup with ya one day!


  1. I visited Costa Rica five years ago, but I love this delightful advice on specific places (and even people)! It gets me dreaming about going back.

  2. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. People come to Costa Rica for many reasons and surfing is definitely one of them. You’ve highlighted a great region on the southern Pacific coast. Just wanted to share that to the north, on the Nicoya Peninsula, you’ll find Nosara, recently named one of the best surf towns in the world by National Geographic. Not sure when NatGeo became an authority on surfing. But Nosara is a cool place. It just goes to show how many cool places – and surf spots – there are to visit in CR.

  3. Pingback: YOGATRADE | Salt Gypsy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: