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Welcome to my home in Nosara

To discover true paradise, sometimes you have to go off-road. And sometimes in a 4×4, if it’s anything like my town.

When you turn onto the unpaved road, ignore your instinct to bust a u-turn and your fear of the unknown. Instead, continue off the beaten path. Eventually you’ll pass a man and his wife selling ice-cold fresh coconuts, better known in Costa Rica as “Pipas,” before you end up in Nosara. If you trust that the machete in his hand is simply used to slice open the coconut, and you dare to engage them with your Spanglish, you’ll learn that these charming individuals are more than just “Pipa people”. They too have a story, a family, goals and dreams, morals and values, just like you and me.
Why Trek Travel guide Alyssa Sponaugle moved to Costa Rica
I first visited Nosara when my group of friends was planning a surf trip to Costa Rica and asked me to join. At the time, I was clothed head to toe in March as a snowboard instructor who had put in nearly 100 days chasing and counting my little “snow ducklings” all over Vail Mountain. I glanced at the powder below my board, then to my pretzel-ed up student stuck in waist deep snow awaiting my rescue, then back down to my snowboard, which had suddenly become a surfboard atop crystal blue waves. I thought to myself, “I need a vacation.”

At the time, I couldn’t even surf. I mean, sure, I could stand up on a long board, paddle and mimic a whale-like dismount. But I hadn’t experienced “the feeling”. The feeling that one has when they finally learn how to dance on water. The feeling of floating through the air while the ocean playfully spits water back at their face. The feeling of flying with mother nature, or in layman’s terms, catching a green wave. That was a feeling I wanted to know.
Join Trek Travel guide Alyssa Sponagule in her home of Nosara, Costa Rica
It took less than a week to fall in love with Nosara’s charm: the people’s positive energy and generosity, the natural beauty and environment, and the wildlife right before your eyes. Three weeks of waking up to howler monkeys, finding my way through lush green jungle paths to an untouched, white sand beach with a stellar wave, and consuming more mangos and fresh pipas than I thought possible. For three weeks I was mesmerized day after day by how strikingly beautiful and different one sunset was from the next. So I looked at a “Casita” that was for rent in the fall, shook the hand of a Tica friend named Ane, and said, “I’ll be back in November, I’m good for my word.”

A simple, “Yes, I’m in,” from atop a snowy mountain five years ago has lead to one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made.

In the years since then, I’ve learned to love the simplicity of life here. I’ve learned that you can live a very full life once you strip away everything else. Eventually I learned to live without all the things that I once felt were a necessity, and learned to value life’s true necessities. Life becomes less complicated here. Without distractions, you enable yourself to be present and engaged in each and every moment. I feel like I am myself in my purest form in Costa Rica.
Trek Travel bike tour guide Alyssa Sponaugle in Costa Rica
What makes Costa Rica a unique travel destination?

Costa Rica boasts a higher biodiversity than the United States and Europe combined! When you think about its size–slightly smaller than West Virginia–the diversity is incredible! The wildlife and natural beauty of this country is present everywhere you look. Secondly, Costa Rica offers a bit of everything, which is why I think it is the perfect place for groups of friends or families. Everyone can get their own taste of Costa Rica: biking through cloud forests, visiting cocoa farms in the Caribbean, gazing at volcanoes, splashing around in natural hot springs, riding Central America’s best surf, and hiking through the rain forest spotting monkeys, toucans, sloths, the striking poison dart frog. There is something exciting for everyone here, and it’s welcoming to all: singles, couples, families, young and old alike.

What do you love most about Nosara?

The sunsets. There are some sunsets where the sun subtlety falls below the horizon. There are some sunsets that feel more grandiose. And then there are Nosara’s sunsets, where the sun and the colors of the sky stop an entire town at 5:45PM. During a Nosara sunset, you’ll find everyone on the beach transfixed by it’s natural beauty. Sometimes the sky brings you back to childhood memories and paints itself the colors of cotton candy. Other times it may choose to boast the brightest hues of orange and yellow imaginable. At some point you’ll find that your mind goes blank and time stands still. It’s rare to be so deep in a moment that you actually don’t think of anything. Once it sets, everyone wakes up and hustles to get home before dark. It’s a funny 15 minutes where the world just seems to be on pause, but once it sets, the play button is pushed again. For me, it has become the most anticipated part of my day.
Trek Travel Costa Rica Vacation designed by local Alyssa Sponaugle
What are you most excited for guests to experience?

Our Costa Rica trip can’t be compared to any other Trek Travel trip we offer. It’s in a category of its own. Each guest takes away their favorite moment of the trip, whether it be whitewater rafting through the rain forests, zip lining through the Cloud Forests, or enjoying coffee with our hotel owner, Agnes, while taking in views of Pelada. However, once guests arrive in Nosara, I’m undeniably excited to show it off to them! Guests stay in a quaint bed & breakfast in the hills overlooking Playa Pelada, one of my favorite fisherman beaches in the area. They have surf lessons with my friends at Agua Tibia and catch their first waves on the very same beach where I too caught my first real wave five years ago. They horseback ride at sunset to my favorite restaurant in town, infamous for it’s delicious passion fruit mojitos and breathtaking sunsets. And best of all, they get to know the community of Nosara. More than just strangers passing through a town, our guests have a key to the door behind which lies local Costa Rican life. After two days they’ve met most of my friends, and for guests who stick around after the trip, they’re treated more like friends than tourists. I find that guests really enjoy that experience, and it’s especially fun for me!
Trek Travel Costa RIca Multisport Vacation

Agua Tibia Surf School

Meet Adrian and Drew, owners of Agua Tibia surf school in Costa Rica. Sense their passion for the sport as you follow along on their journey of adventure, discovery and the search for big waves.

Tell us your story. What inspired you to start surfing?

Adrian: After school I would do my homework then swim in the river with friends. That’s all we did outside of school – homework and swim. Then one year after moving to Samara Beach in 1999 I tried surfing for the first time. The feeling of riding a board in the water was even more fun than just swimming in it. As the time passes and I am able to see many beautiful places in the world and get to know more great people, their culture and the beauty of each place, it brings me back to swimming in that river as a boy and catching my first wave.

Drew: I had been a skateboarder since I was 10 years old, and had my first surf experience when I was 20. It wasn’t that great, as a matter of fact I almost drowned two times. I went to the beach with a surfer friend of mine and he gave me his short board to learn on. The waves were over 6 feet that day (that means overhead surf). Of course he didn’t explain anything to me but I was eager to try so I paddled out and somehow made it there. I tried to catch some waves but it didn’t work. It was very intimidating to see that big, dark hole I was supposed to drop into. At this point I was exhausted, I couldn’t find my friend and it was getting dark so I decided to paddle in. A strong rip current pulled me. Knowing nothing of how to handle it at the time, I lost my board when a big wave crashed on me. I grew up swimming in rivers, so I am a decent swimmer. I swam to a surfer guy and asked for help. He told me to get on his board and we took a wave into shore.

The funny thing is that I did the same thing again. This was my second try. Same beach, same friend, same board, same waves, same current. This time was more intense. I couldn’t find someone to ask for help. Then all of a sudden an Argentinian lifeguard on shore saw my board drifting in without me. He picked it up and paddled out to get me. He saved me. I never got his name or saw him again, but he saved my life.

As you can imagine after these two experiences I decided that surfing was not for me. I was comfortable on the concrete with my wheels. Two years later I was doing social work in Nicaragua and my surfer friend calls me about this job at a hotel reception desk in Playa Guiones. When I got his call I had just started my trip and I was going to be out of the country for a month. I did a phone interview and they gave me the time to come back and take the job. That was my first time in Nosara.

At that time it was basically impossible to skate around Nosara. I remember there was one mini half pipe where I would go. Everyone was into surfing here and I had my surfing experience already. I didn’t get into the water until six months after I moved here. Since I couldn’t skate I started to get interested in surfing again. But now I had a bad experience so before I went for it I asked a couple of the new surfer friends. They just said go for it, on a bigger board. And I thought that was enough to go for it again. I borrowed a bigger board (7’3”) and started to paddle out. Nobody told me I could do white water so I went straight out to the green waves. It took me about three months to be able to get out there and then I finally made it. I was out there on a big day. The moment I look around trying to find a familiar face I could only see three of the best surfers in town out there with me. And then I thought to myself, “What am I doing here?” Now I knew a little more about safety and I just focused on not losing my board. I waited for an hour to find a smaller wave to catch. It didn’t happen. I started to paddle for what I thought was a good one and the wave just kept building under my board. All I could think was, “If I don’t make it, I die.” I made it. I stood up, went down the line and all the way into shore. I will never forget that wave. After that I did some downhill long boarding but having the power of the ocean pushing at that speed was and still is the best feeling there is. That first wave did it. That was my inspiration to surf.

Meet the owners of Agua Tibia surf school in Nosara Costa Rica

What inspired you to open your own surf school?

Adrian: After discovering that surfing was the main reason why I was going to stay here in Nosara I decided to start focusing more on improving my English, my surfing skills, and also trying to get a deeper connection with the ocean and its constant change. In 2010 I got a job at my friend’s surf school and I began as the guy who would clean the boards and put them inside. Soon I was at the front desk making reservations for the surf lessons and three months later I found myself teaching my first lesson. Teaching others reminded me of the first time I caught a wave. At that point I knew I wanted to own my own surf school. I knew I wanted to bring smiles and happiness to people, and maybe even change their way of seeing life after learning how to surf.

Drew: After working for the hotel for a year, they let me go. I had been surfing for six months and made a lot of new friends. Two of my new friends had a surf school and they hired me to be their receptionist. One day we had so many students they needed me to help them teach. So there I was, a six-month-old surfer teaching beginners. I started to notice that everything I was teaching also helped me improve my own surfing and at the same time I enjoyed teaching so much. I met Adrian there and we worked together for over two seasons. We were basically managing our friends surf school as they were getting a bit detached from it. We started talking about opening our own place and that’s how we started to sketch what Agua Tibia is now.

Take surf lessons on Trek Travel's Costa Rica Vacation

Tell us about the best wave you’ve ever caught.

Adrian: How could I forget that moment. It was at Playa Pavones in southern Costa Rica and I was on a fabulous trip with my friends. We got there two days before the swell hit and it was kind of small but we knew it was going to get better as the day went on. Once we were in the water it was even better than we thought. We woke really early on Thursday morning at 4:50AM, I made coffee and breakfast and after a good meal we headed to the water. As soon as we saw the first wave breaking we knew that the long drive (10 hours) was so worth it. I have to mention that this wave only breaks to the left because it’s a point break and also is the second longest wave of the world. Truly, this wave has been my best wave ever because it was super long, big and clean. It was what we call a perfect wave, so I will never forget this experience. We got to surf two of the longest and best waves of Costa Rica and I had the longest wave of my surf lifetime so far.

Drew: One day I was long boarding and I was around 50ft further out than the rest of the line up and I saw this massive wave building 100ft further out than where I was. So I found myself thinking, “Should I paddle out to it and go through or should I paddle in to the rest of the line up to skip it?” Two seconds later I decided to paddle out to it and try to pass it. I got to it and I was perfectly positioned. I went for it. So scary. So much adrenaline. So much fun. That’s a wave I will always remember. Makes me smile just to think of it.

Learn to Surf on Trek Travel's Costa Rica Vacation

What excites you most about Costa Rica?

Adrian: I love our culture. The people are so welcoming, warm and open. When you walk down the street you always hear everyone saying “Pura Vida” which means “Pure Life” in English. It really is a pure lifestyle here in the jungle, close to nature. We are conservative with our water, conscious of where our trash is going, always keeping compost in our yard, eating healthy, helping the animals and spending as much time as we can outdoors.

Drew: Our people. The Pura Vida. You know one is truly Tico when you feel at home. Of course there are all kinds of people here but real Costa Ricans are welcoming and warm, honest, respectful, loving, caring and always willing to help. I see all this slowly dying in the new generations but we live like that here. We fight to conserve it. Pura Vida.

Surf at Nosara on Trek Travel's Costa Rica Bike Tour


Surf with Adrian and Drew in Costa Rica!

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Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.


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Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

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