You Can: Paddle out consistently, catch waves, and occasionally pop up.
You Want: To surf bigger waves—and do it while staying in a sweet beach pad.
The Trip: Mal Pais isn’t a secret; this tiny surf village on the Nicoya Peninsula, accessible via puddle-jumper from San José, has a sushi restaurant on the beach. But convenience has advantages—once you arrive, you never have to take off your boardshorts. Set up shop at Florblanca’s Surf House, a beachside villa with an outdoor shower (from $350; accommodates up to six people). Then head for the water. Start with a lesson from Blue Surf Sanctuary ($55 for two hours) at La Lora, a break with consistent six-foot waves. If after a few days you’re confidently reading the direction of the surf and feel good about striking out on your own, try Suck Rock, a reef break with bigger rollers. Fresh fish and cold beers come courtesy of Roca Mar, right on the beach.
Essential Gear: Kina Surf Shop offers a full fleet of fiberglass rental boards, from South Point to NSP (from $8 per day). You’ll also need a good pair of boardshorts and a long-sleeve rash guard, like Quiksilver’s Plain ($33).