Costa Rica Now a Popular Spring Break Destination

Silhouetted by the setting sun, surfers walk down the beach carrying their boards.

Surfers on Playa Tamarindo at sunset.
Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

To stay up to date about happenings and developments in Costa Rica, I subscribe to various newsfeeds, including Google Alerts. Over the past few months, I noticed an uptick in news reports about school and college student groups visiting Costa Rica. I hadn’t previously noticed such reports, and it registered as a curiosity.

I hadn’t thought to write about it. Then today’s Google Alert included a short piece from last week’s Austin American-Statesman about how Costa Rica is now a popular destination with college spring breakers.

Not that the spring breakers are forsaking Cancún, which had a bumper season last year… but Costa Rica does offer key attributes that few other spring break destinations can offer.

No surprise, Tamarindo, a beach resort mid-way down the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula, is the spring breakers number one destination in Costa Rica. Its beach-setting is superb. Surfing is choka. And the nightlife here is off the hook. Plus there’s no end of cool things to do when you shake off the previous night’s hangover. Ziplining… ATV adventures… Canoeing in Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge… and much more.

Other “can’t fail” beach destinations I’d recommend include Manuel Anonio… Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica’s Caribbean capital of cool… and Malpaís/Santa Teresa, a hip surfers fave in the southwest corner of the Nicoya peninsula. All offer surfing, plus such fun adventures as waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, and ziplining, etc., plus great nightlife.

Costa Rica Spring Break Tours caters to the market with a series of student-themed tours that include “Tamarindo Beach Party” and “Jacó Beach Spring Break.” The latter, says the website, “has huge party potential. If your trip revolves around partying then this is your spot. Clubs, nightlife, casino, surf, bikinis and babes, best describe Jaco spring break 2011.

If you’re considering a more fulfilling spring break vacation than one that revolves around booze, bikinis, and babes, how about a volunteer program in which you contribute to social, economic, or environmental welfare?Personally, I find Jacó–my least favorite beach destination in Costa Rica—a bit tacky, and the ugly beach here sucks, although there’s no denying that it has a wild nightlife (including strip clubs and a visible preponderance of prostitutes) and great surfing, plus lots of adventure activities.

As to the partying, Costa Rica Spring Break Tours’ FAQ page has as its first question—no surprise here!—“What is the drinking age in Costa Rica?” Answer: 18.

And the third question poses “Is prostitution legal in Costa Rica?” (which begs the question as to how high an import students place on this theme). The company gives a wrong answer when it says “prostitution is NOT legal in Costa Rica.” The fact is: Prostitution is perfectly legal in Costa Rica, where brothels are open (not hidden) and women over 18 who have registered as prostitutes are issued ID cards and can (if they choose) receive free medical check-ups every 15 days from the country’s social security system, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).

If you’re considering a more fulfilling spring break vacation than one that revolves around booze, bikinis, and babes, how about a volunteer program in which you contribute to social, economic, or environmental welfare?

Organizations to consider include:

    • Projects Abroad has a volunteer program in which you help care for kids at local care centers in Liberia (handily close to Tamarindo and other beaches of northern Nicoya, plus Rincón de la Vieja volcano) while also studying to improve your Spanish.
    • VIDA Volunteer Travel specializes in volunteer programs in Costa Rica for students in the medical and veterinary fields.

Enjoy!

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