A Four Star Stand Up Paddling Adventure at the Zancudo Lodge in Costa Rica
by Suzie Cooney January 2011
Exploring by SUP in Costa Rica
One of many gorgeous sunsets!
I’m fortunate to live in a paradise called Maui, however after recently returning from a new found paradise in Southern Costa Rica, I can now appreciate my new discovery of one of the most beautiful, friendly, places on earth. Warm water, waves and beautiful accommodations is what I discovered. (see all photos below in slide shows )
I was kindly invited by Gregg Mufson, the owner of the Zancudo Lodge; to experience what I can easily say was a first class, four star adventure. Our mission was to scout out the waters, meet the gracious staff and survey the grounds for my SUP stand up paddling clinic he is hosting this April 2011.
On New Year’s day, my arrival to the city of San Jose, Costa Rica I encountered a very smooth transfer from the helpful driver at the airport to the exquisite Intercontinental Hotelwith a comfortable suite. The next morning, after a delicious breakfast buffet, the same driver appeared on time in the lobby ready to take me to local airport where again they welcomed me by first name. Off I went on the modern SANSA plane to Golfito where I would then be greeted by another driver to the boat, which would take me on an exciting ride to the lodge.
Plane ride to town of Golfito
The short plane ride down to the lodge was amazing. Below you could see the gorgeous Dulce coast and the dense jungles with many farms that were scattered throughout.
The plane touched down easily on a small strip and the airport itself had so much character and flavor with, once again my driver looking for me before I could grab my bags!
The colorful town of Golfito reminded me of mine, Paia in Maui. Although we only have one stop light, they have none. The population is roughly 450 people with quaint shops and restaurants and smiles everywhere. My driver spoke very good English so that was helpful to me, since my espanol could have used some practice.
Like clockwork, as I was comfortably waiting at the marina, along came one of the 15 boats from the Zancudo Lodge. The captain welcomed me, grabbed my bags and off we went down the waterways to the lodge. The air was warm and the jungles we passed very thick and I wondered what or who lived in them. On occasion I’d see a gorgeous private bungalow too.
Gregg himself was at the dock and helped me to land. All of his boats were lined up to serve and accommodate us for our private SUP adventures. I was very impressed! My bags were taken for me and I was escorted to the main hall and delighted with a fabulous lunch. The staff made me feel right at home.
My 600 square foot private bungalow was fabulous. I opened the door and thought I had entered the Four Seasons or a modern W hotel. Gregg’s wife, Goldine Wang has impeccable taste and appointed the room just perfectly. This stand alone suite I was in, also called the Junior Suite was gorgeous. It had rare purpleheart hard wood floors, open ceilings with bright light, air conditioning, a very comfortable king size bed, complementary WIFI, flat screen TV, safe deposit box, beautiful bamboo linens and of course a cozy robe and personal slippers. It also had a private sitting terrace. (more photos below)
In the main part of the lodge, the other 12 rooms were appointed in a similar fashion,350 square feet, but had 2 plush, full beds and are just steps away from the main dining hall and bar, adjacent to the inviting pool with teak, comfortable, padded chase lounges.
One can also reserve the impressive Master Suite which is beach front, 1200 square feet, inlcudes a home theatre, separate bedroom and large living space with an outdoor lanai perfect to enjoy the sunsets.
Although I had a bit of jet lag, Gregg was very eager to get us on the water and paddling! I needed the rest of the day to adjust and enjoyed walking on the beach right in front of the lodge that seemed to extend for miles. The water is warm and it’s great for shell hunting.
The weekend I arrived, New Years, is a busy holiday for the local Ticos. The beach was lively and full of warm and friendly waves and smiles. Gregg said that
One can walk for miles on the beach in front of the lodge
tomorrow, it would be dead and very quiet. He was right. The beaches were empty and it was great to stroll as the only one on the beach.
My dinner the first night was outstanding. As a treat, Gregg had a visiting chef named Stephan who prepared us a special shrimp appetizer skewered on sugar cane with a light, tasty lime drizzle. Wow! To follow, a lovely plate of fresh vegetables harvested from the property, fresh dorado caught that day and a side salad.
Finally, the next day our first SUP exploration out in the Bay. Gregg is a stickler for being on time and ready to go, and I appreciate that. Boards, paddles and cooler were loaded already on the boat and at 7am we left the harbor! On the boat, an impressive, powerful 32 footer, Wilson, the first mate and captain Tito were so friendly and really knew these waters. The ride was exiting and sure enough, as planned a nice mellow swell just south of the lodge. We have a code not to share the name of breaks for fear it will be over populated. Trust me, it was awesome. You’ll just have to go and ride it for yourself.
We anchored the boat and paddled to the break that was peeling left all day long. Consistent, nice A shaped, and wow, talk about long rides!?!? Crazy! With only 4 of us on the break, you could easily get in 20+ rides or more if you could handle it. Gregg and Sean were showing me the way pointing out the best sweet spot and where the sand bar began.
These are very helpful tips when arriving to a new spot. Second time SUP rookie, Sloan, a fisherman from New York was handling his board really well. Gregg was just a paddling machine and we had a hard time pulling him off the waves when it was time to go.
Although it was only 9 AM, it felt like 1 or 3pm, for we are much closer to the equator. I was sure to lather up some heavy duty sunscreen. If you needed, you could paddle back to the boat, grab a drink and head back out. What service!
Still recovering from a bit of jet lag, I rode all the waves I need to be absolutely convinced that I did not want to leave this place and explore more waves and other water adventures. Di and Yvonne were also charging. At times when I looked over at them, I thought to myself, “wow here comes a decent set and there they were, still paddling and smiling big.” They were stoked!
Back to the lodge, cooling down after an excellent session with new friends, lunch was already being prepared. The menu is fabulous for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have to say, although as a trainer, their French fries and special BLT sandwiches were delicious. Topped off with a nice cool drink, I was ready for a siesta in one of the hammocks that are perfectly strung under to gorgeous palms with views to die for.
Time seems to stand still there and although this was a semi-working trip I felt pretty relaxed. Often, before dinner, some would grab a volleyball game. Just before dinner is served is when the paddlers and the other guests tend to gather in the main lodge hall. We were treated fresh lime ceviche and I have to admit a nice cold Imperial or my favorite, Corona beer went well!
All the people I met staying at the lodge were friendly and eager to be social. I met nice folks from all over escaping the cold East coast storms. I, of course encouraged everyone to try stand up paddling. Some raised an eyebrow very curious and others actually signed up with the instructor the next day.
When the rest of my crew, Yvonne and Di of Laster Heathman Media arrived we planned a fitness afternoon with Gregg and the other guest for and INDO Board demo day. Luckily Marvin Ortiz, professional photographer was on hand to capture some of the laughter and everyone hanging ten on this new training gear that all the trainers will use for the SUP clinics scheduled in April. Yvonee, Di, Gregg, Sloan and Elie were rock stars!
Here’s a link to all the fun on that day: http://www.standuppaddlingfitness.com/2011/01/indo-board-demo-day-zancudo-lodge-costa-rica-with-suzie-cooney-of-suzie-trains-maui/
monkeys spotted in the jungle!
I think one of the most memorable days was paddling to the wild animal sanctuary and along the way I, DI and Yvonne I think were spotted first by these darling red Spider monkeys, curiously swinging from tree top to tree top. I thought to myself, “WOW” this alone was worth the 16 hour plane ride. The waters along the jungle were a beautiful turquoise blue and green. I could see lots of sea life below, including star fish and other brightly colored fish.
We left the boards with the captain, and hopped off the boat and soon began a guided tour through the jungle. Marvin was our chaperone. We were told not to wear watches, earrings or especially sunglasses, for the monkeys are quick and will steal them off you in a moment and head up a tree. Most glasses we were told do not survive.
This particular wild nature preserve also rescues injured birds and other creatures of the jungle. We learned a great deal about toucans and other exotic animals. The tour itself lasts about 2 hours, but we had to rush back to the lodge for a live radio show broadcast to SUP radio to tell the world about this magical place to stand up paddle.
We had had a full day. Nearing the end our fun filled week, tonight before dinner, Gregg offered to be my partner and teach me the game of bocce ball. He is quite the competitor and has a unique style all his own. Di as well, you could tell she was a very experienced player and a little competitive too!
This professional grade bocce ball court is very special. Gregg spared no expense when he personally had over 1500 pounds of crushed oyster shellsimported all the way from Bellingham, Washington. He’s pretty serious and so were some of his other guests. I had a blast and learn quickly about back spin and bumping other balls. This was a great way to catch the most gorgeous sunsets of the day and work up an appetite before dinner. The warm tropical breezes were always present, and now and then a quick squall of rain would sneak through.
I miss my compadres, Di and Yvonne, I was very sad to pack my bags and leave this special place. I thought Maui was the best for stand up paddling, well I’ve been proven wrong. What the Zancudo Lodge is offering to all levels of stand up paddlers, is an exceptional property and warm waters for everyone. Gregg’s qualified staff can help. He can arrange private rides to best breaks, or you can simply carry your board right from the lodge to the ocean. You are literally steps away. Should the wind pick up in the afternoon, the boat can take you out to see as far as you like for what are called down winders. I recommend this for the experienced ocean folks and experienced paddlers. I’m sure Gregg will want to join you!
Gregg and Goldine, thank you for an experience of a life time and I will be back in April. Your hospitality and ability to make everyone feel so welcome is evident as to why you are such a success. I am telling everyone I know to not only come this spring for the SUP clinics, but really make an effort to see what this lodge has to offer. Simply magnifico!
Suzie Cooney of Suzie Trains Maui
photos provided by Martin Ortiz, Di and me.
Women of all ages and all SUP levels, come join me here at the Zancudo Lodge and let’s have some fun paddling and getting in great shape. We will have other adventurous activities planned as well. Book your reservation now. Space is limited! Click here for more details.
You can also visit: http//:www.standupcostarica.com
The Zancudo Lodge