This is the story of our weeklong trip to Witches Rock. I will tell it day by day and try to include everything. It was at sometimes very hard, but we had a lot of fun. The Rock itself, made famous by The Endless Summer 2, was over 20 kilometers into the Santa Rosa National Park and one of the most remote places in Costa Rica. Along with one of the most famous surf spots in the world, the park is also home to jaguars, monkeys, iguanas, many birds, snakes, and crocs! We came here to surf perfect waves and see all the animals, especially the crocs, which were supposed to be huge here. Surfing and crocs, what can be better? Here is the story of the journey, the destination, the crocs, the waves and everything else in between:
We heard a car honk and looked over to see the jeep that had come to bring us to Witches Rock. Zach and I grabbed our backpacks and boards, then loaded up. After our backpacks were in and our boards were secure to the roof we headed out to Santa Rosa. The countryside on the way was dry and mountainous, typical of the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica where the park is located. After driving for about 35 kilometers we reached the entrance of the park, which we turned into and headed the 7 kilometers to the headquarters where we would be dropped off. We passed terrain and habitat that looked more like Africa than Costa Rica as the road winded towards our destination. Finally, we reached the headquarters where we unloaded our bags and started the 14 kilometer journey to the famed rock where we would camp until the food we had packed ran out. We eat a lot, so we packed accordingly. The weight, close to 70 lbs, consisting of food, camping gear, and surfboards and got heavy really quick. Fortunately, within a kilometer of walking, a ranger drove by in a truck and picked us up to bring us to the beach where we would be camping. The ride that followed was the bumpiest ride of my life, through mud, rocks, twists and turns all the way to the beach. It took about an hour and a half, but we finally made it. We then started setting up camp, first putting up our hammocks, then the tent, which we realized did not zip up, then sorted the food. As soon as we finished, we took out our boards, put in the fins and headed for the surf.
It was another 3 kilometer walk down the beach to the rock. Once we got there we realized it was not the best conditions, but noticed the estuary flowing into the ocean where we heard there were many crocs. We went to investigate and saw one smaller one, who was only about 2 meters and a few birds. We scanned the water and mangroves for more crocs and saw none so headed down to surf. While the surf was by no means epic, we got some fun waves for our first day and we had them all to ourselves!
After surfing for a few hours we put our boards up and went to explore the cliffs down the beach. What we found was a some really cool boulders to climb around, some cat tracks (possibly from an ocelot), and even a bat cave! After exploring for a while, the sun was setting and we walked back to our campsite, checking the estuary again for crocs and watched the sun set behind Witches Rock.
Finally, after there was no more light we made a pasta diner with a small camp burner and ate before going to bed in our hammocks. Unfortunately, trying to sleep did not last long because the mosquitoes and sand fleas came out like a plaque making it impossible to sleep in the hammock or in the tent. It continued like this all night, constantly being bitten, never sleeping. The first night was miserable, I just hoped the waves would make it worth it in the morning!
I had to sleep in on the second day, with only an hour of sleep in between getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and sand fleas I needed all the sleep I could get and slept till 8 before rolling out of my hammock and opening a can of beans for breakfast. After finishing the can I grabbed my board and walked down the beach for a surf sesh, hopping that the waves would make me forget about the previous night. When I finally got to the rock I checked the river for crocs and unfortunately saw none, so headed for the waves. It was a decent day, nothing different from a normal day in Cocoa Beach, but it was fun. I surfed for a few hours till the wind got on it and headed back to our campsite to meet Zach for a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.
After lunch, the waves had really turned bad, so Zach and I walked into the forest to look for snakes; we were looking for the neotropical rattlesnake, a very beautiful snake with one of the most potent venoms of the genus Crotalus. We walked, looking through the grasses and under stumps. We saw no snakes, but instead came upon a lagoon which we scanned for crocs. We didn’t see any crocs, but on closer inspection found tracks from a croc of more than three meters. We knew that this would be the place to come back to!
Seeing only the tracks in the lagoon, we traveled down the beach and came upon a trail which again took us into the forest. We followed it, past crabs, screaming monkeys, and mangroves and came upon another lagoon. We proceeded forward and saw a croc move! Success, that is what we came here for! She slowly slid into the water and watched us as we watched her before swimming off. We saw one more small croc opposite bank before heading back to the beach and then to our campsite as the sun set. We made diner and settled down for sleep; which, very fortunately, came much easier this night as I rolled into my hammock, sealing it for the most part from any annoying insect from entering. I could relax, listening to the sounds of the forests and fall asleep.
This morning started with a few peanut butter sandwiches and some tea as the sea breeze drifted through the trees to our campsite. After finishing breakfast, we grabbed our boards and went out to surf. Walking to the rock, there were perfect clear blue skies and plenty of sun. We could see stingrays in the transparent waves and pelicans skim above the waterline. When we finally got to Witches Rock we checked the estuary for crocs like usual then walked back down to the water. The waves were small and choppy in the low tide and we decided today was the day to paddle to the rock which was only about 300 meters from the shore. Zach and I walked into the water and started paddling until we reached the iconic monolith. We paddled completely around and into one of the caves on the side, bats could be heard through the darkness, higher in the cave. After looking around and finally touching the rock that was made a classic by the second Endless Summer movie, we paddled back to the waves. By this time, the wind had changed and the tide had come up farther to make the waves better. It was a fun day, with about 3-4 ft waves and we surfed for a few hours before heading back to our campsite for lunch.
On this day, lunch consisted of more peanut butter sandwiches and tea, same as breakfast. Once finished eating, we walked on to the lagoon to check for crocs. This time, we scored! As we walked up we saw the 10 ft croc that had most likely made the tracks we had seen the other day. He was basking on the bank, taking the afternoon sun in. Looking further, we could see yet another smaller croc in the water. It was awesome and we watched the reptiles for about 10 minutes before the big one slid into the water and glided away. We then walked to other trails around the lagoon in search of snakes and crocs, but with no luck.
By the time we finished looking for crocs the sun had set and we were ready to eat again. We fixed a big bowl of pasta and ate it with the sounds of the animals all around. After finishing dinner we got ready for another nights sleep, hopping it would be fairly mosquito free and there would be good waves in the morning.