Nestled among the palm trees and sandy shores of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, you’ll find the surfers paradise of Costeño Beach
Named for the beach on which it sits, this laid-back surf camp and ecolodge has been slowly making a name for itself among visitors and locals alike, and here’s why.
Travel about an hour north-east of the sweltering coastal town of Santa Marta, down a dirt road leading towards the ocean, through a grove of coconut palms and you’ll come upon a scene of complete tranquility – tall shady trees, a light ocean breeze, and a dozen or so bathing-suit-clad travelers lazing about (the rest are out surfing).
Feel the hectic urgency of city life melt away as you wriggle your toes in the hot sand – welcome to Costeño Beach Surf Camp & Ecolodge.
This blissful beachside getaway is owned and operated by two brothers from Toronto who got hooked on surfing and have made it their job to help others do the same. A few thatched beach huts, some colourful hammocks strung between trees, a handful of dorms and a couple camping spots offer passing surf bums (and those who want to try out the lifestyle) a place to spend the night, week or even month(s).
It all started when Brian, the younger of the two, spent a semester studying abroad in Barranquilla, a city in northern Colombia. During these six months Brian picked up Spanish, learned to surf and, most importantly, fell in love with Colombia.
While both brothers had tried their hand at surfing before, it was in Colombia that Brian really got a knack for it. His older brother Colm had tested the waters in Australia, but similarly re-discovered surfing when he came to visit Brian in Barranquilla. Their shared interest in surfing and a growing love of Colombian culture convinced the brothers to stay and pursue their newfound passion.
They set up a small surf school on the grounds of a local campsite, renting boards and teaching surfing lessons to campers. Through this endeavor, it quickly became clear how underdeveloped the surf culture and community was in Colombia. So after two years of working on the beach, they decided to make a real commitment and expand their business.
The brothers began looking for land and soon came across an old coconut farm for sale. The grounds were unkempt, but the location – steps from the ocean – was perfect and the boys saw plenty of potential. Together with some hired help they set to work and roughly a year later Costeño Beach Surf Camp & Ecolodge was open for business.
Their original idea had been to build a camp that would accommodate maximum twenty people. Today however, it has grown to sleep up to 41 guests in dorms, huts and hammocks.
The five dorms, built from beautifully carved local lumber, offer visitors a luxurious stay complete with private bathrooms and solar electricity.
The beach huts, although basic, are comfortable and create a more authentic experience. A cozy bed perched atop a sturdy wooden base and covered by a palm roof and rattan shades provides privacy and comfort. All accommodation comes with mosquito nets and the rhythmic sound of the ocean to rock you to sleep.
Camping is also available with space for roughly 10 additional guests in tents. That being said, no one is turned away; sometimes eager travellers set up makeshift beds under any covered alcove they can find – and if that isn’t a testament to the popularity of the camp, then I don’t know what is.
With this success also comes a growing responsibility to sustainable tourism, which the brothers have taken to heart. To ensure they leave the greenest possible footprint the camp is stream fed and solar powered, all organic waste is composted, all plastic waste recycled and all septic waste filtered and then fed into a flowerbed to avoid ground water contamination. Their mission is to enjoy, share, and preserve the beautiful surroundings they fell in love with.
This commitment to sustainability is an ever-growing vision for the brothers, who in July of this year, along with five other investors and friends, opened Rancho Relaxo.
These 150 hectares of lush mountainous terrain hold a world of potential. Although the project is still in its infancy, they hope to reinvigorate the land, which was once used to graze cattle, and turn it into a fertile farm. Presently, the ranch cooks a weekly meal for the surf camp using food taken from their growing garden. Ultimately they hope to supplement most of the food they buy with food they can grow themselves.
With time, Rancho Relaxo will become a complete jungle retreat where visitors can explore the grounds on hiking trails, spend the night tucked away in a hillside bungalow, swim in the natural waterfall and much more.
Offering a chance to surf and explore the wild and beautiful Caribbean coast, in a setting of pure tranquility that promotes a sustainable conscience, Costeño Beach truly is one of Colombia’s best-kept secrets – until now.
Prime surf happens between January and April so mark your calendars.