Somos: A Surf Retreat For People Like Us - Stab Mag
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Somos: A Surf Retreat For People Like Us

Costa Rica’s House of Somos is more than just beachside accomodation.

style // Dec 11, 2020
Words by Michael Ciaramella
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Last year, I went on a vacation that was so damn good I decided not to leave. 

I was living in Costa Rica at the time, about an hour from the coast because my girlfriend was studying at INCAE School of Business (basically the Harvard of Latin America). It’s an extremely intensive program, as they’ve condensed what’s typically a two-year degree into 12 months of outright academic prison. All the students live on campus (most of them in shared dorms, despite a median age of 28) and literally work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. 

It’s a brutal, brutal program, and I could see the toll it was taking on my partner’s mental (and physical) health. It also sucked for me living so far from the waves, as the 4:30 am wake-ups to surf before work were growing tiresome. 

Suffice to say, we were both in dire need of a beachside getaway. Enter House of Somos*.


A little background.

House of Somos is the brainchild of a small group of surfers who thought, “There aren’t really places for people like us to stay on surf trips.” 

Who are “people like us,” you ask?

In simple terms, the Millennial surfer. People who are young, on a relative budget, open-minded, surf-centric, but also interested in truly experiencing a place beyond just its waves and basic tourist traps. When this notion struck Costa Rican native Fabio Pacheco, he shared it with his non-Tico friends Forrest Minchinton, Tanner Miller, and Brano Polak, to see if they felt the same. They did. Then they each asked some of their friends, and the answer was unanimous: nowhere that they’d traveled over the years had provided the kind of experience they truly desired (or were able to afford) on a surf trip. So they put their minds together and got to work.

Over the following months, Fabio and crew came up with the name (‘Somos’, which translates to ‘we are’ en español), the concept, and the layout. Once they secured funding, they started to create their idealized version of a surf retreat in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

So, what is Somos?

At its most basic level, Somos could be described as a first-class hostel, with private rooms available for those who prefer not to hear other people’s weird sleep noises. But as someone who’s seen fair share of hostels in their day, I can say that this description doesn’t do the place justice. Let me explain.

Shared Rooms

Somos’ shared living quarters are incredibly stylish and refined. Their design was inspired by boat-cabin bunking, with each occupant receiving their own semi-enclosed sleeping pod and private storage locker. As far as sharing a room with seven strangers goes, this is about as inoffensive as it gets. (These rooms have dynamic pricing, but they average around $22-30 per bed, per night.) 

But you don’t go to a place like Somos to spend your time in a bunk. That’s why Fabio and crew have put so much time and energy into their communal living spaces. Somos is essentially one big, open-air living room, with a series of decks, patios, a pool, over-sized kitchen, wraparound couches, bean bag chairs, hippie circle-jerk rugs, the whole nine. Natural light fills the space 12 hours a day, and the vibe (terrible word, I know) is generally tranquil if slightly sexually charged. 

The average occupant is between 22-35, fit, and American or European. We heard murmurs of occasional shower orgies. While I was there, the demographic skewed 6:4 in favor of females. Not that I was looking (promise, babe).

Private Rooms

Seeking a more “exclusive” romantic experience, my girlfriend and I opted for the private bungalow. We arrived to an adorable wood-paneled suite on Somos’ upper deck—not big, but perfect for a couple who wanted to reconnect. The platform itself was shared with another suite, but with enough room between the two to feel isolated. (The elite bungalow goes for 150-200 per night depending on the season. There’s also another, mid-tier private room that will run you around 100-150 per night.)

Being on the top floor, we often fell asleep to the sound of monkeys clamoring away in the trees above (and occasionally, frighteningly, dropping mangoes on our roof). Every morning we could wake up, peer over the deck to check the wind (always offshore), grab our boards off our private board rack, and run across the street for a surf. When the wind turned coastward, we would return to convalesce with fellow Somos-goers downstairs, or pass the time working, reading, or doing some yoga/exercise on our semi-private platform.

Getting To Santa Teresa

The vibrant, burgeoning surf town of Santa Teresa sits way out on the Nicoya Peninsula, which despite being close as the crow flies, makes it a somewhat lengthy excursion from the San Jose airport. 

From SJO, it’s a roughly five-hour trip to Somos—1.5 hours driving from the airport to the Puntarenas ferry terminal, 1.5 hours on the ferry, and another 1.5 hours from the Paquera ferry terminal to Santa Teresa. Somos offers a shuttle option from SJO, and personally I would take it over renting your own vehicle. Santa Teresa is a fairly small town, and you don’t often need to drive to get where you’re going. Even if you do, you can arrange for that ahead of time with the crew at Somos or hitch a ride with some generous passerby.

The people in Santa Teresa are generally very friendly, and the town has kind of a backpacker/free-spirit vibe. There are plenty of cute cafes around, parties and experimental drugs if you’re into them, and a community that favors experiences and human connection above all else (don’t take that to mean the place is cheap, though).

The surf

Costa Rica is known for its fun if fairly homogeneous beach breaks. Santa Teresa certainly has you covered in that regard (the main beachie, which breaks upwards of 340 days a year, is a 5 min walk from Somos), but unlike other parts of the country, the area offers some truly unique reefs and points as well. 

At the north end of the main beach is a right reef/point that, depending on the swell and tide, turns can be either a Hawaiian-style wall or a novelty, Mason Ho-style slab. To the south, there’s a fickle left-hander that on its day resembles an Indonesian reef pass. And if you want to go on a true adventure, there’s a 500-meter right-hand point buried somewhere in the Gulf of Nicoya, accessible only by boat. 

When’s the best time of year for waves? Tough to say. 

November through March boasts the most favorable winds/weather, but the swells are biggest April-September (don’t go in October). I visited in February and found waves mostly in the chest-high range, with a couple days pushing overhead. Winds were offshore every morning. Water 80 degrees. A surprising number of women in the water.

The Restaurant

Yes, Somos has a restaurant too. Built into an old Aistream, their made-to-order kitchen crafts all kinds of healthy, delicious meals and serves them in an open-air patio. While staying there, I made it my mission to try everything on the menu. I particularly enjoyed the breakfast offerings, which included acai bowls, avo toast, some crazy huevo concoctions, and fresh pastries. Lunch is typically some sort of burrito, and dinner includes a protein (generally fresh-caught fish) plus veggies, rice, and beans. All of it was delicious, none of it made you feel like a fat piece of shit. The folks at Somos are cognizant of the fact that you came here to surf and explore, not lie around and clench your gut.

On that note, they also have a number of killer drinks (alcoholic and non), all made with local fruits, herbs, etc. I particularly enjoyed their homemade iced coffee with avocado honey and the Wikicoco, which is whiskey poured over coconut-water ice cubes (sounds weird, tastes positively splendid).

Board options

Don’t want to lug a board bag with you across international borders? No worries. Somos is partnered with AwayCo, which means they’re stocked with some of the finest equipment money can rent. Book your preferred craft prior to arrival and forget all about the roof-straps you were already gonna forget all about.

Or…

Perhaps you prefer a more personalized surfcraft. Believe it or not, Somos has an in-house shaping bay, located just above the check-in desk. Throughout the year, Somos brings in resident shapers who hand-cut blanks and, upon request, give shaping tutorials to those staying on-site. Some of the regular contributors include Forrest Minchinton, Mike Minchinton, and Slab Shapes, the former of which is a part-owner of Somos.

When we arrived last February, I learned that Forrest had left me a very special gift—a hand-shaped, 5’4 candy-apple twin with glass-on fins. He calls it the Round-Pin Twin, I call it the sadistic step-daughter. 

Fast and loose with a mind of its own, it took me a day or two to subdue this magnificent beast of a surfboard. But once I discovered the correct placement for my feet and distribution of weight, I was able to harness its speed and counter with control, resulting in new lines and sensations for this calcified thruster-nut. 

It’s pretty cool to have a board shaped not only for you, but with the local conditions in mind. Everyone that shapes at Somos knows the waves like the back of their planer (as they should, the surf is literally right across the street), and their surfboards reflect it. If you’re looking for the true Somos experience, I can’t see any better way than getting a custom board built on-site for your arrival.

Anything else?

While staying at Somos, I watched various occupants walk to the front desk (typically in boardshorts, no shirt) and request to extend their stay. Whether they were from Sweden, South Africa or San Clemente, once these surf-minded, experience-seeking Millennials had gotten a taste of a place truly “made for people like them”, they never wanted to leave. 

And I would know—I was one of them. 

A month-and-a-half after our initial visit, once my girlfriend had finished her degree (valedictorian, nbd), we headed back to Santa Teresa and stayed there for the next six months. Not at Somos, mind you—the pandemic wasn’t exactly kind to communal-living facilities, so they shut down shop temporarily—but we loved the area and made such great friends on our visit that we figured there was no place better to ride out the ‘rona. 

Come this December, Somos is opening back up to the public. 

*Use code STAB at houseofsomos.com for 30% off your booking anytime in 2021. Discount available until December 31, 2020. 

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