SURF IN THE CARIBBEAN

Yes, there is Surf in The Caribbean!

The Caribbean Sea is often associated with warm, tranquil, turquoise waters, white sand, and ideal weather.

But to the surprise of many, the Caribbean is actually home to a myriad of world-class surf breaks scattered throughout the various island nations.

Most people presumably think of umbrella drinks when they think of the Caribbean Islands, not pumping hollow waves that are perfect for a surf holiday.

Looking at a map, it’s hard to tell where swell comes from in the Caribbean, so many people assume that there is little to no surf in the region.

Unlike the West or East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean islands are susceptible to swell from multiple directions, making our Caribbean surf camp a must for any traveling surfer’s bucket list.

good waves
Fun waves at Playa Encuentro

When to surf the DR

There is consistent year-round swell in the DR that will provide waves for any beginner or intermediate surfer. During the fall and winter months, however, the surf picks up in size and consistency, making the Dominican Republic the warm water destination for any expert surfer who is tired of the cold.

For Beginners:

For people who have never surfed before and want to start their wave riding careers, any time of the year is a good time. When the waves get big we stay at the inside and surf the mellow inside part of the wave.

surf instruction
Learn to surf in the Caribbean

Intermediate surfers ( between 1 to 3 years surfing)

For intermediate surfers some of the best months of the year are actually the months with the smaller waves ( June,  July & August) Average wave size is around 1 to 1,5 meters ( chest to head high). If you are an intermediate and want to start riding bigger waves than the winter months are better ( Between Dec and April)

surfer girl
Ideal waves to improve

Expert surfers

Experts surfers have 2 options on the North coast of the Dominican Republic: The winter season will bring north swells with waves ranging between head high and double overhead on a very consistent basis. The other option is to do a strike surf mission to the north coast the moment a hurricane goes well north of the DR, this will produce good surfing conditions for 4-5 days.

Winter swells

Where our swell comes from & How it is formed

The Caribbean is vast, and its surf spots are spread out among the various islands. They can be organized into the leeward (protected from the wind) and windward (upwind to the east) islands. It’s the general rule of thumb that the windward Caribbean Islands receive much of the same swell that the East Coast of the United States receives (North Atlantic), with the added bonus that there is no large continental shelf inhibiting the swell before it reaches the islands.

The leeward islands receive surprisingly powerful north swells that originate in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean and generate surf on the northern coasts of the islands.

Here at Swell Surf Camp, located on the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic in the beautiful town of Cabarete, we have a variety of surf breaks to give guests of all levels their flawless day in the water. The local breaks work best with a north swell. North swells are most frequent during the late fall and winter months and even into the early spring.

Large North Atlantic swells occur when cold air from North America, usually eastern Canada, travels down and combines with the Gulf Stream (a warm air wind system) and creates a low-pressure system. This low-pressure system produces a large amount of wind which travels over the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico and generates fetch. Fetch is best defined as the area over water that wind blows in a consistent direction resulting in the generation of swell.

This swell travels hundreds of miles over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea where it collides with the Dominican coastline’s sandbars and reef systems creating ridable waves on the north coast of the DR. When these systems intensify, they are known as “no’r Easters,” and wreak havoc on the East coast of the United States.

Our Waves

Swell Surf Camp is located on Playa Encuentro, on the Northern Dominican Coast. Playa Encuentro is positioned perfectly to catch North Atlantic swells as they track down the East Coast of the United States. There are a number of surf breaks along Playa Encuentro that will satisfy every level of surfer, from friendly beach breaks to fast, barreling reef breaks.

surfing Caribbean
© copyright surfingdominicanrepublic.com

Coco Pipe

On a proper north swell, usually during the winter, Coco Pipe will go off. There is a left and a right, however, the left is pretty short. The right, on the other hand, can produce picturesque barrels. This wave is not for beginners. It has a shallow reef bottom and a fast, critical drop in.

The Left

As its name will tell you, The Left is a long, dreamy left-hander that peels far down the beach. Like Coco Pipe, The Left breaks fairly shallow, meaning it is not for beginners.

Main Peak

longboarding cabarete
Main peak at Encuentro in summer

The main peak at Playa Encuentro offers a left and a right. The right is mellow and skatey, perfect for practicing turns. This wave is ideal for intermediates and experts.

Bobo’s

Bobo’s offers lefts and rights with some barreling potential. The inside waves at Bobo’s offer are ideal for beginner surfers. Our learn to surf camp lessons will begin at Bobo’s.

 

Destroyer’s

Fast, shallow, and hollow, Destroyer’s is popular amongst body borders and daring expert surfers. Destroyer’s works best during the winter months on a large, north swell.

Other Nearby Breaks

El Canal

hurricane waves
Surfing El Canal

While it is difficult to access and requires a long walk to reach it, the wave at El Canal offers a great left that works well during winter north swells.

 

El Mañanero

A friendly beach break that works well during summer mornings before the winds kick in.

Playa Grande

As its name suggests, Playa Grande is a large stretch of beach offering multiple peaks. Playa Grande is best during the winter months.

Preciosa

One of the best waves on the island ( in fact one of the best waves in the Caribbean) however its not super consistent, it’s needs specific north swells to really start working well. When it’s good, expect a great barreling left over reef, and a shorter right. Surfers need to be confident in powerful reef breaks before paddling out here.

El Barco

Offers a quality right-hander but is known for its powerful riptide and currents. Not beginner friendly.

 

MORE INFO ON SURFING THE CARIBBEAN

If you found this article interesting and want to  start planning your Caribbean surf trip, then have a look at our extensive Dominican Republic Surf Travel Guide. 

Or if you are interested in join Swelll for a unique adventure holiday, then have a look at our surf packages and contact Clare today to reserve your Caribbean surf Holiday with Swell.

ABOUT SWELL

Swell offers luxury Surf & Yoga Holidays, but it’s not just surfing and yoga that is on offer; located in the action sport capital of the caribbean is the surf town of Cabarete. In Cabarete you can surf in the morning, learn to kitesurf in the afternoon and finish with a Yoga session at sunset.

Other activities include: Canyoning – Mountain Biking – Horse riding – Diving – Snorkeling – Windsurfing and Stand up Paddle surfing. In short if you are looking for an action packed adventure holiday, then visit us in Cabarete.

Hasta Pronto!

good waves

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SURF ETIQUETTE: THE GOLDEN RULES

THE GOLDEN RULES OF SURF ETIQUETTE

SURF ETIQUETTE RULESLearning to surf is far more than starting a new sport and acquiring the skills necessary to compete.

It’s about learning the culture, participating in the lifestyle, and having the time of your life.

However, surfing can be a bit intimidating at times, and even dangerous if done incorrectly.

We’ve all have heard stories of “surf rage” and “locals only” spots, and we’ve all seen gruesome surf injuries.

At Swell Surf Camp, we want you to be well rounded surfers that could fit in at any break in the world at the end of your surf holiday.

In order to maximize the fun, minimize the risks to yourself and others, and progress your abilities on your surf holiday, you must familiarize yourself with

The Golden Rules of Surf Etiquette.

1. KNOW YOUR ABILITIES

While this may sound a tad condescending, understanding your own abilities in the water and humbly accepting them could save your life. If you’re still learning and you paddle out at an advanced wave, whether that’s a shallow reef break or any break on an overhead day, you run a high risk of injuring yourself and endangering those around you.

When you surf breaks within your ability, you can learn and progress, so that you can eventually surf more advanced breaks. When you learn to surf at Swell Surf Camp, your lessons will always be taught at breaks that reflect your ability.

One of the best things to do when arriving at the beach is to observe the waves for 10-15 minutes to make sure the surf spot is right for your abilities; just because the wave at a certain spot were great yesterday for your ability does not make it safe today.

2. PADDLE OUT WITH CAUTION

The most important thing to know when paddling out at a crowded line up is that the paddler yields to the riding surfer.

Meaning that if your paddle trajectory has you colliding with a surfer who is riding down the line of a wave, it is your responsibility to yield to that surfer, not the other way around.

In this example, Pete might be able to get back into position quicker, but he is also potentially getting into the way of the surfers on the wave. You don’t want to slalom through surfers when you are surfing. For safety and courtesy to other surfers, paddle wide of the surfers, back to the line-up, like Jim is doing in the picture.

CAUGHT INSIDE?

If paddling wide is not an option, then aim for the white water of the wave, instead of going and aiming for the easier option of the shoulder of the wave ( where the surfer is)

 

3. BE POLITE & SMILE

Whether you’re paddling out to a line up with 5 people out from your surf camp or 50 strangers, the rules are the same. Be polite, smile, and say hello. It will bring a feeling of levity to everyone around and it will likely put you in the good graces of local surfers.

4. UNDERSTAND PRIORITY

priority surf etiquetteNo, you’re not surfing a WSL heat, but priority still exists at every surf break. To put it simply, the surfer closest to the peak of the wave has priority over the surfer who is farther from the peak or on the shoulder. Understanding priority is key to existing peacefully in a crowded lineup.

  • The surfer who is closest to the curl, the peak or the breaking part of the wave has the right of way and priority over all other surfers;
  • The surfer who is farther outside and away from the shore has priority over all other surfers sitting or paddling on the inside, even if closer to breaking part of the wave; (This rules is often ‘abused’ by stand up paddle surfers, since they can pick the waves up further outside than regular surfers, if they get too greedy catching all the set waves, the Paddle boarder can expect the stink eye or aggro vibes from the rest of the line up)

5. DON’T DROP IN ON OTHER SURFERS

surfer etiquetteThis may seem like a no-brainer, but it happens often. A surfer is riding down the line when all of the sudden, another surfer appears on the wave and tries to hop to their feet.

Dropping in on other surfers is what usually leads to conflict in the surf world, thankfully it’s easily avoidable. It starts with understanding priority, if someone inside of you is paddling for a wave, then you shouldn’t even try to paddle for it.

Awareness plays a role as well, even if you don’t see anyone near you paddling for a wave, as you paddle look to your left and right to ensure no one is riding down the line that might have dropped on at another peak.

Being a snake – ‘snaking’

Being a snake, dropping in on others, aggressively jockeying for position in the lineup, or any other act of being a wave hog is considered rude. When you paddle out don’t immediately paddle outside past everyone else and try to get the first wave that comes in. Wait for a few waves to break first. Before you know it, the lineup will have been shuffled around a little bit and you will be in position for a wave. Just because you can catch all of the waves doesn’t mean you should (this applies especially to longboarders and stand up paddlers).

 

Communicate

When a wave breaks both left and right, two surfers can happily ride the same wave, just make sure to communicate by announcing if you’re going right or left, even if you think it’s obvious. A little communication in the water can do a lot to keep everyone safe and having fun.

Share

Just because you can catch every wave, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re on a large foam board or longboard that catches waves easily, it doesn’t mean you always get to take the wave from the shortboard next to you that’s looking to practice turns and airs. Always keep in mind that the ocean is for everyone and act accordingly.

6. BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR EQUIPMENT

don't let go of surfboardMost surf injuries are not caused by the seafloor, other surfs, or wildlife, they are caused by surfboards. Surfboards are rock solid and have sharp fins, they can do some serious damage.

To avoid unnecessary injury to yourself and anyone else around you, be responsible with your board. Don’t just let go of your board when there are other surfers around you. ( in fact unless you are surfing 20′ waves, don’t ever let go of your board)

That means using a leash, not abandoning your board during your paddle out or after a wipeout. If your board is near you and you have a tight grip on the leash, or your board is under you, it won’t hurt you or any other surfer in the water.

7. KNOW THE BREAK

This is a crucial step for surfers of any level, but it is often skipped. If you’re about to surf at a new break, take a while to watch the waves. Notice where they are breaking, where the channels are, and what the current / rip tide is doing. If you can, take it a step further by asking another surfer about the spot.

Chances are, they will be helpful and tell you where to paddle out, where the peaks are, and more! At Swell, we teach you everything you need to know about our local break before we paddle out ( including Surf Etiquette)

8. RESPECT THE BREAK & BEACH

This one is obvious. Don’t litter, don’t’ leave anything behind. Pack in and pack out. You can even take it a step further and pick up any litter you might encounter. We love our local surf beach, and we do everything we can to keep it beautiful.

9. APOLOGIZE IF YOU MESS UP

We get it, accidents happen. You messed up, and that’s okay, as long as you apologize. It may seem trivial but making amends and making your intentions clear go a long way in a crowded lineup.

10. FORGIVE AND FORGET

Lastly, if someone else in the water wrongs you, if they burn you, drop in on you, or send a board flying at you, forgive and forget. No one likes to surf mad, and no one wants to be around an angry person.

 

TIPS FROM LAIRD HAMILTION

Be Aware. Laird Hamilton recalls, “I got run over by a guy when I was sixteen and he broke my leg. A guy ran me over with a giant longboard, and it compounded my leg, and that was one of those things that you learn, like, ’Don’t trust that the guy sees you and that they’re going to avoid you.’ Just remember that they’re probably going to run you over if you don’t watch where you’re going.”

Be Decisive. “I think the biggest mistake any beginner makes is hesitation,” says Laird. “You need to be deliberate with your actions, and if you’re going to paddle out of the way, just paddle and keep paddling. I think a real common mistake is people being indecisive in their movements, whether it’s trying to catch the wave or get out of the way.”

 

 

The above surf etiquette rules all apply for our local surf spots. At Encuentro there are 2 other rules that any traveling surfer should be aware off:

  • No Stand Up Paddle surfing (SUP) at Playa Encuentro

There are numerous off shore reefs that are ideal for Stand up paddle surfing, in and around Cabarete, so there’s no need to bring a dangerous SUP board & paddle into a lineup where there are kids and learners. Find the open spaces up and down the coast. This also applies to the new sport of foiling. Too dangerous to other surfers at our local surf spot.

  • No motorized watercrafts at Playa Encuentro.

No JetSki’s anywhere near Playa Encuentro, they are noisy, smelly and dangerous to the other surfers.

 

Surfing is more than just a sport, it becomes ingrained in us the moment we catch our first wave. In order to enjoy surfing to its fullest potential, stay safe in the water, and share it with others, we must stick to The Golden Rules of Surf Etiquette. We have travelled to a lot of different countries and have seen 1000’s of different surf spots & one of the things that really makes our local surfing beach stand out is the mellow & friendly vibe between locals, expats and visiting surfers.

Let’s keep it that way, let’s all stick to the surf etiquette, so we can all leave the water after a surf session with a big smile on our faces.

More info: https://www.surfgirlmag.com/2018/07/surf-etiquette/
Surfing at Playa Encuentro with Swell’s Romy


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BEGINNER SURF DESTINATIONS

surf holiday beginner

Worldwide beginner surf destinations

Even though our surf camp is in the Dominican Republic, we are also surfers ourselves and have travelled extensively in the search for waves to catch. Based on our experience, here are our beginner surf destinations worldwide for beginner, intermediate and expert surfers.

Dominican Republic.

Our own place, Swell, is located on the North coast of the Dominican Republic. We chose this location after having visited many countries around the globe which might be suitable as a place to build a surf camp.

The criteria we rely on to see if a surf destination was suitable to build a surf camp retreat is:

  • Consistency of surf
  • Are there waves for multiple levels of surfers?
  • Are there any dangers in or out of the water?
  • Ease of access to the waves
  • Distance to an international airport

Consistency of surf

To be suitable as a beginner surf camp destination we wanted a place where our guests would be able to surf at least 300+ days of the year.

The North coast delivers on this, with at least 340+ days of surfable waves at Playa Encuentro.

surfing dominican republic

Waves for multiple levels of surfers

Of course not everyone is a beginner surfer, so a suitable destination for a surf camp needs to cater not just for complete beginners, but for intermediate and even expert surfers. Fortunately for Swell once again Playa Encuentro delivers; there are multiple waves and different peaks, all within a short walk from each other. From mellow inside beginner waves to big barreling waves on shallow reefs for expert surfers + everything in between.

Are there an dangers in or out of the water?

Playa Encuentro is a very safe spot to surf or to learn to surf because there are no dangers in or under the water. Tidal differences are minimal so getting injured from the reef bed is almost impossible. There are no dangerous rips or currents at Playa Encuentro, so there’s no danger of being dragged out to sea.
Neither are there sharks or other dangerous sea life (for example crocodiles, as seen in certain parts of Costa Rica) so the Dominican Republic scores very highly on this element of our criteria. It also helps having very warm water year-round, so another bonus point is scored there.

Ease of access to the waves

‘Highway surfing’ is not a term that surfers want to be using as it means they are constantly on the search for waves, without finding them. Again, the Dominican Republic’s waves score highly on the ease of access criteria; it’s only a journey of 10 minutes to a charming surf beach.

neno swell

Distance to an international airport

Just as with the afore-mentioned highway surfing we also wanted to minimize the travel time for our clients, so we wanted to be close to an international airport. Our location in Cabarete is just 25 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport. Santiago International airport (airport code STI) is one and a half hours away. Santo Domingo international airport (airport code SDQ) is also an option, with buses running north every hour during the day.

Because Cabarete and Playa Encuentro tick all the above boxes, that’s where we put our own purpose-built surf camp. We didn’t say anything about the criterias of food, beauty of beaches, additional activities or a party scene, but Cabarete has all of these too, so it remains our firm No.1 even when some other countries might have more ‘perfect’ waves.

We have clients who come and visit us year after year, and always at some point they ask us ‘is there any other surf camp destinations that you can recommend to me, since I want to experience a new country?’

As mentioned earlier, we have visited more than 20+ surf destinations and countries over the last 25 years.

Here is our opinion on some of them:

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and surf tourism is also very present here. There are some fine surf camps and surf resorts in Costa Rica, suitable for an awesome surf holiday.

Pros:

  • Pretty country and scenery
  • Good surf spots
  • Politically safe country
  • Plenty of flights to Costa Rica from lots of countries

Cons:

  • On average 40 to 70% more expensive than a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic
  • Travel time from airport to the beach can be between 3-8 hours
  • Crowds

More info on surfing in Costa Rica as a surf destination for beginners:
 https://www.surfline.com/travel/costa-rica-surfing-and-beaches/3624060

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is less popular than it’s neighbor Costa Rica. Because of political turmoil, tourism only started to take off 20 or so years ago.

Pros:

  • 30-40% cheaper than Costa Rica
  • Offshore winds create clean surf conditions

Cons:

  • Not a large variety of good beginner surfing spots
  • Travel distances between surf spots is long
  • Recent political unrest is causing real instability

More info on surfing in Nicaragua
https://magicseaweed.com/Popoyo-Surf-Report/939/

Hawaii

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. Year round warm weather and water and great beginner waves around the south coast of Oahu make it a great place to have your first surfing experience.

Pros:

  • Beautiful scenery and beaches
  • Safe place to visit
  • Plenty of other activities besides surfing
  • Great surf for expert surfers

Cons:

  • Very expensive (there are only a few surf camps but they are pretty basic and tend to be double or triple the price of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.)
  • Very, very crowded in the water leading to well-known local aggression.

More info on surf camps in Hawaii:

http://www.surfhawaii4u.com/surf_camps.html

Portugal

If you are based in Europe then one of the most popular place where people go surfing is Portugal. The long, exposed coastline with plenty of beaches is very suitable for surfers of all levels.

Pros:

  • There are plenty of cheap and basic surf camps (tend to be more suitable for 18 to 25 year olds)
  • Variety of surf spots suitable for people of all levels
  • Surf & culture & city life close to Lisbon

Cons:

  • Cold water year round to you need to bring a wetsuit
  • There are 100’s of surf camps and schools so it’s surfboard mayhem at times.
  • Surf schools tend to teach in very large groups; often 20 students to one surf coach
  • Cold air temperature between November and April

More info on surf holidays in Portugals:
http://www.surferdream.com

Bali & Indonesia

Indonesia is widely regarded as one of the most blessed surf countries in the world, with 100’s of world class surfing spots along its many different islands.

Pros:

  • High quality surf for surfers of all levels
  • Stunning scenery & culture
  • Reasonable cheap surf camps and surf resorts
  • Bali surfing beaches are close to the airport
  • Some of the best expert surfing waves in the world

Cons:

  • Unless you live in Australia, it’s going to be a long flight
  • Heavy rainy season between December and March
  • Crowded beginner spots

More info on surfing in Bali
 http://wavehaven.com

The above is our personal opinion of several trips to each and one of the above countries. It’s also far from a definitive list, as there are many more countries in the world who cater for the beginner surfers with suitable surf camps and surf resorts. Other places that you might take into consideration are:

Sayulita Mexico: A charming fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta; not super consistent for surf, but when there are some waves it’s great fun.

Canary Islands: Off the coast of Morocco are a cluster of islands which are part of Spain. Great winter climate and some fun surf spots.

Maldives: Not cheap for a surf trip, mostly boat charters, but pretty water and fun waves.

If you have any questions about surfing destinations, feel free to send us a message; normally, we’ve been there and can tell you if it’s suitable for you. If you prefer to come back to us in the Dominican Republic at our Surf Retreat , just send us a message with your dates.

Enjoy the waves wherever you go!

Jeroen & Clare
Owners Swell Surf Camp

beginner surf destinations

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FAMILY SURF HOLIDAY

surfing encuentro

A family surf trip!

The summer is almost over; we are headed into Autumn and then the (often dreaded) long months of Winter.

We all need something to look forward to, so thoughts often turn to next summer’s plans to keep us going through the cold months. Family vacations are always best planned well in advance to make sure of space for your preferred choice.

Family surf vacationPerhaps you are all thinking about a family beach vacation; most family holidays understandably involve the beach, who wouldn’t want to be on a sandy beach with their family?

But Mom and Dad, is a sandy beach and the ocean enough to keep the kids entertained for days on end? Wouldn’t you prefer to have something planned which will not only keep the kids entertained and enthralled with the ocean, but also wear them out a little, challenge them and teach them a sporting skill which will stay with them for life?

A FAMILY SURF VACATION

Teaching your kids to surf on a family surf vacation is quite possibly the best choice you could make; let us explain why.

Firstly, learning to surf when a child means that they will pick up this sport way faster than their ‘old’ parents. Kids are normally devoid of fear and have a low centre of gravity, which means they can stand easily and quickly on a surfboard. You can imagine, a small person + a large surfboard (we use soft tops to avoid injury) equals lots of flotation; what every surfer needs. In our experience, kids learn fast and pick up advanced surf skills even faster, like turning and ‘trimming’ the surfboard. It is said that every surf session a young person has is worth 20 sessions for an adult.

Family surf campBeing able to surf opens horizons for kids. There is a ‘spiritual’ aspect to surfing: Without sounding too way-out-there, the feeling of riding the open face of a wave is akin to experiencing real joy. Just you and the wave, gliding. It’s very hard to describe how amazing this feeling is, you just have to take my word for it until you try it yourself.

SWELL’S FAMILY SURF CAMP

At Swell surf camp, we tend to turn people into surfers for life.

People who surf are happier, more fulfilled and calmer and that’s not even taking into account the endless fitness benefits of surfing.

Surfing’s health benefits include cardio-vascular fitness, increased core-strength, stronger arms and legs. It’s great for burning calories with an average burn of 700 calories per surf session. Paddling for a wave is a low impact cardio-vascular exercise. Surfers say you either have a great surf session or a great work-out; it’s win-win. Doesn’t every parent want to set their kids up for life with a healthy, fulfilling passion?

Surfers are also passionate about the planet: As surfers, we see at first hand the damage humans have done to marine life and the water. We’ve all paddled through plastic at some stage in our surfing lives. Teaching your kids to surf will also give them a care of the ocean and the environment they will not be able to learn anywhere else.

A family surfing holiday with us also means the opportunity to do many more activities other than surfing. From Swell, we regularly organise trips like canyoning, snorkeling, horse-riding (on the beach or up in the mountains), 4-wheeler tours, mountain biking, SUP and Yoga

So if you have a child or children who are 8 years old and up, who can already swim (we teach in warm, shallow water, but being able to swim is essential) and would like to plan a family surf vacation at Swell surf camp in summer 2019, do get in touch with us.

Whilst we are talking about learning to surf, don’t only book your child in for surf lessons, make sure you do it too. They may learn faster than you do, but doing something fun, active and meaningful with your child is absolutely priceless. Lastly, as a comforting thought to you if you feel too old to surf, I learned to surf at 51; my only regret is that I had done it so many years earlier when my kids learned themselves.

JOIN US IN 2019

Interested in joining us for a family summer surf camp?

Send us a message today and your family could be off on a one of a kind surf holiday

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CABARETE: ADVENTURE IN THE CARIBBEAN

swell surf camp locationmap isometric

9 Reasons why Cabarete is the ultimate water sport destination in Central America / Caribbean.

SUP cabarete

There are so many places in the world where you can lie on a sun-soaked beach and do absolutely nothing (if that’s your thing), but where do you go if you want an action-packed, adult sports holiday with a variety of different watersports or land-based sports to choose from, or if you are looking for an adult surf camp?

Cabarete, on the North coast of the Dominican Republic, is your answer: Easy to get to (with direct flights from Europe and North America) and a quick transfer from Puerto Plata (POP) international airport, Cabarete has a huge variety of sporty activities on offer, both water-based and land-based.

WHY CABARETE FOR AN ACTIVE ACTION PACKED VACATION?

  • Easy, quick travel time: Puerto Plata (POP) international airport is just 25 minutes drive to the centre of Cabarete. (Have a look at this page on how to get to the Dominican Republic)
  • It’s safe in the Dominican Republic: Friendly and welcoming locals will offer you their hearts for visiting their beautiful island. Tourist Police are on hand in all popular areas to help keep you safe.
  • So much to do: Unlike Costa Rica where getting around involves some lengthy journeys, Cabarete is reached after a quick journey from North America so the same day as you leave home, you’ll be on beautiful beaches for a great surf vacation. Cabarete itself offers so much to do, all within a very small area; you won’t waste whole days travelling around to see and experience some really diverse scenery. Surfing beaches, kitesurfing, windsurfing, canyoning, horse riding, history, culture and so much more, are all within a few miles of each other.
  • Fantastic dining choices: Because of the cosmopolitan nature of Cabarete, it is absolutely packed with restaurants with all different cuisines on offer. You can choose from traditional Dominican restaurants, Sushi, stone-baked pizzas made by Italians, Mexican restaurants, lobster and fresh fish on the beach, stylish French Bistros, high-end, ocean-side romantic meals and simple street food. Vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian choices are all on offer. It’s impossible to go hungry in Cabarete! ( have a look at the restaruants in Cabarete)
  • Great Nightlife: Once the beachside dining is over, tables and chairs are put away and Cabarete beach becomes the ultimate party venue. You can dance beneath the palm trees with your bare feet in the sand. Taking part in the party is not mandatory of course; with a short walk, you can make your way back to a surf camp like Swell for a more peaceful end to the day.
  • Culture; The Dominican Republic is one of the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400’s. Close to Cabarete is the historic town of Puerto Plata, with its ancient fort dating from 1564 and built by King Felipe II of Spain. The town has many old and restored timber buildings, reminiscent of those you might see in old Havana, for example.
  • Music: To the Dominican people, music is not just a hobby, it’s a way of life. There are so many music festivals throughout the year that there will normally be something going on during your visit. Cabarete hosts part of the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival (opens a new window)  each November (in 2018, it’s November 3rd and 4th). Merengue, Bachata, Salves and Palo are all traditional Dominican music genres, but you’ll also hear Reggaeton, Jazz, Rock and Hip Hop. Dancing is as popular as the music danced to and there are many places in Cabarete where you can take dance lessons from the most natural movers on the planet.
  • Beautiful Beaches: Light sandy beaches and turquoise water abound. You can set off to find your own deserted cove between Cabarete bay and Encuentro, or stick to one of the more expansive sandy bays. Visit places like Playa Grande for the day for a fish BBQ on the beach.
  • It offers good value: On average surf camps in Costa Rica are 50-70% more expensive than similar surf camps and surf hotels in Cabarete

THE WATER SPORTS ON OFFER IN CABARETE

LEARN TO SURF

surf yoga campCabarete has the most ideal and consistent beginner surf conditions anywhere in the world. With warm water year round and ideal wave conditions for getting your first rides on a surfboard, Swell surf camp in the centre of Cabarete is one of the best adult surf camps in the world for beginner surfers.

How long does it take to learn to surf?

You should give yourself a week at a surf camp like Swell Cabarete Surf Retreat  to be able to master your pop up and to start to turn the surfboard to ride along the wave. Completely mastering the art of surfing takes a good deal longer, but an award-winning adult surf camp like Swell will give you the very best start and certainly get you hooked on the incredible feeling of surfing a wave, regardless of your age!
Want to learn to surf and are over 40 – 50 or 60, read this article >>

LEARN TO KITESURF / KITEBOARD

learn to kitesurfAlong with great surf conditions for beginners, Cabarete also enjoys near-perfect kite-boarding conditions. The wind picks up in the afternoon generally and is side-on, which is one of the reasons why learning to kite in Cabarete is such a good idea (side-off winds are less desirable).

There are many good kite schools in Cabarete along the bay and two known places to take kite lessons; Kite Beach and Cabarete Bay. Down-winders are also very popular along the North coast.

How long does it take to learn to kite?

You should allow yourself around 8 hours of structured kite lessons with an IKO kiteboard instructor; use an accredited school using up-to-date, new or nearly new equipment.

YOGA CLASSES

There are many different Yoga centres in and around Cabarete, offering different Yoga styles. Yoga at Swell surf camp is 3 times per week and Molly the Yogi there is practising Ashtanga Yoga. Yoga in the water on SUP boards, is also available on the main bay of Cabarete.

SUP (stand-up-paddleboarding)

Cabarete bay provides a wonderful location for paddleboarding around a huge bay. 100m of paddling your SUP from the beach will have you out on the reef where you can catch ideal waves. There’s plenty of space for you to spread out and enjoy paddling in the warm water. If you don’t want to catch waves on your SUP, you can use the wide expanse of the bay to paddle and keep fit. As mentioned before, you can even enjoy a Yoga class on your SUP in the mornings.

WINDSURFING

Before kiteboarding became popular in Cabarete, it was world-renowned for windsurfing. You can still take a windsurfing lesson, or rent good quality equipment from several schools situated along this wide sandy bay.

SNORKELLING AND DIVING

snorkelling cabarete sosuaJust 10 minutes from Cabarete is the pretty bay of Sosua, where you will find some really professional diving schools. Schools like TSM can get you accredited from scratch with a PADI dive course. If you don’t want to dive, they will also take you out to snorkel in the bay of Sosua, which is jam-packed with pretty fish to swim with along areas of reef. Snorkelling is also possible in Cabarete, especially on kite beach in the mornings, just be careful of the low tide.

CANYONING

cabarete activitiesThe Dominican Republic is bursting at the seams with mountains and rivers. You may not know but it is home to the highest peak in the Caribbean region, Pico Duarte, which is over 3000m high. These mountains and rivers create some amazing canyons and caves, so beautiful they will take your breath away. Canyoning with Kayak River Adventures is a day trip not to be missed and they have several different tours, with varying degrees of difficulty to choose from for an action-packed exhilarating adventure, exploring some real geological wonders of the world.

WHAT’S ON OFFER AT SWELL SURF CAMP?

surf holidaySwell has been voted Best Surf Camp in both the Dominican Republic and in the wider Caribbean region and also voted Best Surf Camp for Beginners several times over in the 9 years they have been open.

Swell caters to adults who want to learn to surf in a stylish, fun place. The ‘camp’ (it’s really a stylish boutique surf retreat in Cabarete) was purpose built and the design based on the owner’s many years of surfcamp and surf travel experience.

The owners knew exactly what surfers, novice or beginner surfers wanted; a social place with great accommodation and delicious food, where adult travellers could come, either solo, as a couple or friends, to experience a great surf vacation.

Swell offers surf lessons for its own guests (they won’t give lessons to you if you are not staying at the camp) and has a complete concierge service to organise any or all of the other fun activities on offer in the area. You can contact us via this page.

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The North coast of Cabarete has waves 340-350 days of the year, ranging from  chest high to overhead. Conditions for learning to surf are year round, advanced and expert surfers are best off in the winter months.
Have a look at the season and when is the best time to visit the Dominican Republic

ABOUT SWELL CABARETE SURF HOTEL

off to the surf lessonWe opened in winter 2009/2010 to create a boutique luxury surf camp experience whilst having the comforts of a surf hotel. Located right in the center of Cabarete, minutes walk from cabarete main beach.
Swell caters for adults who want to learn to surf or kitesurf, and want to improve their surfing & kiteboarding whilst staying at a social and comfortable place with like minded people.  Because of the social aspect of our Cabarete surf hotel we are an ideal place to stay for solo travellers that are looking for an active holiday.

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON!

Have a look at the Gallerie below to see what Swell Cabarete Surf Hotel and the sports on offer on the north coast of the Dominican republic

SWELL GALLERY

 
 

Single / Solo Traveller? Read this article why Swell is the place for you

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Top Things to do in Cabarete

Top Things to do in Cabarete (other than Surfing & Yoga)

Caberete, the action sport capital of the Caribbean. Located on the North coast of the Dominican republic, 20 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport (POP).

 

all inclusive hotel cabareteThe first words that come to most peoples minds when they think of a holiday to the Dominican Republic is: Lazy all inclusive holiday. Whilst this is true for most resort towns in the DR like Punta Cana, Sosua, Puerto Plata. It couldn’t be further from the truth for Cabarete.

No gated big all inclusive resorts are found in Cabarete. What you will find is lots of smaller hotels / guesthouses and B&B’s. Why? The people that visit Cabarete are not your average lazy all inclusive hotel guests that sit on a sunbed and drink horrible cheap rum & coke’s from a plastic cup. The average tourist visiting Cabarete is there to be active in, under or above the water.

 

So what are the Top Things to do in Cabarete?

kitesurf-holiday1. KiteSurfing  and Windsurfing

Cabarete is ranked as one of the world’s top Kitesurfing and windsurfing destinations in the world. Big beaches, side onshore trade winds make for safe conditions for kitesurfers of all levels. The other reasons that beginners, intermediates & pros all love Cabarete is the variety of kite surfing spots in and around Cabarete. From the flat water at la Boca to the waves on the offshore reefs or the flat water at Kitebeach cabarete that is ideal for beginners and intermediates

 

G09556652. Snorkeling and Diving

A short drive from Cabarete is Sosua. Clear water makes for great snorkelling and diving. There are a few dive operators offering half day snorkelling trips. From Swell we usually organize a snorkeling trip to Sosua once per week. Ask our manager for the snorkeling schedule. It is also possible to do a Padi dive course in Sosua or Cabarete.

 
 

active-holiday3. Canyoning through the waterfalls

Swell guests repeatedly say that the Cayoning trip organised by Helmut and Matt for Swell is one of the best adrenaline fun filled day trips they have ever done. Expect to see spectacular scenery, jumping off waterfalls, swimming through gorges.

 
 

cabarete beach4. Enjoy fine food and drinks at Cabarete beach

Cabarete beach has a great dining and party scene. Start of with a sunset drink on one of the beach side bars, under palms trees on a white sandy beach. Then enjoy some fine food, from new york steak to fine sea food. Top recommendations are La Casita de Papi’s sea food restaurant right on the beach.

Party scene: the bars and nightclubs start to getting going by 10 in the evening until …. well..late. Which days of the week? Any day although friday and saturday it’s usually a BIG party.

 
 

5.Take a day trip to Playa Grande & ziplining at Laguna Dudu

Playa Grande is an hour away from Cabarete and is  a stunning white sandy beach, lined with tall palm trees, and no development. Laguna El Dudu is an exciting and mostly unknown attraction on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It requires a bit of bravery before one is able to swim in the water as the lagoon is surrounded by natural cliffs from which to jump into refreshment.

Top Things to do in Cabarete

This is just a short list of the top things you can do in and around Cabarete, there’s loads more stuff to do. Have a look at this video and see for yourself if Cabarete and Swell Surf & Yoga retreat is the kind of place for your active holiday.

 

 

Interested in an Active Surf & Yoa Holiday? Send us a message

Read our 5 reasons why a visit to the Dominican republic will satisfy all adventure holiday makers

Single / Solo Traveller? Read this article why Swell is the place for you

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Summer in Dominican Republic

Summer in Cabarete

Summer time is here, and contrary to popular belief, it’s actually a great time to be on the North Coast of the Domican republic for a surf holiday. Maybe not for expert surfers seeking to find double overhead barrels, but for beginners and intermediate surfers, the DR offers great conditions.

See the magicseaweed and Windguru forecasts on surfing and kitesurfing conditions in Cabarete in summer

Surfing conditions in the summer in the Dominican republic

Generally wave size between June and September is about 3-4′ or 1,5 meters or waist to chest high. Which we belief to be the best wave size to make quick progress.
Another reason that many of Swell Surf Camp‘s clients keep coming back to Cabarete in the summer time is that the surf is very uncrowded. Swell’s surf transport leaves early in the mornings, and we are usually the first ones at Playa Encuentro for our surf lessons.

Best surfing in the Caribbean

The Dominican Republic is one of the few places in the Caribbean that consistently has waves year round. In general we have about 350 surfable days per year. It might not always be perfect head high and barreling, but if you don’t mind grabbing a longboard in mellow chest high waves, Cabarete is a very consistent surf base in the Caribbean.

 

Stuff to do in Cabarete

Another reason why many people choose the summer months over winter months is the variety of other water sport activities that are superb in summer time: Kitesurfing and Windsurfing; the tradewinds pick up like clock work everyday at around 1 in the afternoon. There’s a reason why all the pro kitesurfers keep coming back to Cabarete every year.

Rememeber that swell offer year round surf & yoga holiday, or Yoga and Kitesurf camp. Molly gives Yoga sessions 3 times per week in Swell’s backyard.

 

Looking for a good surf camp deal?

We have dynamic pricing so if you are flexible on when to come to the DR for a one of a kind surf holiday, check the prices for September and August, they will be discounted, since it’s a bit more quit in Cabarete
during those months.

More info on the surfing in the Dominican republic can be found on this website with surf spots and travel tips for a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic

Want to stay up to date what is going on at the #1 surf camp in the Caribbean?
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Want to join us on a yoga & surf camp holiday ?

For those interested in learning to kitesurf on their caribbean, here’s a good starter guide

For more information on kitesurfing Dominican Republic visit this page which has a full kitesurfing dominican republic travel guide

If you are looking for more info on the seasons in the Dominican Republic:

Best time to visit the Dominican Republic

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LOCATION OF SWELL SURF CAMP

surfing encuentro

GETTING TO SWELL SURF CAMP

We get a lot of questions via email from people that want to know how to get to us, so here’s more info on where Swell is and how to get here.

 

FLIGHTS TO  THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Any easy and quick way to check the various routes is via Kayak and Hipmunk.com

Keep in mind that not all airlines choose to display their routes via those sites. JetBlue, which has direct flights to Puerto Plata and Santiago from New York and Boston (thanks for the Swell surf camp mention Boston Globe)

 

AIRPORTS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The best (closest) airport to fly into is Puerto Plata (airport code POP). It`s only 25 minutes away from us with direct daily flights from New York (JetBlue and Continental airlines) or Miami (American Airlines). There are also a ton of charter flights that come in from all major airports in the US, Canada and Europe.  Transfers to and from POP are included in each package.  Another option is to fly into Santiago airport (airport code STI but make sure it`s Santiago de los Caballeros or you might end up in Chile).  Flying into STI adds $150 USD round trip to the transfers (this is per taxi, not per person). Santiago is a little bit further away, but still a very manageable 1 hour and 15 minutes by taxi. Flying into SDQ adds $365 USD round trip to the transfers (again, price is per taxi, not per person).

 

COMMON DIRECT FLIGHTS TO PUERTO PLATA

From / via New York, USA
If you come from New York or are flying via New York ( lots of Europeans do), Continental, JetBlue and United Airlines fly directly into Puerto Plata.  Check for their services into STI and SDQ too; they are often cheaper, but bear in mind the extra taxi costs noted above.

From / via Miami, USA:
American Airlines has a direct, short flight to Puerto Plata from Miami

From / via Toronto, Canada:
WestJet, Sunwing & Air Canada have direct flights to Puerto Plata from Toronto

From / via Montreal, Canada:
Sunwing & Air Canada have direct flights to Puerto Plata from Montreal

From / via the UK:
Thomsons has direct flights to Puerto Plata from both Gatwick and Manchester

From / via Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
Arkefly has a direct flight to Puerto Plata from Amsterdam

From / via Dusseldorf, Germany:
Airberlin has a direct flight to Puerto Plata from Dusseldorf and a couple of other German airports.

From / via Frankfurt, Germany:
Condor has a direct flight to Puerto Plata from Frankfurt

From / via Paris, France:
Air France has a direct flight to Santo Domingo (SDQ) from Paris

There are two more airports in the Dominican Republic; AZS (Samana) and PUJ (Punta Cana).  AZS has some limited services but is 2.5 hours from Cabarete.  Punta Cana has many flights, but we do not see this point of entry as viable as the journey by road to Cabarete is 7 hours each way. Use search engines like Hipmunk.com and Kayak.com – but bear in mind, some airlines, like Jet Blue, will not let their flights show on some ticket searching websites.

Need more help? send us a message and we will point you in the right direction.

Want to join us? have a look at the surf holiday packages we offer and contact us today.

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Learn to Surf

surf

Learn to Surf

A CARIBBEAN SURF HOLIDAY

More info about our Learn to Surf Holiday can be found here >>

What is the core business of Swell Surf Camp? Hard core surfers? Travelling surfers? Nope, teaching people that are completely new to the sport of surfing all the basic essentials of how to ride the waves. We want to provide high quality surf lessons for our clients, and one way to ensure this is by using quality surf material: Safe big soft top boards for the first time surfers, rashguards, leashes but most importantly by using  internationally qualified surf instructors that are fluent in English.

Our surf  instructor to student ratio is pretty much guaranteed to be below 6 students for 1 instructor. We have 2 international surf coaches working at Swell with years of experience teaching surfing in a safe, fun and structured manner.

Besides those 2 coaches we also have a permanent Dominican Surf instructor, who is widely regarded as one of the best surf instructors in the country: Neno, He speaks English fluently, is very patient and an all round nice guy  with a huge smile.

Quick tip:  Swell is a popular place and as a result we can sometimes fill up months in advance, so if you are interested in joining us, don’t wait too long; send us an email today.

 

Learning Surfing

What kind of people take lessons with Swell? Well we only give lessons to the clients that stay at Swell, to ensure that the student / instructor ratio is kept low. So unlike  other surf schools and surf camps in Cabarete, we do not give lessons to non clients.

Interested in a yoga surf retreat holiday? Visit our Yoga page

Swell Clients:
What else sets the surf lessons from Swell apart? Besides the actual beach lessons, we also give at least 2 surf theory classes per week at Swell. These are highly informative classes that go in depth into things like: How waves are created, tides, currents, dangers but also about positions in the line up that are best to sit in order to catch the best waves.

 

More info about  learning to surf with Swell Surf Camp

Have a look on our ‘Surfing’ page to find more info about the learn to surf camp packages we have created. Interested in a surf & yoga holiday? See this yoga & surf page

So what are you waiting for? Cross one thing of your bucket list , and learn to surf with the professionals in the Dominican Republic on your next surf holiday

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