I just got back from my first trip to CR and also brought my wife. If I did it again, I would stay in Hermosa or Dominical (probably Dominical knowing what I know now). We stayed in Manuel Antonio and wound up driving to either Dominical (1.5 hours away) or Hermosa (1 hour away) every day for surf. The road really does not drive along the beach like you might think it would. When heading south for anything past the Esterillios/Bejuco area - beaches are nonexistent (or at least VERY hard to find). Jaco is a pretty crappy town. Dominical is the coolest surftown in CR central pacific . Next in line is Hermosa. Hermosa is closer to the airport and you have Jaco nearby if you feel the need to visit a run-down touristy town to shop. The rainforrest in Manuel Antonio is pretty cool, but if it's cranking every day and you dont' make it, you won't miss out on anything. Unless you really like seeing monkeys in the woods.
I've been to both spots many times. If you're going in April, PR can be inconsistent then. PR is a cheaper trip then CR: however, for a week or two vacation CR is way more consistent. Airfare to CR will be 2 or 3 times as much, but you will score waves there. In CR, try Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo. Nice clean rooms, they will pick you up at the airport, you can walk right into town to shop and eat, they have a nice bar/rest. onsite, and they will take you to all the surrounding breaks as part of the package, including Witches Rock and Ollie's Point. You will waste no time finding breaks or guessing the tides which effect the surf in CR tremendously. Plus, your wife will like the beach out front, and the shopping within walking distance. Playa Grande, has great waves but the area is a little remote, aside from a few rest/bars there is not much to do there. Hope this helps, feel free to e-mail me, I can tell you all about PR as well. Will be in Rincon PR January which is peek wave season.
April is a little bit of an iffy month for both PR and CR because you are in between the seasons, but in general, and definitely at that time of year, CR will be the safest bet to get decent surf.
PR's most consistent time is generally mid to late winter with the consistent, strong frontal systems that push off the east coast and send decent N/NW fetch down to the caribbean. Spring can hit, but generally not as consistent as mid to late winter.
I was in CR in late November and that is known to be an off-time of year for waves. The forecasts said 1-2 feet. Let me tell you, that was the biggest 1-2 feet I've ever seen. Most days, the sets were chest high. One day they were a bit overhead (that day forecasted at 3 feet). If there is one thing CR has, it's consistent waves. You won't go wrong.
Oh, and we flew from Dulles to San Jose with a lay over in San Salvador - round trip for $238. We rented boards in CR to avoid paying for flying them. I spent about a grand over a week including splitting a nice room and SUV rental. We ate at restaurants at least two times a day. Get the Bavaria oro. It's the best CR beer.
No-brainer. Go to the Backyard hotel in Playa Hermosa. It's the nicest hotel in the area, has great rates, and is right next door to a great restaurant/bar owned by the same guys. I just got back from a surf w/ girlfriend trip in August and she loved it. You can surf right out the back door, you're a 4 minute cab ride (cheap) from Jaco where you can eat in nice restaurants, rent boards, surf a more girlfriend friendly wave, and buy all the trinkets you can imagine. You are also only minutes from a zip line tour and an hour from a jungle tour. Like I said, it's a no-brainer. Most importantly, she can walk on the beach, sit by the pool, get a massage, have a drink in the bar, or just lie in the AC while you surf perfect waves. Check out their site www.backyardhotel.com.
I went to Playe grande Last April and this past November and it was fantastic. Definatley recommend Los Tortugas or Rip Jack. Both have Nice affordable accomodations and walk out surfing...Tortugas being a little bigger surf. On the Playe Grande Side of the River there is a hotel called Bulla Bulla. Stayed there once and the food is fantastic....its a 10 minute walk to the beach though so i wouldn't stay there but you have to eat there.
The beginning of arpil/easter is when there is the last "in-season" rush for the hotels...overyone goes there for the holidays so we went the day after easter last year and the prices dropped a little for that. Also, mid to late april starts the rainy season with thunderstorms rolling in, keep it in mind when you rent a vehicle.
Couple things to note,
-there is an exit tax to leave CR of $25 us per person. This tax can be paid at the airport or at any bank any time during your stay. I recommend you paying the tax as soon as you get off the plane. I almost missed a return flight because the line to pay the exit tax was supper long. I always pay on entry now (at the airport)and that way it saves the stress when your trying to leave.
-Staying in Playe Grande you are seperated from shopping, so if thats on her list of things to do and you dont want to drive the 45minutes (or 30with the short cut) then you may be better off in Tamarindo.
- there is a $100 board fee each way for most of the airlines flying in an out of CR (except Spirit, which only flies to San Hose right now).
-if you stay in Tamaindo, they have the Witches Rock surf camp...the guys that run it are a lot of fun and will have your wife surfing in no time. These guys also run boats leaving from Del Coco to Witches Rock and Ollie's Poinit.......if you do this which i highly recommend bring a 2 mm top and a wind breaker. The wind at Ollies blows offshore hard and creates cold up-wellings of water. If your surfing it you will want at least the 2mm and if your wife is on the boat she will need a windbreaker. It was some of the best surf i have ever seen this past Nov.....8-10 foot perfect.
-last note-------make a color copy of your passport and drivers license. When you get to the hotel lock your originals in the safe and only carry your copy. This is totally accepted and a regular practice. Petty crime, like anywhere else is the only thing to watch out for and you dont want to loose your passport.
I hope you have a fantastic trip.....i love CR.
Just to add to the passport advice: see if you can also copy your customs stamp you receive on your passport. You're hotel might possibly have a copy machine so you could copy it there. If not, no big deal though.
I actually drove through a checkpoint on my way back from Dominical and did not have a passport or a copy (I actually had a copy in my backpack, but wasn't aware of it at the time). I showed the cop my Virginia drivers license, I told the cop my passport was in the safe in our room. He then asked what hotel we were staying at and then let us go. I have a feeling we got off easy. Just FYI - random checkpoints are possible.
Oh yeah, the bar at the Backyard is the coolest bar I have ever been to.
Hermosa never goes flat. costa rica is cheaper but scetchy. theft is rampid(along with drugs, prostitution ect.) and the poice are worthless if not involved in the crimes. Personally, if I were traveling with the misses, its PR all the way. Save Hermosa for you and your buds, travel as light as possible, keep your passport on your person or locked at the hotel.