This is one man’s plan for a Costa Rican wave pool

Fueled by stories of success in South America and elsewhere, Don Gascoigne sees his field of dreams in one of Central America’s most surf-rich countries

The popularity of wave pools is exploding, with more parks expected to open every year in new destinations. While surf park industry officials use the analogy that these wave pools will bring surfing to places like Iowa, lately, we’ve seen the opposite. There’s been an increase in waves in areas near existing decent surf. With the opening of The LineUp at Wai Kai in Hawaii and more projects planned for Oceanside, CA and Brazil, the demand for more waves, even in surfing destinations, is here.

Costa Rica could be next.

“The time is now, and it needs to be built now. I know that it’s a two-year build-out with these surf parks, so I would hope that, that whatever I’m doing right now is the push to get this started,” said Don Gascoigne, a partner and half of the owner of the Ocean Ranch Park. 

The park is an eco-friendly tourist destination with hikes, ziplining, and horseback riding near Jaco, Costa Rica. The city on the country’s west coast is the popular surfing destination of the Puntarenas Province.

The property is a picturesque Costa Rica setting with wildlife, tree canopies and a private river valley. 

ocean ranch surf lakes
Don wants to use Surf Lakes technology to power Costa Rica’s first wave pool.

Don and his business partner have owned Ocean Ranch Park for nearly two decades and opened it to the public in 2012. Since then, they’ve navigated economic ups and downs, the pandemic, and more. Opening the park to the public was one way to help pay the bills of owning the property.

“We came up with this adventure park to create attention and income so that we could keep paying our taxes,” said Don. “We’ve always been working to figure out the best use for the property, and we’ve been able to do that.”

Now, they’re looking to bring what could be the first human-made waves to Central America.

“We feel pretty confident that surfing is the next step, and it’s only because the technology has come through for us over the last few years,” said Don. “Originally, we were only going to build a green, eco-friendly, and sustainable health and wellness community. But in putting in this wave park, we see the real estate as being much more valuable.”

The mixed housing with a centerpiece of a wave pool isn’t new and has grown as a popular business model, especially in Latin America, where multiple destinations are in the works in Brazil. 

oceanranch water activity
The wave pool and development would be an addition to other adventures at Ocean Ranch.

Praia De Grama is a shining example. The first phase was completed in 2019, with the Wavegarden-powered waves turned on in 2021. The price of housing in the development jumped from US$60 per square meter to US$220 just by announcing that Wavegarden would be part of the project. Units are now closer to $US500 per square meter. 

“We realized that the technology adds value to each square meter and generates liquidity, so that’s how we position ourselves in the market with real estate projects,” said Oscar Segall last year about his company KSM and their developments. “It makes me really happy to see families spread out along the beach and in the water, enjoying the waves and enjoying their time together.”

Following this model, Surfland Brazil, in the coastal city of Garopaba, is preparing to open this November. Nearly 300 units were listed for sale as timeshares in 2019 at $US22,000. 

While this is a private destination, André Giesta, CEO of Surfland Brazil, says there will be times that tickets open to friends of the timeshare owners.

“I am sure that when they surf here for the first time, they will want to become owners and enjoy this paradise for the rest of their lives, together with their family,” said André.

Why Costa Rica? Don owns the land already and says the government is supporting the project with infrastructure and tax incentives.

All signs point that Don Gascoigne is probably right about Costa Rica, and he and many surfers know the demand is already there, especially if you can bring a family atmosphere.

“In 2019, over three-quarters of a million surfers went to Puntarenas. So I know the surfers are coming,” said Don. “And you know there will be a mom who has a six-year-old and a 10-year-old that wants to surf just like dad, but you know she doesn’t want them out there on that Playa Hermosa wave because that thing can kill you.”

Don is looking to move quickly with the project and has already spoken with the property’s attorney, who focuses on potential environmental issues. Don says that they shouldn’t hit any problems or snags that often slow down surf park development. He also explains that there’s an abundance of clean drinkable water coming down from a mountain into the land.

Next, he and his team need new partners and potential investors to help move the project forward. He’s working on spreading the word of his plans.

As far as waves go, Don says he’s still open to several different technologies, but Surf Lakes has caught his eye as he believes the 360 wave access will perfectly preserve the pristine outdoor surroundings.

“We like the Surf Lakes technology because it seems to be the most natural look, except for the big thing right in the middle of the Lake,” laughs Don. “But it has the most natural break. It has the most beachfront. It’s got some really good feng shui, and we won’t have to pay for any of the water.”

Along with billfishing and other activities, Don Gascoigne hopes to add wave pools to the list of tourist draws in Costa Rica.