Playas del Coco Costa Rica: Turtles, whales, snorkeling, shots and a sunset
PLAYAS DEL COCO, Guanacaste — We had barely left town on the Catamarán Visión when we suddenly throttled down to watch a pair of green turtles.
Abandoning our rum punches, we all hastened to port and crowded around the rail staring, laughing and snapping pictures (I wasn’t fast enough). The turtles probably would have liked some privacy, but it was a little late for that.
How random, I thought, to stumble upon a couple of sea turtles getting busy in the middle of Bahía Coco. And then I remembered all the stories I’d read about the millions of vulnerable turtle eggs in this country and I thought hmm, all those turtle eggs can’t make themselves.
Our next stop was for something a little more majestic. When the boat throttled down again so soon, I got up and walked to the captain and asked him, almost jokingly, if he had seen whales. He nodded.
And then I saw them breaching in front of me, blowing spray into the air, their huge bodies breaking out of the water and gently rolling back in.
They were humpback whales — probably from California like me, making their annual migration to Costa Rica. Humpbacks from the Antarctic, Alaska and everywhere in between meet and mate in the waters off Uvita every year, one of the few places in the world where that happens.
The catamaran called Visión, 85 feet long and 45 wide, was run by a guy named Tito (formally Eddy Legros Sanchez), who welcomed the group with a bilingual speech about what we would be doing today, and also about the extensive drink menu at the open bar. The bartender, Adrián Villagra Rosales, would be a busy man today.
Tito said we were going to cruise to a nice spot to snorkel for a while, then we were going to eat lunch, cruise past Monkey Head Rock and watch the sunset.
I bided my time, adding to my introductory rum punch a shot of chile guaro and then a caipirinha.
But of course I stayed sober enough for snorkeling at Playa Jícaro. Tito said everyone had to take a “noodle” for our safety. I told the people next to me there was no way I was taking a noodle.
I was handed fins, a mask, a snorkel and a noodle, and I accepted all but the latter, saying I didn’t need it. The guy looked at me dubiously but didn’t insist.
We got off the beached boat and walked toward the snorkeling, and I saw two big brown stingrays, were hanging out pretty close to each other, close enough to step on if you didn’t see them first in the transparent water.
Someone walking with us said they were harmless — one of the most foolish things I’ve ever heard anyone say.
We snorkeled for close to 45 minutes, seeing mostly little yellow fish, but also puffer fish and something that looked like a needlefish.
I asked Stephanie Infantino what she thought of the snorkeling and she said, “The snorkeling sucked. We didn’t see much. Nothing really pretty, but it was still really nice.”
I told Stephanie and her boyfriend, Dominick Montavani, both from New York, with matching accents, that I needed a quote for my article.
“This catamaran was cheap and well worth it,” Stephanie said. “That’s my quote.”
After the snorkeling we were fed a big lunch — Hawaiian pizza, tasty pasta, choice of salads. The snorkeling and the food tended to counteract the drunkenness, and then the bartenders went to work counteracting the sobriety with more drunkenness.
I saw two grown woman passed out fast asleep, and a man sitting nearby commented, “That’s the most expensive nap they’ve ever taken.”
Naw. Well worth it.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: The Catamarán Visión departs Playa del Coco around 2 p.m. daily. Ask around for tickets, or just show up on the beach at 2. The big catamaran is impossible to miss.
Admission: I was told $80 in the high season and $70 in the low, but when I showed up on the beach at 2 p.m. without a ticket I was charged about $53.
For more info: http://www.costaricacatamarantours.com/en/
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