April 2-3, 2009
One other sailboat was anchored in Bahia Santa Elena when we arrived. It is
a well protected bay in the very north of the country. The north is drier
than the south and this is the end of the dry season. Except for the morning
sounds of tropical birds, we could just as well been at Catalina Island in
We rested from our overnight run, too hot to do anything. The water was very
green. We heard from the other boaters who went around the point to snorkel,
that it was not clear outside the bay either. There were a few panga
fishermen. We did not see the Costa Rican Coast Guard. Hope to get a good
night’s rest then move on to where we can officially check into the country.
We upped the anchor at sunrise & motored 5 hours to El Coco. En route, we
passed Santa Rosa National Park. This is where Colonel Oliver North trained
the “Contras” to fight against the “Sandinistas” in the 1980’s. As sort of
a macabre statement, a local surf site is named “Ollies’ Rock”. It’s only 5
miles from Santa Elena/Santa Rosa to the Nicaraguan border.
El Coco is an open roadsted type anchorage. The guide books say that theft
is a major concern all over Costa Rica, so we locked all hatches & doors.
Beach House becomes a sauna when all closed up in the heat & humidity. We
gathered the usual documents: passports, exit papers from the last country
(Nicaragua), boat documentation, insurance, etc. We dinghied to shore – wet
landing – which is where I jump out with my water sandals (hoping it’s not
deeper than my legs). I hold the dinghy straight while Scott pulls up the
engine so it won’t drag in the sand. He gets his workout pulling the dinghy
up onto dry sand. We took our longest cable & padlocked the dinghy to a
El Coco is a rustic beach town. We quickly found the Port Captain’s office,
1 block inland. Round 1 accomplished there in half an hour. He directed us
to Immigration. We had to go quickly another 4 blocks to immigration before
they left for lunch. Since another boat told us that this office made them
wait 1 1/2 hours for no apparent reason, we were prepared to be super
friendly & charming. We got lucky that the agent lit up when we asked if she
& her helper would like something cold to drink. Si, Coca Cola! Scott went
across the street, returned with “dos colas” & we were checked in, in only
20 minutes. Fantastico.
Next was a 30 minute cab ride to Liberia airport (small local airport).
Driver Louis had worked in Los Angeles was quite fluent in English so we
asked him a lot of questions about the area. The north, where we are is
pretty dry & grows cantaloupes. We kept trying to find out what tourists do
here, but it sounded like going to the beach was the main thing. The Customs
office was just a little window at the airport. We were done there in about
15 minutes. Cab ride back to the Port Captain for final round of paperwork.
Voila, done! (Is there a Spanish equivalent of voila?)
Hot & sweaty, but we saved $450 going on this triple office tour ourselves
rather than hiring the very expensive private agent that would have done the
leg work for us. We are using the agent to get a permit for Cocos Island
($200). It is too important for us that check-in there is quick & easy since
we only get to stay 12 days & have a week of diving scheduled. In Guatemala
an agent to do the runaround was only $50, so it was worth it. In El
Salvador & Nicaragua the agents came right to our boat, easy as pie. Each
country has its own routine.
The taxi driver recommended a lunch spot, I enjoyed fish with rice & Scott
had the chicken. Both came with plantains & fruit also; very nice. But now I
have a bit of intestinal disfortitude… We\’ve been so lucky eating &
drinking whatever we want.
Playa (means beach) Coco was looking kind of rolly when we returned to the
big boat so we motored 4 miles around the bend to this anchorage called
Playa Panama. No we are not near Panama. Turns out we are lying sideways to
the swell so it is just as rolly here as the other place. It has been
raining off & on, which is a bummer when it is so hot because we cannot open
any windows. We pretty much have a catamaran shaped sauna. Scott turned on
the generator for a couple of hours so we could cool off a bit & reduce the
interior humidity. We put the side awning up so hopefully we can keep the
bedroom hatches open without getting soaked overnight. It depends on which
way the wind blows. Boaters we met elsewhere are here & have family
visiting at the hotel on the beach so they have use of the hotel pool & are
We need to get further south & plan to leave at day break tomorrow. It will
take us 2 days travel to get near Manuel Antonio State Park which is
supposed to be one of the most accessible parks from the coast. We have a
reservation at Los Suenos Marina for the week Megan, my niece from NY, is
visiting. It is always best to be at a dock with non-boating guests. It
costs a freakin’ fortune, but there is no competition and no safe anchorages
to leave the boat unattended while we do day tours.
I can\’t say that I love Costa Rica yet, but I hope to soon. We saw many
dolphins today on our 5 hour motor ride. I am always excited when they swim
between our hulls for a while. Makes it all worthwhile.
Scott & Cindy