Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Few Days at the Beach

  As much as I love the rain in Costa Rica, after seven days it was still raining and I was beginning to hear my vacation clock ticking. We have had an inordinate amount of rain for this time of year. The kind of rain that even a stalwart rain lover like myself would blanch at the thought of going out in. It looked like it was here for the duration, so my husband and I decided to get off the mountain and go to the beach on the Pacific side for a few days.
  We packed up the 1983 VW van that we have rented from friends with a cooler full of groceries and my camera equipment and down the mountain we went! We broke through the thick layer of clouds that was drenching the mountaintop, about half way down the mountain. It was kind of like descending below the clouds in an airplane. In the blink of an eye we went from pouring rain and howling wind, to sunshine and dry roads...amazing! We pulled onto the Pan American Highway and pointed the van west.
  It is possible to get your feet wet in the Pacific Ocean a little less than 2 hours after leaving Tilaran, if you go to Playa Hermosa or Playa Panama, but on this trip we are going to some of the more remote beaches south of there to Parque National Marino de Baulas, 3 or so hours from Tilaran. We had reservations at Sol Y Luna Cabinas in Playa Grande, and planned to use it as our base of operations. We would do day trips to some of the other beaches along the reserve.
  The area around Playa Grande is a known nesting ground for the Leather Back Turtle, so development has been limited to reduce ecological impact on the turtle's nesting area. The few hotels in this area are set back from the beach behind a screen of trees, and there is very little outside lighting, so the turtles won't be discouraged from coming ashore to lay their eggs.
  We chose to stay in a cabina, rather than a hotel room, so that we could cook our own meals and have greater interaction with our surroundings. The cabina was clean and cozy, with doors that open to a varnished wooden deck equipped with two hammocks.There is a lovely pool tucked amongst the cabinas,with a swim up bar where they will serve you tasty tropical concoctions.  The beach is a few minute walk through the jungle from the cabina, but you can still hear the ocean. The path through the jungle offers an opportunity to see some beautiful butterflies and wild water fowl as they go about their business. It was a perfect place to escape from the rains for a few days!

The cabina living area with a view of the hammock deck

The pool with swim up bar

  We arrived about four p.m. and rushed to get unpacked so that we could watch the sunset. The sun sets quickly this close to the equator, so if you dawdle you will miss it! We arrived just in time to catch the sun floating momentarily on the sea, before dropping like a rock, leaving us with just the slightest hint that the sun ever existed on the western horizon. Sigh! I would have to get my sunset shots another day!
The 10 minute walk back through the jungle to the cabina seemed to take forever in the dark. We had a flashlight but the thick dark of the jungle swallowed most of the light and all we could see was the ground right at our feet. It was nice to finally see the jungle open up and the light from the cabinas show us the rest of the way home.
    At first light we took a nice long walk down the beach and then set off to find Playa Negra, a beach where you can find black sand. It was slow going since the roads are dirt and full of rocks and potholes, but eventually we made it. Playa Negre, is a surfer beach, the waves are good but the shore is treacherous in places.The name of the beach comes from the fact that the majority of the beach is large expanse of  black lava rock. I wouldn't want to wipe out on a surf board and end up taking a tumble over the sharp lava rock bed just beneath the surface of the water, but it didn't seem to deter the surfers... they have had one too many whacks to the back of the head with a surf board if you ask me...
Playa Negra

The beach is more lava rock than sand at Playa Negra

  Anyway, the beach was beautiful, as many treacherous thing are. We enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch at the Hotel Playa Negra, collected some black sand for my sand collection and began our long bumpy journey home. We arrived just in time for me to get some photos of the sunset!
  The next day we spent hanging around Playa Grande, playing in the water, exploring the many tidal pools, and taking photos. The sun is quite strong at this latitude, so we retreated to the cover of the jungle when we started getting toasty. We found a local haunt for Storks, Herons, Egrets and Spoonbills, while walking around under the tree cover. It was a real treat to get to watch them feed and preen, apparently unaware that we were nearby. There was too much cover for me to get many good photos of them while they were feeding, but I guess there are some things are better experienced without the camera...

We found the Storks secret hangout

A large rock outcropping on the beach at Playa Grande

  Our final sunset on the Pacific Coast was seen at a beach named Bahia de la Piratas, or Bay of Pirates. Probably so named for the tall "islands" that sit just off the shore, making a perfect place for pirates to lay in wait for passing ships. On this day though it is a perfect place to sit in the arms of my love and watch the sun plummet into the sea....
Sunset at Bahia de la Piratas


  1. What a lovely looking spot -- and I bet you are happy to see that sun!

  2. Hi Pamela! Yes, it was very nice to get out of the rain! When we came back up the mountain a few days later it was still raining. But now it has dried out some and is back to the "normal" weather where it rains in the early morning and then is beautiful during the day. Much better!! I hope you had a nice holiday and are enjoying life! Take care , Elle

  3. You seem to have paradise... and I didn't see a single scorpion in the pics!

  4. When i was in Costa Rica in the 90's I burned myself so bad on the black sand beaches. But I have fond memories still!

  5. SnailMailer,
    Yes at this latitude the sun is quite strong and if you add black sand it is a recipe for a bad sunburn! I am glad you took good memories away from your trip!