Sunday, February 20, 2011

Costa Rica...Bahia Culebra to Drakes Bay

This is David...Info for our friends who are following us down the coast...
Playa del Coco..nice anchorage...
On our arrival in Playa Coco in Bahia Culebra.
I could find little on the net to quantify and explain the process for clearing in in Costa Rica. What follows is my experience. I found the whole process painless, although quite time consuming.

0920 entered the Capitania de Puerto office. The lady behind the desk told me to come back at 10am to meet the Capitain. First though, she explained the process and told me what photocopies I would need:

3 copies of:

 * Crew list
 * Zarpe
 * Passports of all crew and passengers ... the main page plus exit stamp from last country. I also needed to copy Sylvie's current visas for entry into the UK and Canada since she has a Zimbawean passport.
 * Boat registration

10:00 Capitain de Puerto took the original Zarpe, passports, and boat registration and asked me to wait a while. He also wanted to know up to 5 previous countries that I visted. I just told him that I had been in Mexico for two years and then visted Nicaragua for 2 days. He was satisfied. I was then given the passports and the boat registration. I was also given payment instructions for the search of the boat for infestations etc that I had to take to the bank. I was told to go to Officina de Migration that was just below the bank. I should return to the Capitania de Puerto at 2pm

1020 The Officina was closed. The official would be back at 11am .... so I went to the bank

1022 waiting in the bank. Finally get served just past 11am. They gave me a receipt for the 28500 colones (US$60) fee that I paid in cash. (the ATM is new and bi-lingual ... rate about 500 colones to US$1). They should give you both the white and the yellow receipt for the inspector ..... they only gave me the yellow.

1110 Officina de Migration. I was given a small form to fill in for each crew/passenger, essentially passport info and last and next countries. Process took a little longer than usual because of Sylvie's Zimbabwean passport. 1200 complete. Stamps in the passports and a stamped "Control Migratorio Maritimo de Ingreso".

1400 Pick up Official del MAG so that he could search the yacht for illegal bugs. Nice chap, but I should really have remembered to recommend that he removed his mobile phone from his trousers (pants to the Americans) before he waded into the surf to board the dinghy ... :-}.

1530 left yacht for the Capitania de Puertos office where I got the form "Direccion de Navigacion".

Tomorrow I have to visit the Aduana (Customs) at the aeroporte. I've been advised to take the bus as the Taxis cost US$30 for the 2km trip ?!! Later discovered that the trip was longer than 2kms...more like 15kms ...but still you can take the bus for a dollar and the Aduana's office is on the left side of the road a fair bit AFTER the turnoff to the airport. It has a small sign, in Blue and white, over the door'll have to look for it, carefully.
The anchorage...
Where we anchored..
The anchorage is split by a reef and the remnants of an old pier..keep well left when you come in. The anchorage is safer from theft if you stay on this side. Your dinghy will be safer too....

When David had to go to the Customs I decided to brave the surf and go with him. We went at low tide and the surf was small, so we landed without incident, but then had to haul the dinghy all the way up the beach to tie it to a tree....or as David did, dig a hole and bury the anchor..totally..It might get stolen otherwise, then we drag the dinghy over the dug up soil.
This section is quiet and cool..further up the road are a lot of curio stalls.
We took a short scenic walk to town and hit the main street looking for a restaurant where I could have a drink and use their internet till David came back from Customs, then we'd have lunch. Well, nothing opened till almost I sat on a bench under a tree and people watched.
A pretty part of town near the beach.
Fred and Linda walked by and stopped for a chat. At about 10:45 I walked back down to one restaurant that I'd liked and, yippie, it's open. They had internet..but alas it wasn't good enough for me to upload my experiences to the blog. sigh :-( David finally arrived, we had lunch and decided to try another place to see if their internet was luck there we bought some bananas, a Water-Mellon, a Cantaloupe, and a Pineapple and went back to the boat.
Ha ha..this was in one of the bars we went to.
Once at the boat we had a glorious swim, then a lovely wash in the sea and a good rinse off with fresh home made water ( reverse osmosis) :-)  A little later Mark off  'Spirit of the Sea' came to visit us. I love it when people just drop in to say Hi. He stayed for a while and then zoomed back to his boat. The next morning we took a sedate row over to Mark's boat to see what it was like and to meet his wife, Isobelle. She is a lovely lady who was a tad stressed as they had paying guests coming for the afternoon and she was trying to get everything in order...yup they do day sails and two or three night trips around this area. They have a great boat, it has two double cabins with their own heads for the guests. It's totally different to the normal mono-hull, perfect for chartering and parties. If you want to contact them send me a request... :-D

A humungeous rubber tree...on the beach.
walking along the beach to the dinghy...
Looking back from whence we'd come.

As David will tell you when he adds his bit on about the Papagayo trip..the wind seems to blow here all the time,,,from 15 to 30 knots is what we've seen. Fortunately there are lots of little coves you can anchor in, out of most of the wind. The rest swirls around you and keeps you cool. When we sail here we easily reach speeds of 7.6 knots with just the genoa's fun in the areas where the sea is flat and bumpy as heck in the Bahia Culebra.

Yep..King Kong Rock....
At the moment we are anchored in Playa Pochote  near the 'King Kong rock' and tomorrow we plan to do some snorkeling. I had to sew all day today, last night we were driven into bed early due to an excessive number of bugs that look like mozzies, but aren't, irritating lot scampering all over your body, tickling the heck out of you. My mozzie nets were a disgrace, the Mexican sun had worn them to a frazzel so I had to do repairs and make some new ones...SO tomorrow is PLAY DAY! We had breakfast and then went to swim the bay.
Ha! What a disappointment, hardly any vis and not a lot of fish to boot. We were advised by a chap who does charters here that this was the best snorkeling spot around....humph....What is it about these people...don't they know what good snorkel is? I mean really, it was as bad as in Mexico. I have heard that you should snorkel at low tide....we'll try that soon. However, in a day or so, we're heading south to try and see some worth while snorkeling. Monday...we've been here a week already! Today we sailed up to the Marina to get fuel...Diesel was US$1.05 per liter plus an almost US$10 charge for environmental purposes and two cans of Canada dry Ginger ale cost US$3.50 ...nope it's not a typo....A berth costs US$2.00 a foot per day or on a monthly rate US$28.00 foot per month..So you could get through rather a lot of your budget by staying here......and by the way there is nothing around the marina, it'll cost you about US$30.00 to get to Playa Coco and there aren't any buses from there either...

Back to Playa del Coco ....we went out to lunch

Beach Bums bar...
The sign...
We ate lunch at The Beach Bums bar and grill, found....on the beach of course...reasonable prices and good internet. BUT we did discover a great restaurant...with fast internet and cold's called Coco Nuts, further up the try them...we didn't eat there as we'd already eaten. Then we took a crowded bus to's the closest main town, where we attacked the local supermarket and eventually staggered out with two backpacks bulging with food and a couple of extra bags to boot. Across the road we waddled and climbed onto the bus...oops..sorry standing room only...for the next 30 miles or so...It costs 500 colones...or US$1 per person..for the trip...unbelievably cheap...wonderful.
The next day we sailed out of Playa Coco on the next step of our adventure....We visited various bays and coves but have decided that Bahia Ballena was a great place to stop..there is a newly opened rather posh place called the Ballena Yacht Club....It's a WONDERFUL place to go and eat and not at all expensive. They have live music on Saturdays, and space to do some dancing. It's well worth a visit.
I tried to find their site but couldn't, but if you are ever there give it a try. The store that sells produce here is very well stocked....we found everything we needed, food wise...

The local supermarket.

If you don't watch out the greenery can take your garden over.
We also met a chap called Tomas on his boat, that he'd built himself. Both David and myself fell in love with it. We managed to get together for a drink or two, but missed out on some more visiting as we seemed to be doing different things at the same hopefully we'll meet up with Tomas somewhere down the line...Justin was also on board, he's visiting, I think he's all the way from Canada...anyway he's having an adventure sailing down Central America with Tomas.
Justin...hanging out on Tomas's boat.
Justin and Orlando waiting for Tomas to finish surfing.

The other place we loved was Curu. You sail in towards the beach and the sea bed shallows to about 14 ft...we sailed on over this shelf and it deepened to 26 feet...we crept in closer and dropped anchor in 15 feet, just off the beach, and dinghied ashore ...we walked along the most interesting trails seeing the white faced Capuchin monkeys, loads of huge iridescent blue butterflies, Iguanas, large orange /red Crabs, birds of all types and some spider monkeys that they are trying to rehabilitate back into the wild. We also heard loads of Howler Monkeys. It was definitely a wonderful day in Paradise!!!
Coming into Curu to anchor.
Red Crabs..all over the place.
The road, carved out of the forest.
Unusual flowers..not a Hibiscus.
teensy grasshoppers.
Red Ants...of a type.
Trees with knobs that grow into thorns.
Puddytat anchored in Paradise.
Puddytat can be seen through the trees.
Spider Monkey.
Capuchin Monkey.
Rickety to walk over :-)
We could have stayed a lot longer...should have!

Quepos is a laugh. They have built the marina over most of the anchoring area and are charging US$140 a night to tie up to the slip...water and electricity are extra. The docks make a heck of a banging racket as they jerk their way up and down the pontoon tidal poles.We didn't stick around, there are no cruisers there. We've heaqrd since then that the anchorage is really rolly...for mono-hulls.
We sailed on through the night to Drakes Bay. What a lovely place this is. We came ashore and walked around...deciding in the end to eat at a restaurant called Mar de Marta.
The best place to eat!!
What a treat. we had their 'meal of the day' which was chicken cooked in beer served with veges and rice cooked in garlic...delicious!!
Wonderful to look at, wonderful to eat!
David says the Choc Mousse was perfect.
Daniel and Maritza are definitely going places! If you come here do NOT walk by their place. They are also trying to get WIFI internet set up there, but expect it will take a while. Daniel is from Spain and he knows how to cook! Tomorrow we are sailing around the corner to another bay that Daniel told us about, to explore the snorkeling there. We met Daniel, Maritza and the rest of their friends, one of whom is another Daniel who owns the supermarket here. He's a great guy. They had no metal grill for the fire, so they made a grill using green sticks...very innovative! We had a wonderful day with them.

We barbecued Pork kebabs on a home made Braai.
Next stop will probably be another secluded bay and then Golfito...


  1. Hola Sylvie y David!

    Beautiful pictures and very nice comments. GRACIAS! We going to make sure Daniel looks his home made Braai. Maya started to eat, first menu: carrots. We are thinking a lot of you.

    A warm hug,

    Maritza y Daniel

  2. Hi Sylvie - after we met you we had a mis-adventure to tell you about. Our flight home was delayed due to a snowstorm that closed the Houston airport. While waiting it out we spent some time at a deserted beach south of Coco's main beach and had our bag stolen including passports, wallets, glasses, credit cards. It took us another 2 days to go to the embassy in San Jose for replacement passports and we did make it back to Saskatchewan unscathed! We are very indebted to many folks in Coco who assisted us in our dilemma. We enjoy telling our friends about meeting you and showing pics of your boat and crafts. Enjoy yourselves - we think of you often.

    Linda and Fred