Pura Vida in Bahia Culebra

Pura Vida literally means “pure life” but in Costa Rica it means “The Good Life” and it’s everywhere from billboards to T-shirts. It’s even a greeting when you run into a Tico (i.e. a Costa Rican). But, no matter where you see or hear it, it’s very symbolic of life in Costa Rica and from everything we’ve seen so far, it’s all true.

We arrived here in early December after a very boisterous 500 mile sail from Mexico. Our first stop was Bahia Santa Elena, a well protected anchorage with 360 degree protection from the howling Papagayo winds, where we rested for 3-days recovering from our “harrowing experience” and prepared for the arrival of our friends Matt and Madalin from Toronto who would be spending the next 2 weeks with us.
Nicaragua Sunset

After resting in Bahia Santa Elena and waiting for the winds to subside, we “scooted” 50-miles south to Playa del Coco where we did our official check-in to Costa Rica with the Port Captain, Immigration and Customs (which is a whole blog post unto itself but we’ll save it for another time) then were free to hit the stores, bars and restaurants of the quaint but rapidly expanding beach town. The town is great for landlubbers but the anchorage is very busy and very rolly so we hit the grocery stores and a few restaurants, spent one night rolling then moved to Bahia Culebra (Snake Bay), where we basically became citizens for the next few weeks.
Auds Coco

Now Bahia Culebra is one of the largest and most protected bays in Costa Rica so it wasn’t really a hardship. It has 7 or 8 well protected anchorages, some very swanky resorts, including the Four Seasons, and Marina Papagayo, a very upscale marina with great facilities including a pool, lounge, fitness center, restaurant/bar and concierge. Needless to say, when I say we became citizens, we spent the next few weeks mainly sailing from the marina to the beach at the Four Seasons to Playa Panama, where the beautiful Mangrove Resort is located, to the more remote beach anchorage at Playa Iguanita.
CR Marina Papagayo

CR Mangrove 1

CR Mangrove

We also ventured out a few times. First, we booked a land-based adventure trip with Tico Adventure Tours that included horseback riding up a volcano to ride zip lines in the forest. This was followed by an amazing Costa Rica luncheon at Borinquen Resort, one of the most spectacular mountain resorts in the country. Then, once we were completely stuffed, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of natural saunas, hot springs, mud-baths and lounging by the pool. Then, to top it all off, our tour guide took us to the grocery store on the way back to the marina to stock up on all the beer, booze and wine we’d need to survive Matt and Madalin’s vacation.
CR Horses 1

CR Zipline RJ

CR Zip Line4

CR Zip Line1

CR Sauna

CR Mudbath2

Our next venture out of Bahia Culebra was a 30-mile sail south to Tamarindo, a very popular beach and surf town which is supposed to have great bars, restaurants and live music. And, for those that were paying attention to our last post, a Spanish language school. Now surf locations and sail boats are generally not a good match since the surf causes anchorages to roll but our cruising guide showed that there was an anchorage there so we thought we’d give it a shot. Well, the former is still true and the anchorage rolled like crazy and the surf prevented us from even landing the dinghy. But, by the time we’d gotten there it was too late to go anywhere else so we enjoyed the night onboard with a gourmet meal prepared by Chef Audrey.
Chef Audrey

The next morning we picked up the hook and sailed north to Bahia Potrero, where we were able to land the dinghy in an abandoned marina (that nobody wanted to talk about), take a nice beach walk, enjoy lunch at “The Beach Bar” and spend a comfortable night in a flat anchorage. Then, with Tamarindo and Portrero behind us, we enjoyed a rollicking upwind sail back to the beach at the Four Seasons, one of our many “home ports” in Bahia Culebra.
Playa Panama

CR Beach Bar

Our final venture out of Bahia Culebra, before leaving permanently, was another land-based Tico Adventure Tour. This time it was horseback riding and hiking to spectacular waterfalls. At one waterfall we saw a very large family of Howler Monkeys and at the other Matt bravely jumped from a very high platform into the frigid water below. Then we enjoyed a very traditional Costa Rican lunch in a mountain restaurant that was raising a flock of peacocks. This was followed by a tour of an active volcano in Miravalles where we walked amongst the smoldering lava and once again enjoyed hot saunas and mud baths except this time the source was directly below us – very eerie. And, yes the tour operator did take us back to the store to get more beer, booze and wine but it was all Matt and Madalin’s fault as they forced us to partake in their vacation rituals – which we never normally enjoy..:-)

Howler Monkey 1


CR Waterfall 2

CR Crater 2

CR Crater 1

CR Bridge 2

CR Mudbath1

Sadly, not only was this our final venture out of Bahia Culebra but it was also the end of Matt and Madalin’s vacation and time for them to head back to the Great White North for the holiday season. It was great having them onboard for 2-weeks. We not only enjoyed the trips outside Bahia Culebra but spent the rest of the time sailing and motoring up and down and side to side to every anchorage in the Bahia. For us, it was a great way to be introduced to the wonders of Costa Rica – not only on the water but also on land.
CR Bahia Culebra Track

So, with Matt and Madalin gone it was back to our normal quiet life right? We thought so too but it was holiday season so after one quiet night at Playa Iguanita, we had drinks the next night with new Canadian friends onboard Moxie. The next night we had Christmas dinner with fellow cruisers at Marina Papagayo. Then, the next night, we enjoyed our own Christmas dinner onboard Celebration.
Celebration Playa Panama

Our last blast in Bahia Culebra was meeting with my brother’s friends Danny, Lisa and Jenny from England who happened to be in Costa Rica on vacation. We’d never met them before but any friend of Terry’s is a friend of mine so we offered to take them sailing, sight unseen, and we had a fantastic time. First of all they showed up with so many bags of food and drinks we thought they were staying for a week. But, more importantly, they were great guests and now friends who we really bonded with and we all had a great time. In fact, we think Lisa is shopping for a sailboat now..:-)
CR UK Posey1

CR Lisa1

In all, December was a busy month in Bahia Culebra but as the Tico’s say it was Pura Vida and we enjoyed every minute of it.
CR Waterfall 1