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A+ for plan B

Discussion in 'Member Trip Reports' started by Sushi Boy, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. Sushi Boy

    Sushi Boy DAM CHUMmer

    Well, as you may have heard, my plan to go skewer some lionfish at the Flower Gardens got blown out, so I did a quick redirect and ended up diving in Costa Rica.

    I took a Sunday evening flight into San Jose and found an inexpensive hotel near the airport. If I go back to the Pacific side, it’d make more sense to fly into Liberia, but I wasn’t aware they had a big fancy airport there now. On the bright side, the 5+ hour bus ride from San Jose to Playas del Coco only cost $8.50 each way. I thought the ticket agent had made a mistake when he first told me the price.

    I caught the bus on Monday morning. It was kinda nice getting to see the countryside between the capital, which is high up in the middle of the country, and the coast. It ended up that I lucked into some of the best diving of the year. The water temps were in the mid 80’s and it was slow season, so the restaurants and dive boats were not crowded at all. I’d been trying to decide between the Pacific coast and the Caribbean coast. I got lucky in picking the Pacific coast too. Viz on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is low due to several rivers that empty along the coast there and they’ve been getting a lot of storms recently, stirring up the water even more.

    Anyway, I got off the bus in Playas del Coco and made my way over to my hotel, Toro Blanco. It was nice and central, and only a block from the beach. Unfortunately though, there are several nightclubs in Coco that feel the need to BLARE music into the wee hours of the morning, loud enough to be heard from inside my hotel room. On a return trip, I might pick a place a little further out of town, but with some earplugs it wasn’t too bad. The hotel was basic, but at $40 a night for their off-season rate, I couldn’t complain.

    Tuesday morning I booked a trip to Bat Island, the best of the local dive sites this time of year. The boat left at 7:30 a.m. for the hour and a half crossing to the dive site. There’s pretty spectacular scenery in this part of the country, with small islands and lush hillsides. Bat Island didn’t disappoint. The viz was 50-70’. It didn’t take long for the huge manta rays to come swooping in. Some were 10-12’ tip to tip. A couple of bull sharks made passes in the distance as well. Apparently they come to the island for the cleaning stations that are there. As we were surfacing from our second dive, there were three mantas swooping around beneath us. We did two dives at Bat Island, then took a surface interval on a beach where sea turtles nest. It was pretty cool seeing traces of their flipper tracks in the sand. After that we went over to Black Rock where we were treated to a school of over 20 spotted eagle rays passing by us. Filling out my logbook while watching the sun set over the harbor rounded out a pretty nice day.

    On Wednesday I stuck to diving closer to town at sites called Turning Point and Monkey Head. The viz wasn’t near as good there, only 20-30’, sometimes less. There were several stingrays there, several octopi, lots of eels, and bunches of puffers – guineafowl puffers, burrfish, balloonfish and porcupinefish. I also saw a spotted boxfish, a pretty cool looking fish.

    On Thursday I went back to Bat Island for more spectacular dives. On top of the manta enounters, we got to see a couple of pods of humpback whales during our surface intervals, as well as quite a few sea turtles and a jumping sailfish. As we were getting ready to leave Bat Island, a pod of 15-20 dolphins buzzed our boat, hanging around for a few minutes, with one of them leaping out of the water right beside the boat.

    On Friday I closed out the diving with a few more local dives. The first one at Tiburones kinda sucked with the worst visibility of the trip. We did get nice and close with and eagle ray though, and found a dozen or so coronetfish hanging out together. Our second dive was at Punta Gordo and brought not only much better viz, but also a tiny seahorse and a few octopi.

    After that I had a few beers, did some souvenir shopping and began packing for the bus ride back to San Jose on Saturday. Sunday ended up being one of my worst travel days ever, thanks to a mechanical problem with the airplane out of Costa Rica, but after a 22 hour day, I finally made it home with visions of pura vida dancing in my head.

    While I was in Playas del Coco, I dove with three different shops – Deep Blue Diving, Summer Salt, and Rich Coast Diving, which is owned by friends of Dutch. My two days at Bat Island were with Deep Blue, and I used the other two shops for the local diving days. There weren’t significant differences between any of the shops. All seemed to be well-run and it appeared they worked cooperatively from time to time. I had one boat DM who I ended up diving with through two different shops. There’s another dive site there, Catalina Island, which is supposed to have pretty good manta encounters in the late winter/early spring. Apparently water temps that time of year get pretty chilly though.

    My favorite restaurant that I found was the Lookout which was worth the few dollars cab right to enjoy the view from high up the hillside. It also had some Costa Rican craft beers on tap, which were a pleasant change after several days of Imperial. Fusion Bites was a pretty good restaurant too. As far as bars go, the best one I happened across by accident – La Vida Loca. It was right on the beach, not far from my hotel, but off of the main drag. It was more of a locals place and had quite a few expats who hung out there.

    All in all it was a great trip, especially considering that I was just winging it most of the time. I have a bunch of pictures that I’ll put in the Gallery once I have a chance to go through and edit them.
  2. Earl Grey

    Earl Grey Tiger Shark

    Thanks for the report! Sounds like a place I need to add to my wish list.
  3. Sushi Boy

    Sushi Boy DAM CHUMmer

    I definitely recommend it, especially this time of year.

    Got the pics posted in the Gallery.
  4. Heidi Ho

    Heidi Ho Grand Pooh Staff Member

    It does sound like a great time...especially since it was all relatively last minute. Thanks for sharing...
  5. dutch

    dutch Active Member

    So, is this going to become a CHUM trip soon?
  6. McLOT

    McLOT Tiger Shark


    Good report and thanks for sharing.

    Looks like some great diving, especially for winging it! Great photos, particularly the mantas.

  7. Heidi Ho

    Heidi Ho Grand Pooh Staff Member

    I just got a chance to peek at the pics....very nice. LOVE the starfish, baby :)

    What was the water temp? It really did look lovely....
  8. Sushi Boy

    Sushi Boy DAM CHUMmer

    Mid 80's. Any warmer and I would've been sweating underwater!

    Dutch, I could certainly see a return trip in a few years.

    Also, I forgot to mention, it was really refreshing to go to a destination that doesn't have lionfish. :happyeyepatch:
  9. Heidi Ho

    Heidi Ho Grand Pooh Staff Member

    aw man.....that's what I was afraid of. Now I gotta add it to the list. Looks like my perfect kind of dive trip....

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