A Travellerspoint blog

Paddle to the Sea

sunny 84 °F

We wake up just after sunrise to a beautiful Costa Rica morning and immediately run out onto the beach. Overnight, the low tide had exposed many shells, stones and coral for the early morning beach combers to collect. We pick up several pieces then head back to our tree house for breakfast. Today’s breakfast is local fruit, fried egg, and rice and beans, which we enjoy while watching the sun climb higher above the waves.



We go in search of a surf shop to get Matt a rash guard and hope to explore some of the beaches to the north (specifically Playa Barrigona and Playa Buenavista). At about 8:30 or so, we take a rough dirt road along the coast for a little ways, noticing several beautiful homes that are apparently owned by people who don’t mind a ride through Hades to get there. As we approach a cattle ranch we notice that two ranch hands had started walking their herd out into the street, so we stop the car as a large herd of cattle walks past our car. A couple of the young calves are confused by our car and don’t know if they should walk around us, staring into our windshield in confusion.

Once we make it past the wave of cattle, we discover that the road to Playa Buenavista is intersected by a shallow river that probably is fed by mountain runoff during the wet season. We aren’t confident that our car can make it across without getting the engine wet, so we turn around and take the main roads through the middle of the peninsula to Nicoya and on to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz definitely is not a beach town and instead is filled with a mess of cars, crowds, and Laundromats. Needless to say, we don’t stay long in Santa Cruz and end up coming back to Samara (3 hours later) empty handed.

Famished, we go to a bar/restaurant right on the beach, walking barefoot through the surf from our hotel. We order tropical drinks as we watch the surfers riding the waves and dogs chasing each other down the beach. I order something called “cheese fingers” (which were essentially just two cheese roll-ups, almost like a quesadilla), which came with guacamole and a delicious salad. Matt orders Mahi-Mahi with “latina sauce” (spicy red pepper sauce), fries and a salad.


After lunch, Matt goes into town to buy a rash guard from the surf shop just up the street while I cool off in the hotel pool. We decide to rent kayaks to paddle out to Isla Chora, so we scour the beach in search of 1.) single kayaks, and 2.) sea kayaks. Unfortunately, we find neither—only two-person surf kayaks that paddle more like floating bathtubs. However, I quickly realize why they don’t have the sea kayaks available that time of season. The breakers we have to paddle through to escape the beach are intense, even for seasoned kayakers such as ourselves.


Once away from shore, we face about half an hour of ocean rollers that weren’t noticeable from shore but once out in the kayak make for difficult paddling. Not to mention the reef a little ways off shore that we need to paddle around (and by reef, I mean jagged rocks puncturing through the surface of the water like a shipwreck and creating enormous deep-water breakers) and the difficult wave pattern once we actually do reach the shore of Isla Chora. The waves come in from both directions around the island and collide right at the beach, so as we try to paddle in to shore, our back end is pushed around sideways and I basically jump/fall off the kayak into the sand. I’m convinced that if Matt and I had problems getting ashore gracefully, then it simply cannot be done in those sorts of waves. There is another couple on shore who say that when they paddled ashore, a wave capsized them completely. So I don’t feel quite as embarrassed.

Isla Chora has a small curve of sand beach with a smattering of rocks here and there. As we walk away from the beach to jump along the rocks, we notice lots of snails and crabs everywhere; it actually looks like all the rocks themselves are moving. The crabs in particular scurry across the rocks (sometimes leaping from rock to rock, which I didn’t know was even possible) before belly-flopping into the water.


The very nature of the inaccessibility of this island—accessible only by kayak or other small boats—as well as the rocks stuck like enormous barnacles to the side of a whale, call to the adventurer within us. Despite the kayak tours that frequent this small island during the high season, it is primal and feels unexplored.

From the island we have a beautiful view of Playa Samara and the entire cove, but the moment is somewhat overshadowed by the understanding that we will eventually have to make that long, arduous paddle back to the mainland. So after a little while, we say our goodbyes to the crabs and shove off again.

By the time we near the shore, the waves have calmed down a bit, but I don't want to underestimate the breakers because from our angle, we can’t see how tall they are. Just before we reach where the waves were breaking, I jump off the kayak and walk/swim the rest of the way to shore, dragging my paddle along with me. I know from experience that kayaks surf to shore much easier with just one person instead of two.

We are exhausted after our excursion and spend some time relaxing at our tree house. Matt takes a nap upstairs and I read a book in the hammock and, near sundown, walk back out into the waves and sit down in the shallows. It’s not very often that I can enjoy the simple, carefree pleasures that the ocean has to offer. I know that when I fly back up north, the ground will be covered in snow. So I savor this quiet sunset, alone in the surf, while I still can.

When Matt comes back outside, we both lie in a hammock together and watch the bats fly in and out of our room again. It is pretty frequently, too; at least every 5 seconds, one would dart into our living room and swoop back out again a couple seconds later. I think we’re lucky to have bats clean the bugs out of our room. I’d certainly rather have bats in my treehouse than mosquitoes.


After taking a few photos from the beach of the treehouses after dark, I make a couple of canine friends that run up to me and sit down by my feet, constantly nuzzling my hand or rubbing up against my legs. One is a chubby Weimeraner and one is some sort of German shepherd mix. After about 10 minutes of bonding time, my two new friends follow me up to the treehouse gate and lie down just outside, watching me and wagging their tails. Even after I go upstairs to take a shower, they are still lying by the gate waiting for me when I emerged 20 minutes later. If those dogs weren’t wearing collars and if it was easy to bring doggies back into the States, I would have two new pets right now.

At about 7:00 we walk into town to a pizzeria and then relax at our treehouse. We haven’t used our TV once since we got to Samara, mostly because it would probably drown out the sound of the ocean. I still can’t believe how lucky we are to be this close to the ocean. The sunsets here are incredible; the smears of watercolor tangerine and blood orange give us a beautiful display to end our day in the sun.

Posted by GoWander 11:48 Archived in Costa Rica

Table of contents