Sunday was a long travel day after a long weekend, which occurred after yet another long travel day – we passed out immediately after getting to our hostel in Playas del Coco around midnight. It could have been a bit sooner, but the guy in front of us at the car rental agency (we went with Economy) had not done his homework about Costa Rica’s insurance requirements and lost his long, futile negotiations with the front desk man.
Luckily, Chris’s step mom is Costa Rican and I’d already road tripped here a few years ago so we weren’t as uniformed. Another pro tip – the road conditions can change on a dime, so I’d highly recommend a vehicle with clearance in case you have to traverse a road being actively washed out, or generally rough mountain passes. Our plans were different but the conditions were a LOT better than my first rodeo, after which I swore I’d never drive here again; I may be able to take that one back now 😬
Enough of the boring stuff… because Costa Rica is amazing. After three visits, it’s one of the few countries I can say I’d still come back to in a heartbeat. It may be a little pricier than the average Latin/South American visit, but it’s worth every banana… I mean Colón. There’s a huge emphasis on conservation and sustainability, which is evident when you see the beautiful landscapes. The people are super laid back, friendly, and never in a rush, so be prepared for “Tico Time!” The country has generally decent infrastructure, a novelty compared to most of the Latin/South American countries we have seen. And I can’t leave out that the food is amazing and still cheap compared to the US/Canada/Europe.
We flew into Liberia, which is the smaller of their two international airports in the northern province of Guanacaste, due to it’s proximity to Playas Del Coco where we’d be diving. This stop was a do-over from April 2020 when COVID got in the way of what would have been our biggest friend-fam dive trip yet.
From Cocos, Catalinas & Bat Islands are cool 45-60 min boat rides for the chance to see manta rays and bull sharks, respectively. Rocket Frog was our shop of choice as well as a shocking number of other tourists (and by that I mean there more than two other people). We were sold on them before we met the staff, as they had four adorable doggos there to greet us, including twin beagle pups named Lilo & Stitch.
I’ll say that day one was mostly good for reacclimating to the water, for Chris and I at least. The visibility wasn’t great and honestly we didn’t see much at all on the first dip. On take two, Justin didn’t make it past 15 feet (loser) because persisting Malarone tummy caused him to upchuck on the way down. We both knew he surfaced and attempted to communicate that to one of the guides before we took off but it clearly didn’t translate, because about 30 minutes in the lead guide called all of us to circle up and sit tight, presumably because the visibility cleared enough for him to notice we were one short (well, he’s always short, but just not under water at this moment).
At that point I realized our earlier message to the lagging guide was not received, but didn’t think me throwing my underwater hand gibberish into the mix was going to help so I let them run their safety protocol and figure it out. This, kids, is why it’s important to always dive with a buddy you trust and keep close tabs on each other! Chris or I easily could have had an underwater panic if we hadn’t been paying attention and synced up right after noticing Justin wasn’t making it down.
After the guides cleared up the confusion, we were able to round out dive two with a couple pufferfishies, eagle rays and a turtle sighting. With all of us feeling a combination of tummyaches and tiredness, we forwent the third dive. Ironically, being topside during that time gave us the biggest thrill of the day – seeing a humpback whale breech twice very close to our boat!
Day two was significantly better for lots of reasons, starting with a negative backroll entry off of our inflatable speed water steed; after our dive guides seriously questioning Jeiny and Chris’ weight request (the more you dive/the more muscle you have, the less weight you need… generally speaking). From the time we hit the water, it didn’t take much time for the bull sharks to start showing their boopable snoots! This was another thing that’s been a long time coming – the first dive trip the three of us tried to take together was in pursuit of bull sharks and got cancelled for wind, as has each time we’ve tried since.
I was both happy and sad that the meaty bois & gorls stayed calm and socially distanced because bullies are one of the most aggressive shark species in the world. I probably would have shit myself seeing them feed, but still would have loved it (Chris can confirm, as this kind of dive is available off Playa Del Carmen, Mexico). Plus, our guide kindly informed us that if one came too close, all we had to do was blow bubbles and they would steer clear. Who would have guessed that one of the baddasses of the ocean would be afraid of bubbles? Nerds!
We got to spend a significant amount of time just hanging out on the bottom watching a number of sharks, big and small, come & go. There was little to no chance that the second dive would beat that, but it was still a solid showing with a couple huge schools of fish in the fun topography. To top off our lucky day, three of the four questionable welds that were holding the canopy frame of our boat managed to pick up the slack for the one that didn’t. I wish I could say that this kept us at zero days without a workplace injury, but Chris broke that streak (literally) with his pinky toe vs. the boat.