Monday, January 30, 2012

Playa de Coco and Playa Conchal

Our second full day in Costa Rica dawned just like the previous one, with a bright sun and a strong breeze. Well, to be honest, our first day dawned with more of a gale force, but according to the locals it can get really windy during the dry season and thankfully the second morning was much more manageable.

Rather than laze around ALL day, we decided to only laze around MOST of the day, and after making my way through most of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (I can't imagine a better way to spend a vacation), we headed down the road to Playa de Coco, a larger town and beach than the closer Playa Hermosa.

I was pleasantly surprised by how developed the town was; there were several shopping centers and a huge grocery store that we managed to visit every day. As we got closer to the beach, the street became lined with souvenir shops and run-down dive bars. There were tons more locals than tourists, in fact, during our entire visit I was surprised by the low number of tourists. It was nice to just mingle among the Ticos (Costa Ricans) and pretend to fit in. As much as a pasty white ginger can fit in around Costa Rica.

Self-portrait at Playa de Coco

The main square of all Costa Rican towns is comprised of a soccer field across from the Catholic Church. In Playa de Coco the church was a bright green and there was a make-shift parking lot next to the soccer field. A local man told us he would "watch our car" for a small fee, so we gave him some dollars and crossed our fingers. It seemed safer than NOT paying him, after all. 

We wandered along the main drag ducking into various shops and comparing prices. All the prices were in dollars and all the shop-owners spoke passable English, so shopping was as easy as falling off a log. And for me that is very easy indeed.

Playa de Coco's main street

 The green church!

After about an hour of walking around the town and on the beach, we headed down a side road that paralleled the beach to our dinner spot, Cafe de Playa. It was attached to small but nice hotel, and after a short walk through some lush tropical plants, we emerged to an open restaurant and bar. We had appetizers and drinks on some couches right next to the beach, and watched the sun set behind the hills sheltering the beach. Then we moved "indoors" for our meal which I am happy to report was delicious.


 Appetizers on the lawn/beach!

 Sunset at Playa de Coco

The next day is when the real adventure began--we took our first day trip to the slightly hidden beach of Playa Conchal. I say hidden because you can't actually reach it by a real road. You have drive to another beach town (Playa Brasilito) and then find a narrow road (i.e. path) that takes you across the Brasilito Beach and over a steep rocky incline. And then BAM! You have arrived at Playa Conchal--a beautiful white beach that is made of a mix of sand and soft crushed shells.

Set back from the beach under the trees were locals providing all kinds of touristy activities; water sports, horseback riding, ATV tours, etc. My friend Mac and his father, Paul, got some horses and took off for a tour of the beach and surrounding area while Mac's mom, Peggy, and I relaxed on the beach.

After the boys got back, we went back over the hill and went swimming at Playa Brasilito. The water there was much calmer than at Playa Conchal, and the guidebook warned that Conchal can have a bit of a rip-tide. I'm almost as afraid of rip-tides as I am of jellyfish*. For the most part, Brasilito was very nice to swim in; the water wasn't very cold, though not exactly warm, and the bottom of the ocean was smooth and sandy. Except for the ONE patch of jagged rocks that a wave managed to knock me onto cutting my toe. Thanks, ocean.

The boys on their horses.

  Playa Conchal: the South end

 Playa Conchal: the north end

And thus ended our first real adventure! We felt like trail-blazers having found a semi-hidden beach, although I can't really describe it as secluded since the Westin resort backs right into it and there were lots of people about. But still! We were adventurers!

Coming up next time: Maggie vs. the Sea Monster


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