One of the nice things about cruising is that when you stop in a country for the first time, it gives you a sense of whether you might like to go back. A taster, as it were.
It happened to us with Costa Rica.
While cruising on the Norwegian Sun, we first visited Costa Rica when the ship made a port stop at Puntarenas, on the Gulf of Nicola and about 60 miles due west of San Jose (the capital). While our visit was typically short — cruise stops seldom exceed eight hours — we made a mental note that this was a country we’d like to see again.
Last week, we did….but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit a little coaxing from a cute 4-year-old granddaughter had something to do with it, too.
We went to a part of the country (Playa Potrero, whose residents include our two new best friends, Walter and Graven), to a place unlikely to ever see a cruise ship, unless it’s with high-powered binoculars as one passes in the waters of the Pacific. It’s beach country, in the north-west area known as Guanacaste. If you’ve never heard of Playa Tamarindo and Playa Coco and Playa Grande, get ready to…judging by the number of expats who have already discovered it.
While Costa Rica typically has — like most tropical countries — a rainy season, this part of the country does not. Well, okay, it gets less rain. In the winter (December to May), it gets almost no rain. In fact, the green landscape turns brown and locals call it a desert, and not because of its sandy beaches.
It’s a long drive from San Jose or Puntarenas. Mind you, sometimes it’s a long drive from village to village in this welcoming tourist destination. You get there by flying to Liberia (not that one!) and driving for roughly an hour. A growing number of airlines now include Liberia on flight schedules.
However, with our passion for boating, we needed more than beaches.
That’s where Walter and Graven come into the picture. They were co-captains of our “ship” — probably an 18-foot skiff that took us (our family of five) snorkeling. Since we’d never gone snorkeling from a cruise ship, it was a welcome alternative as experiences go, but not nearly as welcoming as Walter (the pineapple man), Graven (sharing a thumbs-up) and assorted full-time residents who reap the benefits of the tourist industry.
Without the Norwegian Sun, we may never have met.
In the news…
• Tiffany’s boutique opens in Central Park on Oasis of the Seas
• Crystal Symphony makes maiden call at Santo Domingo
• TV’s Jeff Corwin on Panama Canal cruise with Windstar
Today at portsandbows.com: Arles, Avignon get A’s in France