Putting together your boater's bucket list? Then, here's one destination that needs to be on it: Costa Rica.The country isn't particularly bigits total land mass roughly equals that of Vermont and New Hampshire combined - but the compact nation has 755 miles of spectacular coastline studded with reefs, islets, coves, promontories, coral heads, lava outcroppings, and cliffs, plus a staggering array of wildlife.
A functioning democracy for more than 100 years, Costa Rica is known for being peaceful and exceptionally enlightened on conservation.
With the warm waters of the Caribbean lapping the eastern shore and those of the Pacific washing up along the west, Costa Rica is ideal for cruising, whether you charter a vessel there or travel down aboard your own craft.
If you can swing it, the best time of year for boating in Costa Rica is roughly October through December. Temperatures are mild then, and the rainy season starts to taper off. The fishing is still top-notch during this period, and it's possible to do excursions to numerous places, such as the islands of Bahia Murcielagos, that are all but inaccessible when the weather is rougher.
Peninsula Papagayo - on the west coast, just south of Nicaragua - is one of the most stunning parts of this beautiful country. Formed by a volcano and sculpted by wind, rain and sun, the peninsula is rimmed by 31 separate beaches alternately made up of white, coral, gray, and black sand. The best place to dock on the peninsula is Marina Papagayo, which was recently added to the Island Global Yachting portfolio of marinas ((506)2690-3600,www.marinapapagayo.com).
The five-star facility is set up to cater to its guests' every need. Amenities include a swimming pool, an Internet lounge, a games room, a fitness center, a mini-theater, and a dedicated concierge service. Next door is the luxe and popular Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, where marina clients can participate in a day-guest program that gives them access to the resort's spa, tennis center, kids' program, and Arnold Palmer designed golf course.
An easy 45-minute drive from the marina is Playa del Coco, a happening beach town known for its great snorkeling, surfing, sport fishing and nearby dive sites. The streets are lined with a wealth of cute, kicked-back restaurants (one perennial favorite, Father Rooster, serves fishbowl-size margaritas and heaping portions of whatever fish was pulled out of the water earlier that day), as well as excellent supermarkets for provisioning. At night, live music spills out of many bar doors. Don't miss the homemade-gelato shop in the center of town.
There are plenty of additional activities nearby. Isla Catalina, a short boat ride from Playa del Coco, is known for its phenomenal dive sites and huge schools of rays.Witch's Rock, not far from town, is a legendary and isolated surf break that even jaded pro surfers get excited about. If you're keen to fish, the waters all around Papagayo Peninsula can keep you happily angling for days, as wahoo, tuna, dorado, red snapper, sailfish, roosterfish, and blue marlin abound.You may consider booking some outings in advance if you're short on time and eager to explore as much aspossible. Issy Tours (www.costaricaissytours.com) a knowledgeable, highly recommended local company, can arrange any manner of adventures.
They'll pick you up right at the marina and design the rest of the day's itinerary to fit your desires. Take an ecological tour through the rainforest and zoom along 12 different ziplines, snorkel in Papagayo Bay, indulge in a mud bath in natural hot springs, climb a volcano, go for a horseback rideit's all possible. To experience aspects of traditional culture, ask to visit the nearby town of Santa Cruz, where artisans create pottery pieces in the motif and style of the Chorotegas, an ancient Guanacaste civilization.
Whatever type of bucket-list boating trip you're looking for, Costa Rica will deliver.Who knows, you may even come back from a visit as relaxed and lazy as the three-toed sloth you saw while you were ziplining through the jungle.
DID YOU KNOW? Costa Rica has more than 10,000 different flowering plants, 850 bird species, 3,000 butterfly species, andmore than 200mammal species.
Where to dock:
Visit www.marinalife.com/costarica to view this article online.