Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 11: Playa Flamingo and Potrero Bay

Destination: Flamingo

Flaming harborThe road between Brasilito and Playa Flamingo is an easy four-mile stretch of alternating gravel and pavement. As I neared the rocky peninsula that juts out from Flamingo's shores, I spotted several dozen fishing and diving boats moored in the harbor.

I stopped briefly at the Flamingo Marina, a full-service port where boats can be chartered for some of the best deep-sea fishing on the Pacific. Experienced captains know the hotspots and help anglers pull in sailfish, marlin and mahi mahi. Every year Flamingo hosts several sport fishing tournaments, attracting both seasoned and novice fishermen who try their luck in landing record sailfish.

Flamingo marinaPlaya Flamingo has a reputation as an exclusive beachfront community, its hills sprinkled with million-dollar mansions and pricey villas. Driving the single road that looped through town, I was taken aback by its compact size. The road was lined with a few restaurants, hotels and tour companies, but the majority of the peninsula was dominated by condominiums or beautifully-landscaped homes owned by wealthy retirees.

I was looking forward to my stay at the Flamingo Beach Resort, a landmark hotel in the area. Built in the 1950's, the popular resort attracted the rich and famous long before Costa Rica was a vacation destination. It is a classic beachfront resort, with all the amenities you'd expect.

Flamingo BeachContemporary rooms and suites overlooked an oversized pool where guests socialized at the swim-up bar. Tall palm trees swayed in a breeze redolent with coconut suntan lotion. A pretty white sand beach, perfect for swimming and boogie boarding, beckoned just a few feet from the hotel.

With my afternoon free, I hopped back in my car to explore the beaches of Potrero Bay. Separated from Playa Flamingo by a rocky cape, Potrero encompasses white and black sand beaches strung along a picturesque bay. I drove a few kilometers north on dusty gravel roads until I reached the undeveloped hamlet of Potrero.

Playa PotreroOther than a few hotels and small restaurants, the black sand shores were untouched. The ATVs I'd seen tearing along Brasilito's beach were outlawed on Potrero Bay, as they could disturb turtle nests along the shore. For local adventure, most travelers opt to snorkel or dive in the clear waters surrounding the nearby Catalina Islands.

On my way back to Flamingo, I stopped on the outskirts of town for one of my favorite foods while at the beach -- fresh ceviche. From the restaurant I could see fishing boats returning to the harbor, cheerful anglers in tow. I finished my dinner quickly, anticipating the creature comforts (a hot bath, cable TV, and bottle of wine) of my room at Flamingo Beach Resort. Every now and then, a girl needs some pampering.

Day 11: Playa Flamingo and Potrero Bay in Pictures