Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 3: Have A Coati Nice Day

Destination: Papagayo

Sunshine poured through the sealed blinds, taunting me into consciousness, and though I preferred to lay buried beneath the sheets, I unwillingly opened my eyes. Hunger, provoked by last night's missed meal, encouraged me to race down to breakfast, where Cesar and I wolfed down fruit salad, cereal, toast, and rich Costa Rican coffee.

Satisfied, we returned to our suite to pack our bags for the day's excursion. We were headed to a nearby hotel, rumored to have a white-sand beach, gentle swimming area, and picturesque vistas. During the mile-long downhill hike under the hot, relentless sun, we wondered aloud if the beach would live up to our expectations.

A turnoff of the main road led to a tree-lined beach path, where we trudged, hot and sweaty, emerging into a small area of sea-sculpted trees, beach chairs, and well-tanned tourists catching a few golden rays. The beach was lovely, and a cordoned-off swimming area offered tiny waves and a sandy bottom -- perfect for a peaceful swim or safe kiddy diversions. To my dismay, beach chairs were for hotel guests only, and the guards steered us away.

Despite our seating woes, we quickly made friends with a beach vendor and tour guide, who explained that the small beach had witnessed such sights as sharks (two in the past year), a mother and baby whale (recently), stingrays, and manta rays. Several tourists were snorkeling at the nearby rocks, and reported sightings of angelfish, puffer fish, and other brightly-colored aquatic specimens.

A quick stop at the main hotel led us to its onsite tour agencies, where we learned of several available activities and excursions. High-flying canopy tours, boat trips to nearby Palo Verde National Park, sailboat tours, and water sports such as snorkeling and scuba diving were the most popular options. During the dry season (from December to April), Papagayo would be an ideal base for Pacific Coast exploration and adventure tourism.

With ominous clouds looming on the horizon, Cesar and I decided to head back to our resort for lunch and shelter. An arduous, uphill walk in the early afternoon heat whet our appetites for refreshing drinks and delicious food, which we savored mostly in silence, looking out over the gulf. Despite having enjoyed the same view for five meals, we were still in awe of the wide water vistas and incredible colors.

A few moments into our late lunch, a coati crept out of the bushes and boldly approached our table. His name was Skwinkly, and as the hotel's favorite coati, he is babied daily with bread, fruits, and other kitchen scraps. Our waiter brought us several slices of bread, indicating that Skwinkly would be happy to accept our yeasty offerings. With shaking hands, I reached out to the raccoon-like animal, and he tiptoed over, as unsure of me as I of him.

Let me assure you that Skwinkly's razor-sharp, canine teeth could be terrifying under certain circumstances, but his gentle nature and hungry gratitude were enough to instill a small bit of confidence and trust in him. My outstretched arm met with his extended body, each of us afraid to inch any closer. Nevertheless, Skwinkly swiped the bread from my hand, retreating a few feet to enjoy his hard-won booty. When finished, Cesar tried his (much bolder) hand at coati feeding, and even managed to pet the shy animal.

As if sensing the end of our meal and impending walk back, the skies chose to open up at precisely that moment, so Cesar and I hightailed it back to our room, and Skwinkly back to his den. Unfortunately, the heavy downpours lasted into the evening, trapping us in our room until well past the invisible sunset. Perhaps due our late lunch, or soggy spirits, we chose to skip dinner again, and fell asleep to the gentle pitter-patter of steady rain.

Day 3: Have A Coati Nice Day in Pictures