Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 5: A Sunset Cruise on Tamarindo Bay

Destination: Tamarindo

Mandingo sailingI said a little prayer of thanks for the in-room coffee maker, a girl's best friend after an especially late night. Taking advantage of my kitchen at Hotel Chocolate, I whipped up a light breakfast with the goodies I had purchased at the supermarket.

One of my favorite activities at the beach is tide pool hopping, and the rocks along Tamarindo's shore have a few prime spots at low tide. I carried a poking stick in the event I found a baby squid or sea cucumber to investigate. Unfortunately, the rocky pools were devoid of interesting life, so instead I watched a group of surfers ride the morning waves. On good days when the swells are big, the water is packed with seasoned locals -- all waiting for that perfect ride.

I stopped in an Italian cafe where I couldn't help but smile at the owner's excitement for ham. Tide poolsTo her credit, the salty prosciutto was melt-in-your-mouth and served with mozzarella on amazing pannini bread.

Ben was joining me for a sunset cruise on Tamarindo Bay with Mandingo Sailing. I think the free wine and champagne helped convince him, though the spectacular views and opportunity to meet hot young ladies were a definite bonus.

I had read that Mandingo was featured on the E! series "Wild On" several years ago, and figured we were both in for a treat.

Sailing and fishingThe 50-foot classical schooner yacht was captained by Andree Hammerschmidt, a worldly skipper who grew up on the west coast of Africa before sailing across the Atlantic with his wife Maria and their two sons. For over ten years, they have lived in Tamarindo, offering snorkeling and sailing charters to a host of travelers.

A small panga shuttled us to the gorgeous yacht where Andree and his crew waited with chilled wine and platters of hors d'ouevres. Life was good. View of Tamarindo from yachtIt was a small group, including Ben and me, another woman and a young couple with a well-behaved child.

By our second glass of wine, the conversation was flowing, and Andree was spinning tales of life on the high seas. We cruised around the bay, the sun warm on our backs and the wind in our faces. Glasses of champagne were passed around as the sun began to dip below the horizon. The clouds took on a pink hue, and we absorbed the panoramic view of Playa Grande and Tamarindo in the fading light.

Sailing with MandingoWhile the experience was far from any episode of "Wild On" (Ben only took off his shirt), we disembarked the cruise feeling a little saucy and very relaxed. It was the perfect precursor to a Friday night in Tamarindo.

We were hitting the Monkey Bar after dinner. It was the place to be on any given Friday in Tamarindo. I called Bryan to find his whereabouts, and discovered he was, of all places, in a bullring. Well, just outside of one.

Sunset over Tamarindo BayHe had been gassing up his motorcycle in one of the smaller pueblos that was in full holiday mode. Celebrations included horse parades, bullfights, and lots of music and fried meat.

Bryan had taken a go in the ring, scrambling clear of a thousand-pound beast with large horns. Tico bullfights are nothing like their Spanish counterparts. They typically involve drunk or crazed bystanders (aka Bryan) jumping into the ring, only to taunt the bull for a few brief moments. Bryan would meet up with us a little later that night. He explained that he had a bit more taunting to do and some fried meat to eat. Just another night in Costa Rica.

Day 5: A Sunset Cruise on Tamarindo Bay in Pictures