Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 5: Snorkeling & a Tamarindo Sunset

a male howler monkeyOur host, Barry, had prepared a special breakfast for us this morning: wheat tortillas piled high with eggs, seasoned rice, shredded cheese, and salsa. Fresh fruits, bread, and homemade spreads decorated the tabletop, and we dug in with gusto.

Fabian and I had a snorkeling and sunset cruise that afternoon, so we spent the morning at Villa Alegre's ocean-view infinity pool. Fabian jumped in for a swim and I settled down in a lounge chair to read. Suddenly, a noise caught my attention and I looked up -- howler monkeys!

the marlin del rey in tamarindo's bayFour large primates were making their way through the trees, foraging for food on the villa's grounds. I grabbed my camera and ran over, careful not to infuriate them (they have a tendency to pee and throw poop during confrontation). Several minutes later, I was feeling comfortable in their presence and threw caution to the wind; from deep in my throat, I conjured a howler wail, encouraging their alpha male to scream his response.

Laughter erupted behind me. Fabian stood there, doubled over, chuckling. Irritated, I demanded to know what was so funny. Apparently, he didn't appreciate my howler imitation. To be fair, the alpha monkey didn't either; he hadn't even looked my way. Fabian gave it a shot, but his attempt was at least as poor as my own -- not one howler reacted. We did irritate one individual -- the gardener next door stared at us, his expression half bewildered, half bemused. I don't mind looking ridiculous, so I grinned at him and shrugged.

a tamarindo snorkeling coveJust before noon, Fabian and I caught a taxi to Tamarindo beach. We ordered cold fruit drinks while we waited for the afternoon's catamaran cruise to begin. As the meeting time rolled around, I saw a group of tourists collecting by the shore. I couldn't believe so many people would be waiting for just one boat, so I sidled over to ask. Sure enough, these would be our sail mates -- more than 60 of us in total.

As soon as I saw the boat, all concerns evaporated; it was huge! Out in the bay, it rocked gently while a small dingy ferried us out in groups of 15. The Marlin del Rey is a 66-foot sailboat, the largest tour catamaran in Costa Rica. It is capable of reaching 25 knots (about 29 miles per hour) with just its sails, which the captain uses often.

salsa dancing - let the party begin!Onboard, Fabian and I explored the boat -- there were two forward hammocks, an interior cabin, and plenty of sitting room on both port and starboard sides. As we waited for everyone to board, a crew member offered us a drink -- alcohol and soft drinks are all-inclusive on the Marlin del Rey -- and we gladly accepted the cool refreshments.

We set out for a quiet snorkeling bay, and I observed how perfect the afternoon was: the sun was out, the temperature hovered at a balmy 80, and tropical tunes wafted from the on-board sound system. Fabian grabbed my hand, leading me in a fast-stepped salsa, but I soon begged off -- the boat's sway had thrown me off balance, and I felt like I had two left feet.

We arrived at Pirates' Bay, one of Tamarindo's preferred snorkeling locations. I've always been a bit wary about what lurks beneath the water, so I elected to stay onboard with several of my fellow passengers. I made sure I was covered in sun block from head to toe, and then reclined on the rope hammocks. The warm sunbeams tickled my toes and the gentle rocking motion lulled me into a relaxed state.

sunset from the marlin del reyThe snorkelers returned after an hour of frolicking in the bay. The crew turned up the music and began to prepare a feast. Before long, our plates were stacked with barbecued chicken, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips, and chocolate chip cookies. The sun always makes me tired and hungry, and the mid-afternoon meal really recharged my engine.

We had been using the motor, but the crowd was clamoring for the sails. Sporting smiles, the affable crew raised the great, white sheets. With just the power of the wind, we sailed back toward Tamarindo as the sun began to dip low in the sky. Several couples, Fabian and myself included, reclined on deck to watch the romantic scene unfold.

We returned to shore around 6:30 p.m. and taxied back to the bed and breakfast. Still stuffed from the onboard feast, we grabbed a few snacks and headed out to the pool. It was the perfect night for a swim.

Day 5: Snorkeling & a Tamarindo Sunset in Pictures