Playa Grande and Tamarindo Estuary, Northwest Costa Rica

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My Costa Rica Journey- A continuing series written by Ann and dedicated to all those who love nature and wish to learn about the most interesting and educational destinations for tourist in Costa Rica.

Playa Grande is located  on the Northwest Pacific Ocean in the Province of Guanacaste, only a few miles north of Tamarindo.  This beach is a 12 kilometer span of brown sand and dark blue waters. Palm trees line some areas of the beach. It is most famous for the surfers who flock here for the powerful waves created by the offshore winds, especially at high tide.   Since 1991 Playa Grande has been a part of the National Park Marino Las Baulas  (Leatherback) de Guanacaste.

Also well know for the leatherback turtles which nest here from October thru March. By night the leatherback turtles follow the tide back in and deposit their eggs in the soft sand. Dont’ take your flashlight out to look for the turtles. This is forbidden.  My friend Renee and I were staying at Las Tortugas Hotel located right on the beach- it was grandfathered in when a law passed by the Costa Rican government stated all buildings must be constructed fifty meters or more from high tide.  We were out for a moonlight stroll and saw a very large  leatherback depositing her eggs.  Renee startled her by shining the small flashlight  into her eyes…A park ranger spotted us and strongly reprimanded Renee.  “I could fine you he said,  but I won’t this time.”  “Just remember to respect the turtle sanctuary.”  “It is one of the most important leatherback nesting areas in the world so let’s preserve it for future generations.”

You can pay for a naturalist guide (ask at your hotel) who will  take you around 9 pm to the beach area  where you can see the leatherbacks.  Have patience, this may take hours before you see one coming out of the water. No cameras nor flashlights- this disturbs the turtles.

Located only a few miles north of our hotel-Las Tortugas is the Tamarindo Estuary  which is the heart of Tamarindo Wildlife sanctuary and  is protected by the Costa Rica national park system and the International Wetlands Protection Agency.  We purchased a tour departing very early in the morning around 6 am. (yes, you want to start out very early to see the many tropical birds, also the weather is much cooler)  Remember to take your bird binoculars and mosquito repellant.   We rented a canoe with a naturalist guide for $30 per person.  Or you can simply rent the canoe and paddle yourself. We were amazed at all we saw!  The rare tea mangroves, virtually a salt water forest lined the narrow river bank and provide a home and food for hundreds of species of animals and birds.  We saw a large beautiful white osprey with black winged tips , a flock of hooded trogans, and a white face monkey with her baby in arms. Suddenly we heard a lot of noise coming from above us.  It was a flock a Amazon Yellow parrots–gee, how lucky could we be!

The American crocodile makes it’s home here but thank goodness we did not encounter one near by our canoe.  This area is a dry low land forest with a diverse variety of trees, the most famous is the Guanacaste tree which looks like a giant mushroom.

However, best of all was the parade of large red crabs- in a  perfectly straight line- passing near us.  They were taking their usual route back into the ocean.  I wished I had a movie cameral..a rare sight indeed!

Curious about the leather back turtles?

Facts:  They are endangered. Their population is diminishing in some parts of the world.

Size:  up to 6 feet in length and weight in excess of 400Kg.

The earth’s most ancient and largest living reptile.

Eggs hatch is approx 60 days. 

Habitat spans form North Atlantic near the Artic Circle to the South Pacific near New Zealand.

Playa Grande.  The population of nesting females has dropped in eleven years from 1300 to around 140 per year.  Due to poachers who steal the eggs and loss of nesting sites due to development of hotels, resorts, and private homes.  In other words-destruction by Man.

The above photo is America Crocodile found in the Tamarindo Estuary. The male can grow to 6-7 feet in length. No records of attacks to humans.  But, dont take chances you may be first one!

Renee and I passed 4 adventure filled days on Playa Grande.  We stayed at Rip Jack Inn..a small Inn -not  right on the beach-but 5 minutes walking to the beach.  Very good food-friendly staff-yoga classes 8.30 am. Reasonably priced .  Just what we were looking for.  It is owned by a Canadian woman who oversees the place very well.  Everything is clean..grounds are tropical.  We recommend it.

We swam in the ocean but did not surf-we are not surfers. (we got sun burn)  Canoe paddle thru the Tamarindo Esturary, lots of wildlife and birds- walked the beach late afternoon to the most gorgeous sunset- woke up to Costa Rican coffee-ate fresh seafood for lunch with Costa Rican beer!   What more could we ask for?

Contact Ann to help plan your Costa Rica vacation 








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