Dry Season in Playas Del Coco

Sunset at Coco Beach

Playas del Coco, Costa Rica during the dry season is like nothing I could have imagined. The small town (known here as Coco) is located just north of Tamarindo. Most tourists and expats pick Tamarindo to stay while in the Guanacaste Province. Tamarindo is a bigger town with a younger crowd and a beach that’s better for surfing. I don’t surf and I like the older crowd, so Coco seemed like the fit for me.

Where are all the people?

It’s the prime tourist season but still feels very low key. That might be because of COVID travel reductions. Most of the tourists I have met have been from Canada. They came here to escape the cold Canadian winters and to get some sun. There is so much sun! It rarely rains the entire dry season. That’s like five months of no rain. Just gorgeous hot sunny days! Coming from Seattle, it’s like being in a different world.

You hear a wide verity of languages being spoken but the main ones are Spanish, French, and English. I cycle through a variety of greetings: buenos días, buenas, hola, bonjour, and hey. I have the best time sitting around the pool chatting with everyone. People have such fabulous stories (I just heard a great one about Rocky Mountain oysters and pigs-tails!). It’s also fun to hear the Canadians discuss how crazy the U.S. is and how they are all worried about an actual invasion for their water. The U.S. droughts are no joke!

Mrs. ItchyFeet on the beach
They have the most gorgeous sunsets over Playas del Coco!

Most of the Canadians in this apartment complex came here just after Christmas and are now heading home. They visit every year. I still have a couple more months, so I am getting a lot of their uneaten food and alcohol. Yes, please! Rums and boxed sangrias and olive oils! It’s very nice of them to think of me and I’m glad it’s not going into the trash.

A lot of the Canadians I spoke to rave about the wonderful and inexpensive dental work you can get here in Coco. The offices have some really advanced technologies such as 3-D printing machines right there so you can get a new tooth made up and fitted in about a day. Some people come here just for the dental work!

Is something burning?

All the hills are brown with leafless trees like it’s winter-time. Is it winter? Accidental brush fires break out regularly (and farmers burn sugarcane fields on purpose). It gets smoky some days, and bits of ash occasionally flit down from the sky. Nobody seams concerned. It just smells like a neighbor is having a BBQ that got out of control. No worries!

The town itself is green with all kinds of amazing flowers. There are a variety of fruit trees feeding the wildlife (and wandering humans). The most popular right now are the mango trees. The birds, howler monkeys, and iguanas all love these trees. Careful walking under them so you don’t get a ripe mango or iguana poop squashed upon your head! Also watch for coconuts. Those things are dangerous.

Coco has an interesting mix of cacti and tropical foliage. Such a tremendous variety of palms and giant trees along with almost saguaro-sized cactus. It’s really amazing. This is the time of year that my allergies would normally pop up. Itchy eyes, runny nose, cough, brain fog. I’m really enjoying my body’s lack of concern for the plant pollen right now!

Iguana on the lawn
This iguana came down from the tree to eat fermenting lawn mangos. Noms!

It’s time for a beer

The layout of Coco is a bit like a capital T. The beach forms a giant gorgeous crescent with sporadic cute restaurants, resorts, and bungalows forming the top of the T. The main street with the big supermarkets and large bars leads toward the beach. This street is hopping at night with music and vendors. It gets packed when there is a Costa Rican or Canadian fútbol game (aka soccer). The quiet parts of town are to the left and right of the main street, up from the beach. I like the quiet parts.

Cost of living is way less than in Seattle. Especially if you eat mostly local food, which I highly recommend. Import taxes are high, so eating locally is key. I buy a lot of my fruit/veggies (and gluten-free cakes!) at the Sunday Market. I think I paid about 10 cents for bananas from one vender. I eat a lot of bananas. Also, the coffee is so good here. And cheap! Some of the beach restaurants can get expensive, but you’re paying for the view more than the food.

The grocery stores have an amazing array of foods, including gluten-free beer! I have been able to find ingredients for almost everything I have wanted to make: Indian, Italian, Szechuan, Thai, Mexican. And most of it costs less than in Seattle, especially the locally made items and fruit/veggies. Fried plantains! Noms!

Palm Tree and beach sunset
No, really, the sunsets are amazing over Playas del Coco, Costa Rica!

Farmers Market!

They have a Sunday Market that is a lot of fun. There’s a live band and a bar. Stands for fruits, veggies, spices, fish, gifts, all kinds of things. There is a lot glass reuse around here and the market is no different. I regularly bring back my salsa jars and my neighbors had me bring back a bunch of spice jars as they were leaving. Reuse is better than recycling!

You can drink the water right out of the tap! You can’t even do that in some parts of the States. After lugging huge jugs of water around Belize, drinkable tap water is the best! Instead of fluorinating the water here, they fortify the table salt to help reduce tooth decay. You can add it or skip it.

Pharmacies and doctors’ offices are plentiful here and many speak English (for the many retired visitors in town). I had a medical semi-emergency, and the pharmacist could prescribe meds for me and send me home to recover in about 10 minutes. She would have sent me to the doctor if she questioned what the cause of my illness was. I could also get some other prescriptions filled with no problems.

Infrastructure is mostly good in Coco. I have lost power a few times, but only for a minute or two. Water is pretty consistent. If the city is working on a waterline, they may cut your supply without notification. I keep some water in the fridge, just in case. There are paved roads while others are dirt. I recommend staying on a road that is paved, as the dirt roads create a lot of dust and that dust goes everywhere.

Dead eel on the beach
A recent algae bloom deprived many sea creatures of oxygen, some of which washed up on shore. Besides this dead eel, we saw puffer fish, trumpetfish, and parrot fish.

The beach

Coco Beach is a dark sand beach with fairly calm breaks. Great for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Unfortunately, the Pacific Ocean is having some red tide/algae bloom problems. If the threat of health issues doesn’t keep you out of the water, the smell will. Plus, all the dead fish along the beach are very ominous. Stupid global warming! North and south can sometimes yield clear water. You just have to check each day and hope for the best.

The dark sand is amazing! It’s like grey and tan and black, all mixed with lovely sparkly bits. Really pretty but hard to photograph. The most photogenic aspects of the beach are the gorgeous sunsets. All kinds of people venture down with chairs and picnic blankets just to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It’s quite magical!

Boat stuck on the beach
This boat got washed up during a storm. It took a lot to refloat that sucker!

When I first got here, there was a large boat parked awkwardly right on the beach. There was loads of chatter about the boat. It had broken its mooring during a storm and washed up during high tide. The owner got someone to bring a crane down to the beach to get it back in the water. Unfortunately, there was a large hole in the boat’s bottom that had to be patched. They needed a crane to move the boat to patch it and point it toward the ocean. After the patch, but before they could get it back into the water, another high tide spun the boat around again. Stuck! After another week, they finally got that sucker refloated.

In for the long haul

I still have two more months to go. It will be interesting to watch the season change from dry to green. All the hills will come alive and look completely different. I hear it will still be very sunny here with the occasional shower in the evening. I’m excited to see it! Pura Vida.

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  1. I love this, gives me a sense on your daily adventures. Sounds lovely. Can’t wait to see you soon!!!

  2. Great meeting you at Playa Del Coco! Love your website and blog. Great description of the local area. Look forward to staying in touch.

  3. Thank you so much sharing your experiences. I’m living vicariously through your words and loving the journey and website.
    Much appreciated.
    Craig 🙂

  4. […] Everyone who knows me knows I love all kinds of critters. The best part of travel is seeing new and exciting animals in their mostly natural environments. I could spend hours (and sometimes do!) watching the critters around Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. […]

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