Kaya Catamaran Trip to Santa Teresa
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I LOVE being on the water, especially on a boat. It has always been my go to place to de-stress and think of nothing but what is happening around me. The sights and sounds of nature. From my 20’ Bayliner Bow rider to my 38’ Chris Craft Cabin Cruiser, I’ve loved any kind of boating. Since moving to Costa Rica I do not get the chance to go boating and have been longing to do so again.
Recently a new Catamaran tour has begun in Nosara, leaving out of Playa Garza. Kaya Boat Tours Nosara is owned by “Micki” and his wife Petra. Micki is originally from Germany and spent more than 20 years in LA before moving to Costa Rica. He began doing Boat tours on his Catamaran “Kaya”, back in February and has become quite popular already. They recently offered a tour to benefit the Bomberos, our Volunteer Fire Department that I was so looking forward to but was unable to go. Just a few weeks later I saw a post on Facebook asking if anyone would like to join their trip to Santa Teresa. Word has spread that the Kaya is a wonderful way to spend a day, even 134km away. Micki had a group that asked to do a sunset cruise down in Santa Teresa and thought there may be people looking for transport from Nosara. It was a quick overnight turnaround and it was perfect for me. I contacted Micki and reserved my spot. I haven’t been on any type of vacation for almost four years, not even an overnight so this was a much needed trip for me. I do not like to close the restaurant on days I am normally open, especially on the weekends, but this was too good to pass up.
DAY 1 - I was told to be at the pickup point, just past Pilo’s bar on the beach in Playa Garza, at 5:45am. Of course I was 15 minutes early which was perfect timing to see the sunrise from the beach while I waited. Micki showed up shortly after with “Beau Trivers” the “deckhand” for this trip. Beau is a regular customer of mine at K-Rae’s; riding his bicycle up the steep hill for my now “World Famous” Corned Beef Reuben and a Stout on several occasions. How he makes it up that hill on a bicycle is beyond me but I’m impressed each time nonetheless. Beau lives here now, hailing from Atlanta, GA among other places. I was Happy to see another familiar face was going on the journey. Also with Micki was a nice young lady, Jen, originally from Maryland, now living in Brooklyn working as an Interior designer. Jen is here in Costa Rica, like so many others, working as a digital nomad, traveling the country while she works online. My dream job… J She also saw the ad on Facebook and thought it was a great alternative to a passenger van. We also met the “Captain”, Merlin, a 30 year old Tico originally from Puntarenas and now living in Garza.
We met the Pongo, small fishing boat, driven by Bala and the guys loaded the provisions and took to the Kaya. They came back for us and we headed for the big boat. We pulled up to the “fresh water hoses that run from shore, under the sand and water to fill the tanks. Evidently there are two and both were broken. No worries, Micki keeps several liters of fresh water in bottles just in case. We pulled out of Garza at 6am, destination Malpais, 40 miles South by water. Without the sails we ran about 5 miles per hour and when the sails were raised shortly after our departure, we increased speed to 6-7 miles per hour. Not much wind today. Time to sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquility of the sea. Beau and Merlin got busy readying the boat for the afternoon tour, while Micki prepared fresh pressed coffee, fresh fruits and homemade croissants for Jen and me. Micki’s wife Petra makes all the breads, pastries and meals for the tours and they were delicious. A little Reggae music to set the mood and we were two happy boaters.
The entire trip you see the mountains along the shoreline as well as several small villages. If you are lucky, which we were, you see dolphin swimming along the boat. Micki and Beau dropped fishing lines and caught a nice Black Tuna which was to be dinner for us that night. A few other smaller Tuna were caught but too small to keep, exciting little break from the quiet though.
It’s now “12 O’clock Somewhere”, time for a Bloody Maria for me. For those of us not allowed to drink Vodka, we use tequila instead. Micki has a full bar set up with premium liquors, wines, beers and juices for all of the tours. Tours also come with a small Tapas type menu, frequently changing to keep it nice and fresh for repeat guests. Tapas also makes for much easier dining when on the water.
We pass by Santa Teresa, right on time, about 6 hours later. There are no docks or moorings off the shore of Santa Teresa so it is necessary to moor the boat in Malpais, just a short distance South of Santa Teresa. There, you are shuttled to shore by one of the many fishing “pongos” and taxis are often waiting to take passengers to town. Since the afternoon tour for sunset had 18 guests booked, I needed to go to town while they did the tour. No worries. I hadn’t been since my first trip with friends Pam and Lou 2 years ago. I was looking forward to just chilling at the pool, grabbing a bit to eat and possibly a cocktail or two while I was there. Just to be away from work and be waited on for a change was enough for me. Jen was going to Santa Teresa for a week, staying at the Selina North Hostel. I decided to jump in a taxi with her and planned to hang at Selina for a bit then venture back to the boat by 6pm for pickup.
Merlin accompanied us to shore to ask about a taxi for us. A van was just leaving the drop-off point and offered to drive us for 6,000 colones. Selina North is one of 2 Selina Hostels in Santa Teresa and it is on the furthest end of the main road. The southern end towards Malpais is much quieter, not nearly as much traffic, activity and shops/restaurants as Santa Teresa. The minute you hit the intersection of the main road into town the difference is astounding. Quads, moto’s, cars, people walking in the street.. Very busy. The main road is lined with restaurants, shops, surf schools, hotels, resorts and hostels. Quite a bit of construction and the road is being redone. The places range from run down looking hostels to 5 star resorts. Many more beachfront restaurants and resorts compared to Samara, Tamarindo and of course Nosara where we have only two beachfront restaurants due to the refuge.
We arrived safely to Selina North and the van driver carried our bags to the front desk, an old hollowed out Volkswagen van. Very charming and unique. Lots of people milling around, the courtyard with pool is very close to the front desk so you can see the people in and around the pool and on loungers. I said my goodbye to Jen and headed to the poolside restaurant to grab a cocktail a bite to eat and to charge my dead phone battery. Surprising I know. The sign said Open from noon to 8pm however there was no one manning the bar or serving. I decided to grab a seat to charge my phone hoping the bartender would arrive soon. It was now 12:45, how long could it be before someone shows up for work? As I sat taking in the surroundings I noticed several things. The average age was 23-28ish, males and females. Males all quite buff, in somewhat tiny swim shorts. “Girls” all in tiny thong bikinis, whether they weighed 90lbs or 200. Seemed as though most knew each other, possibly due to staying there for longer amount of time as “digital nomads”. The buildings were in an L shape, 2 stories with the pool in the middle. One side was the restaurant and Pub, middle looked like offices up above and other side was guest rooms, upper had balconies. Looked like it may have been charming back in the day but now it was quite run down. Peeling paint, older windows. For a hostel with guests looking for the cheapest stay possible it is ok. I immediately remembered my age and preference for the finer things in life on occasion and decided to move on as soon as my phone was charged to 50%. Finally at 12:48 the bartender showed up. Oh no wait, he showed up, took his work shirt off and hung out in the pool. Pura Vida? Twenty minutes later… bartender gets out of pool and is joined by 2 other staff, stocking the bars. Bar still not open, but hey, why would one open the bar while the others stock up? That would make sense. (Sorry, bar owner here) I left at 1:30, starving, thirsty and feeling fat and old and jealous of these young girls living their carefree lives in these cute little thong bikini wearing bodies. Hahahaha.
I started walking down the road back towards the boat. Stopped and looked at a few places along the road to eat but really wanted oceanfront. I walked into the first place, Ranchos Ituana B & B. It was a long walk down the walkway to the beach. I passed at least 6 signs and sanitizer stations informing me I could not go further without a mask and hand sanitizing. Passed a cute set of two –two story buildings connected by a walkway that guests were lounging in. I’m guessing those were the “B & B” rooms. Passed a small café with outdoor dining and then the outdoor restaurant was on the beach. It was rustic, built into the trees, wooden chairs and tables. A few pillows with low tables along the beach closest to the water. A few people dining. It was nice enough but I just didn’t get the comfy vibe I was looking for. I moved on looking for the right place to stop.
Not much further down the road was a modern looking sign advertising a hotel and another with the restaurant name. It looked fairly new, surrounded by lush landscaping to shield from the busy road. I was intrigued by the tagline under the name of the hotel. Hotel Nantipa- A Tico Hotel Experience. I walked towards reception and was greeted by three very friendly staff members. I asked for directions to the restaurant and was promptly told exactly how to locate it. The young man also offered to walk me there personally. I followed the lush, stone pathway, past the beautiful pool area and guest rooms and found my way to the restaurant, “Manzu”. I was again greeted by a very friendly hostess who immediately sat me at a table in the shade closest to the beach. She informed the server by radio who immediately came to my table. The staff was all dressed in crisp white buttoned down shirts, Navy shorts, white socks and bright white tennis shoes. Very clean and sleek property. Several tables and another “Tiki Bar” in addition to the large covered dining area and large bar. I ordered a mojito and was given the menu QR code to see the offerings. I was not overly impressed with the menu selection for appetizers or small plates. I decided to have a simple order of fish tacos and save room for dessert. My mojito was perfect and with it came a complimentary order of Refried black beans, Pico made with heart of Palm and tortilla chips. Nice surprise and very much appreciated since I was starving. My fish tacos with garlic aioli came shortly after served on corn tortillas. I’m not a fan of corn tortillas and these were barely cooked so I removed the fish and ate separately. I will say the fish was tasty with the aioli but quite a small portion for $14. I was so relaxed I decided to stay for one more cocktail before I moved on. It was 3pm and I still had time to kill. I wanted to see if I could get one of “my” famous “Samaritas”, recipe courtesy of my friend Sam that are now the most popular drink I sell at K-Rae’s. I asked the server if they had cranberry juice and before I could tell him why, he was off like a rocket to the bar to ask. I assumed he would give me an answer before bringing me one but no, not so lucky. He brought the cranberry juice on ice in a tall glass. When I informed him of the “mistake” he looked mortified so I simply ordered a margarita and added the juice to it. Had I known I would be charged $6 for a simple cranberry juice, I would have taken it to go and tried at the next stop. Not that I’m cheap by any means but $8 for a cocktail with liquor and $6 for a juice, on ice, is unacceptable to me based on principle. I mixed my cocktail, waited 15 minutes and when it looked as though I would not see my server again I went to the bar to pay. I’m not sure why, but it seems common practice in CR that as soon as the meal is served the servers disappear. 1 star or 5 star, same policy. No return asking how the meal is, or if I need another cocktail or water. I am used to it now after 4.5 years, but doesn’t mean I understand or like it. I asked for a to- go cup and planned to walk down to the beach. NO to go cups. No worries. Time to move on. I passed quite a few places I would have liked to stop at but in my mind I was dreaming of the pastry shop I had been to during our last visit. I reached the pastry shop “The Bakery” at 4pm with PLENTY of time to relax with a coffee and dessert of my choice. Good bakeries with good baked goods are very hard to find here in CR so when you do, you embrace and enjoy. This bakery is just like the ones I’m accustomed to in Boston or NY. French pastries, cheesecakes, breads, coffee. I chose the favorite from last time, a three chocolate and cappuccino mousse cheesecake and a cup of coffee. It did NOT disappoint. Those who also know me well know my addition, yes addiction to chocolate. I am a Chocoholic. With that being said, I had to also try a chocolate Éclair and two of the smaller chocolate covered cakes with mousse inside. I was in HEAVEN. I relaxed for a bit longer, people watched, as there is an abundance of that there. I then realized I would miss the sunset if I didn’t get a move on. I asked and they called me a taxi to take me to the pickup point for the Kaya. I was told to be there by 6pm to make it back on the boat. I left The Bakery saying goodbye to all of the extremely friendly and helpful staff and got into the waiting taxi. I arrived at the pickup point too late to see the sunset but just in time for the pongo boat ride to the boat. The group was arriving to shore in three groups. I asked how the tour was and if they had a fun day. They all yelled at the same time in several different languages, “Best time of our trip here”. The group was made up of Germans, Swedes and Americans, again, young, fit, pretty and barely dressed, much to the delight of the boat crews. J
I jumped on the Pongo and was deposited on the boat by 6:30pm. The tour was a success and the crew looked pooped. They said goodbye to the rest of the group, did their cleanup and finally relaxed a bit. Merlin, the Captain and jack of all trades put the charcoal on the grill and lit it up for dinner. The fresh Tuna that Micki caught earlier in the day was on the menu. Nice cold beer, fresh caught Tuna on the grill, full moon rising over the ocean, perfect weather, and awesome crew. I could not have asked for a more relaxing, enjoyable day. The guys went down to the bunks below and I grabbed my sweatshirt, pj bottoms and a pillow and grabbed a bunk up above on the deck. Goodnight Gracie…
Day 2 - Merlin was the first to rise, started the engine and we pulled out at 5:45 am and headed home. Micki made fresh pressed coffee, cut fruit and bread and served us on deck. Beau lifted the sails and we all chilled for a bit. Chilling on the front of the boat, sail as my shade for my very burnt face and front of my body (rookie move getting burnt, yes I KNOW). Every so often Micki would pop up front or through the window and check on me. Beau came up and chatted for a bit while Merlin tended to the helm. I napped a bit but for most of the 6 hour trip I watched for dolphin or fish or hoping beyond hope, a whale or two. I relaxed and don’t think I thought of work once in those 6 hours. How nice that really felt. Cannot describe and only those who own a business may be able to understand. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, for the kindness of the guys during the trip and getting back safe and sound. We pulled into Playa Garza right on time at 12 noon. Bala was busy trying to fix the two fresh water hoses and a few other boats had pulled in from their tours waiting for transport to shore. We loaded up the Pongo with the trash, empties, our bags and ourselves and were dropped on shore by 12:30. I was burnt, hungry and ready to jump in a pool. Said Thank you and goodbye to Micki, Beau and Merlin and headed home. What a great way to spend my Saturday and most of Sunday and closing the restaurant was well worth it. Even if I did get SEVERAL phone calls while at sea, from people at my gate asking if I was open. :-o The business owner in me has a real hard time knowing I lost business but ….
Side Note: Micki is top notch and the Kaya Catamaran is a great new addition to things to do while visiting here. He and the crew take great care of the guests. As I mentioned all of the food is homemade by Petra and Micki. Not 30 minutes after the guests left the boat in Malpais, Micki received no less than ten phone calls telling him how great the tour was, the food, the crew, the experience. I highly recommend Kaya Boat Tours of Nosara when visiting here. www.kayanosara.com. You can also find them on Facebook, Kaya Boat Tours Nosara.
Side Note Number 2: I have always docked my boats in marinas so this “mooring” experience was new to me. I had no idea they have fresh water hoses running from shore under the water to fill the boats. I learned quite a bit about sailing, Catamarans, the need for a pongo at your destination to get you to and from shore and so many other things. We saw Fisherman flags about 4 miles from shore that are “Trot Lines”. 1-2km Lines on the bottom of the ocean with approximately 2,000-2,500 hooks on the lines to catch snapper, grouper etc.
Many other things I learned, that will be in the next blog, when I remember. J
I hope you enjoyed my story and pictures. Until next time.. Pura Vida.