Kayaking in Costa Rica

Normally when I think of kayaking, I want to yawn a little, because I think of a calm, endless float down a river with little paddling effort or fun waters to navigate. When you take kayaking to the ocean, however, it takes more effort to navigate up and over the waves without turning the kayak sideways and going for an unintended roll. We decided to rent kayaks from some random guy on the beach acting as an agent, of sorts, for a company in town. Probably not the best way to rent kayaks for the day, but it worked.

We were directed to kayak to an small shell island about 400 yards or so off the coast. Getting to the island was not too difficult, simple instructions, just keep the kayak perpendicular to the waves and all will be fine. The island was filled with all kinds of shells on the one side and huge rocks on the other. It provided a beautiful perch for taking in the vast ocean view.


Snorkeling was only possible on one side of the island. The rest as you can see from above was filled with rocks and slamming waves, not advisable for snorkeling or kayaking unless you enjoy getting pummeled. Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean isn't exactly the picturesque experience worthy of underwater documentation. I did manage to see a few brightly colored fish, but most of the waters were murky from the churning waves. Head to the east side of Costa Rica if you really want beautiful water with bright colored fish.

The adventure of kayaking in Costa Rica didn't begin until we decided to head over to the estuary to check out the crocodile situation. There were numerous local that told us stories of crocodiles in the estuary that would venture out into the ocean to head down to another inlet. During low tide, the estuary crossing was really shallow and not very wide, but that changed during high tide. The waves were relentless and more than a slight roll. 

As we approached the estuary, I was doing well until a medium sized wave came and started to turn my boat to one side. I tried to correct the situation, but resting on the top of the crest I couldn't get the kayak righted. I was later told I should have drug my oar on the wave and it would have corrected the slight turn, also to be sure to lean back in the kayak when going over waves. Unfortunately, I didn't do any of this and found myself sliding off the kayak and plunging into the croc infested waters.

While friends tried to rescue my kayak, I was trying to swim but my life jacket was up to my ears. I could hardly move and my kayak was getting further away. Thankfully my friends were able to wrangle my kayak. I then had the difficult task of lifting myself out of the ocean and into the kayak with only my upper body strength to complete the task. It never dawned on my to be fearful of meeting a crocodile while I was floating in those waters, so I was able to remain calm.

After finding out that someone was mulled 8 months later, I'm even more thankful for getting back into my kayak without incident. If you want to see what can happen when a surfer met a crocodile in the estuary, you can read this article, but I warn you it's graphic. If you are hanging out in Tamarindo, the stories of crocodiles in the estuary are true. Take the water taxi across, it'll be a lot safer!