Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Costa Rica"s Beaches Attract Growing Business

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Costa Rica"s Beaches Attract Growing Business

Article excerpt

TURBID WATERS of the Rio Naranjo - a river near jungles of Manuel Antonio national park on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast - were placidly parted by the kayak of Michael Bass. Suddenly Bass, 25, spun his kayak and paddled furiously back to his group of six more boaters. The eyes of this software designer from California bulged like golfballs.

"Crocodile!" he stammered. "Just ran in the water! Big - longer than my boat!"

The group of touring kayakers from the United States pulled together and increased their speed. Dan Crandall, 35, owner of Current Adventures Kayak School in Placerville, Calif., spotted another croc. Adrenalin's jolt galvanized the nerves of everyone - yet our flotilla gained the ocean mouth of the Naranjo without incident.

Here the kayakers strolled on a pristine black-sand beach, then went out to ride the 6- to 8-foot-high swells that crashed on sandbars at the river mouth. After that came a long paddle along the wild ocean coast back to Manuel Antonio; cool drinks from the park's beachside cabanas; succulent seafood dinners at Restaurant y Marisquieria Jiubertis in nearby Quepos, and then blissful slumber on verandas of the Villa Oso, overlooking Quepos Bay.

Such are the riches of Costa Rica. The 600-mile-long Pacific shore stands poised between its original raw jungle and huge development similar to Hawaii's Waikiki. Hence, it now offers both: Playas (beaches) that are clean and wild, where howler monkeys bray from overhanging trees, and commodious seaside resorts like La Fiesta near Puntarenas, catering to the whims of human civilization.

Gulf of Papagayo. Located on the relatively dry and temperate northwest coast, Papagayo is being built into a complex of resorts by European, Canadian, Mexican and Costa Rican developers.

Playa Tamarindo. Further south, on the Nicoya Peninsula, Tamarindo is poised on the cusp of Papagayo-style development. At this point, there's only one large hotel, the Hotel Tamarindo Diria. But billboards in English encourage more investment, and Italians and Germans are a strong presence.

There is a long and beautiful white-sand beach right in front of town. …

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