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6 Highlights From The 2019 Costa Rica Fishing Adventure

Lauren Collins

Today through April, Ryan and I are going to feature a new post each Saturday morning about this past winter's group trip to Costa Rica. We're going to have some fun with this and call it "Costa Rica Saturdays!"

This past winter in Costa Rica were joined by My Fishing Cape Codders Jane and Tom Simpson, Tom and Patti Dromgoole, John and Michelle Silva, Mike and Lisa Hollander, and Ryan's dad, uncle and sister.

It's not easy for me to describe Playa Zancudo, the town where Ryan and I like to call home for a few weeks each winter. Yes the beaches are beautiful, and the weather nearly perfect, but that's not everything.

You just have to see it for yourself. To meet the locals, to experience the fishing and the natural environment, and to look a scorpion in the eye and not be afraid (among other things)!

It's bit of an art to go from enjoying the "comforts of home" to immersing yourself in this Costa Rican lifestyle of bugs, scorpions, dust, intense heat and humidity. Take it from me, a girl who loves to eat brie and sip Prosecco.


However I can also sit in the back of a pickup truck sporting a thick layer of sweat and dirt as we drive 40mph down a dirt road, nearly getting bumped out of the truck with every passing pothole. 

Without a doubt, every trip we make to the southwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica has been memorable in it's own way, but this year in particular was one for the books. 

So here we go, a rundown of the good, the incredible and the somewhat terrifying events of our 2019 Costa Rica Fishing Adventure.

1) The Journey To Costa Rica

It takes about 18 hours to travel from Massachusetts to Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica.

We wake up to go to the airport at 2:15am and arrive at our Zancudo rental by around 6:30pm. It's quite a long day.  

Part of the travel involves a one hour flight in a little 12-seater plane. The views from the plane can be fantastic, however the flight is very weather-dependent.

When the skies are clear, flying over the Costa Rican jungle, seeing waterfalls, and cruising down the Pacific coast is truly beautiful.

The landing however, is another story altogether.

The tarmac in Golfito is just long enough for the planes to stop, and it comes at you fast. Taking off is another thrill, because the plane goes screaming down this little runway and then shoots you upward at what feels like a 90 degree angle!

When you walk off the little plane you are instantly smacked with heat and humidity, along with the sounds of cicadas screaming in the jungle behind you. And if you're really lucky, sometimes you are also met with torrential rain!

When our first group from MFCC arrived back on January 12th, we could see clouds moving in, but we never imagined it would end up producing such strong downpours.

At around 5:30pm, Jane & Tom Simpson, Tom and Patti Dromgoole, myself and Ryan and our friend Emily, all piled into a small panga boat for the last leg of the journey to Zancudo. With all the luggage onboard, we made our way across Golfito Bay and through a small mangrove river towards Zancudo.

Soon the skies opened up and began pouring buckets on us. Within minutes we were all completely soaked. We tried putting trash bags over everyones' luggage, but the rain didn't stop. It rained so hard that Leo (our captain) had to slow the boat down because he couldn't see in front of us.  

Luckily everyone laughed it off and no one seemed too upset. However, it was quite the interesting start to the trip!

2) Jungle Walking Tours

Both of our groups from MFCC had the incredible opportunity to tour through the jungle at nearby Arena Alta Wildlife Reserve.

The reserve contains 30 hectares of jungle, located about 250 yards from the beach. Within the property is a labyrinth of trails that take you across the Rio Sabalo (which means tarpon in Spanish) into dense jungle.  

Every time we visited Arena Alta, we were able to see all three species of monkeys that live in this part of Costa Rica - howlers, titis (pronounced chee-chee's) and capuchins, as well as a sloth with her baby, caymans, turtles, birds such as parrots and macaws, small animals such as coatis, and more.

These are little brown monkeys called the titis (tee-tees), which are very friendly and curious little guys.

The trails through Arena Alta are really wonderful. Our friend Amon (who grew up in Costa Rica but is from the US) was our guide for the walking tours. Amon can tell you everything you'd want to know about an animal, plant or insect in Costa Rica.

3) Sleeping With Scorpions

Scorpions in Costa Rica are not poisonous. Their bite is similar to a bee sting. Nevertheless, scorpions are pretty intimidating looking with their big claws, and I would like it if I never encountered another scorpion ever again.

John D. Silva (who's written these MFCC articles) snapped the above photo of a scorpion during the MFCC group trip. The scorpion had been sitting on a kitchen towel on the counter for who knows how long, and when John went to pick up the towel, it of course thought it was under attack and stung his hand.  Of course all is well now, but at the time, I'm sure it couldn't have felt very good!

John's wife Michelle also had a run in with a scorpion!  As she was falling blissfully into sleep she soon felt something on her chest. Apparently a scorpion was trying to snuggle up next to her for the night. Thanks to adrenaline, Michelle instinctively swatted the scorpion onto the floor, where it was eventually dispatched by John's foot.

Jane Simpson found herself in a similar situation. A scorpion landed on her during the night, unleashing a quick bite before getting swatted away.

As mentioned earlier on, scorpions in Costa Rica aren't poisonous, and really aren't anything to be concerned about. However I'd prefer to never see them!  It also quickly became a nightly ritual to do scorpion checks before falling asleep too!

4) Don't Smile At The Monkeys!

One of the first things people will tell you when you see capuchin monkeys is to never show your teeth. You can smile, but it needs to be a closed mouth smile. You can talk to them, but only if you talk to them as if you are basically a ventriloquist.  

The reason for this is because capuchin monkeys show their aggression with their teeth. You might think one is smiling at you with those gleaming white fangs of theirs, but in reality they are more or less hissing at you like a cat. That is your first warning.  

So there I was, riding a friends' horse down the trails at the Arena Alta Reserve, when I heard branches crashing above my head. I knew immediately that it was monkeys, but I was on a part of the trail that had been recently home to a group of howler monkeys, which are much nicer than capuchins.

I stopped my horse and looked up into the trees, so happy to be this close to monkeys, smiling with a full set of teeth as I waited to see my first glimpse of what I thought were howler monkeys (pictured above). 

Before I knew it, one of the bigger monkeys jumped down to a branch that was at eye level.  to my surprise, it was not a holwer, but a capuchin! The monkey glared and hissed at me with his fangs in full view.

I was terrified, but my horse could not of cared less!

I could hear the other monkeys making their way down to me, so I kicked my horse to go forward and we got out of there in the nick of time.  I turned around to see the whole family staring at me, all glaring their teeth.

We chose a different trail home that day.

5) The Food

One of the best parts of traveling to Costa Rica is getting to enjoy all the fresh foods.  Everywhere you look, there are mango, lime, papaya, plantain and other sorts of fruit trees.  There are also wonderful people in town like our friend Nadia, who is originally from Italy, who bakes up fresh focaccia breads and pizzas, and can even make you homemade pastas, raviolis and lasagnas.  

About an hour down the road is a little surfer town called Pavones, where you can find fresh salads, juices, sandwiches and the most amazing iced coffee, blended with frozen banana and cacao nibs.

The fresh fish is of course abundant as well.  At almost every restaurant, you will find fresh ceviches and of course fish dishes of either a whole cooked fish or a filet.

On our second groups last night, we were treated to a delicious coastal Italian dinner at Macondos, a restaurant owned by Daniel, who lives half of the year in Italy.  The dinner consisted of giant boiled and seasoned shrimp, fresh bruschetta, pastas with a spicy red sauce and a delicious Alfredo sauce made that morning, and fresh-caught tuna steaks and mahi mahi.  It was an incredible dinner! 

For our MFCC guests, every morning they were treated to a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, consisting of eggs, gallo pinto, fried cheese and fried plantains.  The fried cheese was definitely everyones favorite!

For lunches, it was usually a quick salsa with some tortilla chips, or if you have leftover beans in the fridge, a quick tostada works too!

With all this fresh food, it's no wonder I returned home feeling better than I did when I left!

6) The People

This is by far one of the closest and best communities of people I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  Everyone knows everyone, get's together for dinners and celebrates the sunsets every evening on the beach.  

On Sundays, Robbie hosts Bloody Sunday's, where he serves up huge Bloody Mary's complete with an entire lunch skewered into the drink. Everyone in town goes, followed by horseshoes in the evening at Sol Y Mar.

Sol Y Mar hosts the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving, and practically every other holiday, while also hosting different bands each night that get the whole town out for a night of dinner and dancing.  

Caroline, another restaurant owner in town, hosts big buffet dinners every once in a while for the town, where you can get an absolutely incredible meal for about $8, sitting a big communal tables, talking to the residents with all the little kids running around playing.  

There's also the opportunity to be totally by yourselves, and just have a quiet night.  You can easily feel like you're on a deserted island if you want, but both options are yours for the taking.  

Coming Up Next Saturday

I hope my stories gave you more of a chuckle than a scare, and showed you just how incredible this part of the world really is!

Coming up next Saturday at 9:30am is a new Costa Rica post by Ryan about an enormous jack crevalle he hooked from shore on light tackle. 

This fish nearly spooled him and took  Ryan 30 minutes to get in.

And if you're ever interested in seeing this piece of paradise for yourself, then let us know! 

Please stay tuned!

Happy Traveling 🌞

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. Hey there will be headed down in July. We live hunt and fish the Texas coast so used to catching the jacks and spanish/king smacks. What setup were you using down there? I was looking for carry on travel rods and noticed some okuma nomad which might be good. Good enough to use and not too good that you won’t cry if they ‘disappear’. Have a bunch of penn battle II 6K’s that we use for redfish and blacktips. Think these will be ok for casting from the beach? They can stop 100# blacktips all day long with braid. Can you talk a little more about the gear you were using from butt to lure thanks! Matt

    1. For small jacks and mackerel I was using a Van Staal VR50 spinning reel ( paired with a Tsunami Travel Rod TSCS703M. It’s a very light setup, but a lot of fun with small fish.

      3/8oz pink Mighty Fish epoxy jigs worked great on the macks and jacks ( 20lb moss green Power Pro braid ( and 20lb Seagur fluorocarbon leader ( with a 75lb Tactical Angler clip (

      For larger jacks, roosters, dorado and even small yellowfin tuna I was using a Van Staal VR150, with 30lb Power Pro, 30lb Seagur fluoro, and a 7.5ft travel rod from St. Croix (

      I fish mostly sandy beaches in Costa Rica, and I wade way out to my chest, so I actually prefer the smaller rods as opposed to larger 10ft traditional surfcasting poles. However on some beaches, especially beaches with huge surf and rocks, you would definitely want a larger surf rod. Fortunately St. Croix and other companies make 4 piece 9 and 10 foot surf rods for these situations.

      I hope that helps. Stay tuned this coming Saturday for another Costa Rica post here on MFCC. We have a lot in the pipeline! 🎣

  2. Great write up Lauren! Costa Rica looks like a great place! I have to admit, the scorpions…….yikes!

    1. They’re really not that bad, and you rarely see them I swear! This was the first year with encounters like this – it really is a wonderful place 🙂

      1. I don’t know about Jane, but I found the scorpion sting to be extremely painful, more like “a thousand” bee stings. Maybe it was because I literally grabbed the (hidden) thing with my hand when I reached for the towel. Luckily the pain was lessoned somewhat by the obligatory “jump around waving your hand while swearing intensely” treatment. It was nice of my wife Michelle to serve as scorpion bait that night so that we were finally able to locate and dispatch the nasty little snotbag.

        I’d say that the Italian dinner at Macondos was the highlight of the trip. One of the best dinners we’ve ever enjoyed.



    Even with the 🦂, I’d love to return, perhaps I’d pack a few of these in my checked bag. 😊

    1. I can’t believe they sell those at HD! Those are definitely going on my packing list for next year lol!

  4. Lauren, what a wonderful place you and Ryan have found and your literary talent is very evident. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much Ron! Maybe we’ll get you down there for a trip!

  5. Such great memories Lauren. Can’t wait to get back to C.R.

    You are a great writer! I see a novel in your future.
    Perhaps in the Hemingway spirit-say “The Young Girl and
    the Sea”
    Sorry to see your spring is starting on the Cape with a
    nor’easter but daffodil blossoms are just around the corner.

    Hope to see you and Ryan again soon! — Tom

    1. Thank you so much Tom! It was such a fun week with you guys! The birds are chirping around here and my daff’s and hyacinths are coming up!! Sou;don’t be happier to see them! Hope to see you both again soon!


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