The trees dance to the whistle of the blustery breeze that moves through SalinasBay deep into the night.
Wind is becoming an increasingly important facet of life here, in a ranching community where the infectious bustle of Costa Rica’s tourism and real estate industry seems ready to blow a gust of change through this windswept beach town on the northernmost point of the country’s Pacific coast.
The main attraction: an adrenaline-packed mutt of an extreme water sport, kite surfing.
“It’s freakin’ windy here,” said Nicola Bertoldi, who has been teaching kite surfing here for eight years. As many as 70% of the visitors who come want to kite surf, he said.
Bertoldi last year opened Blue Dream Hotel and Spa (www.bluedreamhotel.com), a hotel, restaurant and bar within walking distance from the beach. His is one of several tourism businesses that have opened or expanded in this breezy corner of Costa Rica, where “For Sale” signs at every turn suggest a lively real estate market.
“This bay’s considered one of the windiest in the world,” said the laid-back Italian Bertoldi. “I don’t think people like so much to go to a place where you can’t stand on the beach.”
SalinasBay hasn’t quite felt the development boom that many beach communities have in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
But as the nearby provincial capital of Liberia buds as a commercial and logistical hub centered around the DanielOduberInternationalAirport, SalinasBay isn’t much farther a drive than Tamarindo and other popular tourist beaches for those flying in.
Though the wind that makes SalinasBay the perfect spot for kite surfers may scare away leisurely beachgoers, some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful – and less windy – beaches lie just beyond the bay, dotting a tiny peninsula that juts out like a sand fist into the Pacific.
“A lot of tourism is coming from all parts of the world. The market is opening up more,” said Omar Solano, manager of the 15-year-old Bolaños Bay Resort (676-1163), which overlooks Playa Jobo. The next beach over, Playa Rajada, which on a given morning you might not see a single soul, is a popular spot for snorkeling. A quick boat trip away is Isla Bolaños, a scuba diver’s paradise; a couple beaches over is a prime fishing spot.
“This is the real Costa Rica,” said sponsored kite surfer and four-year SalinasBay resident Kent Graninger. “I like living on a dirt road.”
Talk of paving the road in front of Graninger’s residence – which he has converted into a quaint, low-key hostel called La Sandía – has the tiny town, where the main social event is the rodeo, talking.
“There are a lot of plans,” he said, adding that he’s heard of several residential development plans around the bay. Whether anything will come of the plans is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, SalinasBay’s future seems to be blowing in the wind.
“The wind – for as many people who don’t like it, there’s someone who does,”Graninger said. “And it keeps the bugs away.”
On the afternoons, colorful crescents dot the beachfront at SalinasBay.
Though Bertoldi has been offering kite surfing lessons at his Kitesurfing 2000 school for eight years – in what he claims is Central America’s first such school – other kite surfing instructors such as Graninger are finding their way on the scene. He and partners offer kite surfing lessons out on Isla Bolaños. Graninger also sells kites at La Sandía (www.lasandia-costarica.com) hotel and restaurant, which he runs with his girlfriend, Lucie Cordier, an excellent French cook. Blue Dreams sells new and used gear as well. They both rent out gear to those who aren’t afraid to grab the bar. A beginner’s lesson, which takes a minimum of eight hours, starts at $240.
So if it’s the windy season (November to May), grab onto the bar, but don’t forget to let go of it if you’re headed for danger. Kite surfing can be a treacherous sport.
“I always wear a helmet,” said Laurent Francioli, joking with friends after his kite dragged him into the side of a truck. A swollen puff of a scar on his shoulder tells the story of when his kite raked him across some rocks.