San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Caribbean sea creatures in the ‘Summatime’

From the print edition

Sweet summertime might be happening right now as you read these words. Sure, some Costa Ricans call this time of year invierno, meaning rainy season. But guess what many Ticos also call what happens on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica around October: summatime.

Shawn Larkin

Shawn Larkin

They say it that way not just because they speak patois, but because that’s how you say it when you are chillin’ in the cool Caribbean, perhaps a favorite treat in hand, under a flawless blue sky, golden sunshine reflecting emerald green off lush rain forest. It just happens.

While much of Costa Rica gets recharged by rains at this time, weather patterns cause the most frequent downpours on the Pacific slope of Costa Rican mountains and volcanoes. A fresh and dry breeze blows down the Caribbean slope and smooshes the waves flat. With no waves and no rain, the ocean turns clear and reflects blue. Sea creatures migrate over the mountains to bathe in island-like conditions.

The creatures come by bus, bike, car, horse and foot. Often when they first see the sea, they act a little funny, maybe even do a little dance, and run and jump in. There is something about the idyllic beaches of the Caribbean that satisfies a primordial longing and brings out the sea creature in all of us.

On any given summer day, on the south Caribe coast, you might find hundreds of divers and snorkelers flying over the coral reefs between Cahuita and Punta Mona. It would be hard to count all the people sitting in the beach shade or swimming in the sea, because there are so many hidden little beaches and swim spots. You and yours could find your own a short walk from any of the popular beaches.

Paddleboards, kayaks and boats launch from many beaches as well. No marinas here, just toes in the sand. Gliding over the shallow reefs with transparent water and fish darting showcases the size and diversity of Costa Rican Caribbean reefs. From the size of a board to that of a city block, the patch reefs blur by, shooting colors like laser beams.

Dive in below the waves and colors grow even brighter. Yes, most of the reef is dead or dying, but there is still more coral now than there will likely be for the rest of your life. You might take the kids to see the coral before it continues its trend of changing to algae. Some swimmers like the fact that most of the big fish are gone and there are mostly little colorful ones now, nothing too scary.

In fact snorkeling, diving, ocean paddleboarding, kayaking and boating don’t get much easier than they are on the flat seas of a Caribe summatime. The only problem seems to be when it’s time to get out of the water. Many people just want to stay.

As climate change from burning so much oil takes effect, like brain changes in a crackhead burning rock, our weather patterns seem to be getting harsher. So who knows if summer will happen this year, or how long it will last, but it used to every year. A quick check with any local hotel or business should let you know what’s up. Just ask, is it summatime?

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