The next destination after La Cruz is the Gold Coast, a 115-mile strip of fair-weather sailing with plenty of beautiful stops and anchorages. Unfortunately, since we were somewhat behind our “schedule”, we decided to skip much of the Gold Coast and head straight to Bahía Tenacatita for some long-awaited snorkeling. The cruise took a little over 24 hours, with one of the most comfortable night sailing we’ve had, close-hauled with the following sea.
Once we anchored in Boca de Iguana, alongside some 20 other sailboats, we jumped right in the water to escape the heat. Gidget, always wanting to be near us, jumped right after. She quickly remembered that she isn’t very fond of swimming; she started chasing after us, splashing about and scratching us trying to get a good grip. The panic look in her face as she was swimming around was priceless. Jerrad had to get back on the boat to pull her out of the water. She watched us carefully for the rest of our swim but dared not join us again.
Two things we wanted to do here was snorkeling and kayaking through the tidal estuary that was referred to as the jungle river cruise in our guidebook (actually, I only wanted to go snorkeling but Jerrad convinced me to do the jungle river cruise as well). The trip, according to the map in the book, should take us right to Playa Escolleras where snorkeling was said to be pristine and palapa cantinas abound for some seafood lunch. Perfect, kill two birds with one stone.
Off we went in our kayak cruising along the channel. Bird watchers and enthusiasts should enjoy this trip since there are plenty of colorful birds around (which we have not even the slightest idea of what kinds they are. Jerrad made up some fancy names like the “Tenacatita white bird” or the “famous black bird of Tenacatita”). There were also iguanas and even crocodiles (which we didn’t see). As we glided on our kayak along the mangrove-lined river, the waters was clear and flat that the reflection was picture perfect, and the only noise you hear is that of the birds. It was a very tranquil experience and it seemed like it was going to be a very relaxing ride down to the beach, or so I thought.
As we kept going, the channel became more and more narrowed. The roots of the mangroves slowly encroached upon the channel, making it nearly impossible to paddle. The water turned mucky grey, and mosquitoes were buzzing all over us with ravenous hunger. The tranquil channel had indeed become a jungle river. We made a brief stop to lather ourselves with mosquito repellent and continued along with the motivation of a promising snorkeling and delicious lunch at the beach palapa. Like a couple of Olympic athletes determined to take the gold we pressed on. Alas, a clearing! We could hear the waves crashing on the beach; we had to be close now. At the T-shaped clearing we turned left and saw the finish line: a makeshift wooden dock. This had to be the way to get to the beach.
We stepped off the kayak onto the dock only to see an abandoned rendezvous spot and all beach access fenced-off. Nobody was there. My spirit sunk to the deepest level of disappointment; we were hungry, hot and ready for the beach but the only thing to do is go back through the mosquito-laden jungle river with only a few crackers to hold us over. When we finally made it back to the beach we started from we decided to eat lunch at the campground cantina and console ourselves with a refreshing piña colada.
Determined to Hell bent on going snorkeling, the following day we decided to kayak the 6-mile round trip. So we paddled, passing Punta Chubasco, between the rocky outcrop and across the bay, to Punta Hermanos where Playa Escolleras was. The area was indeed abandoned with buildings that were either torn down or empty. No palapas or cantinas to be found (we later learned that this was due to some land dispute). It might be a good thing, since less tourism would surely guarantee a healthier reef.
The coral reefs were only a few feet away from the beach. The water was clear and turquoise, and the snorkeling was indeed pristine along this area. All kinds of fish swam around the colorful coral, as well as sea snakes and stingrays. It was beautiful. However, right next to all this vibrant beauty, there were areas of dead coral, serving as a stark reminder of what even a little careless human activity can do to an ecosystem.
Bahía Tenacatita along the Gold Coast was definitely worth the stop. The bay is calm, and we could easily paddle our kayak to the campground palapa where we could enjoy a nice lunch, relax in the shade, listen to the waves and stare off into the bay. Or if it suited us better, take a walk along the beach. The beach itself was never crowded, making it an ideal spot to play with Gidget. Horseback riding was also available from the tourist hotel nearby. And if you ever make it here go snorkeling at Playa Escolleras, take a load off and just enjoy the beauty.