If you’ve ever dreamed of catching a monster Pacific Sailfish, do I have good news for you? Costa Rica is the hands down leading place on earth to catch Mr. Needle nose, and it’s affordable!
I fished around the world from Guam to the Persian Gulf, Alaska to New Zealand, during my military career but now that I’m retired, Uncle Sam doesn ‘t pay me to travel anymore and I find fishing exotic waters financially restrictive. Last winter I tucked away a few dollars every payday to feed my fishing habit then I talked my wife Donna into taking a fishing vacation with me to Costa Rica. Her twin brother David Witt, a charter captain from Charleston South Carolina, and his wife Lisa also went along which reduced our charter costs and added some welcome company. Having never fished the waters of Costa Rica before, I immediately jumped into research mode once the decision to go was made. What I found was an unexpected great deal in fishing. Let me give you some details.
Costa Rica has, what Costa Ricans affectionately call, the “Green Season” from May thru November. It’s so named because everything is expected to turn green under the influence of daily downpours of rain! But there’s an upside. When the rains come down, so do the prices of local hotels and fishing charters. The average full day charter drops by approximately $200 from the high season rate and averages about $750. Hotels can range from as little as $50 per day for a basic bed and shower to a luxury suite running in the hundreds of dollars per night. Remember, these are “Green Season” prices that go back up during the winter months. That’s all fine and dandy you say, but how is the fishing during green season?
I read volumes about the great fishing in the winter months. There were numerous tales of boating over 25 billfish in a single day, but not a word about green season! I decided to find fishing reports for a few of the boats in Coast Rica. What I found was that most of them stopped reporting in April! It wasn’t looking good for a green season fishing trip. Everything I read said December and January were the prime fishing months for the southern portion of the country. The bill fish population supposedly moves further north as summer approaches until the peak fishing for the summer occurs in the far north of the country. Still, there were reports of big Black Marlin in the area as far south as Panama. I decided to fish the middle of the road, so to speak, and targeted Quepos on the central Pacific coast. Because of the lack of information on summer fishing conditions, I phoned one of the charter companies operating out of Quepos for some first hand news. I not only received promising fishing reports, but hotel recommendations and even reservations through a very nice lady by the name of Leanne Batten. Leanne is VP for marketing with Quepos Sail Fishing Charters. She not only made hotel reservations for us, but also arranged for air transportation from San Jose to Quepos on a local commuter airline. Best of all, she lined us up with what turned out to be the best boat in Quepos, a 33 foot Strike. The only things left for me to do were to secure round trip tickets between Knoxville, Tennessee and San Jose and pray the fish would be in Quepos.
The four of us took a thirty minute flight from Knoxville to Atlanta, then a four hour flight on to San Jose. The round trip was booked three months in advance and was just over $400 each. The nineteen minute round trip flight from San Jose to Ouepos was approximately $50 each and provided views that were worth that and more. There is a twenty five pound luggage limit on the commuter flight, so pack wisely. The round trip bus fare from the small jungle strip in Quepos to our hotel, a twenty minute ride, was $10 each. As I said, hotels vary in price depending on what you can fit into your budget. I wanted everyone to enjoy the stay as much as the fishing so I picked what was lauded as the best hotel in the area, the Se Como No. We had a very nice air conditioned room with a king size bed for $150 per night. It included an unbelievable buffet breakfast every morning and an equally unbelievable view of the Pacific from our jungle balcony. We arrived there mid Sunday afternoon, rested up for dinner and enjoyed a great nights sleep afterwards. Monday we relaxed around one of the two hotel pools, did a little shopping and arranged for transportation to the pier the next morning.
We arrived at the pier around 6:30 AM. The local official opened the gates to allow us in and issued each of us a required one year fishing permit for $25. Further out on the pier we were greeted by a waiting crew, anxious to fish. Our Captain, Cheppi, was well weathered and charred by the sun but exuded confidence and handled the boat around the pier and other boats as if he were born at the helm. Jorge, the first mate who’s nickname is Cheetah, spoke very good English and was all smiles. As we pulled away from the pier he briefed us on the previous few days of fishing, made sure we were all comfortable and familiar with the boat then went right to work rigging ballyhoo. In just under an hour we were trolling on a calm ocean, not a cloud in the sky. Remember, this was in the green season!
The fishing action was more than I could have hoped for. In two days of fishing we raised a total of seventeen Sailfish. Most of the fish ranged in weights between 120 to 130 lbs. On day two we found ourselves in a school of Tuna being chased by bottle nose dolphins. The jumping fish and dolphins could be seen from horizon to horizon. We quickly switched from Ballyhoo to cedar Tuna plugs and began two hours of nonstop action. Cheetah kept himself busy taking fish off the lines and preparing fresh sashimi for us. The fish box was completely full of Tuna as we returned to our pursuit of Sailfish. We took one good size Tuna and a Bull Dolphin, caught earlier in the day, back to our hotel where the hotel chef prepared them for our dinner. The remaining Tuna were taken by the crew for family, friends and the local market.
We had only one passing shower during the five day green season stay. When all was said and done, we returned home with many fond memories of a wonderful fishing vacation for approximately $860 per person. You can reduce this total by as much as $250 by staying in a less expensive hotel, but be sure to add breakfast back in.
A dream of a lifetime did come true for us in Costa Rica. We’re already planning a return trip.