Costa Rica I: Surprises, Deep Sea Fishing, and Exploring the Osa Peninsula

Coming back in at the end of a long day of fishing.
Crocodile Bay Resort, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.
Being part of Columbia Sportswear's #OmniTen program requires that, among other things, you're always prepared for surprises.

Back in April, I got a phone call. "Can you swing nine days of vacation in June? You can? Great! Do you have a passport? You do? Great! We'll send information soon, but not much, and keep this trip a secret."

Throughout the month of May, I got a questions about sizing clothes and shoes, a short packing list, and one-way plane tickets to and from Atlanta. In early June, a duffel full of brightly colored Columbia PFG and casual apparel arrived. A week later, a smaller duffel with Spring '16 Columbia PFG and active apparel arrived, complete with laminated cards with outfits I'd need to wear on specific days of the trip.

But as far as information about where I were going, what I'd be doing, and who else was coming,  I was kept almost completely in the dark.

Being a planner, surprises are tough for me, especially surprises this substantial. In an attempt to quell my curiosity, I did some pre-trip detective work based on our packing list. I looked up countries that accept US currency, require a passport, give visitors access to large bodies of water (an assumption based on the amount of PFG gear), don't require an electrical converter, and where neon-colored clothing would be appropriate. I had it narrowed down to eight countries by the time I left Philadelphia, but that's as far as I'd gotten.

Traveling to Our Mystery Destination

The #OmniTen crew and our guides on the second day of fishing.
All of our apparel is part of Columbia's Spring '16 PFG line.
I walked into the international terminal in Atlanta on June 14th and found fellow #OmniTen member Weston Shirey and freestyle skier Dylan Ferguson waiting for me. Fellow season one #OmniTen member Katie Boué would join us the next day. The "big reveal" of the mystery destination came when Weston and I had to print boarding passes to check our bags. We found out we'd be heading to Costa Rica! I'd never been there and couldn't wait to hear more about what we'd be doing, but as predicted, the Columbia team didn't tell us anything more than "you're going to Costa Rica! Now, get on the plane and get ready for some fun."

Details emerged when we landed in the capital city of San José, including a six to eight hour bus ride down the Pacific side of the country to Puerto Jiménez, home to some of the best deep sea fishing in Central America. After boarding our bus, the presence of legends like Bob Izumi and Chad Hoover along with media folks like Chris Woodward and Anthony Licata made it clear we were doing some sort of fishing. I couldn't wait to learn from some of the best in the business, but most details about our itinerary and destination were still under wraps.

The bus ride took us through beautiful small towns along some of the windiest, steepest roads I've been on, most of which didn't have any lines painted on them. After a few quick stops and a few wrong turns in the dark, we arrived at our destination. I didn't know until much later in the trip, but Crocodile Bay Resort, nestled outside the town of Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula, has the largest sport fishing team in Central America. We checked in, met the absolutely amazing staff, got our fishing licenses, and I fell asleep to the sounds of the rainforest.

Inshore and Offshore Fishing at the Crocodile Bay Resort

Our morning routine: Wake up at 5am, eat breakfast, walk to the Crocodile Bay Resort pier, get on a boat, go fishing.
Though I couldn't see much at night, the resort's beautiful villas, landscaping, and the pool, complete with a swim-up bar and hot tub, were in full view the morning of the 16th, our first of four mornings at the Crocodile Bay Resort. After breakfast, we split into groups of four or five, as would be the case each day. Unfortunately, a half hour after boarding, we had engine trouble on the boat I'd been assigned to with writer and general superwoman Nancy Bouchard and had to head back to the pier.

Sporting my favorite top, the PFG Zero Tank, heading out
for the second day of fishing. (Photo by W. Shirey.)
After hearing the engine repairs would take hours, our crew jumped aboard a smaller boat and spent the rest of the day fishing in shore. Roosterfish, snapper, and bonito were among the fish we could've snagged, but despite our best efforts, our boat came back empty handed. The high season runs from December through April, so fishing was predictably slow. Though I'd still had a great day out on the ocean swimming and attempting to catch fish, the Crocodile Bay staff gave us certificates for a complimentary massages at the resort's spa to compensate us for the engine trouble and late start. It was incredibly relaxing, and I enjoyed the catch of the day for dinner, grateful that some of the other boats had better luck than we did.

The second day of fishing, the 17th, was only slightly more successful, but significantly more fun. Off shore fishing is more complicated and equipment-intensive than I expected. The boat's mate rigged up long teasers, short teasers, and two baited hooks while the captain schooled us on how to drop the bait just in front of the teaser when a fish comes into view. I also had the chance to drive the boat for a little while; luckily, we were already in the open ocean with an absence of obstacles. The #OmniTen were all assigned to the same boat with a functioning engine and we headed directly off shore.

Katie learning how to off shore fish from the best - our
Crocodile Bay Resort boat captain.
We trolled at six or seven knots all day, and though the morning was uneventful, we found a school of bonito in the afternoon. The four of us took turns on a rod with a PENN spinner reel, and every time we dropped a lure in the water, we caught a fish. Bonito aren't great for eating, so each time we caught one, it went right back into the water, or into the boat's tank to be used as bait for bigger fish. I managed to catch one small (10-12") yellowfin tuna, and coupled with another boat's much larger tuna, we got sashimi for dinner. There's absolutely nothing like eating fish hours after it's caught.

But the best part of the second day of fishing wasn't the fishing. As we prepared to head back into shore through a giant rain cloud, our captain spotted a school of spinner dolphins. As we approached, they surrounded the boat, playing in the wake and swimming around the bow. Being in the open ocean 90 minutes from shore with hundreds of beautiful, elegant creatures swimming around us made me feel small and insignificant, but completely in awe. It was a perfect way to end the fishing portion of the trip.

Exploring Puerto Jiménez and the Osa Peninsula

While the fishing media and professional fishermen headed out for a third day on the ocean, the #OmniTen and the Colubmia media crew drove into the tiny town of Puerto Jiménez to explore. Despite being home to less than 2,000 people, it's the largest town on the Osa Peninsula. Our goal was to get to know the town, and to shoot photos and videos of us in some of Columbia's Spring '16 lifestyle apparel. We got to know a small section of the main part of town, met a handful of folks who live in the area, and hopped a city bus as part of the photo and video shoots. One of the locals cracked open a coconut for me, and boy does fresh coconut water taste incredible.

I have a significant amount of respect for real models and their photographers after the photo shoot portions of our trip. It's hard work! Here, Dylan and I have some of the Spring '16 lifestyle apparel on, and it was about 1,000ºF. (Photo by W. Shirey.)
Then, it was off to the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve for photo and video shoots in some of the Spring '16 activewear and Columbia's new Outdry Extreme jackets. We took a Toyota Land Cruiser up and down some incredibly steep, muddy, gnarly terrain, stopping for bird watching and exploring along the way. We saw tanagers, scarlet macaws, hummingbirds, parrots, and a host of other birds through spotting scopes and flying overhead.

Dylan and I atop our trusty steed. (Photo by K. Boue.)
It felt wonderful to wander around the rainforest. I couldn't stop looking up at what I could see of the canopy, and taking lessons from our Crocodile Bay chaperone around flora and fauna. Right on cue, mid-afternoon, the skies opened up and the rain started, giving us ample time to see just how waterproof and breathable the new two layer Outdry Extreme jackets were. Then, it was back to Crocodile Bay to feast on the tuna and snapper brought in from the day's fishing expeditions.

Next week, we'll cover jungle ziplining, touring a Costa Rican coffee plantation, horseback riding into a jungle lodge, and more! Have you ever been to Costa Rica for fishing, or for other travel? Think you'd want to go? We'd love to hear from you!

Editor's Note: Travel, lodging, food, and related expenses were covered by Columbia Sportswear as part of this trip, but as always, the opinions and views expressed here are my own.


Heather Balogh said…
Yay! This trip looks AMAZING!
Heidi Henry said…
So flippin' rad!
Katie L said…
It was great to go fishing, I'd never done anything like that before! The only fish I'd ever caught were off of my mom's boat on the St. Lawrence River, so it was a big change :) Thanks for reading, Heidi!
Katie L said…
It was a blast, Heather! Thanks for reading and keeping up with Katie and I :)
100Peaks said…
So very cool! Glad that being on of the Omniten keeps having some perks!
Katie L said…
The Columbia team always has something up their sleeves, that's for sure! And I can't wait until some of the Spring '16 stuff we got to test comes out. Thanks for reading!