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I spent a week at Bahia Salinas at the beginning of February. Truthfully, it's a great cultural experience but a very "meh" kiting experience. Let me try and sort a bunch of stuff out for you that may not be readily available without reading through tons of forum posts.
Blue dream and Kite house are both kite "hostels" for lack of a better term. Kite House is up on a hill fairly close to the beach, a quick 5 min walk down the rocky shore and you're there. Blue dream is far as fuck away from the beach but apparently they provide rides to and from the beach. Oh btw, blue dream was shut down when we got there because they didn't have running water (or bathroom facilities).
Cometa Copal is run by Bob (great guy!) and he rents a bunch of cabinas up the hill, which are probably 100 yards from Kite House. However, these cabinas are pretty gnarly. It's 3rd world living for the most part. Exposed 50 amp wiring going to an "instant" hot water heater at the end of the shower head. As you turn the heater on to get hot water, the lights in the bathroom and the rest of the cabina dim. The hot plate stoves will shock you as you're cooking on them. We got in the habit of standing on a bunch of towels. The bunk beds had "mattresses" that are maybe an inch thick and you feel everything under you. The bunk beds have mattresses laying on 2-3 planks (seriously, we didn't even try using it).

AC isn't an option.
All the properties there are very similar to this. If you're looking for something even close to 'modern' Hotel EcoPlaya is up the road a bit (10 minutes) and has rooms with real beds, AC, and showers. Still can't flush your toilet paper, the hot water cuts out sometimes, and light switches sometimes fall off the wall -- but it's the nicest accommodations out there. Also, Hotel Ecoplaya is roughly $110 USD/night. I'm ok with primitive camping (what the other places are like) but others traveling with me couldn't take it.
That covers lodging.

As far as the kiting itself goes, it's not great either. My biggest gripe is how gusty conditions are. One minute you'll be barely planing on a 12m. The next minute you're holding on for dear life trying not to get sucked out to sea. I believe the saying was "rig for the lulls and hold on tight".

So while there WAS WIND EVERY DAY, it wasn't clean wind at all. I could probably excuse that if that were the only thing. The bay is filled with stingrays who will jack your shit up so fast. We had two guys who got jabbed on day 1. Talking to the locals, apparently people get stabbed every week so it's a fairly common occurrence. Having grown up on the eastern coastline I'm familiar with shuffling your feet to scare skates off HOWEVER, that doesn't really work here since the ground is all rocks. We had people shuffling and still get jabbed.
One of my buddies got nicked and thought it was just a crab. The pain wasn't even noticeable. 10 minutes later he felt like his leg was getting sawed off at the knee by a plastic butter knife (his words). Bob is a great guy, and trained EMT. He had all the fixings of a south american pharmacy including a whole suite of hypodermic needles. Basically they treat sting ray wounds by boiling water, pouring the boiling water over your leg, and then massaging it with a hot ceramic mug. The heat denatures the proteins in the venom. Think about that. You'll gladly tell someone to pour boiling water on your leg because the pain is that bad.
I got in the habit of tapping the ground in front of me using the tail of my board, in addition to shuffling. Then body dragging as soon as I could to get the rest of the way out.

Anyways, aside from the rays there are also venmous sea snakes in abundance. I mean everywhere. They're hanging out on the beach, they're in the water next to you as you're bobbing around, they're fucking everywhere. Also, they were described to me as "2 step snakes" - as in you get bit, you take two steps, and you die. A little wikipedia research indicates it's not really 2 steps, but more like 10. You'll have a bad day real fast. That being said, they're not aggressive at all and most of the locals would pick them up by the tail and throw them in the brush when they found them on the beach.

There were also jelly fish but I was too busy worrying about the rest of the shit out there to give them too much attention (except when boosting and praying not to crash directly on top of a pod of them).
The beach itself is highly affected by tides. You'll walk down in the morning and you'll have 25 yards of rocky but open beach. By lunch time there's barely room for a single kite. You have to be diligent about moving them around throughout the day.
Also not much shade or shelter on the beach. It's all exposed except for a few lone trees that people end up congregating around while resting. I setup a hammock and took naps between sessions.
The bay itself has some interesting wind features as well. The wind is a south east wind that blows from the mainland out to sea. On one end of the bay you have a serious wind shadow that sucks a lot of people downwind fast if they're not adept at shooting at and up quickly. If you get sucked out, there's an island (Isla Bolanos) out there that has a nice wind channel on the south side you can use to get back upwind pretty easily.

Ulf is an austrian guy who moved down to Costa Rica for kiting years ago, got good at it, had a really scary kite mare, gave up kiting, and now owns the land by the beach, runs the kitchen on premise, and leases space to Bob to run Cometa Copal. Ulf makes some damn good food. Each meal is around $10 USD. Meals are made in an outdoor kitchen over a wood fire.
Ulf also runs tours to Nicaragua. He's studied the history and is a great tour guide. It's around $200 USD for an entire day tour. We got a bunch of us to go in on it and got to kite Lake Nicaragua next to some volcanos. Much better kiting, fresh water, and not filled with tons of critters to mess up your day. Also the history was great!

There is no social scene. I repeat, there is no night life or things to do aside from kite, eat, or sit around. It is not like many of the other kite beach towns that you might find in south america or the caribbean. Basically you're in the middle of farm land way way out there.
Bob is the guy to take lessons from. He's a patient and good natured guy. He splits his time between New Jersey (EMT and firefighter I believe) and Bahia Salinas.

In short - I'm glad I went and got the full experience of kiting there, but it would not be near the top of my list of places to go back to.
Feel free to ask me any other specific questions. Also here's my photo album from the trip on facebook.

  1. kite_nomad

    nice report and photos, thanks for posting this up. Still plan to visit despite the rays and snakes.

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Submitted Thu, 18 Jul, 2013, by
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