I’m so glad we decided to spend the weekend at the beach. Canoa is touristy, but with our ability to speak Spanish, our experience of the beach town is different than Puerto Viejo, its equivalent in Costa Rica. For starters, we walked around the town and picked a relatively quiet hostel with campsites near the beach. We didn’t know it at the time, but every guest there is Spanish-speaking, with long hair or dreads, bronzed skin, and instruments slung over their shoulders. The atmosphere is friendly, positive, and low-key.

A few steps away from the hostel’s split-bamboo doors is the strand, lined with tiki bars selling ceviche and overpriced cocktails. Just beyond, we come to a wide expanse of sand. West-facing, the public beach offers fine yellow sand, endless blue ocean, countless bamboo tents with lounge chairs, and a variety of vendors hawking jewelry, beer, ice cream, hats, water, and local sweets. Flocks of pelicans swoop single-file over the surf, while tiny crabs scuttle across the sand, dodging shorebirds and tourists alike.

Scuttling crab

Scuttling crab

Eeeeeee!!!! It's so cute!

Eeeeeee!!!! It’s so cute!

A couple of surfers are trying their skill at the bigger waves in the distance, but the sea is calm and most will come back later. Closer in, groups of local children are digging holes and burying siblings and parents in the hot sand. The tide is out, and a family of local fishermen is dragging their boat hundreds of meters toward the sea. Eventually, they hit open water and motor off into the distance.

The beach is crowded, but not unpleasant. A warm breeze keeps the heat bearable, and our canvas and bamboo tent offers a good view for drawing and people-watching. Ellen is spending the morning sketching a likeness of the beach scene, complete with hundred-meter cliffs towering over the north end of the cove. I’m watching small birds chasing after brilliant butterflies, swooping and diving, bickering over their catches. We pause to admire the wares of a jewelry vendor who stops by. His necklaces and earrings are lovely, but we don’t need any.

Beautiful cliffs in the distance

Beautiful cliffs in the distance

Ellen decides to go for a splash in the waves, but turns back after a few meters. She’s found a butterfly the birds killed and dropped, and places it gently on her lounge chair before returning to the surf. The family in the tent next door notice and come visit to look at it. They had hoped it was a crab, but ask if they can take a photo of it nonetheless.

Ellen is so far out now, her head is just a dark speck amongst the white lines of breaking surf in the distance. I get distracted by my beer, and turn back to see I can’t spot her anymore. There are lots of heads out there, barely visible against the waves. Two of the little bobbing heads move enough like Ellen that I’m not worried for her, but I keep my eyes open just in case. A moment later, I recognize her bathing suit on a tiny stick figure emerging from the waves. She takes a few steps out of the water onto the sand, and then gets tempted by one last big wave. After a final satisfying splash, she starts walking back to the tent. It’s my turn for a swim, and I’m more than ready. Again she stops to examine something in the wet sand. I suppose I can wait a little longer. It’s Friday, and I’m on the beach.

(After I got back from my swim, Ellen told me that she’d read my journal and the thing she stopped for was an aquamarine millipede, trundling through the sand. Neat! And no privacy between sisters, I tell you!)