Bahia Salinas, Costa Rica - Some Insane Kiteboarding...
Bahia Salinas is located in the North Western corner of Costa Rica. It is located within 5 km of the Nicaraguan border, and gets some consistent, strong winds starting in November and continuing through April.
Trade winds + Venturi effect = Very strong winds.
Trade winds kicking up in November are magnified by the Venturi effect as they funnel into the valley. They continue throughout the dry season until April.
||15 – 23 knots.
||20 – 28 knots.
||24 – 30 knots.
||18 – 25 knots.
||15 – 25 knots.
Bahia Salinas is extremely windy! Winds average between 15 – 30 knots in the dry season, but can easily blow 30 or 40 knots. Due to the surrounding hills, the wind can be very gusty, with gusts of 10 knots.
KiteboardingEvolution Says – When we were in Bahia Salinas in December of 2009, 5 of 5 days were kitable, and the wind was in the range of 20 – 30 knots at some point each day. We were forced to sit out 1 day due to the winds being too strong (30 knots with 5 - 10 knot gusts), and a 9m kite was just too big.
At times the gusts were unbearable. It was very hard to choose a kite size when 20 knot winds commonly gusted upwards of 30 knots. In fact, it was so gusty that some days we all felt that we had been run over a truck.
The best kiteable wind blows East-South-East and South East in Bahia Salinas.
Where to Ride
The two main beaches are Playa Copal and Playa Papaturro.
Playa Copal – This was the busiest kite beach in Dec ’09, and all of the local schools and hotels came here to ride. The wind’s are generally sideshore / side-onshore depending on where you set up in the bay. Smooth water can be found upwind behind the offshore reef. High tide can produce 2-3 ft chop, while low tide yields the smoothest conditions.
Playa Papaturro – This beach was relatively un-used when we where there, but is very similar to Playa Copal. It lacks the upwind reef, so there are no butter flat places to ride (that we are aware of).
Bolanos Island – Bolanos Island is about 1 mile out into the bay, and has a nice reef that creates some very smooth riding conditions. The only way to get out to the island is to ride there from the mainland, which requires navigating some open water in the bay. This is not recommended for beginners, as the waves away from the beach can get quite large. The island itself is a wildlife refuge for rare seabirds, so if you land on the island do not dusturb any wildlife.
South of Playa Copal – On windy days (~25 kts), heading south of Playa Copal can bring you into some rolling waves (4 – 5 feet) for anyone who likes to ride waves.
The water in Bahia Salinas is warm – no wetsuit required.
There are several sheltered places (Playa Copal reef and Bolanos Island) where the water is smooth. Closer to the beach, the waves can be 2-3 feet during high tide, and less than 1 ft during low tide. South of Playa Copal can have 4-5 foot waves when the winds are stronger (25 knots +).
Strong Gusty Winds
The wind in Bahia Salinas can be extremely gusty. It’s very important to keep your kite close to the water after launching (to avoid lofting) and to body drag away from shore. Once riding, stay away from shore. Also, pay close attention to the kite sizes others are riding with, and if in doubt ask someone! The fellows from Kite Copal (Cometa Copal) are very helpful.
An Eagle Ray spotted near shore at
Both Yellow and Eagle Rays live in the bay, so try not to walk in the shallows. If you must walk while in the water, drag your feet though the sand (this helps to scare away the rays before they sting).
The water can be shallow near shore during low tide, exposing very sharp rocks downwind of the river where delta (near where the Kitesurf 2000 people hang out). Pay attention to where you walk and don’t body drag yourself into a volcanic rock! Also, it would be unadvisable to fall down in thisarea during low tide – make sure you talk to the locals and find out where the rocks are.
All of the wind websites for Bahia Salinas understate the wind speed. Thankfully, a local instructor has created a filter on WindGuru that gives a more accurate prediction.
- Open http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=29853
- Click on the Options button in the top right corner of the forecast.
- Select the [Bluedream] wind modification.
- Click Apply.
WindGuru will now give you a more accurate weather reading.
View of Bahia Salinas at sunset .
35+ knots of wind!
Kites in front of Isla Bolanos.
More Information & Kite School
Photo: Bob Selfridge, Cometa Copal.
For more information about Kiteboarding in Bahia Salinas, I suggest contacting Bob from Cometa Copal (Kite Copal). While in the area I was amazed and grateful at how helpful and friendly these guys were, and they really contributed to making the beach a great place to be.