We rented a car yesterday and today, which enabled us to explore farther around the island. Yesterday, we went to Mangel Halto and Baby Beach. Today we went to Boca Catalina.
Good thing we’ve had experience driving in other countries that don’t like to use street signs (Costa Rica). Whew. It was not easy to find Mangel Halto. We were told, “you’ll run right into it.” That is exactly what didn’t happen. But, with a crude map and a general idea of where the beach was, we finally found it. Advice for those going in the future: get good directions and write them down ahead of time.
The snorkeling at Mangel Halto was decent. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was still good. There isn’t much of a cove, so we kept popping our heads up to watch for boats (there was only one the whole time we were there, but we still felt exposed). There’s also a pretty strong current, so we needed to be concious of how far out we went, knowing it’d be twice as hard to kick back to our starting point.
That said, we enjoyed the experience at Mangel Halto. It’s a peaceful location, with pretty views. There was some interesting coral and sea fans to view underwater. We saw lots of fish, including some large Rainbow Parrot fish, as well as a Honeycomb Eel and a Trumpet Fish.
After snorkeling, we ate lunch under a palapa. They have concrete benches too, which was nice.
We originally intended to snorkel at Baby Beach, but once we got there, we realized it wouldn’t be great for snorkeling. The water is great, and pretty shallow too, but mostly sandy. No rocks or coral formations, which is where sea life tend to dwell. So, instead, we just hung out in the water for a while. It was very pleasant.
The beach was easy to find – it’s basically at the end of the road on the southeast corner of the island. If you go, I’d recommend renting a car to get there. No public transportation available. You could take a cab, but it’d be spendy, plus you’d need to arrange a pick-up somehow. Our daily rental rate for the car was $35, and it would be at least double that to go in cab fare, especially if you’re coming from the “hotel side” of the island.
Also good to know: it seems like there’s usually someone there renting lawn/lounge chairs as well as cabanas by the water. Palapas are free, but they don’t have any seating. There are also a couple snack huts to purchase food/drink.
This was my favorite area for snorkeling on the island. Lots of marine life, and it’s easy to get to. Apparently it’s popular with others as well. When we arrived there were five snorkeling boats pulling up. Five. With at least 20 people each. If you go, go before 10am. We were told this as well, but had a slow start in the morning. Whoops.
Regardless, we still saw some great fish and a couple eels. We spotted a huge Porcupine Puffer fish (no joke, it was probably two feet long). We went snorkeling twice, for about 45-60 minutes each time.
We also spent an hour or two hanging out and picnicking at the beach after each dip in the water. There are palapas for shade, but no seating options. We just spread our towels on the ground and were happy campers.
Note: Malmok Beach, Boca Catalina and Arushi Beach are all very close to one another. In fact, if you wanted to make a really long snorkeling adventure, you could probably swim through all three areas without getting out of the water. You’d end up swimming several miles, but with fins and plenty to view underwater, it would probably go quick.
You can get there by car or bus. Car is more convenient, but the bus option is cheaper. By bus, make sure you ask your driver if he’ll drop you off at Malmok or Arashi (some buses stop at the Marriott, the northernmost hotel). And, you’ll have to wait a while for the return bus (my guess is they don’t come every 20 minutes like elsewhere).