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What It’s Like To Own A Sportfishing Charter In Costa Rica

After moving to Costa Rica in 2009, I looked for employment in the tourism business and found my niche at Costa Rica Vacations.

I was lucky. The job allowed me to do all I wanted and granted me the means to make a livelihood while living the pura vida life.

The best part was the sportfishing. Helping my clients plan amazing fishing trips to Costa Rica was my dream job.

Then in 2016, I bought one of my favorite boats in our charter fleet. Caribsea is a 46′ Guthrie built in North Carolina. She was one of the Costa Rica’s first charter boats and her original owner, (legendary fly fisherman Harry Gray) chased sailfish, marlin, and more for years before he died.

Caribsea / Facebook

When I purchased Caribsea, I needed to decide where to keep her.

Over the past 15 years, the Pacific coast has seen lots of development, making it a must-visit for boaters and fishermen. Throughout this time, several small marinas popped up then faded away, but now we enjoy four full-service marinas in Costa Rica.

These marinas offer security, shelter, and an excellent base to dock your boat (or mega-yacht) while exploring Costa Rica.

1. Marina Papagayo

Marina Papagayo, Guanacaste / Facebook

On Guanacaste’s Papagayo Peninsula, with access to the Four Seasons and Andaz Hotel. Marina Papagayo is the furthest north and an ideal place to refuel and stock up before heading into Nicaragua.

2. Marina Los Sueños

Los Sueños, Playa Herradura, Jaco / Facebook

Sitting outside Jaco on the Central Pacific coast, Los Sueños is the most famous of our marinas. The resort development at Los Sueños is heaven on earth. You have the marina village with six restaurants, spas, and shops. Then 1,400 acres of pristine development offering everything from one-bedroom condos to eight-bedroom luxury mansions. Plus the Marriott Resort and an 18-hole championship golf course on-site. This marina is excellent for anglers, golfers, families, and anyone looking to have fun in Costa Rica. Los Sueños boasts one of the best charter fleets in Costa Rica offering full-day, half-day, and overnight trips to the best on and offshore fishing grounds.

3. Marina Pez Vela

Marina Pez Vela, Quepos / Facebook

One of the newest marinas and the only one with a full haul-out yard accommodating yachts up to 200 tons. Quepos is famous as the fishing capital of Costa Rica, but it always lacked the marina infrastructure to make it a true boaters paradise. After years of construction that changed. Marina Pez Vela is now operational and turning into a hot-bed for boaters from around the world. Pez Vela has a pretty marina village with condos, restaurants, shops, and easy access to the famed Manuel Antonio National Park.

4. Golfito Marina Village and Resort

Golfito Marina Village & Resort / Facebook

The most recent addition to Costa Rica’s marinas and still under construction. Golfito Marina is way south near Panama and boaters call it one of Costa Rica’s last frontiers. With the Osa Peninsula, Golfo Dulce, and the pristine waters off Cano Island, this marina will become another favorite. For those looking to sail south towards Panama and South America or to enter Costa Rica from those places, Golfito will work. They offer full customs operations for entering or departing Costa Rica. Stay tuned for further news on this marina.

Smaller marinas include the Fishhook Marina in Golfito, Puntarenas, and Flamingo (closed now, but under consideration for re-construction).

It wasn’t a tough decision for me

Caribsea had been operating out Marina Pez Vela, so I kept her there. We had an established reputation in the area with a nice record of bookings. Also, Pez Vela offers all in one spot with excellent access to the fishing grounds. It is easy to get to and we don’t have to waste time running around for supplies and provisions.

As Pez Vela is a newer marina, we had the added advantage of being one of the larger boats available with only a few competitors in our category. This allows us to offer more services to our clients ensuring they get the absolute best fishing experience possible.

Out on the Caribsea / Facebook

Working in the sportfishing business

The charter boat business can be tough. You should love the water and enter this business with the correct attitude. When I first moved to Costa Rica, I had these grand dreams of starting a business and fishing every day.

But If I’m fishing every day, how can I run my business? A common expat saying goes something like, “if you want to make a million dollars in Costa Rica, bring two million.” The upshot is many foreign businessmen down here lose their shirts by treating the country as a playground.

I never had the million and I’ve been scratching my way to make things work. I understood that things are different here and you MUST have patience and not set goals too high if you want to stay positive.

Things are ever changing and getting the same answer or advice twice in a row is rare. Whether the issue is fuel prices bouncing like an EKG monitor or Coast Guard rules changing, it’s always something new. But I’ve met wonderful people who are always around to help.

Why I do this

You can make a bit of money in the charter industry though. But there are so many variables which can take you from black to red on a single fishing day. If all goes as planned, with no issues or breakdowns, you keep the lights on. If you have an issue or mechanical problem, you spend the next charter days making up the lost money.

I went into the venture with two goals. First, offer world-class fishing trips, picking up what I learned from my day job and applying it to my boat. And second, breaking even.

I want to make money, but I did not go into this thinking I would. The aim for me was to have a boat, managed by a professional crew, that paid for itself.

Then if we made some money, I could go fishing myself whenever I wanted for free.

That’s the ultimate in pura vida. As we roll into our second season, it’s looking possible.

Justin DeBoom lives with his wife Lucia in Jaco, Costa Rica where they run Caribsea Sportfishing. Justin also works as a travel consultant and fishing specialist at Namu Travel, where he helps people plan trips to Costa Rica and Panama. He can be contacted at justindeboom@namutravel.com.


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