Greetings from Panama City! We’ve sailed about 4,500 miles since leaving San Francisco, and it’s hard to believe our first season of cruising is almost over.
But not before the most dramatic season finale ever. That’s right Chris Harrison, The Bachelor has nothing on us! No roses will be handed out, but our dramatic conclusion will be to take Pineapple through the Panama Canal! We are scheduled to transit the canal on June 2, and assuming no delays, we’ll arrive at Shelter Bay Marina (Pineapple‘s summer home) that evening or the following day.
I’ll be writing a lot more about our experience, but for now, we are just trying to wrap our heads around the fact that, because of this engineering wonder, we will say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean entirely and enter Caribbean waters. Sure beats Cape Horn! (And we’re feeling especially amazed after reading the epic Path Between the Seas, all about the construction of the canal.)
But now I’m getting ahead of myself—this post is a look back at April’s cruising costs.
We arrived in Costa Rica on April 2 and spent the entire month there. Due to crazy import taxes and the thriving tourism industry, the cost of goods in Costa Rica is extremely high, which I touched on in our Costa Rica recap. We knew it would be a challenge to keep our spending under control. But we were up for it! Coming off our most expensive month in March, we talked about our priorities for our time in Costa Rica and made sure we were on the same page.
Here’s how much we spent while traveling and sailing in Central America’s most expensive country.
Total spent: $2,118.60 U.S. Dollars
The official conclusion: We rocked it! This is our second-least expensive month since we started tracking. Keep reading for the breakdown and commentary.
Marina docking fees: $735.06
This number is pretty high, but I’m quite proud of it. Here’s why: We had planned to meet up with friends in Quepos, so several months earlier, we decided to get a slip in the marina there during their visit. Like every other marina in Costa Rica, it was very expensive. But since we knew in advance we’d be splurging, we structured the rest of our spending for the month accordingly. And then, you guys, we followed through on the plan!
In April, we kept other (non-marina) expenses to a minimum and prepared (emotionally and physically) to spend a month away from the conveniences and comforts of a marina. But then, on April 27, we arrived at the the luxurious Pez Vela Marina in Quepos. It was a classic case of “you get what you pay for”—the service and the amenities were top-notch. I didn’t want to leave. It’s really a shame they don’t offer a better deal for cruisers, because we loved the town of Quepos and the marina is in a central location for exploring inland.
Anyway, I’m proud of us because even though this category was expensive, we prioritized it, adjusted our other spending accordingly, and ended up happy with our grand total for the month. We enjoyed every moment of our stay at Pez Vela—yes, mostly because we had great friends visiting, but also because we could rest easy with the knowledge that we had made a spending plan and stuck to it.
Meals and drinks: $645.93
Not our cheapest month, but not our most expensive either. We tried our best to keep this line item reasonable, remembering the tourist-adjusted prices in Costa Rica. I think we went out for 14 meals in April, plus occasional drinks and coffee shop stops.
Boat parts and maintenance: $227.42
This was mostly spent restocking oil and fuel filters for the engine, and buying parts for a repair we need to make—all of which our friends Taylor and Carolyn kindly brought to Costa Rica when they visited. (Oh, and for the sailboat repair connoisseurs reading: We bought a Heli-Coil kit, which we’ll use to re-thread a screw hole where control hardware for our headsail lead track is pulling out of the deck. The screws were tapped into solid fiberglass but unfortunately the threads have started to strip.)
Phone and Internet: $173.38 through Google Project Fi. In April, we only had Wi-Fi at the marina, but we used our phones as Internet hotspots to stay connected nonetheless.
All the provisioning we did before leaving Mexico is finally paying off, and the timing was perfect! This is hundreds of dollars less then we spent on groceries in previous months. We arrived in Costa Rica fully stocked with non-perishable food and drinks, so in April we really only bought fruits, veggies, and a few other key perishables like eggs and yogurt. For this amount we got about six bags of food. Well, that’s not exactly true—it also bought us two giant tubs of cat litter. We were down to our last bag of the good stuff and were desperate to find some clumping litter for our final few months. Thankfully, a fancy grocery store in Playa del Coco had what we needed.
This is where Costa Rica TOTALLY WINS: Entrance fees for parks and other sights are an incredible value. I’m sure if you sign up for an all-inclusive guided tour it will cost you, but it was very easy to find cheaper options. One highlight: Curú Wildlife Refuge is a privately-owned, eden-like park where we spotted dozens of monkeys, birds, lizards, bugs, and mammals. We only saw two other humans out on the trails. The entrance fee was $12 per person and we were able to anchor Pineapple right off the park for free.
This one smarts a little. We did laundry only once (once!) in Costa Rica and this was the damage. During April, we cleaned our clothes in a bucket on the boat, but by the time we arrived in Quepos, we had collected a few loads worth of dirty towels, sheets, etc. We dropped it off with the marina, who provided a good and prompt laundry service at a high price. For the deep-pocketed sport-fishermen or yacht owners, the cost per kilo isn’t an issue—but for the cruisers, ouch!
Another score for Costa Rica! This cost is entirely from Nicaragua—it’s what we paid to check out of the country before continuing south. When we arrived to Costa Rica, the check-in process was quite an ordeal. We spent the better part of a day visiting the Port Captain, then Immigration, then back to the Port Captain, then taking a 45-miunte bus ride to the airport (!) for Customs, and then back to the Port Captain once more. But the cost was $0, so can’t really complain about that.
Buses and taxis around Costa Rica. We took taxis when we were out at night, and they were actually pretty reasonable. We also benefited from riding around with our friends in their rental car (for free, of course). Bus fare was about $2 per person.
John got a haircut in Playa del Coco. They did a great job for just slightly more than we’d been paying in Mexico. We were pleasantly surprised to find that haircut prices had not been adjusted for tourism! I guess not many tourists get haircuts while on vacation?
Observant readers may notice that we are missing a couple categories this month, like Fuel and Medical. Indeed, both of those came up zeros, which helped us keep the total cost so low. After adding up the rest of the categories, I breathed a big sigh of relief: We can be frugal in expensive places and still enjoy ourselves.
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