Happy Ending for Three California Women
Apr 7th, 2015 by admin

This letter came to us from someone who directly benefited from the lifeguards!

To all who support the Playa Cocles Lifeguard Program,

Thank you so much!  Thanks to your generosity my friends and I are here today.  We visited in March 2015 and love Puerto Viejo and Playa Cocles.  We heard of the rip tides, but having swam in the water off our own coast of California and in other coasts (Caribbean and Hawaii) we didn’t truly understand the risk until it was too late.  Until we were struggling to keep our heads above the water and not getting any closer to the shore.  One second we were touching the sand (I could even dig my feet in) and the next second the ground was nowhere below us and we couldn’t catch a wave back into shore like we would usually do.  Then struggling to keep our heads above water and trying to find some way to reach someone on shore for help… suddenly Abraham was there telling us to grab on to the floatation device and to calm down.  He managed to get three of us back to shore safely and we aren’t small women.  We later found out that Playa Cocles is the only beach that has lifeguards thanks to donations from local businesses and donors.  Thank you so much and know that this service is greatly needed and should continue.


And thank you for the donation as well.  That will help keep the program going in the future!

Story of a rescue
Feb 27th, 2015 by admin

This story came to use via a visitor Jon to the who has a very personal reason to be grateful for the Cocles Lifeguard program:

To All the supporters of the Playa Cocles Lifeguard Program:

A friend and I were rescued by the lifeguards on Playa Cocles on January 17, 2015. We are from the United States and were staying in Cahuita but came to Puerto Viejo that day to watch the surfing competition at Cocles. At some point in the early afternoon we decided to take a swim. We waded in and swam around for a while until one of the lifeguards called us in. We were shocked to discover how far we had drifted offshore! I had never experienced a riptide before but soon realized that we were caught up in one as we futilely tried swimming towards the beach. It soon became apparent to us that despite our exhausting efforts we were losing ground. Meanwhile, the closest lifeguard was already swimming towards us. He realized we were in trouble before we did! He reached us and extended his floatation device to us. We latched-on and now accompanied by the second lifeguard we all paddled parallel to shore until we were beyond the pull of the riptide.

We were lucky. Very lucky! I later learned that Cocles is the only beach on the Caribbean coast that has lifeguards and that the program is supported by volunteers, local merchants and donors. To your support community, I say: “THANK YOU!” Your efforts have certainly made all the difference to us!

Jon has made a generous donation to the lifeguard program and his story really shows the professionalism and the value of the program. We really appreciate it Jon and glad it turned out well for you and your friend!

Not on this beach!
Jun 9th, 2014 by Eddie

The Cocles Lifeguard Program has received more than c84,000,000 in donations from the local community over the past 11 years for prevention and rescue services on the same beach that sadly recorded five drownings in eight days in 2002.

Check the flag at Playa Cocles for surf conditions

Photo by Flickr user Guillermo A. Durán Sanabria

Respect and gratitude for our loyal lifeguard team and Dany and Dago. If only there was a way to raise their pay (c11,000 daily for the last 4 years with caja, vacations, and aguinaldo out of their own pockets). If only we didn’t have to send one home for periods to lower payroll and balance the budget. That makes it hard for them to make ends meet and leaves us at the mercy of the unforgiving sea. We’ve been lucky.

Nonetheless, hats off to all the patrons of the program for their tireless generosity and commitment to the Zero Drowning Pledge. Since 2008 every 3.5 days someone drowns in Costa Rica. Not on this beach!

Urgent Need to Make Up Shortfall
Sep 26th, 2012 by Eddie

The program is 230,000 colones (about $460 US) in the hole and, unfortunately, we will have to try and operate for the next 3 weeks or so with only one lifeguard instead of 2.

The lifeguards are skilled, dedicated and extremely responsible and it´s most regrettable to slash their income and try to protect the public on one leg.

Emergency one time donations or a monthly commitment would be most welcome. If any neighbors would lend a hand to create some new funding strategies and get more businesses involved, the results would be significant.

Nobody should forget how 10 years ago 5 people drowned in 8 days giving birth to this noble community program which has saved countless lives and raised over 62,000,000 colones ($124,000 US).

Special Easter Week Donation Drive
Apr 8th, 2012 by Eddie

Thanks to all of our supporters the Lifeguard Program at Cocles Beach (the most visited beach in the area) has continued saving lives since 2002, when 5 people drowned in only 8 days!

As of April 1, 2012, the program has a deficit of -36,991 colones. If we do not receive additional donations in the coming days, we will be forced to temporarily suspend the program. Not only does a suspension put at risk the lives of too many people but the layoff is a slap in the face for our well trained and highly responsible lifeguards.

To help avoid this crisis, please:

  • Consider making a generous donation during our special Easter Week Donation Drive to get rid of our deficit and prevent suspension of the program
  • Catch up on any pending monthly donations
  • Increase your regular donation if you can
  • If you’re not participating, join this noble community effort to save lives

Please see the Donate page for information on how you can  make a donation.


Photo – Vigilant Lifeguard
Feb 6th, 2012 by admin

Snapped this photo on a very busy day at Cocles Beach recently. It was the day of the Puerto Viejo Open Pro surf tournament and the other way down the beach was packed with people and activity. But as you can see, the lifeguard on duty was intent on keeping track of what was happening in the water not the party happening on the beach.

Lifeguard at Playa Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Funding Crisis Notice to Supporters
Jun 24th, 2011 by Eddie

The Cocles Lifeguard program had a – ₡ 24.127 deficit balance as of June 5-2011.

Today a crisis notice will be given to all the donor businesses that support the program to contribute to a special donation drive to keep the program in operation.

If the money can be raised to create a reserve surplus the program will continue operating.

Without the reserve surplus the program will be forced to suspend the prevention and rescue services for the month of July. Thereafter collecting July donations without paying the ₡682.000 in salaries for July will allow the program to resume in August and finish out the year.

Not only will we be risking someone´s life but this “layoff” is a slap in the face for our well trained and highly responsible lifeguards left without any income.

The program runs about ₡ 75.000 short each month. Anyone interested in helping Eddie Ryan at La Costa De Papito Bungalows (Tel 8811-3448 email: costadepapito@gmail.com) organize a benefit event or to solicit other businesses to contribute monthly to this noble community endeavor please contact him. If the program is suspended, any ideas on how we can offer temporary employment to our lifeguards would be welcome.

Saving Lives at Cocles Beach
Mar 8th, 2011 by admin

An idyllic day at the beach almost turned deadly for Canadian tourist Bonnie W. in January when she got caught in a rip current at Cocles Beach (Playa Cocles), south of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

The lifeguard who performed the rescue at Cocles of Bonnie W.

“I was swimming when, suddenly, I realized I was very far away from the beach,” Bonnie said. “I tried to swim back to shore but I seemed to be stuck. I could feel myself getting sucked back further and further away from the shore. I started to panic.”

Bonnie was caught in a rip current — a powerful, narrow current of water that flows rapidly away from the shore, often at speeds in excess of 5 miles-per-hour (8 kilometers-per-hour). It is estimated that rip currents are responsible for about 80% of ocean drowning.

While a rip current often measures 200 feet (62 meters) to 2,500 feet (762 meters) in length, they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. As a result, a person can often escape one by remaining calm and swimming parallel to the beach until the current loses strength. Once out of the rip current, they can then swim towards shore. However, many tourists unfamiliar with rip currents panic, and risk become exhausted and drowning.

“Had the lifeguard not been there, I could have drowned,” Bonny said. “I am so grateful to the lifeguard and the Playa Cocles Lifeguard Program.”

Sign explaining flag system
This sign explains how the flag system works to alert you to ocean conditions. A red flag indicates that it is too dangerous, stay out of the water. A yellow flag indicates that you should not go in above waist level. A green flag indicates safe swimming.  Note that the blue flags seen on some beaches are an indication that the beach has been certified under Costa Rica’s “Bandera Azul” program for excellent water quality and beach cleanliness. It does not indicate ocean conditions.

Cocles Beach is the only lifeguard-patrolled beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Managed by volunteers, the program receives no government funding and relies on donations from local businesses, residents and tourists. That funding is often in short supply and the program has been temporarily suspended in the past when it was unable to raise the money needed to pay the lifeguards, who are paid ₡11,000 per day (approximately US$22).

The minimum monthly bill for running Playa Cocles Lifeguard Program is ₡660,000 (approximately US$1,320), which pays for two lifeguards a day. Its lifeguards have rescued more than 1,500 swimmers at Cocles beach since the service began.

Every donation helps – please support the Playa Cocles Lifeguard Program by making a donation (PayPal accepted). Local business owners in Puerto Viejo can also sign up to provide regular monthly support for the program. For more information, please email Eddie Ryan at La Costa de Papito.


  • Avoid rip currents by always swimming between the red and yellow flags.
  • Do not swim alone. Have someone on the beach looking out for you.
  • Avoid beaches that are not attended by lifeguards.
  • If you find yourself caught in a rip current, stay calm. Conserve your energy by floating or treading water.
  • Don’t fight the current by trying to swim back to shore directly against the rip – you could become exhausted and drown. Instead, try to swim parallel to the beach. Once you are out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you cannot escape the rip, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms and yell for help.
  • If you see someone who is caught in a rip current, alert a lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard, throw them a floatation device or surf board. Do not go in after them!
Article by Laura McLeod. Laura is a writer, editor and communications specialist in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She loves toucans, gallo pinto and dreams of moving to Costa Rica one day. lsoucek@shaw.ca.
Lifeguards back at work on Playa Cocles
Jun 29th, 2010 by Eddie

The Cocles lifeguards returned to work on Monday June 28 after the suspension of the program on May 12 for lack of funds. Because of the contributions collected in May and June the program will kick off with a positive balance of about ₡ 500,000.

Financially we were ready to start again on June 14 but the lifeguards had taken temporary  employment and their commitments did not permit their return until June 28.

When the program is suspended our loyal, responsible lifeguards are left without any income. We run the risk of losing them permanently with another layoff.

Que Paso Caribe bimonthly magazine is organizing a benefit at Mango Sunset bar for mid July. They will be raffling a $400 mountain bike as well as other prizes. Please stay tuned for details.

Lifeguard program temporarly suspended
May 21st, 2010 by Eddie

The lifeguard program was temporarily suspended on May 13, 2010 due to a deficit of ₡287.024.

Hopefully, we can get going again soon but May has been dreadful for tourism and almost no one so far has paid this month.

Keep your fingers crossed, the ocean has no pity.

You can help get the program back on track at the donation page.

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