Back in the early ‘90s my buddy and I were relaxing at a villa between Tamarindo and Langosta, having a couple of cold ones. From over the hill separating Langosta and Tamarindo, a helicopter emerged into view. In the same instant, from around the bend a cigarette boat roared full-speed towards the beach just 100 yards south of us.

As it approached, dozens and dozens of white bricks suddenly started being tossed overboard. Soon the surrounding waters had hundreds of them bobbing in the waves. Like something you’d see in a reality TV remake of the ‘80s hit “Miami Vice,” the speed boat slammed onto the beach and three guys bailed out and headed for the road.


It looked like the start of a marathon swim race,
except these guys dove in fully clothed.

This drug boat driver clearly knew exactly where to beach his transport vehicle: right in front of the public access corridor running alongside our villa. He and his passengers ran to the road where a car was obviously waiting. A screech of tires followed, with the chopper overhead following.

My buddy and I just sat there taking in the next act of theater in front of us. Soon, dozens of locals appeared running down the beach toward the boat and its white treasures. The hell with their job, for those who were at work. Soon, it looked like the start of a marathon swim race, except these guys dove in fully clothed. Each one would grab a brick or two, then disappear back among the places lining the beach

Not being into that sort of activity, I had no idea what a brick of pure Colombian cocaine weighs or was valued at. But there was no question that to those locals working as waiters, cooks or in other low-paying jobs, one brick probably added up to a year’s worth of income or more.

In those days, Tamarindo didn’t have any police, but if it did, the officers might have joined in the treasure hunt too. One thing was for sure — lots of pissed-off hotel, bar and restaurant owners were going to find themselves short-handed for help that night. The nice maintenance man/guard who worked at our villa had a large smile on his face. He might still work there, but I’m sure he upgraded his vehicle, moved to a better house in his rural village and bought his wife and kids some nice things.

We went to dinner in town that night. Word was out that we’d had front row seats for the day’s big event. Upon presenting our dinner bill, the waiter inquired with a smug grin, “Will you be paying in cocaine or colones tonight?”      

I asked about the “bad guys.” They got away, of course! The cigarette boat? Gone by the time we got back from dinner.

Hanging around long enough in those days, we never knew what high drama the waves might wash up on the beach at Tamarindo.

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