Central & South America

Dumb Ways To Die- Getting WAY too close to a Yellow Bellied Sea Snake

Remember in our on our FAQ’s page we mentioned we had some epic travel fails we promised to share?  Well, here is one.  We have a story for you. (Hint: It involves an extremely poisonous sea snake.) This is an unexpected family travel tip, that’s for sure.


Picture this- Christmas Day 2015.  Our family is enjoying a holiday visit to the Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica. The day is perfect; sunny and blue skies and the whole family is out on a private boat adventure and sport fishing excursion.

Some of the guys (Phil, and Tanner) wanted to go fishing for a few hours so they were out on the boat with a few of the guides. The rest of us (Shani, Kam, Savannah, Easton, and Beckham) were enjoying activities like jet-skiing, tide-pooling, sandcastle building etc, on a private beach while our BBQ lunch was being prepared by a few of the other guides.

IT IS SPOTTED – (Pun intended)

While walking along the beach, Easton noticed something laying in the sand being washed over by the small waves.  At first, he thought it was a piece of a tire that had just washed up on shore.  Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a snake- a stunning black and brightly yellow colored striped snake with a flat paddle-like spotted tail.  We LOVE snakes and always are on the look-out (especially in destinations like Costa Rica).

*One of our happy travel moments is when we saw a Green Eyelash Viper all curled up on the side of a tree on a previous trip to Costa Rica.  Such an incredible spot!!


Anyway, immediately all of us gathered closer to the snake (a totally smart move)  in the sand and started observing.  It was definitely alive and moving but wasn’t acting aggressively, so naturally, we kept creeping closer to it.  Easton (15 at the time) started saying “Guys, it’s a sea snake.  I learned in biology that all sea snakes are poisonous!!!!”  The rest of us adults dismissed him saying “Oh Easton, they are not. Take a chill pill.”  We honestly didn’t think he knew what he was talking about.  In the meantime, Savannah had gone into the trees to get a stick to try and pick up the snake.

Meanwhile, the two oldest adults (not to mention the two moms of the group) decided it was a grand idea to maybe lightly toss some small pebbles in its direction to get it to move. – Um WHAT WERE WE THINKING!? Easton kept insisting that all sea snakes are venomous and we needed to stay away.  His continued insistence did not stop us immediately from getting within a few feet of it and smiling and taking pictures.Yellow Bellied Sea Snake


Finally, we decided to heed his warnings. Just in case he was actually right. We went to get one of our guides who was a short distance away preparing lunch and had not noticed the snake.  When the guide came to take a closer look, he told us it was a Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake. AND – that it was extremely poisonous and told us to stay away and be very careful (The teenager was right!). Eventually, the snake slithered back into the water and was quickly gone.


Later that evening as we returned back to our residence, we googled “Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake” and were horrified to find out a little bit more about these creatures, including that they are more venomous than a King Cobra, a Mojave Rattlesnake, or any other land snake in Costa Rica (and there are some pretty sketchy land snakes in Costa Rica).

It was then that we all just looked at each other and realized that Easton had been right and just how Stupid (yes, with a capital S) we had been. Wildlife is not to be trifled with.

Upon researching this species more, we discovered that a few months earlier, a Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake had washed up on a beach in California (first time in 30 years) and the beach was closed for days and signs were posted warning beach goers of the potential risks of these snakes.


WOW! Okay, most of the time we are a cautious bunch.  We are well aware of the fact that things can happen while traveling and do our best to stay out of sticky situations.  BUT this time… epic fail.  EPIC!  We were so fortunate no one was hurt, including the pretty snake. Not to mention, we were so glad Easton was the voice of caution and reason when all of the adults had lost their minds.

Moral of the story. When we see a sea snake, just step away. Or maybe pull out google :).

Happy & safe travels!

-The Smith Fam

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One thought on “Dumb Ways To Die- Getting WAY too close to a Yellow Bellied Sea Snake

  1. OMG you were so lucky 🙂 but the snake is so beautiful, maybe such a beauty should warn us 🙂 Next time listen to your teenage brother / son, their brain is still stuffed with lots of knowledge fresh from school …..
    lots of lovely wishes from

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