Today marks exactly one year since I departed on my month-long adventure around Europe. And it’s been quite a year: an excellent summer in Chicago, adventures in Colorado, Atlanta, and Las Vegas (when you turn 30, you’ve got to do it in style–which may or may not be what happened in Vegas). And finally, sneaking in just before a full year stuck in America, I made my triumphant return to Costa Rica.
While my previous stay in Costa Rica was near Tamarindo on the west coast, this year led me to Puerto Viejo in the province of Limón on the Caribbean coast. A land of Rastafarians and Reggae, I’ve never been asked more often if I want some ganja. Sadly, the weather wasn’t too wonderful. It was overcast most of the time and rained almost every day, but that didn’t prevent sunburn and shenanigans.
I went with my friend Sarah from Alaska. There were supposed to be two more of us on the trip, but that is a tell better left off the intertubes.
After flying into San Jose, early the next morning we hopped on a bus to take us white water rafting on the Río Pacuare. I highly recommend this trip through Exploradores Outdoors, especially if you are heading out to the Carribean coast. As part of the cost they pick you up from your hotel in the morning and will drop you off at another hotel in another town.
The river has some class III rapids and a couple class IV. It starts off with mostly IIs, leading me to worry it wasn’t going to be all that exciting. But after we started hitting the IVs, getting stuck in a rapid, and having another boat land on top of us, the excitement definitely increased.
That night, after dinner and a few Imperials, we returned to our hotel to hang out and drink a couple more Imperials. As we sat around on a patio by the jacuzzi debating whether the frog hanging out on one of the chairs (see below) was still alive, suddenly everything went dark. We sat wondering if maybe the hotel turned the power off at night and just forgot to mention it to us. I have not experience such darkness since spelunking in high school and all of us turning off our flashlights to experience true pitch black. No lights in the entire town and the clouds obscured all the light from the stars and moon. It was the next night while we were at the bar and the bartenders didn’t skip a beat and started setting out candles when we realized this was a common occurrence. Fortunately, that first night I had my camera with me and was able to use the LCD screen to the light the way, otherwise there is no way we would have made it back to the room. Then, over the course of the night, we were awoken several times by the phone ringing, which apparently happens every time the power comes back on. Combine that with the frogs, howler monkeys, and other odd jungle sounds, sleeping soundly was quite difficult.
We spent the next couple days sleeping in, swimming, and exploring. Our hotel was directly across the street from Playa Cocles. A great surfing beach, but sometimes a little rough for swimming. One day we rented bikes and biked the 12km to the small town of Manzanillo. Of course, a storm started shortly after we began our ride, but we didn’t let that deter us. There’s a great swimming beach at Punta Uva, and more great swimming in Manzanillo.
Sarah’s travel buddy Chanchito hanging out with his Imperial in Manzanillo.
With the 90 degree heat and the rain (resulting in 90-100% humidity) our clothes never quite dried. Taking everything out of our suitcases back in San Jose was a stench I still haven’t forgotten (and had to re-live upon opening my suitcase back in the states).
A couple recommendations for places to eat in Puerto Viejo:
El Loco Natural: Sarah had an amazing tuna steak, and I had a tenderloin in red curry sauce. Wonderful piece of meat that melted in my mouth and the curry only accentuated the taste of the beef without being overpowering. If you go to Puerto Viejo, you absolutely must eat here.
Flip Flop: A small local place recommended to us by one of the river guides. After eating there we found out he works there three days a week because he loves the burgers. I highly recommend this place for lunch.
And what trip to Costa Rica could be complete without a Canopy Tour. I can’t recommend the company Terraventuras. I’ve never been on a more disorganized tour. They left people behind at the pick-up point, left us sitting in a van for 30 minutes without telling us what was happening while they got those other people to us. But once we arrived at the tour, all of the guides were fantastic. You can’t live la pura vida without a little zip-lining.
Stay tuned for the next adventure: Mount Kilimanjaro, coming this July!
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