My fourth and final stop in Costa Rica was the beach town of Puerto Viejo. Well, technically I stayed in San Jose for a night, but pretty much all I did was sleep at the Holiday Inn Express and eat at an American style restaurant before going to the bus station in the morning. Hardly counts as a “stop.” Puerto Viejo is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, and it definitely has much stronger Caribbean influence than other parts of the country. Most of the restaurants feature “caribbean flavor,” and a lot of the residents ancestors are from places like Jamaica. Lots of locals talk a Jamacian/ English/ Reggae hybrid language, which I can’t understand.
Puerto Viejo was a very mellow little town with some nice beaches, although the weather wasn’t ideal while I was there. It rained the majority of the time, marking the first time I had been anywhere on this entire trip where water fell from the sky. Tropical rain doesn’t usually bother me too much, since it often rains hard for several hours before stopping, but in PV it was raining on and off most of the entirety of my stay. My first day in Puerto Viejo, it rained hard almost all day, which was actually nice as it gave me a great excuse to stay at my hotel and get a lot of writing and other work done. After that, I could have used mostly sunshine and dry weather, but that was not the case.
As has been the case in the rest of Central America, scooter rentals are fairly expensive ($20+ per day), so I went for a human powered bicycle rental at a much more reasonable $5 per day. On my trusty steed, a rusted veteran of the bike game with chipped black paint, I rode several miles down the coast to other beaches in the area. Across the street from my hostel was a black sand beach, farther up were powdered white sand, and in between was a world famous surf break: Salsa Brava. There wasn’t much swell when I was in town, so I didn’t get to see the surf break showing off its’ most powerful waves.
One night, I even partook in an age old favorite activity of tourists worldwide: partying. Going out drinking was a much more common occurrence during my younger traveling days, but now I usually opt for quiet nights at my hotel with anywhere from zero to three beers. I met some friendly german dudes at my hotel in Puerto Viejo, who generously poured a rum and coke for me so it seemed appropriate to at least go out one night. After some party fuel from the rum, we went to a fairly crowded hostel/ bar that had pool tables and a ping pong table mixed among the few hundred people in attendance. Reggae music was all that was played, and locals mixed in with the temporary visitors to Puerto Viejo. It was a fun night, but also a reminder that I don’t love to go out nearly as much as I used to, even if I have zero obligations the following day. Can’t stop the wheels of time, and I am not the young party animal from a decade ago.
In Puerto Viejo, I also finally saw an animal that I had wanted to see the entire trip: a sloth. The elusive and slow moving sloth had, well, eluded me. Finally, one night, I saw a bunch of people crowded around the edge of a balcony at the hotel. They all pointed to a sloth climbing in a tree on the property, and, with that, I saw my first sloth of the trip. It eventually made its’ way to a nice nook in some branches, and remained there for about 24 hours, which probably earned it some serious sloth street cred for sleeping an entire day.
During my time in PV, I also reflected on things that I missed, or didn’t miss, from my ‘normal’ life in the States. After being on the road for over a month, it once again has given me plenty of perspective of the things that are important to me. Not having access to lots of the things I am used to allows me to focus on the things that are really valuable to me. I miss fast and reliable internet, which isn’t a really big deal, but it would be nice to have the option to stream TV shows, movies, and especially sports anytime I want. In general, I don’t miss watching TV, but there are a few shows I would love to catch up on. Most of the time the internet speed in third world lands does not allow for things like “streaming a TV show” and it definitely does not allow me to watch live, streaming sports, which is one of the things I miss the most. I miss the friendly faces of friends and family, and having people just around the corner to meet for a beer or to watch a Warriors game.
I miss things like a variety of beers, besides BEER IN A CAN or BEER IN A BOTTLE. I definitely miss having my own transportation, as opposed to being reliant on busses, taxis, and more busses and a few boats. I miss playing basketball and having a gym to regularly work out at, although my travel gym of resistance bands has been a wonderful addition to this trip. The snack options in Central America leave a lot to be desired as well. There are zero things like beef jerky (or any kind of jerky) and snack choices consist pretty much of potato/ tortilla chips, nuts (which are really expensive), or things like muffins. Far from ideal compared to the options I have back at home.
With all that said, overall, I cherish these times with no real agenda besides enjoying each day and trying to get some work done. Days where I can get some work done in the morning before going on a several hour bike ride to some beach I have never seen before are pretty incredible. Each day is just that: a day, which is one of my favorite things anytime I traveling for a month or more at a time. There is no dreaded Monday morning, or trying to savor every second of those rare Saturdays (only four a month!). Each day is its’ own unique block of time, offering a new set of adventures, surprises, and fun.
And, with that, my time in Costa Rica has come to an end. It was a lovely country, with beautiful beaches and jungle and very friendly people. I don’t see myself coming back anytime soon, as the prices for food and beer were not cheap. I will, however, do my best to live each day with the Costa Rican motto: Pura Vida.
Tomorrow, exit Costa Rica, enter, PANAMAAAAAAA.