C'mon Inner Peace… I Don't Have All Damn Day
I haven’t been to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica in more than fifteen years. The last time I was here… oh dear, where to begin.
Well, it is about 5 hours outside of the capital of San Jose, through the pineapple and banana farms of Dole and Del Monte. Over the mountains into the Caribbean coast below a horrific port city called Limon, inches from the Panama border.
Which is a beautiful but long, bumpy ride along the coast on a bus with no air condition or bathrooms, but extremely affordable.
On my last visit, my best friend Doug “lost” his wallet. An old American guy “found it” but held it for ransom.
He gave us some elaborate story about helping us find it, blah blah blah, then charged us $200. to get it back, while his machete wielding body guards, I mean, “friends” waited.
While we were at the police station making a report, a friendly horse walked into the office and a chicken decided to shit on my foot.
We were waiting in line for the only pay phone in town to cancel our travelers checks, when an earthquake hit.
A lady came running out of a store screaming “temblor, temblor”, then the one and only town phone went dead. SO… no travelers checks for us.
On the long bus ride home, these uniformed men with guns jumped on our bus to supposedly check our passports, to make sure we are not Colombian drug smugglers or something. Although, I have my doubts about what they were looking for.
Once the bus did get moving again, a boulder the size of a small mini-van came rolling down the mountain in a mud-slide, landing in front of our bus where we stayed for hours waiting for a tractor to push it down the other side.
That… was my last experience in Puerto Viejo and I LIVE for these interesting, but ridiculous adventures that I can talk about until I am old and grey.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a freaking blast in Puerto Viejo, but I am trying to paint a picture because not everyone will find this type of adventure travel to their liking.
Puerto Viejo is a small ass hippie town with lots of yoga, Rastas and enough Bob Marley to fill your soul, if you are fine with a little “roughing it”.
So here we are! HELLLLLO Puerto Viejo, ready for round two.
My first impression as an adult (and mother) was how much the village has changed, yet remained the same. There is now a bank, a few small super markets and even an emergency room, but otherwise it is still exactly the same town.
The problem is… fifteen years ago, I was young and free. This village seems to have one purpose, and that is to pahhh-tay.
It is as if they stuck a bunch of hot, twenty-something, bohemian, indie-travelers, five hours into never-never land; who then in turn created a a few reggae bars on the beach with zero rules.
Which is very cool… if you are not traveling with a 7 yr. old kid who has not yet taken up smoking the gange.
The police station where the chicken shat on my foot is still here, yet cleaned up. Somehow I get the feeling the police are visible more for decoration than to actually do anything, because drugs seem plentiful and there is no lack of shady element.
The beach is a dirty mess, with vodka bottles and debris EVERYWHERE, which is disappointing in such an environmentally conscious country like Costa Rica.
Damn… I do sound my age eh? OK, I’ll stop.
With all that being said, I still LOVE Puerto Viejo, and here’s why…
It’s a funky, cool, HOT MESS!
I don’t think it is exactly kid friendly, but the town has taken on some sort of artsy feel, and the more family type people have gravitated towards Punta Uva further south for a more laid back beachy atmosphere. Families seem to come into town only for an evening stroll and dinner.
The yoga retreats and organic coffee shops are plentiful and the boutiques are original, yet surprisingly expensive. I think Puerto Viejo is some sort of right of passage for everyone to visit a place like this at least once in their lifetime. The days in this village are extremely quiet, no doubt because the entire town is sleeping off a hangover from a night of partying.
I really could go on and on for about an hour on exactly how much I love the food here in Puerto Viejo and I do loveeeee my food!
Since this town is on the east coast and full of Caribbean descendants, the food is a combination of typical Costa Rican food, and Jamaican yumminess mixed together.
The Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) is made with my favorite thing on earth (besides my son), coconut milk, which is not typical in all of Costa.
There are jerk chicken meals and what I call tostones, but the Costa Ricans call “patecones”… which are fried bananas. Most of these items are unique to only this area, because of the Spanish/ Jamaican influences.
A little history lesson:
Not too long ago, the Caribbean coast was cut off from the rest of Costa Rica. There was a train that cut through the country and the Caribbean descendants were not allowed to travel freely from coast to coast. The result being that most of that culture remains in tact.
End history lesson:
So… near Puerto Viejo, is a sloth sanctuary and rescue preserve. They have tours, which cost anywhere from $60-$100 per person, but we just hired a cab for $13. and paid our own way into the reserve.
The entrance price included an hour long canoe trip into the jungle where we saw a baby crocodile, some bats, and howler monkeys.
Since the sloths were the main attraction, we got to meet and hear about each story behind why the little cuties were in the rescue clinic in the first place. My favorite was Buttercup, who just wanted to be hugged. If you do venture down to Puerto Viejo, DO NOT miss the sloth sanctuary.
We are staying at the Casa Verde, a place that I stayed fifteen years ago. Back then, we had mosquito netting and a gigantic mushroom would grow out of our sink each morning.
They have really taken care of and expanded this little hostel. For $40 bucks, you stay in a typical Costa Rican cabin with a kitchen. They now have a pool, with a fake waterfall… we all know how I hate anything “fake and resorty” but this place doesn’t bother me since it really is still a hostel.
The location can’t be beat, being one block from the beach and center of town. Although, the reggaeton music blasting from the clubs can be heard at Casa Verde until the wee hours, it is Puerto Viejo though, and should kind of be expected in my opinion.
I still love Puerto Viejo, but it may be another fifteen years before I venture back. There are no crazy machete stories to tell this time around which I guess is a good thing in some ways.
I do hope that people choose to take the trip down here to discover this unique and funky town, but I think more and more people are venturing further south to Bocas Del Toro, Panama for a cheaper and even more exotic locale.
Pura Vida, MAI….
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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain