Published: May 22nd 2012May 22nd 2012
by Tracey Simmons
If you have eight days to spoil yourself and you’re looking for a place that’s not that far from the US, inexpensive, depending what month you travel, and pure paradise? Then Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is your destination.
Pura Vida! Meaning, “pure life” but contextually it means, “Enjoy life and be happy!” To me, that is what life is about, and that is also the greeting you’ll get from the “Tico’s”, native Costa Ricans, when you visit this tropical paradise.
I flew into San Jose, Costa Rica after a very long travel day. My origin was LAX then to MIA to SJO. My flight from Miami to San Jose was delayed two hours with an already three-hour layover, budget traveling, you pay one-way or the other. I arrived over dressed, witless, and exhausted. I took the recommended by SJO airport, “orange taxi”. The driver spoke little English and I speak little Spanish so we kept it quiet, which was music to my ears. I’m sure I was ripped off…but maybe not I just always feel ripped off as soon as I sit in a taxicab. Upon arrival, I exchanged my
US dollars into Colones, so I wasn’t really sure what I was paying, too lazy to do the math, but it didn’t matter I just needed to get to my hotel and rest. I always know that the ride from the airport to my hotel is going to be the most expensive and frankly I’ll pay whatever, because at the moment it’s pure culture shock and my lack of language skills reads, “Mark”. If there’s a shuttle from your hotel, that’s the best bet. This hotel had no shuttle, which worried me, I hate roughing it.
I arrived at the Hotel Aranjuez. Charming, eco friendly, cheap only $33 a night, but as I said before you pay one way or the other and with all those qualities came the noise at night and it had a moldy scent. I figured one night wouldn’t give me mold poisoning but I didn’t have Google to confirm that. Google is God! They actually had a computer center with two desktops but with nothing to do in San Jose from what I could tell everyone was on the computers checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. Surprisingly, the breakfast in the morning was
amazing. Full spread and an incredibly cute outside patio. One of the patrons I had breakfast with, his name was Stephan, considered the Hotel Aranjuez a hidden gem. He visits San Jose frequently, so he would know. He gives Hotel Aranjuez a five I give it a three, charming and cheap but not the kind of place I would want to spend more than a night.
Keep It Movin…
The next morning, I took the Interbus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo. The Interbus is a door-to-door shuttle service and is used even by Tico’s. The cost is $42 one way. The trip from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is six hours. Luckily, I had a row to myself, in the little bus, traveling alone does have its advantages. I was also lucky to take this ride with a few Americans, so we chatted along the way, and even luckier one of the riders was Tico, so she translated when the driver pointed out sites. It ended up being a great experience. Our driver Rodrigo was something of a tour guide. He stopped by a fruit stand and the one Tico rider bought a cocoa fruit, the basis
of chocolate. The farmer cut it open, and it didn’t look anything like chocolate it had rows of slimy white seeds and she offered us all one, I have to say I was thinking of saying “hell no” but I surprised even myself when I reached out and put one of the slimy white seeds in my mouth and not bad at all. It taste like a cumquat. Apparently, farmer’s dry out the seeds in the sun and it begins the process of making chocolate. The ride was long but not miserable. There are plenty of sites to take in as the road between the two destinations features lush jungle, countryside, waterfalls, and finally the beach! I have to say it was a good experience. So 4.5 stars for the Interbus. www.interbusonline.com
The Interbus dropped me off at my rented Caribbean beachfront property known as Casa Viva. Casa Viva is located in Punta Uva and this place is gorgeous! The owner Jeanie took me to my beautiful one bedroom bungalow, problem is I had to drag my suitcase through a gravel and grassy road to get there…no bellboy. But once there you can’t help but to
gasp at how charming the bungalow is and the grounds are well manicured it’s just beautiful. Okay now let’s get to the nitty gritty. It was like a sauna in the room and the fans were going but the humidity in Costa Rica was no match for those fans. I must’ve dropped five pounds standing there. Jeanie made the best suggestion, at that moment, that I get undressed and take a dip in the ocean. She pointed to the beach that was steps away. Luxury! I did just that. The little beach was secluded I could see a few people in the water and lying out but they were a ways away. Perfect, because I felt uncomfortable with the extra pounds I acquired from my life of leisure at home. Like I said, you’ll pay one-way or the other. I took off my towel and headed for the water…ahhh it was magnificent especially after dragging that suitcase through the gravel and dying in that sauna bungalow. The water was luke warm and perfect, I remembered what I loved about traveling. These exact moments where nothing is better than the moment. I felt complete bliss and it makes putting up with a nine to five worth it. My gratitude widened as I looked around at the beautiful greenery that surrounded the picture perfect ocean. Life is good!
Later on, it got even better, when I sat in the hammock on my veranda, piping Bob Marley music from my iPhone and singing while swinging to the tunes of my favorite musical prophet. I looked up at the sun infused in a blue lightly clouded sky and felt gratitude again that I could take time like this and just admire this beautiful Earth from different angles of many continents. Little did I know at that moment I was the feast for the famine Costa Rican mosquito, who took liberty with my sweet, American, vegetarian, drug/alcohol-less blood. I have a feeling they were in gratitude as well…bastards! I had to leave Casa Viva for that reason there were no screens on the windows, no citronella burning and no defense against these hungry bastards. I was miserable. They feasted on me through the night even though I slept, I thought, safely under the mosquito net. Apparently, they knew the way in. I started to feel like prey and could not enjoy all the beauty around me; instead I just saw it all as the mosquito nesting ground and the beauty became the ugly. I wanted to go home and when I’m vacationing that’s the last place I want to be. I dragged my suitcase through the rocky road again and checked out after I apologized to Jeanie but I just couldn’t do it. She had no remedy other than a table fan and if I sat next to it they probably wouldn’t bother me. My solution, screens and AIRCONDITIONING!
Quest for A/C…
At first glance, looking at me you would assume that I’m the earthy bohemian type, who can withstand the elements, and that would be a fair assumption. I’m a total lefty, vegetarian, eco-friendly recycler…But I’m also a spoiled American, who lives in one of the busiest cities in the US- Los Angeles. I’m sure I could’ve adapted but I was only visiting for a little more than a week. That’s not sufficient time to adapt…bring on the amenities! So, I ventured on to my next hotel Villa Caribe, not as pretty aesthetically but what was pleasing, was the cold air piped in at sixteen degrees Celsius. Thank God! The view of the beach was great and with the price tag of $60/a night I say you can’t beat it! My mosquito problem was gone I had a safe haven, but once I left my little retreat all bets were off. Oh well, I didn’t come to Costa Rica to sit in an air conditioned room so if I had to put up with the elements and the parasites then so be it. I just needed a safe place to lay my head at night. Not too much to ask if you ask me. Although I had a pleasant experience at Villa Caribe, I spotted an even better hotel. I ended up spending two days at Villa Caribe and the remaining three days at Le Cameleon Hotel. Le Cameleon Hotel is beautiful and has the kind of amenities an LA girl can get with there’s concierge service, AC, Wi-Fi, a great thread count, pool, ocean access, and a wonderfully included breakfast and because I visited during off season the cost was $160 a night. I recommend it for your stay if you are anything like me. www.lecameleonhotel.com
You can rent a bike in Puerto Viejo for about $3000 colones that is about $6/a day. Don’t be cheap it’s worth it. Once you try walking in eighty degree Fahrenheit humid weather believe me you would pay $25/a day. Of course once I rented the bike and was able to cover more ground I noticed that some people were renting scooters, damn now I wanted a scooter!
First things first, I rode my bike with a feeling of freedom; everything was extraordinarily green and beautiful in Puerto Viejo. The jungle meets the road and also glimpses of the blue ocean as I pedaled along. Paradise crossed my mind more than once. I stumbled upon a beach where the surfers hung. Ok straight women, bi-curious, and homosexual men, you don’t want to miss the sites here. These very cute Rasta boys, brown and kissed by the sun with blond locks lightened by the ocean from years of surfing are beautiful. Not to worry my lesbian sisters and straight brothers, there’s something for you too, the surfer women are just as hot and were equally as fast to charge those waves! The sites are plentiful.
The Rasta’s don’t stop there keep pedaling and you’ll reach the downtown Puerto Viejo section were you can find inexpensive cultural goodies and have lunch and a drink at the Caribbean style bars. If you partake in the sacramental herb, there’s someone to help you with that as well. I once was a follower so I understand. No judgment, enjoy.
I personally found what I wanted at a little spot called Indulgence. Indulgence lives up to its name. I got a deep tissue one-hour massage for about $80 that’s including the $15 tip I gave her. It was excellent. She gave me a cup of fresh chilled coconut juice, fragrant fresh flowered water to soak my feet in, and then the most incredible massage a woman, who just rode a rusted bike for miles, could want. You just got to treat yourself. Later, I had the best black bean veggie burger I’ve tasted at their restaurant. Indulgence is a definite must! Stop if you see it.
I am one of your tribes-people. So, while you are there you should definitely take advantage of the tours. You can zip line, ride ATV’s, snorkel, take a chocolate tour, or enjoy turtle nesting on the beaches of Ganduca-Manzanillo, the nesting season runs from March to June.
Be of Service…
When I travel now, I travel with purpose. Please visit the Jaguar Rescue Center $15 per visit. They are always looking for volunteers and are a great organization to support, whether you have time or money. Find out more about the Jaguar Rescue Center on their website www.jaguarrescue.com
If you want to travel with me…you can reach me at email@example.com
. I will have my website up soon. I am starting a new adventure called Be Amazing Volunteer & Travel. We will offer voluntourism, fun, and great adventure with like-minded travellers. Join me!
See I am the bohemian type…I just love amenities.
Pura Vida, my fellow travellers and love your Mother Earth! Until our next destination.