Visiting the Old Port: A last jaunt in Costa Rica

When I speak Spanish I imagine it sounds to ticos like Asians speaking awful English sounds to Americans. I need more practice…

Sunset on the Caribbean

For my last week in Costa Rica, I decided to take a bus to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of the country. A couple of friends came along and we whooped it up as best we could, on a budget.

We went out to dinner at this little natural food restaurant called, “Loco Natural.” We split 3 dishes: green Caribbean madras curry fish, pineapple terriyaki jerk chicken, Thai peanut sauce with coconut milk and veggies. It was absolutely delicious. All the ingredients we fresh and everything had a wonderful, unique flavor.

For breakfast we went over to this restaurant called, “Veronica’s Place.” Her breakfast ingredients are mostly organic, everything is homemade, and she does medicinal smoothies. I got an aloe and nani (a type of fruit that’s everywhere in the Caribbean) blended drink that’s supposed to help stomach problems & your digestive system. I also got homemade banana pancakes with a wonderful, light, blended fruit jam. I would highly recommend this little restaurant. Veronica also sells essential oils and books on Costa Rican herbs.

Window-shopping in Puerto Viejo can be a great afternoon activity, when it’s too hot to be on the beach. The shops are mostly air-conditioned and there are hammocks, cute dresses and jewelry for sale everywhere. At a little plaza we got homemade ice cream, all pretty basic flavors, but refreshing and rich in flavor.

Rockin' J's

For lodging, a popular choice is Rockin J’s. Rockin J’s is a hostel down at the end of town where they rent hammocks andtents for the night, and also have a place for you to pop your own tent. It’s cheap, and known for its partying atmosphere. They offer many inexpensive tours, bike and locker rentals. It’s very spread out and there are mosaics, paintings, and shellacked items stuck everywhere. The first floor has a bar & restaurant, lockers, picnic tables, bathrooms and showers spread out over the property (with timers that don’t give you light for more than 10 minutes). There’s a place for people who bring their own tents directly behind the lockers, two big hammock rooms, and a kitchen. It’s a great place for meeting people, but be aware that curfew isn’t until 11:30 p.m., and often it does not quiet down until well past 12:30 p.m.

If this isn’t your bag, there are many other moderately priced Cabinas. The first two nights, we stayed at Cabinas Monte Sol, and it came out to around $13 per person. We had our own full-sized beds with mosquito netting, a deck with hammock, and a well-kept shared bathroom.

For dinner we went to a German restaurant called, “Flip Flop.” The three of us ordered pasta dishes: Jamie had shrimp pasta with avocado sauce; Amy and I both had the Carbonara (bacon, egg, cream sauce). Each pasta dish cost around $7 (though some fancier ones were over $10). It was simple and wonderful, and by the time it came we were truly hungry.

Bike rentals are anywhere from $4 for a half day to $10 for a full day. If you ask around town, and depending on how long you rent them for (for us it was 12:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) you can get a good deal.  All the bikes are a bit sketchy, mine creaked pretty violently and Jamie’s pedal kept falling off. But they made the journey over the potholed road pretty well.

Beach in Manzanillo

What a pack of gringos we were on our way to Manzanillo. A force, riding two and three abreast and chatting idly while we peddled our cruisers and cars rushed by us on the narrow road. When we arrived in Manzanillo we rode to the end of town and parked our bike pack next to some trees next to the beach. The girls waded out and lounged in the sun. The boys road their bikes around a bit more to explore, played Frisbee and shared one snorkel mask for a look out at the reef.

After sufficiently sunning ourselves we were hungry and the gringo gang migrated to a soda, where we took over three big tables and the boys all ordered hamburgers. The girls, saving their appetite for dinner, shared fajitas and nachos. We lingered too long and it was a race against time, fading light and a whole slew of potholes to get back in time.

We went to Koki for dinner, though we had intended to visit a little Caribbean restaurant (closed! You would think, on a Wednesday night in a tourist town…but you’d be wrong). I ordered a sea bass kabob (one more seafood dish!) and Jamie ordered scallops in a cream sauce.

The next morning we woke up early and decided to venture out and see how much the Tues/Thurs yoga class cost at Loco Natural. Kendra (one of the Virginians, also a writer, but not so driven to do much of anything) came with us. We got there a little late and the owner set us up right away with mats. So we joined the class, and it was wonderful. It ended up being a 75-minute class. It was very challenging, and I felt the 2 weeks that I haven’t done yoga. My muscles were stiff and flexibility that I’d gained was slow in coming back around. I was sweating a fair amount in the middle of the class and relieved when we slowed down to the mats. Afterward, I felt fantastic and gladly paid the $6 for the class.

And that was my very brief visit to Puerto Viejo. If you have more time than I did, I’d recommend taking a trip out to Punta Mona.


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