Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo – Finishing Strong With New Beaches, Friends, and Monkeys

After John had pried my hands from the entrance of the Sloth Factory, we waved a slow, three fingered salute to our friends and boarded a bus to our final destination: Puerto Viejo.

Puerto Viejo is a mecca for backpackers and ex-pats…we met plenty while we were there. The main draw for the young 20 somethings is to drink copious amount of alcohol and frolic around in their bathing suits. If I had to guess the main draw for the ex-pats, it would be endless surf, laid back rules and probably drinking copious amounts of alcohol. There is a lot of day drinking in Puerto Viejo.

We were staying for 4 nights at Cabinas Guaranas, just off of the main drag, so we managed to avoid all the late night parties and the majority of the Rastas offering us drugs. Our goals in Puerto Viejo were to relax, look at the waves and possibly drink a fair amount of beer. You’ll be delighted to know, constant reader, that we accomplished all three.

We began our first full day by renting bicycles and pedaling up the road to visit Punta Uva, one of the top 10 beaches in the world (so we were told). It’s been at least 10 years since either of us rode a bike, so there was a fair amount of humorous wobbling for the first 500m. They didn’t rent out helmets, so we took the fate of our skulls into our hands and headed south down the main road. IMG_1791.JPGIt’s hot down here, y’all…hot and muggy. Within one minute of standing still outside, no matter the time of day, you will be covered in sweat. At least when you are biking, all that sweat is hitting the breeze, making it slightly more bearable. I do believe all my sun screen and bug spray sloughed off of me in under 5 minutes as I came back from this adventure a little rosy with an ass covered in mosquito bites (and believe me, folks…that’s no easy task).

Huffing and puffing aside, Punta Uva is remarkably picturesque and very beachy.IMG_1792.JPGIMG_1795.JPGIMG_1794.JPGWe walked up and down the beach, made friends with a white dog and then we ran out of ideas…so we got back on the bikes and headed homeward bound. We did go the extra mile (literally) and passed through Puerto Viejo for a spot of lunch at The Point.IMG_1801.JPGThis place is the only sports bar in town, and was recommended to us by Jessica and Gabor, our hosts from Cahuita. Yes, that’s a huge skull and, yes, the bar is named after the restaurant in The Goonies. Popeye (for reals) and his wife, Tiffany, are New Orleans natives who moved to Costa Rica about 3 years ago. They also happen to make the best damn burger I have ever eaten. We only stayed for about an hour, but The Point features prominently in our Puerto Viejo adventures. A card game amongst all of the regulars was getting started as we left.

Full of food, we biked back to the hostel and laid under the fan, which was operating at a fairly risky speed…we threw caution to the wind and delighted in every gust it pushed at us. After a while, John got up to do some research for his fantasy football draft and I stayed exactly where I was for the following four hours. Like I said, we were there to relax.

Day two started pretty much the same way…we rented bikes and sweated our asses down to the Jaguar Centro de Rescate, at nearby Playa Chiquita. This rescue center is one of Costa Rica’s most successful conservation efforts. They accept any and all wounded animals with the goal to release all the rescued animals back into the wild. As with the sloth sanctuary, some animals cannot return to the wild due to their injuries or because they were orphaned at such an early age. We had the joy of sharing our guided tour with a gaggle of barely-20-something year olds. They acted as you would imagine: loud, zero spacial awareness, pushy and full of incredible questions. Q: “What should I do if I see a snake?” A: “Stick your face as close to it as possible”. One of them, sporting a Harry Potter tattoo, exclaimed “That’s a really nice owl.” Geniuses!

We saw a crocodile, more sloths, a blind anteater, many raptors, snakes (one boa ate a cat!) and the bottom left corner of an ocelot.

The highlight of the tour were the baby monkeys. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the enclosure, but I solemnly swear that a baby howler monkey spent the majority of the time sitting on John’s head, it’s tail wrapped around his neck and occasionally investigating the beard. It also took a shit down John’s shirt. Adorable!

Due to being constantly pushed out of the way by our tour companions, I only managed to get shots of the Toucans, which were flying about everywhere.IMG_1815.JPGIMG_1816.JPGWe were briefly visited by an adult Howler monkey who used to live at the center. Now, he just comes back to steal the food.IMG_1817.JPG
After our visit, we stopped off at Playa Chiquita and watched the waves crash on the coral beach. IMG_1814.JPGIMG_1813.JPGIMG_1812.JPG

It was with the most innocent of intentions that we ended up back at The Point for lunch. I don’t think we went there with the intention of drinking until the sun went down, and then some…but everything got a bit hazy there at the end…so it may have been our exact plan. The problem was that, as soon as we mentioned our Cahuita hosts, we were immediately invited to sit with the regulars. Thus began 7+ hours of drinking with some of the most fun and friendly people on the planet. IMG_1802.JPGIt was a diverse group…one of the bartenders, when not on duty, was pounding drinks with the rest of us. He was from Norway, and moved to Costa Rica because he hates Norway. It was never clear exactly why. We also met Rick and his wife Kathleen, from South Carolina. They were late-60s-ish, and we recognized Rick from the previous day. I think he pretty much drinks himself to oblivion every afternoon. John and Rick drove the truck into town for some reason that I can now barely remember. There was a young couple from California that was in Puerto Viejo vacationing, but had been boozing it up sufficiently during their week there that they were known to the barflys of The Point. And I can’t forget Dutch, the ex-pat former New York iron worker who came to Costa Rica and unexpectedly found Buddhism. Our favorite Dutch quote, and there were many worthy utterances, was overheard when we were talking about a couple of guys who immolated themselves years ago to protest the war in Vietnam: “That’s too much Buddhism”. Read ya loud and clear, Dutchman.

At some point during the revelry, I stumbled out onto the beach as the sun was setting. Good gosh golly…when I checked the pictures the next day, it turned out is was just a beautiful as I remembered.IMG_1798.JPGSomehow, we managed to walk back into town, and developed a pizza lust along the way. We enthusiastically ate mediocre pizza under paper lanterns full of geckos. IMG_1818.JPG
To be honest, the next day was dedicated entirely to recovery. We both read a bit, slept a bit, sweated a lot and ate PBJ sammies for dinner.

And just like that, our time in Puerto Viejo had come to an end. We splurged and booked a real hotel for our last night in San José and the only thing separating us and the sweet, sweet relief of air-conditioning, was a 5 hour bus ride back to the Valle Central and a manic cab ride from the bus station to the hotel. Our cabbie knew his way around the roads…at one point, he was passing cars on the highway in the breakdown lane. Brass balls!

As I type this, we are currently squeezing every bit of luxury out of the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The air is blasting and the tv is on for the first time in a month. John is switching between Terminator: Salvation and Van Helsing (both are dubbed en Español). We just finished laundry, so we are delighting in the smell of freshly washed and dried clothing. Next to me is a chocolate bar from the Walmart across the street, which I am able to enjoy leisurely, instead of having to eat it up in -3 seconds before it melts. Every piece of technology is plugged in. Oh, we also ate at Hooters.IMG_1800.JPGOur flight isn’t until 2pm tomorrow, so we plan on sleeping in as late as possible, under every blanket we can find, and then taking long, death-proof showers before heading to Miami for a week. It’s hard to believe that our time in Costa Rica is over. It’s an incredible country, and I hope you have enjoyed following along as much as we have enjoyed writing about it.

See you soon, Miami!

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