Off the Beaten Path, Puerto Viejo
Costa Rica is one of those travel destinations that requires a little more planning than you'd expect. Typically, I'd prefer not to have my trip all planned out, though. Instead, I have a rough idea of things I'd like to accomplish or places I'd like to see in my head and I work those in somehow.
In Costa Rica, you could do that...but there's a part of the trip that you need to plan for ahead of time...and that's the transportation otherwise, you'll be kicking yourself in the butt when you arrive in San Jose and realize it's a 5 hour drive anywhere else and you haven't booked anything.
It can take HOURS to get to any destination in Costa Rica. For example, the drive from Puerto Viejo to San Jose is a solid 5 hours, if not more, with traffic. And there will be traffic. The majority of the drive is on a two lane highway through the mountains and at least 50% of the drive, you'll be stuck behind some truck driver carrying bananas or dirt who has to drive the speed limit. Basically, you can lose an entire day due to transport. So...my best advice is to make transportation arrangements ahead of time and fit everything else in around that.
During this, my second trip to Costa Rica, we planned to visit the Southern Caribbean coast and the small town of Puerto Viejo. Puerto Viejo is definitely off the beaten path, with most visitors flocking to the more well known parts of the country like, La Fortuna, Quepos, Tamarindo, Jaco, Guanacaste, Arenal, and Puntarenas, etc.
But, Puerto Viejo is quickly becoming a popular destination and is a laid back beach town with a Caribbean feel. What's more, the population of residents of Afro Caribbean and indigenous descent was a draw for us as we wanted to see a different side of Costa Rica. The locals spoke Spanish but also spoke English with an accent like one you'd hear in Jamaica. Rice and beans and plantains are served with every meal. The beaches are stunning. Plus, we had heard from friend who visited before us that the people in Puerto Viejo know how to party.
So, to maximize time and minimize strife, we took a flight ($85 USD and about an hour total, including a stop in Tortuguero) from San Jose to Limon and then a taxi about 45 mins to Puerto Viejo.
On our second day in town, we rented bikes from the nearby hotel, Banana Azul and rode on the single road paralleling the beach which leads to several smaller communities and beaches like Playa Cocles, then Punta Uva and finally to Manzanillo. Punta Uva was one my favorites - the beaches were calm and beautiful. Manzanillo was really amazing too. We didn't get a chance to really explore since we needed to head back to Puerto Viejo before dark. Riding bikes on a one lane high way with cars, trucks, mopeds and other people walking at night didn't seem like the safest idea in the world.
I was impressed to see that each of the beaches we visited had it own distinct personality from the others, even though they were a very short distance apart. Playa Negra has black sand, the water at Punta Uva was the clearest, and the waves on Playa Cocles were massive.
When we returned to our villa...shout out to Villa Aragon (post on that later)....we had a shower and a nap then got our lives together for dinner. After dinner, we caught a taxi to the main town to explore a little of the nightlife. What we got was a very chill mix of everything you ever what in life. Clubs right on the beach....so close that you can hear the waves crashing between the beat of the music. Everything from reggae to music you'd hear on the radio back home but mostly an awesome mix of Latin and Caribbean music which left me no choice but to get up and dance. There was a cool crowd of people and cheap drinks.
In Lazy Mon's we found a game of beer pong that transported me to my days in college. It also made me think that there must be a frat boy around somewhere bc how else would these guys know anything about beer pong. I also found that there are tons of foreigners living in Puerto Viejo. People who have literally left everything behind in Germany, wherever they're from, and moved to PV and maybe purchased a property that they later listed on Airbnb. I won't name all the places we went to....if you're planning to go there let me know and I can tell you. Otherwise, it's hard to miss anything. It's all within walking distance of each other.
Honestly, Lazy Mon's was the place where I had the most fun. It was poppin' all night and seemed like every time I looked up from my drink or my ping pong tournament, there were more and more people. There was a mix of locals and tourists but my favorite part was the vibe. In Houston, I would die in a place that crowded. Here, there was enough room to move around, it was open air, the breeze off the ocean was hitting my face just right...it's like there was literally nothing I would have changed about that situation at all. We partied until the wee hours, hopping from once place to the other. When one club closed, there was a mass exodus to the after hours spot which was just around the corner. We met so many new friends too....then we piled in a taxi back to the villa and poured ourselves into bed sometime before the sun caught up to us.
I leave my camera at the villa/hotel during night time activities. I don't like to be distracted by it or for it to get in the way while I'm dancing my jig.
The next day was full of more chill beach hopping. Although the sun wasn't out, that didn't stop us from having a beautiful day.
I love the beach.....but it's a weird kind of love because I love water and hate sand. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that this was one of those beach trips where I was unconcerned. I freely got in my swimsuit and played in the water like I was a little girl again, rode bikes all day and did no adulting. Sometimes, thats what your vacation should.....an adulting-free experience. Check out some of my pics below.