COSTA RICA

On Feb forth the journey began in the middle of the night. My friend and I left Worcester MA, for Boston's Logan Airport at 3 a.m. There was one brutal ten hour layover in Houston TX. We took a bus out of the airport and cruised around the city to kill some time. We finally arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica. At night this city gave off a noticeably unusual incandescent yellow glow from below as we landed.

From the fifth until the February twenty third. I stayed three different places in two different towns in the Talamanca County in the region of Limon. Both of the towns were directly on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. While exiting the airport we were swarmed by taxi drivers. We went back into the airport and waited patiently in the upstairs cafe for a few hours. Right before sunrise we decided it was safe to find our way to the nearby airport Denny's where an arranged ride called the Caribbean Shuttle (turizmo) was picking us up. We chose the more expensive private shuttle over a public bus for a few reasons; mainly we wanted to avoid potential theft at the bus station, we had read online that travelers with backpacks were vulnerable at bus stations especially in San Jose. Also we hardly spoke Spanish and our destination would still be several hours away, the shuttle brought us directly to our first hostel so we didn't have to worry about getting lost. Although the airport Denny's was nearby the lady at the café told us not to walk there and taxi driver outside of the airport was nice enough to inform us that there was a free airport shuttle that would take us to the airport Denny's. We watched the sunrise as we ate breakfast, (a chicken salad with coffee). The shuttle arrived and collected three other passengers, two of them were Australian and that were headed to Talamanca for the surf. The shuttle was also equipped with AC and wifi. After six hours of driving and one banio break we finally arrived to our first hostel, Rocking J's!

Stays: Originally we were only going to stay at Rocking J's for a week but we ended up prolonging our stay for two! Rocking J's was highly recommend on traveling blogs. We booked our stay over the phone, email and PayPal. The place was covered in elaborate mosaics and paintings. The atmosphere was exciting and inspiring. The backside of the hostel had an entrance to a jungle-path that ran right along the ocean. The path traveled from the center of town to large beach a little South of Rocking J's called Cocles Beach. The beach path was only safe to travel during the day. The owner J was a rad dude and encouraged a party. He let his guest add mosaics to walls and floors of the entire hostel. We made one too! Ours was a purple blue octopus with a Rasta themed background. One of the night's J hosted live 'sea crab races' that guests could bet on. It was a little difficult to make friends here most of the people we met were already in established groups and often there was a language barrier making it difficult to connect. We made most of our connection making food in the community kitchen and by the beach front.

Sunshine Hotel was the second place we stayed. We booked it on booking.com. It didn't have a community kitchenette which limited our food options. It was about a thirty minute local bus ride north for only 750¢ colones which was less than 2 dollars. Here we had our own bathroom, TV and there was a strong WiFi signal that reached all the way to our room which was a plus. The TV was mostly Spanish and had about 4 stations that came in clear. We aren't big TV watchers to begin with but we caught some Spanish Sesame Street and there was a short Charlie Chapman's silent film. We got excited when this show En Boca De Boca came on occasionally. It was silly pop culture talk TV show that we would make fun of it by guessing what they were saying, but we had no idea. Another thing that was really unique about this room was that we were a two minute walk from the beach and national park entrance. You could clearing make out the sounds of ocean waves through our window. The owner was friendly and would answer any questions we had about the area and would make interesting conversation.

The last place we stayed, Hakuna Matata Hostel was more our pace. We sadly only stayed for one night. We found the hostel while we were exploring Cahuita. If we could do the trip over we would have spent more nights here than at Sunshine Hotel. The room was maybe eight minutes away from the beach instead of three. It was also much cheaper to stay here and offered a community kitchen and travelers were more our demographic. Since this hostel was much smaller it was easier to have conversation with others. There was a Foosball table which we had fun with. The room offered a bug net that hung over the bed and had the most comfortable and the nicest bed that we slept in while in Costa Rica. This was personally my favorite place that we stayed out of the three.

Food: To save money we went out to eat less than 10 times. We made most of our meals in the hostel kitchens. The fruit from the markets was extremely fresh and much better than back home; pineapple, cantaloupe, mangoes and watermelon. I immediately fell in love with eating papaya. Out of the things we prepared ourselves I especially enjoyed our homemade salsa and on a different night we seared tuna steaks that we bought from a local fish market. It was all so delicious!

As our trip progressed we became infatuated with finding coconuts! Looking up into the palm trees hoping to find a decent size nut that we could also potentially knocked down. We learned that the larger the coconut the thicker the interior white walls, but the smaller ones had tastier milk inside.

The area over all was Rastafarian influenced and had local Afro culture museums. The traditional food was rice and beans cooked with coconut milk and chicken in a unique curry sauce.

Sevche was a dish we also had out. I had never heard of before. It was something that we really wanted to try, it was essentially a cold seafood salad.

One night we indulged in an all you could eat sushi fusion cuisine. There was a cool Rasta man performing in the middle of the restaurant. Other food we ate while out included salad, pizza, fish tacos, chicken fingers, burgers, fries, buffalo chicken. We also stopped for street food a handful of times. We ate chicken and beef on sticks but mainly chicken, beef and cheese empanadas. There was one empanadas I particularly enjoyed that we ate in a side restaurant with basil and tomato.

Trits ice cream sandwiches were so good and could be purchased at most grocery and convenience stores. It was vanilla chocolate swirl ice cream between two thin vanilla graham-cracker cookies. We discovered Trits after I had made friends with a passer-byer spinning poi and later on he gifted us with a Trits when we bumped into him while in town after saying that we had never tried one before. Good-vibes all around! We also enjoyed the occasional creamy freezer pop with raisins.

There was a Homemade ice cream parlor named Alice Ice Cream on the main road headed south of Puerto Vejo. The owner were a white family from NY that had moved their entire lives to Costa Rica. Directly next the the parlor was there home. They could maintain residency because their youngest child had been born in Costa Rica. If not for their youngest child they explained it would be extremely hard to permanently live in the country if you don't speak fluent Spanish. It's in Costa Rica's Constitution.

We hardly bought drinks while we were out. Instead to save money we went through about about fifteen 40s. The two types of beer we were drinking where Imperial Silver and Pilson. I enjoyed the Imperial silver the most. It was similar to corona and we usually had it with lime. We also went through a bottle of rum and tequila.

Jungle: We spent most of our time on the beach or exploring the jungle. We went to four beaches in Puerto Vejo. And three in Cahuita. Our favorite spots for swimming were Punta Uva South of Puerto Vejo. In Cahuita we enjoyed swimming at the National Park at the opening right after the first river crossing.

We didn't visit the pacific coast. We heard of some awesome spots to check out if ever given the chance. What was explained to me was that the Caribbean Coast unlike the Pacific Coast is underdeveloped in comparison. The Pacific Coast is known to have resorts built up on the beaches. On the other hand the Caribbean Coast the ocean still primarily meets the jungle. Which was absolutely beautiful!

Costa Rica is made up of 25% national parks. While we were there we had the opportunity to explore two of them. Both were free entrances but we were asked to make a small donation if possible.

Manzanillo was the first national park we explore. It was a 5.5 mile bike ride South down along the coast. The terrain was far more difficult. We visited on two different days. The first day, it was raining, the town and the park felt like a desolate ghost town. We didn't get far into the park that day. The path eventually become unrecognizable as well as too steep and muddy to climb and we didn't have the proper footwear to make an attempt.

The second time we made the trek there it was a beautiful day. We saw far more people and the sights looked like they came straight out of a magazine.

The second national park in Cahuita we visited more frequently. This was primarily because it was was a lot easier to get to. Hands down we saw the most amount of animals here.

I did my best to photograph as many flowers and plants as I could. The jungle was a beautiful lush green with occasional clearing between the trees that looked majestic. It seemed like these spaces were home to fairies. I especially liked the different kinds of vines. I appreciated their powerful presence in the jungle, at times they would encase entire trees. My favorite trees back home are willow trees and smaller bunches of vines would hang from trees mimicking the appearance of the willow.

Animals: All the animals seen were in the national parks, or in the wild, along the beaches or on the side of roads.

Insects: Butterfly's; brilliant blue, yellow, red & black, black speckled white and also some yellow ones. The prettiest one I thought was translucent with blue and orange accents in Cahuita National Park! Several pretty dragonflies. Four Centipede/caterpillar looking bugs. The first one seen was dead and later I started calling them 'cata-pedes' I stepped on one accidentally it was crunchy. Red and black ants; I assumed the red one were fire ants but both the red and small black ants could bite and left itchy bumps. In one of the national park a tour guide in passing said you could pick up the big black ants but I didn't dare. Countless massive lines of marching leaf cutter ants. Once in awhile you would see some solo leaf cutter ants and would comment about how it was lost. Mosquitoes weren't too bad especially the closer I was to the ocean. At first the bites were leaving huge welts and I think my body adapter because this stopped happening. Between the ants and mosquitoes I was glad I brought medicated itch cream. It helped in the middle up the night when it was too itchy to sleep. There were three bugs that looked like a cross between a leaf bug and grasshopper. One large moth with black, red and yellow markings. Massive spiders the size of my hand were everywhere. I saw one massive bubble bee and a few three inch black hornets. The jungle was constantly humming with sound of grasshoppers and other insects.

Animals hanging around: Sloths. I saw about a half dozen both in national parks and along the side of the road. They were usually spotted when they already had an audience taking pictures and seemed to enjoy getting the attention. White Face Monkeys. We spotted them a couple of times. One in Puerto Vejo and the other time in Cahuita national park. BEWARE, don't feed these monkey they will gang up on you and if given the chance and steal your things. I didn't actually see anyone get robbed but heard some stories from a locals.

They also has brown squirrels and raccoons that looked similar to the ones back home. We also saw, a hummingbird, local chickens Dogs/Cats.For reptiles we saw Crocodiles, a yellow eyelash viper, Iguanas, and lizards of all kinds

There were these turkey Vulture looking birds. One was eating a snake on the side of the road we biked on. The snake might have been a python it was a good size.

Purta Vejo was far more wild and had a much stronger party scene atmosphere. Cuherta on the other hand was much more tame and family friendly.

Before going to Costa Rica I looked up the climate. We expected to be there during their 'summer' known as the dry season. When we were there it was almost 50/50 sun and ran. Which was kind of a bummer. The rain prevented us for snorkeling on the reef while we were there. This was something we had really wanted to do but without a few consistent days of sunshine the water was to murky and not calm enough to bother. Vocalizing our disappointment to locals we learned that climate change was the cause for the unusual amount of rain. Which has been an ongoing problem for the last a few years. The rain prevented people from not only exploring the reef but also enjoying the beaches. When there are many days without rain it allows the beaches to grow fuller and form natural lagoons but with the excessive rain the beaches were being striped of there sand leaving bare coral rock that sometime came right up to the paved roads. Many beaches had been completely washed away and trees knocked down out of the ground.

Another thing we did not get to experience was large exotic parrots. We were told if we came six years earlier we would have seen groups of them flying in the sky hanging out in enormous palm trees. The tallest of palm trees had been eaten away by acid rain and parrots are primarily found now deeper in the jungle.

For the most part we occupied our time primarily swimming, biking, as well as beach and jungle adventures. We did some, arts and crafts. I had origami, playing cards and tarot cards. In addition to this I finished two books 1984 and the first Harry Potter. They were both great! Even though I've seen the HP movies the book was so good. I got through it really quick and after I wished I had brought the second to start. 1984 had some interesting and relevant concepts to modern day governments. I'm glad I finally got around to reading them both!

By the end of our twenty day adventure it was hard to say good bye. Leaving eighty degree weather for new England's winter was painful. I experienced my first jungle! If ever given the chance I want to visit others around the world. I've got that 'Jungle Fever' I suppose. The trip overall was absolutely amazing. Truly living the pure life or they say in Costa Rica Pura Vida!

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