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Puerto Viejo - November 2018

We stayed in Puerto Veijo for six weeks, from the beginning of November to mid-December 2018. Unfortunately, most of the photos up through January are lost, but I still have quite a bit of photos recovered for this leg of the trip.

Arrival and first impressions: The difference in weather and population from the west coast to the Caribbean coast is very drastic! On the west coast, there were mainly Ticos and retired Canadians, for whatever reason. On the east coast, and especially in PV, there was a mixture of European and American tourists, along with a local Jamaican, Chinese, and Tico population, including indigenous tribal Ticos. A lot of the Jamaicans and more tourists speak English, so more shops and taxistas speak English too.

The weather was similarly different. While it was the rainy season (October through March for all of Costa Rica) in both locations, the Caribbean coast was noticeably more humid. It rained so consistently our first couple weeks that our clothes almost never were dry. There are no dryers in CR except in laundromats and we would hang up our clothes around the apartment but they never seemed to fully dry. This constant strong rain, combined with less infrastructure led for some muddy roads. The main road was actually better paved than anything in Coco, and it was easier to go to different areas of town as everything shuttled off of this one main road.

The jungle extends all the way to the beach

The beach is so different in PV than Coco. In Coco, the beach is wider and there are more establishments along the coast and cleared areas, despite the area not having access to electricity until the 1980s. PV was actually developed later, and the jungle goes all the way to the beach. So, as you walk along the coast south of PV, you eventually get to areas where the coconut trees MEET the ocean. You can actually spot wild sloths and monkeys as you walk along. There are also big coral rocks on parts of the coast to the south of PV, and black volcanic sand (Playa Negra) to the north (see the surfer in the map below).

Here's a map of these different and distinct areas.

Cocles (our first Airbnb) is slightly north of the sun, Caracola (our second place to stay) is slightly south of the sun, Cahuita (a nature reserve) is the parrot, Finca Inti (our shamon) is the rainbow, and Manzanillo (another preserve, home to Punto Mona finca) is the butterfly.

Our range in PV

How we got around: We mostly accessed all the areas above by bike. Yes, we even biked to Cahuita once. We took the bus to the Shaman and to Cahuita as well. The buses are generally cheap, under $1. You can also catch a collectivo, which is like an unofficial taxi. There are of course taxis around the main area sitting and waiting and you can book one ahead of time if you have a special trip (ask the taxista). The collectivos are cheaper and more like rideshares (think UberPool) where they will pick up others who gesture to them on the route. I think the code was the car will give two beeps if it's a collectivo and sees you on the side of the road, then you put your arm out and they'll get you. The bike riding in town was a bit better because of the main road being very well paved. We would lock up off the side of the main road and walk to the final destination. Our first Airbnb in Cocles had a completely gravel/rock road that would get full of puddles leading up to our apartment so we often had to get off the bike and walk it or risk damaging the tires. We were right across from the beach and we didn't need to bike to it unless we wanted to go to a farther beach area.

Favorite activities: Early on, we were able to find a hostel called La Selina that had yoga classes almost daily. Selina is actually a really big hostel chain and we noticed them all over Central America. The one in PV also had free dance classes as well. There were also some free yoga classes offered by various hostels and we were able to check one of those out as well. Of course, you were encouraged to donate for the instructor in the free classes. Our host had a nice lady who was acting as property manager and she hooked us up with a surf instructor. We rented bikes from a random guy on the side of the street and it was way cheaper than in any of the foreign-owned stores. Only had a few instances of the chain falling off. He ended up giving Daniel a surf lesson too. In PV there was actually so much to do that we barely scratched the surface. The organic store was not only a great resource for food but also community. In the vegan restaurants you could find walls covered with fliers about all kinds of holistic health events and gatherings.

Bridge near Playa Negra

What we ate: Similar to other parts of Costa Rica, we found ourselves eating a lot of beans, rice, and pineapples (three for a dollar!). Other tropical staples like bananas, plantains, papaya, coconuts, and lychees were plentiful as well. We ate out slightly more here because there were lots of good restaurants. There was also a fried chicken stand that was out of this world. There were a couple Italian owned places that had good affogatos and pasta. We also went to a hippie cafe and a little vegan smoothie/brunch place. There were some restaurants that offered mostly organic food, as well as a sushi restaurant that we never made it to. There was also at least one restaurant that we regretted going to because their smoothie had weird syrup and generally bad quality fried food. Also, a french bakery!

At our second house there were coconut trees and breadfruit, as well as this kind of red pear called a water apple. They had to trim the coconut tree and ended up giving us like 20 coconuts. And since fresh coconuts only last about 10 days, we were eating coconut-version of everything. I love coconut meat, but my jaw ended up getting so sore from the mature meat.

Coconut milk, shredded coconut on everything, coconut cake with coconut four and coconut frosting, coconut soup, etc.

Another new food we tried was called "flor de jamaica." It's a red juicy little flower that has a very tangy flavor. We ate them in salads. Later in Mexico, we found people sell then dried too, but they are much better fresh.

Our first Airbnb was rather interesting and a lesson in vetting your lettings. Read about how and why we double booked our first stay in PV.

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