Dates: 6-11 March 2014
DAYS 123-125: “Puerto Viejo” (6-8 March)
Getting to Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica was a bit of a hop, skip and a jump. We had to take a water taxi from Isla Colon to Almirante on the mainland and we then piled into a shuttle and drove to the Sixaola border crossing where we had to disembark the shuttle, queue to get our exit stamp for Panama, walk across a pretty rickety bridge to get into Costa Rica and then get our entry stamp. We then jumped into another shuttle which took us the rest of the way to Puerto Viejo. The whole adventure took about 6 hours.
By day, Puerto Viejo is a sleepy Rasta town on the beach where Bob Marley wannabes cycle around with their dreadlocks blowing in the breeze. By night, it turns into a bit of a party town with many of the open air bars boasting live music and extended happy hours.
Having learnt our lesson from the Panama debacle, we did valiantly try to pre-book accommodation for our stay here however with no luck. We had a few places in mind unfortunately upon arrival we were told that “the inn was full” in all cases. Walking around (with those blasted backpacks) in the blistering midday Caribbean sun was not all that fun and we settled on Cabinas Lika, a relatively unknown hostel which provided a room and bathroom but no real atmosphere – we were aiming for some down time anyway so were quite happy with this arrangement.
That night we headed out to soak up the atmosphere of this Rasta town and ended up at a bar/restaurant on the beach called Lazy Mon. We took full advantage of their happy hour and had as many maracuya (passion fruit/granadilla) daiquiris as we could fit in in 3 hours. Along with great cocktails they also offered delicious food and live music…and became our “local” for the rest of our time in Puerto Viejo.
The next day we needed to make arrangements to move on to our next Costa Rican town and found a really helpful lady who gave us loads of advice on the Monteverde vs Arenal debate, helping us come to the decision to skip Monteverde and head straight to Arenal as time was becoming a bit of an issue for us. She even helped us book our bus to Arenal for the next day. We left as happy customers. Once our homework was done, it was play time and so we walked to Cocles beach and spent the day tanning, reading and watching surf lessons.
As creatures of habit that night we headed back to Lazy Mon for our tried and tested recipe of cheap daiquiris, scrumptious food and live music. We were treated to hearing the manager of the bar, “Jessie Chick” woo the crowd with her vocal stylings. (link to Jessie Chick music). We turned in early that night as we had a bus to catch the next morning…or so we thought.
The next morning we checked out of our hostel and waited patiently on the side of the road. When the bus was more than 30 minutes late we started to get a bit concerned and phoned the booking agent to find out what the deal was. To cut a long story short, our friendly helpful lady made a faux-pas and booked us on the bus for Sunday instead of Saturday, hence us being all packed up with nowhere to go. We decided that the best option for us would be to stick with our original booking (i.e.. leaving the next day) and spend another night in Puerto Viejo. To her credit she did sort everything out for us including booking and paying for a “luxurious” digs for that night as our hostel was full. This was not the end of the world as our friends from the San Blas sail boat, George and Leanne, were arriving that day so we made plans to catch up with them later that evening.
We decided that they needed to experience some of the Lazy Mon greatness and arranged to meet them there at 5pm for dinner and drinks and not so great live music. The band on this particular evening sounded like a pack of tone deaf, wailing cats! So we had a few cocktails, wolfed down some chow and embarked on a bit of a pub crawl and we ended up hitting Outback Jacks (a funky Australian bar), Hotspots (which had opened that night) and ended up at Mango. The next morning we stood on the pavement hoping that our bus would arrive and thank goodness this time it did. So things were going according to plan, although Sa woke up sans a voice…!
DAYS 126-128: “Arenal” (9-11 March)
We arrived in Arenal in the late afternoon and checked into our self proclaimed 5 star hostel, Arenal Backpackers. Arenal is situated in the North West of Costa Rica and its claim to fame is the active volcano it boasts. We were staying in La Fortuna which is one of the towns situated at the foot of the volcano. Worn out from our days travelling and the fact that Sa was in silent mode we turned in for an early night.
The next day was dedicated to some much needed down time. Sa, still without a voice, certainly wasn’t going to be the life and soul of the party so we chilled, skyped and read. We did accomplish one thing and that was booking a tour for the next day.
The 2 things we wanted to do in Arenal were checking out the active volcano and taking advantage of the natural hot springs, so we booked a tour that covered both of these. After some animal spotting we headed for the National Park around the volcano and went on one of the hikes. The trail we went on was over the old magma from the 1968 eruption…we admired the volcano, lake and beauty of this area…whilst on the look out for snakes and scorpions! After all that exertion we were dropped off at Baldi Hotel and Hot Springs to relax in the various luxurious hot pools they have. Included in this tour was a buffet dinner which was a cause of great excitement for us. We had starters, mains and dessert. Something we haven’t had since we left London!
Having whizzed through Costa Rica (it was quite expensive and we were running low on time) our next port of call was Nicaragua. Tourist shuttles were outrageously expensive, at nearly $100USD each, and we know it might seem as though money is no object but we are in fact quite frugal so we decided to “chicken bus” it in order to save ourselves some tom…