Splette's Travel Blog


Puerto Viejo beach at sunset
After a few days on the Pacific coast I went spent a long weekend in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. This time I wasn’t traveling alone, though. Rodolfo (also known as Fofo), one of my oldest Tico friends from the time I was living here was accompanying me. It’s Easter weekend and because the Easter week (Semana Santa) is the most important celebration of the year in many Latin american countries exceptional circumstances apply.

A baby crab digging a hole at the beach

Baby crab digging hole

On Easter Friday there was no public transportation at all and by law it’s forbidden to sell alcohol (thankfully, popular tourist spots consequently ignore that law). For Costa Rica Easter also means that everyone is heading for the beach, so it can be extremely difficult to find a place to sleep unless one books weeks in advance – which is so not my style. so we had quite a hard time finding any kind of accommodation. Even the tents and hammocks were booked out.

I was chasing this crab around. Eventually it was hiding behind this door.

Bigger crab

Eventually, Rodolfo got hold of a large hostel that isn’t listed on any of the hostel-booking websites and still had two dorm rooms available.
We left San José on the first bus at 6am in the morning and arrived in Puerto Viejo about 5 hours later. Most of the Caribbean region of Costa Rica is quite beautiful (so is its Panamanian counterpart Bocas del Toro just across the border) and there’s something for everyone. Puerto Viejo is more of a party town at the beach. A few kilometers down the coast is Punta Uva which is much quieter and even further South is the chill village Manzanillo, a vibrant outpost of Afro-Caribbean culture.
We stayed at Rocking J´s, a large and surprisingly well-organized hostel (for Costa Rican standards) about 10 min walk out of the city center and right at the beach. The hostel had a good and relaxed vibe and was mostly frequented by European backpackers. Next to our room was a bunch of Israeli surfer boys and we shared the room with two Dutch girls – and that baby cockroach that I found in my bed. Rest in peace little cockroach.

Beach near Puerto Viejo at sunset

Beach near Puerto Viejo

After dropping off our backpacks at the hostel we went to town for lunch. Immediately mosquitoes started to swarm me once again but Fofo had brought some OFF! insect repellent as well as sunscreen to save me some pain during this beach trip. Puerto Viejo is not the cleanest of towns and the beach has plenty of rocks. But just a 15 min walk out of town there’s some great beaches. The water was perfect, there were nice waves but also a surprising strong current that day. Oh, and perhaps also worth mentioning: I didn’t lose my keys in the sand this time.

Rodolfo and I rented bikes to go to Manzanillo, 12km from Puerto Viejo

Bike ride to Manzanillo

The other day we rented bicycles to go to Manzanillo. It’s a 12km ride down there, mostly through jungle and plantations. Rodolfo doesn’t own a bike and it looked like he hasn’t used one for many years. The bikes we rented didn’t have a handbrake, just backpedal brake which was an additional challenge and once or twice he ran into me because he was unable to stop. Right next to Manzanillo is a nice nature reserve – a perfect place to spot Costa Rican wildlife.

Fofo looking at sea in Manzanillo

Fofo looking at sea in Manzanillo

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to rent a guide and check it out because we would have to return to Puerto Viejo before dusk. The roads here can be dangerous at night and people get robbed regularly. So we just hung out at the beach – along with hundreds of Tico families who came here for an Easter day trip.

Fofo is not happy to take his bitter medicationAfter returning we hung out at the beach-front of the hostel. There was a bonfire, some benches and a dozen backpackers smoking weed. Fofo and I sat on one of the benches along with two U.S. Americans, some Ticos, a young Dutch guy hitting on a German girl, a Belgium beer lover and a 21 year old Belgium girl hitting on Fofo. And then there was Stuart, a guy from the UK in his mid 30s, quite a bit drunk and a constant source of entertainment. He kept trying to chat up girls that were passing by to convince them to sit with us. Sometimes even successful, though mostly not. Stuart: “Come sit with us. We are nice” Passing-by blonde girl: “No” Stuart: “Where are you from?” Girl “I am tired” Stuart: “Ahh from Thailand. Come sit with us…”
At some point a local guy in his early 20s with a wide friendly smile and long curly hair came to us and would introduce himself in the most casual yet professional manner, which – for a second – made us believe he might be an employee of the hostel: “Hello, my name is Kevin. I hope you are enjoying your time here in Puerto Viejo. I am your dealer tonight. If you need anything, weed, cocaine, MDMA just come and let me know. Have a pleasant evening.” And off he went again (without any of us buying anything). Fofo and I were amazed and amused by how casually guys would try to sell their stuff here. Things seem to be rather different here on the Caribbean coast. But that was not what we came for.

The club EZ Times or how I would call it: The Shroom Den

Psychadelic overdose!

Later at night, we headed out to the town center. And one other thing that’s different here is the music. Reggae! They love it here. And nothing else. It’s almost impossible to find a place that is not exclusively playing reggae. Since neither Fofo nor I are particular reggaelovers, we ended up in a place called “EZ Times”. A more fitting name might be “The Shroom Den”. The interior decoration could be described as, well, fluorescent and colorful. Psychadelic overdose, man! And it had an old DJ with long hair who looked like he’s been doing this job non-stop since the good old 70s. He played some electronic music and it actually wasn’t so bad.

What kind of monster rat was this?I didn’t feel so well that night and headed home early. As I was walking through the town I saw a badly disfigured roadkill that made it hard to recognize which animal it had been. It was maybe 40cm long and looked like some sort of monster rat. I wish I knew what animal it actually was. Talking about animals, sadly, I didn’t get to see any sloths or snakes during the trip so far. But then I ran into this:
This giant and rather friendly beetle looked like he just wanted to play...
The biggest beetle I’ve seen in my life! Wow, I couldn’t believe it. It was just sitting there on the sidewalk. I tried to remember from my undergrad zoology lectures if beetles could be poisonous. I didn’t think so and was more concerned about its mandibles. But he seemed rather friendly when I held out my hand and it started crawling up first my arm and then all the way to the top of my head. A Costa Rican girl who came along picked it up and I set the beetle free in some bushes further outside. As I read later on, this is the Rhinoceros Beetle – Costa Rica’s biggest beetle.

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