To young Costa Ricans, Semana Santa (“easter week”) is the equivalent to what spring break is to college students in the USA. But while many young people and also families go to the beach towns to relax and party, many religious people spend the time with going to church and participating in religious processions. I guess you know to which of the two groups I belong. I spent my Semana Santa at the beach in Puerto Viejo.
From my prior post about Puerto Viejo, you might now that I really like this place. But during these 9 days (8.-16. April) that I spent in the small beach town, I fell in love with this place. I want to explain you why.
Why I Fell in Love with Puerto Viejo
Well, first of all, it was a process. It went from sleeping a lot to regain energy, to getting bored, to falling into a chill daily routine, to partying. This also had a lot to do with the people I was there with. The first three days I was with my AFS contact person, her sister, and her sister’s girlfriend. Then I was supposed to spend another three nights at the famous hostel Rocking-J’s until my host family would arrive to spend the last three days with me. However, my host family never made it to Puerto Viejo and I ended up staying in Rockin-J’s for an additional 3 days.
Three Days of Rest
The first three days I was with my AFS contact person, her sister, and her sister’s girlfriend. They really needed their long-desired break from studying and working. For some reason, I also needed some days of rest after a crazy week back in San José. So a few days of sleeping a lot, and spending some time at the beach was much appreciated by all four of us.
On the first day, we went for a little walk at the beach in Puerto Viejo. There we spotted this crab that was laying on it’s back. We flipped it around so it could walk back into the water… I don’t know for how much longer it lived, though.
Since our hotel had a pool, we spent some time in there and afterward took a nap.
On the second day, we went to Wildlife Refuge Manzanillo, which is about 30 min by bus from Puerto Viejo. I’ve been there before, but it’s always an amazing place to go there. Like the last time I was there, we also went to Maxi’s to eat lunch. The Caribbean food is just amazing!
On the third day, we went to Cocles beach.
Finding a Routine
After more than enough sleep and rest and after my contact person and the others left, I was alone and bored. Three days of not doing much are usually more than enough for me as I’m used to haveing a full schedule and always being on the run back in Switzerland. So I had to find something to do and meet people to hang out with.
Slowly I got into a very relaxed daily routine of going to get food, doing small trips to beaches, and sleeping. And to my own surprise, I started to like it. My life felt like it was completely slowed down and I was enjoying just floating in the water and thinking.
I spent one day just laying at the beach in Playa Negra (“black beach” because the sand is black) and exploring the rusty shipwreck that was stranded on the beach. I also finally found the time and, most of all, the motivation to write postcards.
A Walk along the Beach to Punta Uva
One day I decided to go back to the spot where I went snorkeling the last time I was here with my host brother. I didn’t remember how it was called nor how far away from Puerto Viejo it was. All I remember was the characteristic cliff and that it was somewhere in between Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo. So I simply started walking along the beach in that direction. I couldn’t miss it this way.
I later found out that the spot I was looking for was called Punta Uva and was about 8 km along the road from Puerto Viejo. Walking along the beach, of course, made the way longer because there were any small bays. So I guess I it took me about three hours.
Walking along the beach was an amazing experience. At the beaches abound Puerto Viejo I’ve been to before you’re never alone because they’re easily accessible by car. Most of the time you can even park your car at the beach. Since I was walking this time I came across some totally empty bays where you can feel like you’re the only person within kilometers. These places are true little paradises to me! So when you come to Puerto Viejo, just walk along the beach until you find a bay you can have all to yourself and enjoy the loneliness.
Snorkeling at Punta Uva
Punta Uva is one of the best spots to go snorkeling around Puerto Viejo. If you don’t have your own snorkeling gear, you can rent it here. Unfortunately the day I was there the visibility wasn’t that great because the water wasn’t very calm. Nevertheless, I saw some beautiful colorful fish and fascinating corals. But the most memorable part was that there was a small yellow fish that followed me wherever I swam for about 15 min. It was so close to me that I could even touch it.
Another Reason to Love Puerto Viejo: The Food
One of the daily highlights was definitely always the food. In Puerto Viejo, you can find uncountable different options. There are some delicious local sodas and restaurants and also lots of foreign ones, like a French Bakery, Italien Pizza Cones, an Argentinian grill, or Sushi places. Sometimes I feel like the majority of the residents of Puerto Viejo aren’t originally from here, but immigrants that stayed here after their vacations ended and opened their own little business.
I tried out many things, but there were certain dishes and places that I always came back to. There was this small Soda close to Rocking-J’s where I often went to get some typical costa Rican breakfast or things like Guacamole or Ceviche. Of course never without my favorite smoothies: Papaya, Pineapple, or Guanabana.
It seams like I wasn’t the only person who frequently came to that place. I realized there was another girl that coincidentally was there at the same time as I two times in a row. So we started to talk. She came to Puerto Viejo to work since she was working online it didn’t matter from where she worked. She too had gotten into a very relaxing routine. I wonder if she’ll ever leave this place or stay here like so many people who never came with the intention to stay.
Then there is Ceviche. One of my favorite foods! It’s basically fish cooked in lemon. This gives it a very soft texture and of course the taste of lemon. It comes in all kinds of combinations and styles. You can also buy it from street vendors for cheaper.
Another place where I went to a lot is Bread&Chocolate. I guess it’s obvious why. Everybody that knows me, knows that I’m extremely addicted to chocolate. So it’s no surprise that I love the famous and award-winning brownies of Bread&Chocolate. They are made with local cacao and taste extremely chocolaty. They also serve lots of ther good things like this delicious breakfast.
Rocking-J’s – a Place to Sleep, Hang out and Party
Rocking-J’s is not only famous for its cheap hammocks but also for its beautiful mosaics. Pretty much everything that you can possibly cover with mosaics is covered with it. It’s like a big work of art. At the hostel, you can always find some neo-hippies and alternative people which give it a very chill atmosphere.
Durig my first few days at the hostel it wasn’t very full yet, but from Wednesday on more and more people came because Semana Santa had now officially started for everyone. This also meant that it was now a big mix of mainly backpacking tourists and Ticos. As there were more people now, there was also more going on at night. There is a little bar, stage, and fire pit at the beach in front of the hostel. The crowd there grew from a few people sitting at the fire and talking in the beginning of the week to around 100 people talking, drinking, and dancing.
On Thursday I met three other AFS volunteers from Belgium that were also staying at Rocking-J’s. What a coincidence! We later went out together where I many new people; Some of them tourists, some of them Ticos. The last three nights of my stay in Puerto Viejo I went out every night and also met up with those same people again. I’m still in touch with a couple of them up until this day.
How I almost got Killed by a Frog
Calm down, mom. I’m just kidding. I’m fine but I did see this little green and black poison dart frog on a walk in the forest. Its poison is strong enough to stop a human heart from beating but it only releases it when it feels threatened. Sadly this little frog is an endangered species so I’m even more happy I got to see one.
Even if some of the animals living in Puerto Viejo are dangerous, its rich Fauna (and also Flora) is another reason why I fell in love with this place! I also saw a couple of sloths and many other amazing animals.
To sum it up, these 9 days at Rocking-J’s were just what I needed to get my motivation and energy back. It’s on the very top of my list of my favorite places in Costa Rica and I’ll defenietly come back soon!
So this was part three of my post series about what I did during the last 6 weeks. The post about my trip to Nicaragua is coming soon!