When my parents first told my brothers and I we would be visiting Costa Rica weree confused. Having grown up in Europe and immigrated to California, we’re no strangers to travel, but this small Central American country seemed like an extremely random pick compared to the popular Mexican resorts or Hawaiian Islands not far away. In the following month we learnt more about the country, its impressive coral reefs, tropical rain forests and friendly people and by July we were raring to go.
Our trip began with a plane ride from San Francisco to Denver, then another to Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. We arrived early the next morning jet lagged and in a foreign country where everyone spoke a language we didn’t understand. The car we rented was the definition rent-a-wreck and we feared breaking down while driving the vast expanse of often empty mountain highway. The scariest driving, it tuned out, actually took place in San Jose. The city’s road signs were often wrong, confusing or missing, as were all the pothole covers that had been stolen and sold for scrap metal. Navigating the terrain of these roads was a nail biting experience in itself.
An hour into the drive to our destination town, we noticed we had completed a circle in our search to leave the city. Armed with only three years of high school Spanish and Webster’s Spanish to English Dictionary, my parents sent me to a factory to ask for directions from a very sweet security guard. Unfortunately the guard was also practicing his foreign language and told us to go right, while pointing left.
Eventually we left the city and were on the highway for Puerto Viejo, the country’s least populated town. While on the road, my dad turned around and said, “Can you believe that our normal English family is driving through a Central American rainforest?” That drive, with the windows down, the wind blowing and the tropical sun, was a day I will never forget. It also provided for some incredible people watching experiences.
Upon arriving in Puerto Viejo, we found our accommodations, a small family owned series of brilliant funky surf shacks, open to the environment and surrounding nature. The tree next to my parent’s hut reportedly housed kinkajous and I shared my bedroom with a scorpion. (http://www.cashewhilllodge.co.cr/).
The town itself was a eclectic mix of locals and tourists including Hispanic natives, Caribbean natives, young backpackers, ecotourists, retirees, surf bums, and us, maybe the only family group with kids. Every night the restaurants and bars sang with reggae and the easy going atmosphere spilled onto the streets. The residents were extremely friendly and did not hesitate to chat with us. Above all they seemed proud of their colorful and lively town and willing and open to share it.
Unfortunately the AtlanticCoast experienced a bit of a storm while we were there and we witnessed four days of constant pouring rain. After a couple of days of being captive indoors, we could not endure any more card games or home cooked meals made out of what little groceries we’d been able to buy. One day we rented a surf board and spent hours desperately trying to just stand up on it with little success. That night we threw ponchos on over our clothes and decided to make the half mile sprint for town. Wearing a clear rain poncho over my short summer dress, I looked like a joke but running through that rain with my family was probably the greatest night I can remember.
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