Monday, January 17, 2011

Costa Rica

Costa rica trip started from Arriving in San Jose in the evening of Tuesday after taking a 8.5 hrs bus from Granada, Nicaragua. This was the first time I crossed inter-country border by land so I was both excited and nervous about the Visa handling stuff, nervous because it was a visa on arrival.


Arenal Green, Arenal, Costa Rica


Arenal Green, Arenal, Costa Rica

Arenal Green, Arenal, Costa Rica


Puero Viejo's Playa Negra

Puero Viejo, Playa Negra (Black sand/beach)

The bus stop for Transnica is in the downtown between Ave 3 and Ave 5 on Calle 222.
We had to take a taxi(=2000 colones) from the bus stop to the Best Western Inn. Based on some consulation from the the taxi driver and the hotel personnel we headed to commercial center El Pueblo as the place for Latinos to hangout for reggeaton and other latino music. On arriving El Pueblo we figured it was pretty dead. The place didn't really have any crowd.

A bar which is very audible from outside played the pop music even that bar didn't have more than 10 people mostly a bunch of white guys :) talk about Latinos hangout and latin music. It was clear that the place is no fun on a Tuesday evening. It turns out that most places are good only from Thursday to Saturday evening. We could try that again when we get back to San Jose.

Anyway we decided to eat at the place called "Lukas", the place gives a fine dinning feel from the very start and the food is worth the praise on guidebooks and internet. The waiter and cook pays lot of attention to individual details of the order and veggie food didn't have to suck therefore. Priyam mentioned that the non-veg stuff was pretty good and so were the cocktails.

The trail at Cahuita National Park
Next day as we had planned earlier we left for the Caribbean city of Cahuita, we hadn't preplanned the trip a lot actually and once we were in Nicaragua and heading to Costa Rica we figured our options given number of days(=5). We quickly decided to skip at least one side of the country as the whole transport system was based on the capital San Jose as a hub. So from any city on east to any city in west and vice versa you were traveling inland for about 4 + 6 hrs (to and from San Jose) and most connections won't work late evening. Based on some discussion we decided to see the Caribbean side instead of pacific (turned out to be a good decision).
Beach by the trail at Cahuita National Park

Cahuita city isn't a big one in any way. As the guide book described its pretty much two parallel streets. I was excited to see that it was the "reggae" capital of the area, only later did I realize that Reggae isn't reggaeton and was pretty disappointed. Anyway since we were in the city to see the Cahuita National Park we did that, turned out even the park was nothing but a 1-2 miles trail along the beach. The beach and the scenery are quite beautiful and makeup for the otherwise nothing-worth-visiting part.



Next to Cahuita is the city of Puerto Viejo where we had decided to stay overnight instead of Cahuita based on the guidebook (fortunately), I can't believe I was actually planning to visit Cahuita for the night-life until I figured the difference between Reggae and Reggaeton. So we were at Puerto Viejo
Bob Marley is every where in the Carribe side of Costa Rica
pretty close to the bus terminal stop at a restaurant looking for a place to sleep for that evening. The confidence we had in the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican restaurant for providing free wifi access was showing up and it kept up all the time.

At Cahuita National Park
We figured a place nearby called Maritza hotel, went and looked at the place which offered both Dorms and Private rooms for reasonable prices (6$ and 30$ respectively) and ended up taking the private rooms which were pretty comfortable. Talking to keeper I came to know about the Bar in front offering Salsa lessons and dancing on Wednesday i.e that night, wow finally, I was going to be able to dance Salsa. So I did, the number of people was small but the music was great, they even had reggaeton, cumbia, merengue and bachata along with some unavoidable hip hop/pop music. After dancing there for couple of hours we all headed to the place called "Johny's". This is a great nightclub right next to the ocean, great music, lot of people. Though in sometime I figured the social dancing scene wasn't that big and eventually I decide to head back to hotel.

Cahuita National Park
Next day we were going to try Scuba diving or Snorkeling based on whatever was possible/good. Turned out the water was not good enough for diving (poor visibility) and the guy suggested we instead try surfing. We did. We were able to get surfing lessons from the friend of this guy for about 50$ per person for 2 hours. In short the lessons were just amazing. In 2 hrs we were actually able to stand surf with little guidance and high success rate at the end. (In case you want to try the same, we got the referral from the PADI certified dive center by the Johny's place IIRC the guy's name was Rony.)
The famous Playa Negra at Puerto Veijo


We took the afternoon bus to San Jose.  In short El pueblo was bad even on Thursday night. Anyway as planed we headed to Arenal next morning. The bus ride quite scenic and hilly is about 3 hrs with a change needed at La fortuna (IIRC).
Puerto Viejo

At Arenal we stayed at Arenal green, which is slightly away from the city center but had good room and reasonable prices ~62$. Being home of the famous live volcano makes this city hotels very pricey. So its suggested to stay slightly away from city center and pay taxi charges which aren't that bad plus most tours provide pickup and drop-off anyway. In Arenal we did Ziplining which was my first time. It was good stuff definitely recommended. The zipline tour we had a surprise thing called Tarjan jump which was definitely the best part :)
Dos Pasos Restaurant in Puero Viejo

We came back to San Jose on Saturday evening, this evening I was able to visit the place called Fiesta Latino in El Pueblo which was a big dance floor with rotating latin music. Here came to know Costa Rican Cumbia which I am now a big fan of. Here is a illustrative dance video of the same to finish the post:




If you come across some good Costa Rican cumbia music, please drop by a comment.