I travelled to Costa Rica with my boyfriend over the Christmas holidays in the hope that the sunshine, relative silence and salty waves would wash away the feeling of exhaustion that had been engulfing me for months.
Traveling has always been my respite for as long as I can remember. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of standing on balconies in the midday Greek sun holding a juicy peach and watching it’s liquid pour down my hand. As I grew into my late teens, all I could dream of was being old enough to escape the grim North so that I could blossom under the Australian sun like a sunflower opening up in the warmest months. And it worked, I found that away from the monotony of day-to-day tedium, the life I’d always dreamed of began to unfold right before my eyes.
So, when late last summer I’d started to retract into a solitary, more sensitive version of myself – a mild form of depression perhaps – I pinned all of my hopes on those few weeks in Central America being everything I needed to reset and come back feeling like the sunnier version that feels closer to who I really am. I’d been working hard, recovering from a minor operation – that in reality, I hadn’t really given myself chance to recover from at all, and was worn out, washed up and feeling bluer than I should be for a girl who earlier that year had been radiating happiness after falling in love in Sri Lanka. So, we booked the flights, packed our bags and flew off with our expectations sky high.
San Jose – Puerto Viejo
We arrived in San Jose late on the Thursday evening and stayed in a backpackers in the city before being collected in the morning to begin our journey to the Caribbean Coast – Puerto de Viejo de Talamanca to be exact. A colleague had visited the town earlier that year and after pouring over her instagram pictures of the stunningly secluded beaches, I couldn’t wait to get my toes in the sand and ground myself with mother nature. We stayed at Casitas de Las Flores
, a privately owned bungalow complex just out of town, preferring the sound of the jungle to that of other travellers coming in from a night out.
View from the bungalow
We expected the town to be something of a party town after seeing how it had been described in our Rough Guide to Costa Rica book, but had chosen it anyway for it’s proximity to the beaches, surf spots and choice of restaurants as opposed to wanting to join in on the nightlife (although that was always an option). But we soon found that our lack of research may have made us somewhat spontaneous but it also meant that we’d arrived out of season, with little to no surf and a similar amount of people. After the initial disappointment however, we soon revelled in having the beaches to ourselves. Playa Negra
, Playa Chiquita
, Playa Cocles
and Punta Uva
– we had a vast selection to choose from, all within easy commuting distance on our creaky dutch-style bikes which we’d rented from the Casitas. With the time difference we were waking early and so we’d simply hop on our bikes and head to our chosen beach of the day, usually stopping for breakfast along the way – Gypsea
being a personal favourite, as was Como en mi Casa
. By 11am the sun was at it’s peak and rocking the English lobster look was not top of our to-do list so we’d simply escape into the shade or sometimes stupidly we’d try to cycle back towards town at this time. A lesson I learnt the hard way after shaving my legs and forgoing suncream one morning in order to avoid the sting. I can tell you, burnt red shins sting a hell of a lot more!
After days at the beach and sheltering from the midday sun, we’d head back to our little bungalow for a shower and cool down before riding back into town for dinner, my curls drying in the breeze as we peddled. Each night we’d select a different restaurant; Monli
for the freshest and most delicious catch of the day, Sol Del Caribe
for an unforgettable Caribbean chicken curry and Madre Tierra
for the fish tacos and mojitos which had become our holiday tipple of choice. But despite the relatively idyllic setting, something was missing for us. The beaches were amongst the most beautiful and unspoilt either of us had ever seen, which considering the popularity of Costa Rica as a tourism destination is mightily impressive, but perhaps the out of season setting made it lack that certain vibe we’d found in Sri Lanka. We’d also quickly realised that our plans of visiting two coasts plus the rainforest was a little ambitious despite our £1kpp budget which dampened our spirits early on. You see, despite wanting to rest and rejuvenate, I severely lack the ability to sit still for much longer than an hour. I was hoping for an active rest – surfing, yoga, hiking, but the distances we were traveling meant that transport costs were high, food was undeniably amazing but pricier than we were expecting and as we didn’t want to start the new year in a financial black hole, watching our spending became a daily chore. Again, bad planning on our side, although I had done my research on this point and so was surprised by how much more expensive it was than we’d read. I’m only really mentioning this to give people an accurate expectation – don’t let it put you off by any means, but planning ahead, travelling shorter distances and maybe taking less in are all things we’d do differently next time.
Visiting the Jaguar Rescue Centre
Next up, we headed to the Rainforest…