Costa Rica – San Jose and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
We basically skipped Costa Rica…
We arrived on the 2nd of April at San Jose around 10pm or 10:30pm at the Gran Terminal del Caribe. The ride was longer than expected and this was probably because we caught the last bus leaving the border with Nicaragua heading to San Jose. This was the last chance for many travelers to get to the capital from the villages past the border. Our flight from Panama City to Colombia was scheduled for the 7th of April, which left virtually no time to properly visit any spot of both Costa Rica or Panama.
We thought Costa Rica was going to be a oasis of peace, considering that it is considered the safest of the Central America’s countries, one of the richest and a very popular holiday destination. However the walk to the hostel was not that pleasant. The road from this bus terminal goes down a hill over a small bridge all of which was poorly lit and no shops or people were around. Soon later we had to walk across a few night clubs. By the way, prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, hence the night clubs we had to walk in front of were not the fanciest. We still had 4 or 5 blocks to walk and the streets were completely empty besides a few homeless sleeping on the pavements. We reached our place and the only encounter we had was bumping into a dude right outside our hotel. We were looking for the entrance which was at the top of a flight of stairs next to a bar. The guy came out of the bar and was probably a bit tipsy and in English he approached us asking if we needed anything. We declined and the first thing he says was that he was a “safe” person to talk to i.e. he knew that the town can be quite dodgy at night. Luckily we were at the doorstep of our place hence our interaction stopped there but whether he had bad intentions, whether he wanted to recommend a place to stay that he knew about or he was simply friendly or others, is unknown, but we definitely did not have a good first impression.
The following day we set off early, trying to explore the town a bit for the short time we planned to stay. As we walked the streets we felt everyone’s eye was on us, perhaps because I was carrying my camera around, or perhaps we were just preconditioned to be unhappy about the place from the night before?
The city did not seem to have many high rises, and it was pleasant enough with a few colonial buildings scattered around. We also found a ChinaStreet 🙂 We tried to look for a dim sum place to have our breakfast, but we were unsuccessful. Another nice thing about San Jose is that it is surrounded from all sides by mountains. I am sure there are nice day trips that can be arranged from here, but so far it did really simply strike as the base to take transport to all the various other areas of the country.
The main highlight for us was the post office 🙂 we thought it could be another good Fullerton Hotel in Singapore “type of project”. The typical colonial building in the middle of the city center has a very nice facade and the location would serve it well to be a successful hotel. The postal service itself was also quite cool. The value of the stamp is printed on the spot depending where your item is shipped to, which was quite cool and different from all the other post services we have seen around.
The walk to the other bus terminal we needed to walk to (Terminal MEPE) was also not that pleasant. With our luggage walking around the market area we felt once again that all eyes were on us. But it’s ok, around 12pm we were on our way to the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. Having been on the Pacific coast for so long, we were looking forward to see the Caribbean Sea again.
We arrived in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca later in the afternoon. The bus ride was supposed to take 4.5 hours, but instead we were delayed by some bad traffic around Limon and we arrive at our destination with little sunlight left to enjoy the rest of the day.
This area is beautiful, everyone seems to be getting around on bicycles and apparently there are a lot of sloths to be seen hanging around!
There is a road that runs across all the various beaches of the area and it made a perfect day trip to explore the beautiful waters. Below a map of all the beaches in a 10km stretch from Puerto Viejo.
As we are normally looking for diving we decided to opt for the more renowned Bocas del Toro. We had the choice to stay for an extra day in Costa Rica, just doing beach and walk around or to head to Bocas Del Toro for at least one day of diving. And so it ended…our 2.5 days in Costa Rica were pretty much on the road, but who knows, perhaps we will be back to explore it more sometime in the future!
See other pictures at the Gallery page!