Another Lesson Learned

Costa Rica Travel Blog

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Cahuita

My fiance and I went to Costa Rica in the summer of 2007.  While my pictures say one thing, I say another.  In hindsight, it was an invaluable experience that truly strengthened Michala's and my relationship.  However, my thoughts were far from optimistic when I was there. 

It wasn't the humidity and heat that got to me.  Hell, it wasn't even being pick-pocketed on the bus to La Fortuna (Arenal) either.  What jaded me more than anything was the sprawl of tourism ubiquitous in that country.  Everywhere I went I would see signs in English promoting another hotel or another place we Americans should go.  It's like the culture has abandoned itself and now hinges on how well it can displace us from our own routines back at home.

Near Fortuna
  The country seemed centered around it...it depended on it.  When talking to other travelers, they spoke of their experiences as one would when reminiscing about Six Flags or Disney Land.  Like every feature in Costa Rica was a big ride.  I would hear, "Oh, I did the volcano, the hot springs, and the jungle tour.  It was great.  You should go."  No thanks...my purpose in traveling is to get as lost as possible and try to acquaint myself with the real culture - the one below that ugly surface. 

So, if you're still wanting to go, just make sure you are vigilant when on the buses.  Don't put your bags on the floor and between your legs like I did.  (The crooks will reach under the seat when you're not paying attention.)  Just keep everything in your lap.  There are plenty of places to stay in Fortuna.

Puerto Viejo
  Overall, it was a neat town if you can ignore the imposing presence of tourists and all those that cater to them.  Try to get to the rock field on the other side of the volcano.  There are amazing views and the small volcanic rocks make for neat, cheap souvenirs. 

After realigning ourselves with our plans (remember, we were pickpocketed and broke, so we had to call home and have money wired to us at the local Western Union), we headed out toward Puerto Viejo to see the Sloth Rescue Center (my fiances idea).  We rode the public buses, as we (I) did not want to shy away from submersion in the culture, and stopped in Limon.  I would stay away from this place.  It had a dangerous air to it.

At the base of Arenal
  I'm not sure why.  We had another stop in Cahuita

Cahuita is what made the trip worthwhile.  I would highly recommend this place to anyone who enjoys quaint Caribbean coastal towns.  The Creole culture seemed like what I would find in Jamaica.  If you head out to the sandy beaches, which are a short walk from town, you will find yourself on a long beach with no one to share it with.  The water was warm, the sand was black, and I fell in love.  We went skinny dipping in the water and spent hours there.  This short stopover between Fortuna and Puerto Viejo turned into a 3-day retreat from our previously unfavorable experiences. 

We reluctantly left and headed for the Sloth Rescue Center.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who adores wildlife.  The center takes in injured sloths and nurses back to good health.  Most of them are never released because they would be unable to survive in the wild. 

The city of Puerto Viejo was a disappointment.  It was exactly what would happen to Cahuita if a million or so tourists knew about it.

When we returned to San Jose, we boarded our flight with Spirit Airlines.  The airline is a discout airline, and you get what you pay for.  You have to pay for your baggage and for your snacks and refreshments onboard the flight.  The customer service was abominable.  We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale too late to catch our flight and had to wait all day for the next one bound for Atlanta.  What should have a six-hour ride turned into an all-day ordeal. 

If you want a genuine Central American experience, go to the places no one ever talks about.

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Cahuita
Cahuita
Near Fortuna
Near Fortuna
Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo
At the base of Arenal
At the base of Arenal
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