So, I can’t lie. I had almost zero enthusiasm at the prospect of visiting Costa Rica. In my early research all I had heard was about over-development and commercialization. In addition to that there were numerous second and sometimes third hand accounts of backpackers come and gone confirming the findings. My experience would match many of my expectations, but there turned out to be much more to the story.
Slowly drifting eastward through Nicaragua, I found myself settling into San Juan Del Sur. days turned into weeks before it was time to pack up and ship out. I debated nightly the pros and cons of crossing over into Costa Rica. The thing is…Nicaragua is a fucking gem. I can’t say enough about the place. Volcano lakes, colonial towns, epic parties and revolutionary zeal. All that and so much more. Check out Hopeless Wanderer for more on Nicaragua.
Anyway’s I digress, It took me several attempts, but eventually I persuaded myself it was time to move on. I crossed the border with plans of hopscotching quickly east into Panama. What was meant to be a three or four day sprint from Tamarindo to the Caribbean coast turned out to be arguably some of the laziest, yet ridiculously memorable weeks of the region.
Trying to cross into Costa Rica into the travel hub town of Libertad was easy like Sunday morning. Liberia is a town comprised of a forgettable collection of intersections. Nothing stands out other than the natural sense of urgency to get the fuck out ASAP. Luckily, I never had the misfortune of having to spend a night but I had fallen victim the the “you just missed the bus, you’ll have to catch the last one of the day in 5 hours.” That actually happened twice. Anyways, always plan ahead amigos it’ll save you time and boredom. Eventually I would get to Tamarindo. the shortbus doors opened to a number of expats offering private accomodations at significantly higher rates. I made my way to Pura Vida Hostel and was greeted by a friendly, more than slightly eccentric Eastern European man who welcomed me into his hostel with open arms. Before I knew it the cervezas were flowing as easy as the conversation. People came and went grabbing pieces of sentences and steering the conversation into unforeseen directions.
Tamarindo is a stunning beach town with all the good nad bad that comes with development. Depending on your state of mind and to do list, it could be exactly what you need. All the amenities, charming inconvenience and a good mix of locals, expats, drifters and hippies. Everything you could ask for. A few days of sun and surf some nightlife and more hammock chill time than you could shake a stick at. Eventually I moved on to San Jose for some World Cup action and a meet up with an old friend.
In the months leading up to my visit I had arranged to meet a friend from my hometown that I hadn’t seen for nearly ten years. Mark had made San Jose home and married a kind, funny and outgoing Tica named Ori. The visit was amazing and couldn’t have come at a better time. The World Cup was in full swing and Costa Rica was poised for a World Cup semi final should they beat the Dutch. Tico pride was rampant and coursing through my Afro-Canadian veins. Just a few days prior the nation threw the biggest party in its history and players reputations were lifted into folklore. I wanted to get in on this and that I did.
Costa Rica pushed the Dutch to the limit. They left everything on the pitch and the nation on the edge of its seat. I was about eight beers in and couldn’t stay in my seat, nor could the rest of the bar we set up shop in. It would take extra time and penalties to vanquish the Costa Rican side. Tears welled in every Tico fans eyes, warm consoling embraces amongst strangers soon made way for music and a street party in appreciation of the greatest World Cup run the tiny nation had ever seen. I danced, I drank, I limboed, then I danced some more. From the hours of 3pm to 9, I was legally blind but smiling ear to ear feeling my way through the crowd and eventually the car and bed.
I moved on from San Jose to the gorgeous Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo where the positive vibes infused with reggae permeated the rainy atmosphere. When you think about it, it’s really no wonder why countries like Costa Rica become “the next big thing”. The natural beauty,resources and attractions are one thing, but its the Pura Vida way of life that put this place on the map.