My trip to Costa Rica was mostly characterized by my crotch being constantly sore, spiked smoothies, bad hair and an Army of leaf-cutter ants that we greeted each time we came or left the house. I’m fairly certain now more than ever, that if ants wanted to rule the world, they could. As for my crotch, the soreness was due to zip lining harnesses, horseback riding and lots of biking. And as for my hair… ladies, unless you have stick straight hair, just accept now that if you visit Costa Rica, your hair is going to suck. I fully understand now why hair braiding is such a big thing there.
Since I can remember, my mom has never showed strong desires to travel. I think she would like to more, but we don’t have much money, she works a lot and gets nervous easily. Suddenly, she said that she wants to go to Costa Rica with her two daughters. So Raven and I couldn’t really say no. Neither of us had the money, but there I was, signing onto kayak.com, my familiar friend, to look up plane tickets while simultaneously googling images of mouth-breathers because Logan made the very good observation that all mouth-breathers look like aliens.
Raven and I decided we needed at least one other person for the trip who was more of Mom’s age. We chose Carol and it’s the best decision we could have made. To put it plainly, Carol and I are good at traveling and Raven and my mom kind of suck at it. For example, after flying into San Jose, we needed to rent a car and drive 4.5 hours to the South Caribbean coast. During this ordeal, I was driving and Carol was navigating while my mom was on drugs and unconscious in the backseat and Raven was listening to her headphones and probably fantasizing about becoming a Caribbean Princess.
*I really wanted to leave it at that because it’s funny, but I don’t want you thinking my Mom is a drug addict. She had just taken some over the counter anti-nausea drug that rendered her incapable of anything.
For those of you planning on visiting the wonderful country of Costa Rica, I’m here to ease your anxiety about driving. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. I was expecting the roads to resemble scenes out of Mad Max. But it wasn’t that bad at all and it quickly reminded me of driving in downtown Los Angeles. Once I realized that I was like oh, I got this, let’s hit it.
The drive from San Jose to Puerto Viejo was through the rainforest and it was breath taking.
We planned our departure time so that we would not be driving at night. Well, that didn’t work out at all. To our surprise, it gets dark their early. All year round, it gets dark at 6:00pm. That was kind of a buzz kill. We thought we were in no rush, so we pulled off to get some grub. It was some little local spot, and the food was pretty plain. This was a good preview though of what the food would be like. I wasn’t surprised. I kind of figured that considering we were visiting a non-touristy area of what I consider to be a country somewhere between a Second and Third World, that the food wasn’t going to be a spectacle. I was perfectly welcoming of that because I’m not a foodie and I hate when vacations become one giant food frenzy or when discussions of what restaurant to go for dinner becomes a thing. Luckily, all of us are kind of like that. Mom and Carol (with a combined weight of 180 pounds) probably ate four mangos and a handful of guacamole the entire time we were there, and Raven and I consumed mostly fresh eggs and homemade smoothies that I drowned in Sailor Jerry. I recommend eating lots of fruit, the eggs, guacamole, ceviche and fresh bread.
We stayed at a house that we found on Air B&B, and it was fantastic. There was a small pool, the yard was its own mini rainforest, I ate breakfast every morning outside near the bird bath, and lounged in the hammock when I called home to Logan. There was no hot water, no way to close the windows, no television, no air conditioning, temperamental plumbing and the power would go out for a few minutes everyday. Those may sound like cons to you, but I friggen loved it.
First of all, you really don’t need hot water there. It doesn’t get cold and the water is not cold, just cool; refreshing. Same with the air conditioning. You really don’t need it. They have fans and they keep their homes completely open. Our windows had no glass over them. There was just screens to keep the bugs away, which was an absolute necessity. Even with the screens, we got a few interesting insects inside and on the last night, a bat. Sure, it can get pretty hot there, but they’re not a bunch of pansies and they just deal with it. They are accepting of nature. When it’s hot, that means they’re kind of hot! Duh! And what is wrong with that? You couldn’t flush toilet paper (which was something I am very familiar with to due to touring, but something the rest of them had to get used to), and when the power goes out, the locals just wait it out and don’t have a damn meltdown like we do in the States.
So much of America, and similar cultures, are so out of touch with nature, it’s no wonder we are desensitized to destroying it. When you live in a place like Costa Rica, where outside of your bathroom window as you take a shower, you can see the Rain Forest that is providing you with the water that is cleansing you, I would imagine that one might not take advantage of that resource so much. When the mango tree and coconut tree in front of your home provides you with your lunch, you might not be so quick to not care about someone cutting it down. When you can’t hide in air conditioning when it’s hot, you might think twice about sending your car exhaust fumes into the atmosphere. If you give as much as you take, slow the fuck down, appreciate the simple life, you will ultimately be happier and healthier. The Ticos (what the people of Costa Rica call themselves) seem to know no other way. #PuraVida
Of course, one of the first things we did was visit the beach. Some people assume that I’m not into the beach. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I wear mostly black and grey and I have a lot of tattoos? But I actually love the beach. I think the shore has magical healing powers. The beaches in Costa Rica are gorgeous. I’m sure you’re not surprised, but I felt compelled to state the obvious. The forest went right up to the shore, which made for such a beautiful scene. I jumped into the water a couple of times a day just because I could and the waves are fun. At certain stretches of the shore the sand was completely black, which was a cool change of scenery for me because I come from Clearwater, where it has the whitest sand that I’ve ever come across.
On one of the black sand beaches Raven and I met a dog that we fell in love with. Neither of us are particularly dog people, but there was something about this dog because he chose us. He passed by many other people laying on the beach, walked right up to us and just chilled. If you’re a dog lover, you’ll like Puerto Viejo because there are wild dogs everywhere, but they are very friendly and not vicious in the slightest.
My Mom falling off of her bike, TWICE, was possibly the funniest thing that happened the entire trip. The one road we lived off of was very bumpy, but still, that’s no excuse. Grown people just don’t fall of bikes! We only had three bikes on the first day, so I came up with the bright idea to ride Raven on the back of mine. I didn’t make it more than a few yards before it became appallingly clear that idea was not going to work. #ThirdWorldProblems
Raven however, was impressive and somehow managed to ride very successfully with me on the back, my legs flailing around because I had no where to put them. You should see the Ticos do it! Seeing three people on one bike there is totally normal, and one time I saw four people on one bike! A mom had one kid on the handle bars, one on the middle bar and one on the back. #ThirdWorldSolutions
That night Raven and I went to a bar called Hot Rocks. We sat one some giant swings that they had and sipped on Imperial and watched some live entertainment. It was kind of cool that their entertainment was fire dancers and hoola hoopers, instead of just a DJ or a cover band. One of the performers was trying to get people on stage to follow along with her dancing. Raven and I were not even a little bit buzzed, so that was just not going to happen… but it did. The girl was desperate and no one else was getting up there, so we figured, fuck it. With a few other brave souls, we followed along on stage doing what I’m assuming to be zumba. The leader looked good, but we looked like assholes. When I told Logan what went down, he said, “So basically it was like karaoke… but cardio.” Yes!
Zip lining was the first major activity we did because that was what we were all the most excited for. My mom sounded like a wild animal while she flew threw the canopy, Carol snapped pictures while simultaneously checking out the hot, mysterious man who was one of our guides. Raven and I just looked absurd with our tiny spandex shorts and helmets on as we befriended the other guides. They were all fun, and truly enhanced the experience. After I snatched one of the radios out of one of the guide’s hand and shouted into it at the whoever it was on the other end who was incessantly talking about nothing important, “Can you shut up so Manuel here can focus on not letting me die,” they all laughed and encouraged me to say obnoxious things over the walkie-talkies for the remainder of the outing. Zip lining is absolutely incredible and should be on every person’s bucket list.
There were two things we witnessed that completely sum up Costa Rica to an outsider. One, a mule walking down the dirt road, completely alone, at night, minding his own business as Raven and I rode back to the house after buying goofy Pura Vida souvenirs. Second, was the sexy, mysterious guide who rode on the outside of the van up into the rain forest. With all of us tourist, there was not enough space in the van, so of course he just rode on the outside of the van. Because duh. #CostaRica
The following night Raven and I went to Lazy Mon and I’d like to state here, that she is a TERRIBLE wing girl. A wing girl should help you when you’re trying to talk to a boy, but should also help you when you’re NOT trying to talk to a boy. I got stuck talking to this English dude and Raven might as well have been non-existent. She was just sitting next to me not saying a word. At that point, she was probably thinking about where she could get some ice cream. After a solid hour of conversation, she finally chimed in. And of all things, her topic of choice was Taco Bell’s verde sauce. The English dude and I were talking about environment, immigration and the misconceptions of latin food in America. Somehow this led to Raven suddenly being alive again, and shouting, “Taco Bell doesn’t make verde sauce anymore!” Jesus. It was the most passionate I had seen her the entire vacation. A close second being when we were making fun of a girl attempting to surf.
Mom was scared to go horseback riding, so me, Raven and Carol took the risk of leaving her alone, knowing full well that utter calamity could ensue. Then the three of us met up with a tiny Tico man named, Raul, who guided us on a wonderful tour of the shores of Puerto Viejo and nearby paths through the forest. It’s a good thing we took the risk, because I think Raul ended up being the best part of that trip. He was born and raised in that tiny little town, so he had a lot of local knowledge to offer. He was also the poster boy for healthy and happy simple living, along with encompassing the full spectrum of good character. He happens to be a big fan of the Tampa Bay Ray’s, so once we got back to the States, I sent him a Rays baseball hat in the mail. Who the hell knows if he ever got it because there, they don’t exactly have addresses. Basically, you send the mail to the one post office and assume that at least one of the worker’s knows the name on the package/envelope, and hope they can get in touch with that person. I am not kidding. Raul’s address was, “Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica.”
During the horseback riding adventure, we saw a big pack of Howler monkeys in the trees, and those motherfuckers are loud. If you didn’t know better, you would honestly think that it was a lion or bear. We also stopped and Raul picked coconuts off a tree for us, plucked the top out, and we drank fresh coconut water. Coconut water is kind of trendy among health conscious hipsters right now, but I never liked it. I tried all different brands because I felt like I should like it, but it tasted downright disgusting to me. However, when I tried the REAL, fresh, coconut water from a real, fresh, friggen coconut, it was one of the best beverages I’ve ever had and I immediately felt my body thanking me. I’m certain that all the Evil Queen from Snow White needed in her life to look and feel young again were some damn coconuts. Adding vodka is also a fabulous idea, which they call “coco loco.”
One thing that I would like to note for any potential travelers, is that you don’t really need to worry about being ripped off by the locals. I can only speak for the town that we visited. I’ve heard that if you visit more touristy areas of Costa Rica (mostly the West Coast) that it can be an issue. In Puerto Viejo, we did not have to deal with aggressive vendors, beggars, or locals trying to take advantage of us. The main road is lined with individuals selling mostly jewelry and hair braiding services. The jewelry was beautiful, but I was a little bit hesitant at the beginning to approach the vendors because I didn’t want to deal with being harassed and feeling pressured to purchase, and wondering if I should try haggle. Don’t try to haggle there. Everything seemed to be a fair price and they are not trying to cheat you. Not yet anyway. Maybe once tourism infiltrates that town more, things will change. But for now, it’s safe to assume that their products are a set price and no one is trying to cheat you. Same goes for services. Tours given by locals (such as Raul) were fairly priced and I felt that we could trust them.
When Raul presented us with coconuts during the horseback riding adventure, he informed us that coconut water cleanses the kidneys. He noticed that I had a sparked interest in this, so we got to talking about natural remedies, and I informed him that my mother, who was the scaredy cat who was NOT with us, is very knowledgable about such things, and has been preaching this shit since before it was trendy, and when people probably just thought she was weird for not allowing me to have Jif peanut butter as a kid. She was a lot more strict about health while I was growing up. While Raven was growing up… Jif peanut butter and Honey Bunches of Oats definitely penetrated our pantry walls. One of the best things that my mom has passed to me is nutritional knowledge. Anyway, this discussion led to Raul telling me that a nearby Indian Reservation might be something that we would be interesting in seeing.
It was our last day, so we were being extremely selective when it came down to what activity to do. We unanimously decided on calling Raul and having him show us the Reservation. It was the best decision we made because I think it was the high point of the trip for all four of us. I called Raul from the house, landline to landline, and he told me to pick him up at the bank at 10:00am. Of course there is only one bank in Puerto Viejo, so that was all of the details that I needed. He navigated and told us stories, as I drove us through the misty terrain, and came to a stop at a couple of huts on the edge of the forest.
The people inside were just so nice. They didn’t speak English, and very limited Spanish. Raul spoke their language enough that he could communicate with them and translate well enough. What I remember most are their smiles. They all had beautiful smiles. The second we pulled up, the tops of little human heads popped up into the “window” of their hut. Just their eyes could be seen, but you could tell they were giggling and excited for visitors. The kids were a little bit shy, in their hand-me-down clothes and bare feet, but they were sweet. They picked star fruit for us and were welcoming to us white people exploiting them with flash photography and very many ooo’s and ah’s. It did kind of make me sad. They’re the spectacle on their own native land. But those cries are for another day.
The man who seemed to be the leader of sorts, was the medicine man, and also “bird man.” Apparently he is really good at imitating bird calls. He took us into the forest, which is their backyard, and we didn’t go far, but within that small radius, there were so many of natures gifts. He painted our nails with turmeric (which also helps to prevent cancer), we used achiote for lipstick and we learned that building a house with anything other than the bark from this palm that I can’t remember the name of is stupid because it’s virtually indestructible. The skin of a cocoa plant stops bleeding and acts as a band-aid, they don’t need to buy Elmer’s glue because they’ve got glue trees. Sour sap helps prevent cancer, sour cane cleanses the kidneys and young coconut water and star fruit lowers blood pressure. And that’s what I learned in about fifteen minutes, so imagine the possibilities. The moral of this part of the story is, get off all of your meds that you think that you need, and eat a fucking star fruit. Oh, and respect the Earth. Our society has somehow managed to forget that nature has ALL of the cures, but more so, all of the preventatives of sickness. We are a product of nature you dimwits, so I think it’s common sense that everything we as humans need, we can get from nature.
Somewhere along the way we have grown accustom to using Earth simply as a floor. Why? Why are we littering the planet with gatorade bottles and factory chemical waste when all we really should be doing is opening up a coconut? It seems ironic, but mostly plain dumb, that we’re cutting down the rain forest to build the shit that it already provides. Why are we giving our money to big companies that make us sick in the first place, and then give them more money to pretend to make us better? Nature is your pharmacy! But you can’t be an idiot! Don’t eat like shit and not exercise your whole life and then be surprised when your body stops functioning properly. You are a product of nature, and as such, can only survive off of nature. Consuming synthetic crap and processed crap and expecting to be healthy would be like feeding a robot a salad and expecting it to function properly.
Well, thanks again for listening to my adventures and rants. I hope you all find yourselves in Costa Rica someday, if you haven’t already been. Peace, love and pure vida!