Posted by: martinworster | September 18, 2009

70. COSTA RICA

Two weeks in Costa Rica…Pura Vida…

Costa Rica is the home of ethical green tourism – allegedly. So it felt wrong to be landing near the capital San Jose after an ozone depleting 5 hour night flight from LAX. The night flight was good though – no day wasted in transit, I awoke to find myself firmly on the Central American isthmus.

SAN JOSE – grubby, smokey, busy, faded, shabby – but not without it’s charms. Too bad we were only there for one night with not enough time to really dig under the skin of the city. It seemed like a typical South American city with crumbling architecture, the streets overrun with traffic of all sorts – human and mechanical – particularly offensive were the black smoke belching buses which brushed our shoulders. It was rainy season so the skies were cloudy, the surrounding mountains shrouded in mist and gloom. Before landing at the airport, I got some glimpses of the landscape from up high – very green, fertile, hillocks, mountains, interspersed jungle cover – pretty much an advertisement straight from a Fair Trade coffee packet.

PLAYA LANGOSTA – not having been to this part of the world before we opted to ease ourselves into Latin America culture with a stay at an all inclusive resort at Playa Langosta. It’s located just south of Tamarindo in the Guanacaste province, the Pacific North West of Costa Rica and surf central. We drove for five hours from San Jose to get to the coast sharing the road with more smoke belching lorries, horses, Ticos and tourists like ourselves. I got a speeding ticket and the police man wanted to charge me $160 – I haggled with him and he ripped it up for $60 cash. Benvenido a Latin America.

We stayed at the Barcelo hotel – everything was inclusive. I felt like ordering fifty Pina Colladas just for the hell of it. Travelling as a family this was meant to be an easy and relaxing option so we didn’t have to to think about meals – we just showed up and helped ourselves from the buffet. Alcohol was also inclusive – and as I have experienced on previous all inclusives in Turkey and Cuba, it’s of the cheap and low quality variety. I also chose the hotel as it was right on a surf break. This was a surfing family holiday – I could nip of for a few hours each day and get my score of waves whilst the family played in the pool.

My surf guide book warned that as this particular surf break was a rivermouth that you might find crocodiles in the line up. Great, I’m not only looking out for sharks, I’ve now got to keep my eyes peeled for chomping crocs. This could have been a rumour started to keep the spot quiet. I never saw a croc. It was still fairly quiet. The water was gorgeous, warm and clean, a plethora of exotic shells on the shoreline. The atmosphere was tropical and humid, teaming with insects and wildlife, fecund and buzzing, a speeded up life cycle of decay and growth. It was rainy season – the best time for waves, apparently. The general pattern was sun till about three or four in the afternoon and then a lovely tropical downpour – who’s juicy drops at that time were more than welcome. A few days it never rained at all.

Strange mix of guests at the hotel – some Brits, Spanish, American, Ticos and very quiet overall as it was low season. The place was over run with raccoons begging for food, a bit disconcerting with toddlers as they can be quite a nasty creature, although these seemed to be non aggressive to humans. Also saw massive iguanas, red crabs, lizards, parrots and lots of creepy crawlies.

Pura Vida – that’s the phrase all the locals use here, their version of ‘have a nice day’ which when translated means Clean Life. The cynic in me wondered if this was a phrase conjured up by the Costa Rican tourist board, a PR slogan to – accurately – capture the essence of the Costa Rican experience. And that experience really is a phenomena of nature – immense bio-diversity, in most parts sustainable tourism – no high rises. It’s such a green, clean and abundant place. Looking at the resort from the sea as a bobbed on my surf board all you could see were trees and greenery.

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