From London Heathrow we travelled to Cahuita, on Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast, it’s own small slice of the Caribbean and the first stop on our two week trip around the Latin American country. Like our China trip we booked through Rickshaw travel; too tired with work we wanted to avoid the stress of handling it all ourselves. Many of the arrangements were made by Ecole Travel, and all our non-airport transfers would be with the excellent Interbus.
First an 11 hour flight to Houston, where we picked up some NASA memorabilia, then a 4 hour one to San Jose. We arrived in the dark, our long haul flight landed at 9pm. Door to door it was 23 hours and we were exhausted. After meeting our pickup we had to wait for the transfer, an accident between a truck and a tram had caused travel chaos in San Jose, and it took longer than normal to crawl through the city’s bustling Friday night.
Our stop over in San Jose was at Le Bergerac, a small oasis in town, basic rooms with a bit of a garden – behind a locked gate. We were in room 16, next to the fountain they don’t turn off. Despite the jet lag neither of us slept well, and we were up again at 6am for breakfast and an early checkout.
The minibus from San Jose to Cahuita is about 200km and took 5 hours. We headed south out of San Jose, where the landscape was full of beautiful blossoming trees; pink and orange flowers covered the hillsides. We climbed up and over Turrialba and the roads became winding and mountainous. Vultures circled high above, over the sugar cane and banana plantations, our views were spectacular. From Siquirres the roads flattened out and were full of trucks transporting temperature-controlled containers packed with bananas. Maersk container depots were everywhere. The final stretch hugged the sea, and the bumpy unpaved road along Playa Negra brought us to our hotel, Atlantida lodge. That bumpy pot-holed road is the “Tico” norm.
A 10 minute walk from town, on the edge of Playa Negra – a black sand beach with crashing waves and coconut trees – sits Atlantida Lodge, our accommodation for the next 3 nights.
Rooms are sparse and simple; comfortable beds, tiled floors, nets and shutters rather than glass windows, ceiling fans that spin dangerously fast (no aircon), a shower that feels like it’s outside, a couple of oil paintings depicting local wildlife adorn the walls. The sounds of the tropics pervade the walls, chirping bugs and squawking geckos fill the room at night, in the morning you can’t help but be woken by the birds. It’s best to keep the shutters wide open, so that air can flow and the room can keep cool; temperatures of 29C make it somewhat hot.
Surrounding the rooms is a luscious tropical garden. Heliconia, Angel’s Trumpets, ginger flowers, hibiscus and maraca plants; a cornucopia of pleasures for birds; brightly coloured birds with brilliant songs were everywhere, over time we’d come to know their names, for now we were in awe. A hummingbird flitted about, chirping, guarding its territory, hovering for us to admire but always camera shy. Staff told us that sloths occasionally sleep in the trees above, and at night we’ll see some of Costa Rica’s infamous poisonous frogs.
There’s a slightly salt water pool and bar, where staff were painting their uncomfortable concrete sun beds, an abandoned Angry Birds inflatable ball bobbled on the water’s surface.
At reception we arrived just in time to grab some lunch; a Hawaiian pizza and Caribbean chicken. Most of the day was then spent recuperating, relaxing and enjoying our surroundings. This of course included Mojitos and other rum based cocktails.
For dinner we ventured out, a 3 minute walk to the Italian-Caribbean fresh fish joint that is “Sobre las Olas”. It gets dark early in Costa Rica, and though we were eating at 6 the skies were already black. On the outdoor decking we sat besides the coconut trees, listening to the roaring sea.
Food was delicious, and the portions enormous. We couldn’t finish it all.
In the warm humid night air, with our cold Imperial beer, we knew we were now on our long awaited tropical holiday. We meandered back, arm in arm, arriving just in time to avoid the thunderous downpour that carried on all night. (The only rain we had all holiday)