This trail picks up at Limón, just after the ferry ride from Parismina. From that small port (and I couldn’t find this place on a map if my life depended on it), we took a local bus into Limón. Which was not that easy to catch… At most bus stops, like 90% of them, there isn’t a sign announcing a parada de bus [bus stop]. You learn to spot them from the clues. The biggest clue being a bunch of people standing in a pack staring down the road.
There were no other people standing anywhere around this port. Most of the people who got off the ferry got into a big tourist van headed to Limón for $10 a head. Well, seeing as how I’ve been getting lessons from Jacob’s father on how to stretch a penny till it screams in agony. And seeing as how we don’t have that much money left, we opt for the $.20 bus ride.
I ask the dockworkers where you catch the bus to Limón. They say: "Cerca de la piedra grande!" [SER-ka day la pee-A-dra GRAHN-day,
near the big rock] and wave their hands in the general direction of the main road.
Getting directions here when you don’t speak good Spanish can be a
long hellacious comedy of errors. For one thing, nobody points here. I guess it’s rude.
They wave in a general direction… a big loose sweeping wave. Sometimes with a gentle roll or two of the hand. You may end up knowing which half of the earth to walk towards, but you are never really certain.
So we walked up to the main road to the only logical place where one would imagine a bus would stop. We never see a Big Rock. But this spot was at least sporting a bus stop-looking shelter… This had to be right. Right? Wrong. Logic is useless in Costa Rica.
FORTUNATELY for us, there was a local guy just getting off work from a nearby tourism office. He walked up to where we were, asked us (in Spanish) where we were going and directed us to the correct bus stop. Which was back down the hill from whence we’d come, tucked around a corner off the main road. Beside a Big Rock. It was not that big, really. But it was the only identifier for the stop.
Mr. Tourism was very friendly, chatting us up in Spanish, speaking clearly like he was used to talking to gringos. Until we got to a really hard sentence and he switched to speaking perfect English! It was very generous of him to spend all that time listening to and helping correct our blossoming Spanish, when he could have been speaking English all along. Very generous and kind.
With his help, we made it to the huge Limón bus terminal. The PV bus does not leave from this same terminal, however. So our generous and kind Mr. Tourism led us on a 20 minute jog (he’s 60 if he’s a day and he is walking FAST) through the streets of Limón – a big dirty fascinating city – winding down streets, turning this way and that… I was going on faith here. He could have led us down a garden path, stolen all our stuff and left us for dead. Except he had that embroidered tourism-board shirt on and nice pleated slacks. So we followed… Without him, we would NEVER have found this other bus terminal.
He dropped us off. We thanked him profusely – you knew he didn’t want money. He was doing his job and he did it very well: if all of tourism in Costa Rica were so beautifully represented, this place would be awash in tourists.
The bus ride to PV was about an hour, uneventful, $3 each. We landed in PV and called our first hotel… Even though I wrote about that first unpleasant experience, it actually played such a small part in our visit. It was like a mosquito buzzing around my head occasionally.
In every other respect, PV was lovely. HOT as blazes, but plenty of shade. Usually you could find a breeze, there were good strong fans in the hotel rooms, lots of shady tourist venues, plenty of shade on the beach. It is every inch a Caribbean locale: hot, slow-moving, lots of black people (there are so few black people in the rest of Costa Rica that when I see a black person in the city, I do a double take.) Tons of surfers. Surfers are hot. Reggae dudes. Who are also pretty hot for the most part. Not that I was noticing.
There is a FABULOUS arts and crafts store with very good prices right across the street from the Hotel Guanará. I bought mom a birthday present there and Hal a souvenir mask. Just a great store! I want to go back just for that store…
Other places we loved:
PanPay for meals. Great food, very reasonable prices, good service and right on the ocean.
Hot Rocks for meals and free movies: The food was good, reasonable prices. Movies are fun: shown on a big sheet, not great quality. But more about the fun and cocktails then about the movie… The boys loved the burgers and fish.
Music: the band at Loco Natural. Old white guys playing island music VERY well. Brings to mind The Survivors in Key West – love that band! We loved this music, but only stayed for dessert (which was just ok) and a couple of songs. A couple next to us was having dinner and it looked fabulous. Too pricey for us this trip. Of all the restaurants we were in or walked past, this was one of two that was packed. So either great food or great music… Can’t remember the name of the other one.
I was really surprised to not hear more music playing… in Key West, EVERY bar, EVERY restaurant has at least a guitar player sangin’ country songs. Here, I didn’t hear another musical note… Maybe during the high season, Christmas through April, there is more?
Topo for surfing lessons ($40/each for two hours, but he gave us a $5/each discount which was nice). Topo is the man – sees a need with the kids and starts up a free surf school for them. Read all about him on the link. Very nice guy. And hot.
You are sick of hearing how great Vera is at Cabinas Jacaranda and the coffee at Hotel Guanará. That’s the last time I mention either.
BTW, I’ve heard over and over how much spicier and more flavorful the food is over here, what with the Caribbean flair and all. If it was, I didn’t notice.
On our last Sunday, we went to Punta Uva which is 4km south of PV to visit my friend Ana who was also in Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean last September. Punta Uva is gorgeous. There is no town there – the only town around is PV. PUva is made up of hotels, homes, restaurants and an incredible protected beach. No surf here but a great little snorkeling spot.
If you are looking for oceanfront living in Costa Rica, your choices are vast. And they are ALL gorgeous. It’s just the flavors are slightly different… PV appealed to me like Uvita appealed to me: no high rises. Quiet. Laid-back. Where Uvita is going up-scale, PV looks to stay waaaaaay funkier. Much more Key West like. PV is "take us or leave us. Whatever." NO ONE talked about real estate in PV. No one. There were no billboards anywhere announcing developments here. I wonder why that is, but I loved that about it, too. Maybe south of PUva? I don’t know, didn’t get that far.
All the other tourists we saw were backpackers. Every single one. I’m from a tourist town for 30 years… there were no families here that I saw. No upscale tourists. Come to think of it, I was the oldest tourist around. The rest were aged 20’s to 40’s backpackers. I saw one older white couple in a rental car driving through.
Come to think of it, who were all those people eating in Loco Natural? Locals? Tourists? That would be interesting to know.
I would go back to PV just to look around. To drive south along that road past PUva. I’m not a beach person, but I have a need to know a spot and there is loads more to take in here. I’ll take my mom. Hal is so NOT a beach-hot-weather person… but mom would love to visit, to explore that coastline. AFTER dengue season…
Besides: The Bridge is there. We spent a day here… totally inspiring. You definitely want to visit The Bridge. I could hang out with Nanci a lot more. (I love you, too, Barry. But Nanci… she hooks you…) More on that tomorrow. Today, I’m hanging out with my other Nancy, my mom. She hooks you, too. Hasta luego, amigos!
Great Post! Makes me want to go if I could only find a dog sitter??!!! I can’t even get to SJ lately.