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The Coasts: Pacific and Caribbean

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October, 2007

Crossing the Costa Rican border again and pulling into the beach town of Tamarindo at nightfall, the next few days of our trip would be marred and tested by torrential October rains. The Tamarindo streets ran orange with the constant flow of mud across the dirt bottom streets, and while still fun, an attempt at surfing was offset by the amount of debris and runoff in the water. Deciding to get out of the deluged tourist trap (this part of the Costa Rican coast is heavily Westernized and sold off to rich gringos plot by plot), we headed south to Playa Samara, samara-beachan obviously incredible palm fringed hideaway on a mile long stretch of sugar white sand when not bogged down under autumn storms. It rained nonstop for the duration of our overnight stay there, and while the outdoor activities were limited to a few leisurely strolls down the beach between storm cells, those few moments were enough to appreciate the simple beauty of the even more simple stretch of Pacific coast. Having to rent a car to get out of Dodge (all buses and planes had been stopped due to the flooding), we got off of the Nicoya peninsula and left the widespread flooding behind (entire towns were actually being evacuated, as Santa Cruz, a town of 10,000 people was essentially underwater and was under the care of the national Red Cross). A couple of hundred miles and one speeding ticket later we pulled into the surf town of Jaco on the Pacific Coast andjaco-beach meandered the evaporating streets for an evening while the near equatorial sun made its best effort to shine through. After another debris and runoff filled surf session in brown water, a few drinks, and some good food, we departed the next morning for San Jose to drop off the car and catch a bus to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and the little national park town of Cahuita. Unfortunately, Heather got more than a touch of some Costa Rican food poisoning and endured a hellacious 6 hours of bus rides and taxi rides all while being minimally able to function until we finally landed in a little hotel on the water in Cahuita.

Cahuita is an incredibly charming little Caribbean beach town with an amazing national park right next door complete with howler monkeys (who stole my cookies via a bold tree attack) cahuitamonkeyand turquoise blue water that coaxes even the least aquatic of souls to venture a taste. With only one main intersection and a smattering of cafe’s and restaurants, the vibe on the Caribbean coast of the nation is as unique and removed from the Pacific side as the East and West coast of the US (sorry but we all know it’s true). Black’s trump Latin American’s and salsa is silenced by nonstop reggae and reggaeton. The next day, a little further down the coast in the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, I got some surf in at Playa Cocles on a great little 13km stretch of road that stretched down to Manzanillo and the border with Panama. cahuitaWhile we didn’t get a chance to experience it, the reefs in this area are supposed to be teeming with life, and the tree-tunnel lined dirt road was an inviting avenue for a late afternoon bike ride followed by a few cervezas and fish tacos, and a fitting end to a fabulously simple day.

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