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c_wooten Aug 19th, 2004 06:49 AM

Puerto Viejo?
I have planned a trip to stay in Puerto Viejo at Hotel Kasha at the end of September. Has anyone stayed in this area or hotel? We fly into San Jose and are planning on renting a car (4x4) and have been told it is a four hour drive. Would like to get ANY advice possible, almost all the post I have found are for the Pacific side of CR.

shillmac Aug 19th, 2004 02:48 PM

Don't know anything about Kasha, but have heard of it. You are selecting a good time to go to Puerto Viejo as they get less rain in September. Yes, the drive will take you 4 hours. Not many people travel to the Caribbean side (except the hard core lovers of Costa Rica who can't stand not to see ALL of it!). It is just very different over there--less infrastructure, more poverty, different culturally. But very beautiful, nice beaches, Cahuita Parque Nacional definitely worth seeing. You will enjoy your time there. How long do you have? The Caribbean side is good for 3-4 days, but not more than that (IMO). The central part of the country around San Jose (not in it, but around it) is excellent for scenery and things to see and do. Poas & Irazu volcanoes, Orosi Valley, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui (different PV), La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Sarchi, Grecia, Zarcero (all very cool little towns).

c_wooten Aug 20th, 2004 05:57 AM

Thanks for the reply. We are staying four nights. There is supose to be some good diving near the Panama border that I am looking into. I looked into the Pacific side of Costa Rica but it sounded so touristy and big hotels and that is not what we like. We might come back a day early to check out some of the places around San Jose. Thanks again for the info.

tica_traveler Aug 26th, 2004 10:19 AM

hi there! We stayed in Puerto Viejo in July and had a lovely time. We had planned to go to Cahuita but, in speaking with locals on the bus from Limon, decided to heed their wise advise and stay on the bus PAST Cahuita on to Puerto Viejo. We did not rent a car during our 30 days in Costa Rica but rather used buses and occasional taxis. There are several rather pricey restaurants in or attached to rather pricey lodgings but more frequently you will find very reasonably priced small, open air "sodas" with good food and great atmosphere. Be warned, the price of even a cup of coffee doubles at the waterfront establishments. Walk a block inland to have lunch and cut your bill in half. We stayed at Aguas Claras, about 2-3 miles south of the heart of Puerto Viejo. They have cottages that sleep 2-6 people for VERY reasonable rates, especially if you pay cash. Our cottage had two bedrooms, bath, living room, dining room, full kitchen and was stocked with cookware, linens, etc. By the time we hit Puerto Viejo, we were getting a bit tired of eating out all the time, so we actually hit the farmer's market on Saturday and prepared some of our meals at the cottage. (We love Costa Rican bread with fresh Costa Rican jam or paté for breakfast. A couple times we just sliced up fresh mangos, pineapple, avocados and cheese. One night I actually baked costa rican shake-n-bake chicken.) Even if you don't feel like preparing any of your own meals, Aguas Claras is close enough to lots of great food, especially an italian restaurant called The Black Stallion (IN ITALIAN< that is). Also, the Aguas Claras owners were just breaking ground on a small restaurant on site as we were packing to leave. The hotels, cabinas, what-have-you that are located on the left side of the road as you enter town, especially those located BEYOND the town, between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo, have the most awesome and isolated access to the water. You may not see another living soul for hours. (It reminder me of survivor- pearl islands.) HOWEVER, and this is a BIG however, BEWARE of casual passersby. We were very careful to lock our $$$ and passports in the safe in our cottage. Others were not so careful and were relieved of their $$$ and passports by young men on bicycles. (They were on foot at the water's edge and had bikes hidden in the trees a couple hundred yards away.) The police were very quick to catch them and the locals were very quick to point out the bad guys were not locals but was a most unfortunate situation. Also, there are plenty of monkeys in the trees ready to relieve you of your valuables also. Bring the disposable camera. Leave the digital at the hotel.

If you don't have your heart set on the other hotel (or have not already paid your money...) you might think about Aguas Claras. WE LOVED walking 100 yards thru TOTAL RAINFOREST with crabs scrurrying ahead of us for cover to our private beach. We walked a hundred yards down the beach for rock-free playing in the waves. AT the Aguas Claras beach, the coral has formed natural pools where we could let the kids play without worrying about them being washed away to sea. It was so awesome. We had planned on being there 2-3 days. We extended to six and hated leaving, even then.
For the meals we ate out, we let the taxi drivers choose. We told them how much we were willing to spend and let them take us where they would go if it were their choice. We were never disappointed.
There is no bank or ATM in Puerto Viejo and the guy who changes money at Corales charges 2.5%. Be sure to have $$$$ with you BEFORE you get there. I did take the bus on into Bribri. I didn't see much there. A 15 minute bus ride gets you to Panama. Be sure to have passports or copies. We did get stopped twice (in 30 days) and asked for ID.

Have a blast!

shillmac Aug 26th, 2004 01:47 PM

Hi Julie! Good to see you on the board again! Hope all is well with you and your children. . .still thinking of you!

jamamac Aug 26th, 2004 04:39 PM

This is not the first time I've heard to avoid Cahuito. Does this also apply to the National Park?

shillmac Aug 26th, 2004 07:53 PM

Heavens no! The park is one of the nicest parts of the area. We stayed in Cahuita a couple of years ago. It was a wild experience because it was quite stormy (in January), the ocean was extremely turbulent, and it rained a lot during the night-- the electricity went out 2 different nights, and we found our way around the hotel grounds and to our room with a candle stuck inside an empty Imperial bottle! I brought it home with me as a souvenir! I realize I'm rambling, but it was such a hoot, and an experience we wouldn't trade for! We were the only ones at the hotel except for a surfer from Florida, and the 3 of us would gather in the kitchen in the evening with the owner and rustle up wonderful meals eaten there in the kitchen by candlelight! We couldn't believe it. . and laugh about it still!

As for Cahuita being unsafe, I don't know how things are now. The entire area is less unstable than other parts of the country (it's just different over there, part of the charm), but we didn't feel unsafe ever. Of course, we were careful. Didn't swim and leave our stuff on the beach--that's a huge problem all over the country, but particularly on the Caribbean side. The park itself was gorgeous, the beaches beautiful, and we enjoyed seeing lots of wildlife. We walked through on our own. Puerto Viejo is where I'd stay if we were to return (or Manzanillo), but DO go to the park. All those little towns down there are very conveniently close together.

c_wooten Aug 27th, 2004 05:56 AM

tica traveler. Thank you so very much for all the helpful info. Would have been a big hassle to not know about the no ATM's in the area after getting there!! It is amazing how little I have been able to find out about this part of Costa Rica.

jamamac Aug 28th, 2004 03:12 PM

Thanks again Shillmac! Will be staying at the Cariblue in Playa Cocles. Cahuito National Park was the reason we are going to this area. We stayed at Almonds & Coral in Manzanilla a couple of years ago and loved it but were not there long enough to see other surroundng areas. Playa Cocles beach sounded pretty nice.
Do anyone know anything about this area?

tica_traveler Sep 2nd, 2004 12:28 PM

I think that's real close to where we were at Aguas Claras. I think we passed it on our bikes about a hundred times. Note: Everyoen rides bikes around here. Pedestrians, bikes, dogs, children, everyone uses the middle of the road!!! We really liked it, as I said in previous posting. There are three named beaches in the area and they tend to just run one into the other, if memory serves. Shillmac and the others are the experts. I just tend to show up and find a place to lay my head. I always do well. (Well, there was that one time in %^&GGI*UY. I won't mention the name but there was one place... a certain language school with fleas....)
Happy travels,

shillmac Sep 2nd, 2004 02:36 PM

Hey now, Julie! I'm no expert on the Caribbean side or anywhere else in CR. Just like to gab on Fodor's and have been a few times! :)

What's up with the Humberto deal? That really doesn't sound like something he would intentionally do. . .do you think something weird happened? I was wondering what all that was about. . . .

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