Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
"Costa Rica, it's that Island in the Caribbean, right?" Wrong. Costa Rica is in Central America, just north of Panama and south of Nicaragua. It's a country that hasn't had its own army in over 100 years. By survey, Costa Rica was rated second amongst all the countries in the world for "Happiest Country". And the average literacy rate there makes the United States look like a third world country in comparison.
This summer I had the privilege of spending two and a half months in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. I had just ended a three year relationship and felt the need to get out of LA, in addition to my innate sense of wanderlust.
I went down there by myself with almost no idea of what I was getting into. I had my backpack, less than $100 cash, a promise of a job and a place to stay. That was about it. The only Spanish I knew was what I had picked up growing up in LA, which is muy poquito.
I remember my first day there. I had spent 24 hours traveling by plane and bus and it was now night again. The bus driver didn't know where he was going and I almost spent the night in the jungle. I wouldn't have cared too much anyway, it was all part of the adventure. But we figured it out and I arrived at my destination.
I couldn't see anything as the amount of electrical lights are, should I say, not near as much as we have in LA. A guy from the hotel showed me the beach and then to the thatched ranchero which was to be my home for the next several months. As the hotel is right on the beach, I fell asleep that night to the sound of waves crashing in the near distance, which would be just one night in a string of nights yet to come.
It wasn't until the next morning that I got to take in beauty that is Playa Hermosa. Thick green jungle surrounded the hotel and a warm, blue sky hung brilliantly over the black volcanic sand. All the photos I took above were taken on the hotel property with the exception of the second and fifth one which were taken only a block away.
I spent my days doing whatever was needed at Marea Brava, the hotel where I lived and worked. My duties were anything from making beds to gardening (very often using a machete) or getting new customers to the hotel. The people I worked with were very hearty people and though a few of them didn't know much English, we still got along very well. Of course, the number of laughs we had over my mispronunciation or misduplication of various things is priceless in itself. And while I worked most of the daylight hours, I made it a point to go into the ocean at least once a day, sometimes during a lunch break even.
Playa Hermosa is one of the most sought surf destinations in Costa Rica. I'd say that there was good surf about 80% of the time and there was never a day when there were no waves. For this reason, and for a few more reasons too, Billabong had their World Surfing Tournament in Playa Hermosa this last year. It was a big deal for the entire country as well as the surfing community.
Another thing that draws crowds is Hermosa's neighboring town, Jaco. Jaco. Is like party town Central America, where the party goes all night every night. Three days out of the week one bar or another has "Lady's Night" and their idea of "Lady's Night" is that the girls have unlimited drinks for free. Prostitution is legal and pot is practically legal. It is another attraction for many people, as if what nature had to offer wasn't enough. It was not for this reason that I came to Costa Rica though, which was hard for some to believe. "An American who isn't here to disregard and taint our culture?" Seriously people, when you travel to other countries, try not to be a disgusting, typical American who soils our very repute by treating the country you're in like it's inferior. I will hunt you down.
It's interesting to see how some Costa Ricans take the amazing landscape for granted. I remember talking to one "tica" (Costa Rican girl) and she said, "It's so boring here. Everywhere you go, it's all the same, just more mountains." I think I gave her a look of mixed confusion and admiration. I tried to explain to her just how lucky she was.
My routine was fairly simple. I'd get up in the morning, go to the beach if possible and then eat breakfast. I wore only my board shorts, sandals and maybe a t-shirt; I was always trying to get as brown as the locals. Then I'd work around the hotel doing whatever was needed.
And while it was paradise, I was still roughing it and that means it wasn't always easy. Mosquitoes were a major hassle. They would go after my blood like a kid in a candy shop, even if I sprayed on layers of repellent. Amazing. I eventually figured that one out though. Another thing was the meals. As I didn't have tones of money, I would eat the same as the other local workes. Sometimes it was great. Other times, not so much. One thing Costa Ricans love is pig feet and when I say "pig feet" it's literally bones of pig feet held together by a jello-like glob of fat, garnished a bit with flavorings. Whatever was being fed to everybody that day was what you got. So there were many times where I went to the nearest fruit tree to feed myself as an alternative. Actually, I abused the ample supply of fruits a lot. My co-workers teased me about how much I ate mangoes. But wouldn't you in my position? Free, unlimited supply of the best mangoes ever. It's a no brainer.
I made countless friends, both with people visiting and with the locals. I had my group of guys I played soccer with in the near-by soccer field. They didn't play with shoes and "When in Rome..." And not one of them spoke a word of English. The only language we shared was the language of soccer. It was a blast. If I was passing the field, they'd call me over "Taylor!" (Hispanic for Tyler, I guess).
Oh, another interesting thing: Do you know how people talk to a latino person in the United States when they don't speak English? Sometimes, they'll repeat what they said but say it slower, louder or more forcefully. Did it ever occur to these people that it doesn't make them suddenly know how to speak English? I had the reverse done on me constantly while in Costa Rica. People would talk slower or louder but in Spanish and I still wouldn't know what they were saying. I got such a good laugh out of it.
I could easily tell millions of interesting side stories or fun facts about Costa Rica -- I was there long enough. This hub was intented to give an overview of what it was like in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica and what I did while I lived there. The individual stories are quite entertaining and I have loads of other photos I could show. But that will be another time. For now -- enjoy!