Monday, November 12, 2007

Sean's quick and dirty Puerto Viejo and nearby area restaurant roundup.

El Dorado - The top spot on my list of favorite places for beers, cocktails and people watching. The nachos are good but defiantly not a low calorie meal (lots of cheese). Pizzas are good as well as the casados. Cocktails are decent and they have a happy hour every night where you can get 2x1 of a few select drinks.

Gin and Tonic at El Dorado

Sunset Bar - We visited once. Seemed more like less tourist friendly, locals only bar.

PanPay - Yummy freshly baked pastries

De Paso - One of our favorites. We ate there about four times. Great, inexpensive place close to the beach with a sand floor. The best tacos we had in Puerto Viejo. The guacamole, chicken dishes, and steaks are also all good.

Tacos at De Paso

Dubliner Irish Bar - Nothing remotely Irish about this place as it is owned by a Rasta dude who is probably trying to lure British and Irish backpackers from Rockin' J's. I was foolishly looking forward to a black and tan but they were out of Guinness and never heard of Harp or Bass ale :(

The Dubliner Irish Pub

Cafe Rico - The BEST coffee I've had anywhere! Yummy fruit salads and drinks. The huevos rancheros are also recommended. Rodger, the owner is very attentive to his customers. It also attracts some unusual people based on the sign out from that advertises "conspiracy consultations".

Huevos Rancheros at Cafe Rico

Restaurante Punta Uva (formally El Ranchito) - very limited menu with only 5-6 items but we were hungry so we ordered some chicken "fajitas" which in reality were deep fried chicken strips covered with thousand island dressing(!)

Stanford's - We were promptly brought our drinks along with our appetizer of guacamole and chips. The guacamole was good but the chips were pretty soggy with the oil used to fry them. We then waited for a really long time for our arroz con pollo. It was almost as if they had to wait for the rice to grow and the chicken to hatch and mature so they could make our meal. I don't know if the cook forgot or was taking a long break, getting high or what. We saw other dinners waiting quite some time as well. I guess when the tips are included in the bill there isn't much incentive for fast service. We won't be going back to Stanford's.

Bread and Chocolate - Fantastic sandwiches - jerk chicken = really good. grilled cheese and salad = wow! The chocolates are completely out of this world.

Grilled cheese and salad at Bread and Chocolate

Lizard King - We ordered chips and guacamole, tacos, and enchiladas. The chips and guacamole took a loooong time to arrive (30 minutes) and then we didn't get our main courses for another 20 minutes after that. The food was all really good but I wouldn't recommend it based on the slow service.

Lizard King

@t E's Restaurant (Rockin' J's) - A fun place to hang out with some of the cheapest beers in town. The BEST margaritas in all of Puerto Viejo (be sure to order with a premium tequila). They also have a 50oz giant margarita for $16. The food is pretty good as well. I recommend the chicken skewers which come with a really good peanut dipping sauce. Pad Thai and the Thai peanut chicken (huge portions) were out of this world. The tacos al pastor were also good but needed some salsa or something as they were a bit dry. Quesadillas were good but smothered in a bit too much cheese.

@t E's Restaurant - Rockin' J's

Chili Rojo - Immensely popular spot which is packed every night. The curries are all really good but could have been more spicy. They offer a breakfast special ($4) which are good as well. They also do an all you can eat sushi ($12) on Thursday nights but I've heard from several people that the service is unusually slow and they only bring you one or two pieces of sushi at a time.

Salsa Brava - Romantic spot right on the beach. Food is decent but a bit on the expensive side. They also offer a 2x1 happy hour and live entertainment on some nights

- THE place for Italian food. Pastas are good but a bit on the expensive side. Pizzas are delicious and reasonably priced. 2x1 select cocktails are available on some evenings.

Pasta at Amimodo

Peace and Love - Italian pastries ($1 each) = WOW!!!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 15 - Flying back to San Francisco

We were picked up promptly at 5:30am and were at the airport 15 minutes later. We paid our exit tax, checked in and were through security in about 15 minutes. We had some crappy airport breakfast and I picked up a bottle of tequila from the duity free shop.

Our flight to Houston and onward to San Francisco was uneventful and we were home by 6:30pm.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 14 - Bus ride back to San Jose

Woke up early and did some last minute packing. The bus came at about 7:15am and we were on our way to San Jose after stopping in PV and then again in Chauita. We also had a 10 minute rest stop in Limon.

Kat on the Mepe heading for San Jose

The bus is definitely the way we will travel again to PV – fast and cheap. After we got to the Caribbean bus Terminal we quickly fond a taxi who took us to Orquideas Inn. We were ready for lunch so we headed to the bar and had some great nachos which we washed woth with some Imperials and margaritas. After thet we took a dip in the pool. The water was really cold after we had been used to swimming in the warm Caribbean sea so we went down to the Jacuzzi and relaxed for the next 20 minutes or so. After going back to our room and showering and relaxing a bit we headed back to the bar for some more drinks and to play some cards. After a while it was getting close to Kat’s bed time so we had a delicious steak dinner. It seemed like the food at Orquideas has improved significantly since our last visits. I’m thinking they must have gotten new chef. Kat went to bed early and I stayed in the bar for a few more hours before hitting the sack to get some sleep since out ride to the airport was pickling up at 5:30am

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 13

I called Interbus to give the driver our telephone number so he could call us to pick us up when we were near by. The Interbus representative told us that they had scheduled out pick up for the wrong day and wanted us to pay again in cash if we still wanted to be picked up(!) We decided against Interbus and instead decided to take the public bus back to San Jose and then a taxi to the Orquedias Inn. We walked into town and had lunch at Bread and Chccolate (grilled cheese and salad – wow) and got the bus tickets (about $8 each) as well as some amazing Italian pastries from Peace and Love for breakfast the next morning. I was a little worried about finding a taxi early of a Sunday morning to take us to the bus station but one of the people at Rockin’ J’s said that, since the bus was coming form Manzanillo, we could flag it down right in front. We met Collin and Roberto for dinner that night at De Paso. I had a steak that was quite good! We then went to bed as we had to get up early to catch the bus to San Jose

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 12 - Cahuita

We went to Cahuita again amd ate a yummy lunch at Restaurante LeFey. The beach was great with gentle waves and good swimming. After taking the 5pm bus back to Puerto Viejo we walked home and then hit El Dorado for 2x1 drinks and then a dinner of Good pasta and carribean chicken at Amimodo.

Caribbean Chicken at Amimodo

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 11

We ate breakfast at Cafe Rico and then headed to Playa Cocles. The water was great! After a while I started getting hungry but the store across the street from the beach was closed so I left the wife at the beach and walked back to the house to shower and then headed to the bar and Rockin' J's (one of our favorite places). After a few hours of drinking with some entertaining British guys who have been traveling the world we walked into town and had dinner at El Dorado.

Me and James at Rockin' J's

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 10 - Bike Ride to Manzanillo

We rented bikes again and rode all the way to Manzanillo. Past Punta Uva there are two small hills to climb. You have to be careful when coming back down the hills as the bikes dont have the greatest beakes and at the base of one of the hllls there is a bridge and the pavement changes. When we finally got to Manzanillo it was super windy with sand blowing all over. We went into Maxi's but the music was blaring so L-O-U-D with a lot of distortion we decided to turn around and rode back, stopping at Punta Uva for a beer. On the way back we saw a large tour group of out of shape europeans hufffing and puffing along on the bike ride. Following them was a truck containing the bakiek and people who were too out of shape to make the ride (I havent riden a bike in years and thought it was pretty easy). We stopped at Punta Uva for a beer and then rode back to return the bikes and eat some lunch at Rockin' J's. We had some delicious chicken skewers with a really good thai peanut dipping sauce. The tacos al pastor were also good but needed some salsa or something as they were a bit dry.

Tacos al Pastor at Rockin' J's
Tacos al Pastor at Rockin' J's

We then headed to Playa Cocles where we almost had the entire beach to ourselves. The water was warm and more gentle than of previous days making for good swimming. We then headed cack to the house to clean up and rest for a bit before going out for dinner.

October 28 2007 - 021

We went to our usual pre-dinner hang out at El Dorado and got to watch a parade of school children playing drums and in costume slowly march down the main street. Halloween isn't really observed here but the Costa Rican children seemed to be catching on as far as wearing costumes. One guy was even dressed up as Santa Claus! We then had a good dinner at Amimodo - yummy pizza!

October 31 2007 - 029

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 9 - Cahuita

We saw Joe Montana's son again today laying sleeping in an empty vendor's stall alongside the road. Clearly he has no money and no friends. I'm wondering what his story is...

Today we took the public bus to Cahuita. It was 500 colones each way, purchase tickets at building with the bars across from bus stop in town. The bus ride was interesting - there is a driver who also collects fares and another guy who checks people's tickets. It seems somewhat redundant but I guess having another guy there keeps the driver from pocketing any $$ and creates another job. Cahuita was pretty dead, most restaurants were closed (as was on our visit there last year). We ended up eating some lunch at Restaurante National Park.


Entering the park visitors are asked to sign a guest book and make a contribution. Looking at the guest book it seemed that the average contribution was 1000 colones ($2) per person. We gave them a $5 bill and were given a receipt. We walked about 300 meters up the beach and found a nice spot under a tree on Playa Blanca which is a picture perfect stretch of beach. The water was gentle and warm - the best swimming we've had so far! Unfortunately, after about 1.5 hours we heard thunder in the distance and some dark clouds moving in.

Playa Blanca

We walked back to the bus station to get tickets back to PV. I got stuck in line behind a few school girls who ended up purchasing tickets for all 20 of their schoolmates. The bus arrived a bit later and we were back in PV and got home just as it began to rain. It continued to rain pretty hard the rest of the night so we fixed ourselves some sandwiches at home. At one point the power went out but fortunately we had some candles

Kat at the bus stop in Cahuita

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 8 - Bike Ride to Punta Uva

After waking up and having coffee in the house we rented bicycles from the guy who lives next door and rode to Punta Uva. When renting a bicycle make sure that the tires are well inflated, chain is greased, and ask if someone will pick you up if there is a problem with the bike. It was a nice ride that took about 30 minutes. Most of the road is in the shade and is mostly paved with a few stretches of gravel. We went to the postcard perfect beaches east of Punta Uva (look for the Arrecife sign and turn left). It was really windy and also high tide so there wasnt much beach to lay on. My wife went in to take a swim and bashed her chin on an underwater rock. It was bleeding but nothing too serious. This put a damper on the rest of our beach time there so after hanging out for another hour or so we road our bikes back to the house.

Punta Uva

October 29 2007 - 008

That night we decided to go for some Mexican food at the Lizard King. We ordered chips and guacamole, tacos, and enchiladas. The chips and guacamole took a loooong time to arrive (30 minutes) and then we didn't get our main courses for another 20 minutes after that. The food was all really tasty but I wouldn't recommend it based on the slow service.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Day 7 - Playa Cocles

Since we couldn’t access the internet for the past few days we decided to see if we could access the wireless access at Rockin' J's while we had a ligh breakfast. Unfortunately the wireless access code was only for guests but we had some good sandwiches. After lunch we walked back to Playa Cocoles and chilled out in the shade of a palm tree for the next 3 hours. The waves were not as bad as on previous days and the swimming was better. After going home to clean up we walked into town to El Dorado and then decided to go back to Rockin' J's for dinner. I had some excellent Thai Peanut Chicken (Huge portions).

50oz Margarita at Rockin' J's

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 6 - Playa Cocles

As usual I woke up early and took a walk into town to get something to eat. On the way I heard the crazy guy from the previous night shouting "I am Joe Montana's son!"

I went back to Cafe Rico and had a yummy fruit salad with yogurt. I then went to the Old Harbor Market to get some snacks for the house along with some laundry detergent so we could wash our dirty clothes in the washing machine. By this time my wife was awake and wanting breakfast so we walked back into town to eat at Chili Rojo. We had thought about taking a bus to Cahuita but it was pretty overcast and looking like it might rain and should wait for another day. We decided that Playa Cocles would be a good spot for some beach time so we walked there and found a lot of people on the beach. We found a shady spot and relaxed with our books for a few hours.

On the way back home we stopped at El Toriso for a snack of chicken wings. We also stopped at Echo Books which is an odd place set back a 1/4 mile into the forest. It was air conditioned and had a decent selection but I don’t see how they get much business in their location. We then took a short nap and walked back inot town for some margaritas at El Dorado.

Diana serving up margaritas at El Dorado

The town wasn’t as busy as the previous night. Some performers were juggling fire on the street just outside the bar. We then walked around a bit, looking for a place for dinner. We really wanted to eat at Chili Rojo and seeing an empty table (the place has been packed every other night) we rushed in. I had vegetable curry which was really good but could have been more spicy.

October 27 2007 - 034

October 27 2007 - 048

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 5 - Playa Negra

I woke up at about 6:30am to some really hard rain. It was so loud I couldn’t go back to sleep (although my wife can sleep through just about anything). I got up and made coffee and went out to the back porch to check emails and upload my pictures from my camera.

Finally at about 10am it stopped raining so we walked over to Cafe Rico where I had a HUGE fruit salad and coffee. Conspiracy man was there but he didn't try to engage me in any of his theories. I didn't notice it before but there is a sign out front that advertises "conspiracy consultations" so it's no wonder that Cafe Rico attracts some unusual characters

Cafe Rico

Cafe Rico

We then took a walk up to Banana Azul to see Colon and Roberto's new addition to their hotel which was just beginning construction on our last visit. Colon showed us the new rooms which are very nice. We talked for a while but then Colon needed to attend a staff meeting so we decided to take a dip in the ocean at playa negra just behind the property. The waves were coming in fast and furious and after I got pounded into the sand a few times too many we decided that swimming wasn't such a good idea. We walked back into town along the beach and had some super delicious sandwiches followed by pieces of chocolate at Bread and Chocolate (we will go back there for sure). We then walked back to our house to shower and a short nap.

We woke up at about 7pm and walked back into town hoping to get some drinks at El Dorado but seeing that it was pretty crowded we looked for another place to get drinks but everywhere was pretty packed (I guess Friday nights are pretty busy) so we decided to walk back and check out the bar at Rockin' J's. On the way back some crazy guy tried to tell us that he was Joe Montana’s son along with some other crazy things.

Rockin' J's

Rockin' J's was fun place with a toga party going on in a another part of the property although it's defiantly not the place to stay if you want to do any relaxing. We were getting hungry so we decided to go back to De Paso for dinner. The wife had tacos and I had the Caribbean chicken with rice which was really good but the piece of chicken had a lot of bone in it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 4 - Punta Uva

Again, I woke up early and took a walk into town - I had some really GOOD coffee at Cafe Rico. While there I was approached by some crazy guy who gave me a flyer saying that the planes in 9/11 were flown by robots along with some other crazy conspiracy theories. I told him that I didn’t believe in that and he then told me tat he was a "real patriot". I wanted to ask him what he was doing living in Costa Rica but decided I'd rather not engage him in further conversation (a wise decision based on what others have told me). After returning to the house we called a taxi to take us to Punta Uva were we were dropped off at Restaurante Punta Uva (used to be El Ranchito). Since we didn't have any breakfast we decided to have a bite to eat and ended up sharing a plate of was was advertised as chicken fajitas but in reality were deep fried chicken strips with thousand island dressing on top. I guess the ticos have their own version :(

Punta Uva

The beach was nice but we had wished that we had gone a bit further south to the beach we visited last time which was much nicer. After a few hours the say was turning darker and we heard some thunder. Fearing rain we walked up to Hotel Pachamama to visit someone I had been in contact through TripAdvisor. Bill and his wife had purchased the hotel earlier this year and we living the good life as hotel keepers in paradise. After sharing beers and chatting for a few hours they called us a taxi to take us back into town. The ride back was only 3500 while the ride there was 5000. I guess next time we should ask for the price when we call so we can negotiate a better price. After cleaning up at home we walked into town and had some drinks at El Dorado it started to rain so we passed the time by playing cards and watched the baseball game on TV. Coconut man joined us for a bit. After the rain stopped, we decided to get some dinner. We wanted to eat dinner at Chili Rojo but since it was all you can eat sushi night the place was packed. We walked around for a bit and then decided to eat at Stanford's. We were promptly brought our drinks along with guacamole and chips. The guacamole was good but the chips were pretty soggy with the oil used to fry them. We then waited for a really long time for our arroz con pollo. It was almost as if they had to wait for the rice to grow and the chicken to hatch and mature so they could make our meal. I don’t know if the cook forgot or was taking along break or what. We saw other dinners waiting quite some time as well. I guess when the tips are included in the bill there isn’t much incentive for fast service. We won’t be going back to Stanford's.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 3 - Playa Cocles

As usual, I woke up early and after making coffee and checking email. I took a walk into town and got some yummy pastries at Pan Pay. After returning we decided to take a walk to Playa Cocles. There is a trail that we accessed by walking through Rockin' J's and then it's a 10 minute walk to the beach. We spent about 3 hours laying in the shade and swimming. We saw 3 people swim way off to an island off shore. One of the lifeguards paddled up on his surfboard to make sure they were OK.

Playa Cocles
Playa Cocles

The coconut man at Playa Cocles
Coconut Man

We then walked back along the costal trail and had some really good tacos and margaritas at De Paso (next to Cut Bak). After we got back home it started to rain so we took a nap and then watched the Red Sox decimate the Rockies at El Dorado and then we had a good dinner at Salsa Brava along with a night cap at the Dubliner Irish Bar which doesn’t really live up to it's name. I was foolishly looking forward to a black and tan but they were out of Guinness and never heard of Harp or Bass ale :(

Tacos at De Paso
Tacos at De Paso

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 2 - San Jose to Puerto Viejo

After some coffee and a fresh fruit salad for breakfast Interbus picked us up right on time at 8:30am and we made the drive to Puerto Viejo. We traveled with a Swiss couple and an American and a German. We made a 20 minute stop about half way at a roadside restaurant so people could use the toilet or get something to eat. It was a pretty smooth ride until we got to Cahuita where the driver was getting pretty flustered while trying to find one of the hotels that some people wanted to be dropped off. At one point we took a wrong turn and ended at the end of a narrow road where the driver had to back up all the way to the main road about 300 meters.

After arriving in Puerto Viejo we were dropped off right in front of the gate to the house we are renting. We found the house through Collin from Banana Azul who put us in contact with the owner. It's located across from Rockin' J's about a 7 minute walk form the east side of town. The house is about 75 meters back from the road with a locked gate and covered place to park a car. There are two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and another with a single bed. The house has a fully equipped kitchen with coffee maker, stove, microwave, along with dishes and cooking utensils. The back of the house has a nice covered porch wth a sofa and table. On one side is the home of the property owner and on the other side is a group of small cabanas that are home to tico families. There is also a small grocery store and a guy who rent bicycles just to the right of our gate. The house also has a telephone and cable tv with most channels in Spanish but a few in English and one in German ands Chinese. We are able to get wireless internet from the owners house but the signal is weak, sometimes I could only access it on the back porch and sometimes not at all. There is a washing machine but no drier. At $300/week we thought it was a good bargain.

Back porch
Back porch of our house


After getting unpacked we walked into town for some lunch and beers at El Dorado and then picked us some groceries at the Old Harbor market to have on hand at the house. We then decided that a dip in the ocean was needed so we walked through Rockin’ J's to the beach only to find that the beach was really rocky and not really suitable for swimming. First we walked east along the beach for a bit and then decided to turn around and walk back west looking for a place to swim and ended up at the crappy beach in town where my wife did a bit of swimming and I watched our stuff and trying to keep some all too playful dogs from shaking wet sand all over me.

Playful dogs on the beach
Beach dogs

We then went back to the house to shower and relax for a while. We then walked into town, checked out the Sunset Bar which seemed like a less friendly locals only place so we ended up going back to El Dorado where we met a woman who used to live jst a few blocks form us in San Francisco and had moved to PV last week. We also met Coconut Man, a guy who sells coconuts along the beaches. After many beers and a pizza we walked back home and went to bed

Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 1 - San Francisco to San Jose, Costa Rica

It was a long, tiring trip to get here but it's been worth it - We took an uncomfortable and packed red eye flight from San Francisco to Houston where we had a 3 hour lay over. Because it was raining in Houston, we were stuck on the tarmac for about an hour before we could take off. We arrived at SJO an hour late at 1pm and made it though immigration and customs in about 20 minutes. The guy from the Interbus shuttle was waiting just outside to take us to the Dunn Inn in San Jose.

On previous trips to Costa Rica we have spent our first night in Alajuela at Orquideas Inn but since we were not renting a car on this trip we needed to stay in San Jose so we could be picked up by Interbus in the morning. We selected the Dunn Inn based on good reviews along with it's price and location. Check in was fast and friendly. Our room was on the second floor and while very small, it was comfortable with a good bed and cable tv. Our room also had a small balcony that looked over the street.

After checking in we were pretty hungry so we hit the hotel bar for a snack and few Pilsens and tequila shots to wash it all down. Originally we wanted to spend the afternoon walking around San Jose but since we had minimal sleep on the airplane we went back to our room and crashed out until later that evening when we got up and had some dinner in the restaurant and then went back to bed.