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Monthly Archives: January 2009

All right, today its time for another topic. Tourism and stuff. I happen to live in San José, Costa Rica and dig the place very much. When it comes to Latin American capitals, San José is certainly the most pleasant one in my opinion. It’s safe enough for me to enjoy life here without having to spend my time in taxis and condos (as you might have to in Guatemala City), the climate is perfect and it’s just got the size I love. From where I live (los Yoses), I’m out of the city I 15 minutes by bike. There are plenty of day tours you can make on weekends, so if city life gets to me I always find the opportunity to breathe some fresh air and enjoy the colors of nature.

Nightlife is also interesting and it has developed a lot in past years. I suck at dancing salsa, so it’s good to have some opportunities to dance to other music (mainly electronic). On Wednesday’s, Lubnam is the place to go. It’s small and crowded on Wednesday’s, but it has great music (and good lebanese food if you’re hungry). Bar 83 is close to where I live and has an interesting alternative crowd – so does Area City.

But there’s also a hotel bar I occasionally like to hang out: the Fleur de Lys’s bar. They have happy hour on Tuesdays and Fridays with live music and an interesting crowd. Being a son of a lawyer I was always interested in legal shop talk. So because the Fleur de Lys is in the “circuito judicial” (where the courts and public attorneys are), there are lawyers and judges enjoying their after-work beer here. Not my usual crowd, but nice for a change.

It’s here that I go to know Patrick. Patrick is a Swiss that a backpacker’s called Casa Leon. It’s in the middle of the city, so any visitor to Costa Rica must enjoy the place. Recently I have managed to visit his small hotel for the first time and I liked it very much. It’s small and personal and apparently there’s a friendly crowd hanging out there most of the time. His prices are cheap, so I do recommend it for any budget traveler in Costa Rica. Patrick has been living in Costa Rica for about three years know and is married to a Tica. He is an interesting crossover between Switzerland and Costa Rica and speaks German, Spanish, French and English (these Swiss, they always speak so much…). I can only recommend you pass by there – or San José’s Hotel Fleur de Lys‘ bar, for that matter – in case you are looking for a place to stay. Patrick also offers travel assistance and will happily answer questions if you plan to visit more of the country. San José is the inevitable starting place for any trip to Costa Rica. Many travelers don’t happily spend their time here, but if you like a good night out, you will enjoy San José. Also, it’s not too bad to stay here for a bit and planning a good route before continuing to the rest of the country.

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After quite a few years of absence, I finally managed to visit Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast again. I resorted to Bocas del Toro the past years, but finally decided it was time to visit good old Puerto Viejo again. And man, was I surprised. Whapin?

Well, what did happen is what I like to call “Tamarindofication” – the town has become immersed in tourism – or rather, eaten up. And now it looks just like Tamarindo on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Tamarindo was probably the fastest growing town between 2000 and 2008: from a remote fisher village it became Costa Rica’s main beach resort, including Subway’s, banks, real estate agencies (almost more than land available) and spring break tourists from the US. It completely lost its identity and most of its charme.

Now, almost the same has happened to Puerto Viejo. It has lost a big deal of its charme – giving way to souvenir stands and restaurants serving American and European food. And what’s more: Puerto Viejo seems to have lost its Rastas. Maybe you just don’t notice them as much because they vanish in the mass of white skinned tourists. But I say: they have disappeared. Puerto Viejo has lost a great deal of its Caribbean and “Rastafarian” identity – maybe the local chilled out blacks have been driven out by rising real estate prices, maybe they just found a more laid-back place. I haven’t found out yet. If any of you has an idea of what could have happened, I’d be glad to hear about is…