PUERTO VIEJO

Round two – crossing the Panamanian and Costa Rican border. Friends that were heading up as well opted for an early start as they heard the border was crazy busy. We decided to take our chances. My new recommendation? GO EARLY!!!

We stood in four hours of lines to separately immigrate, pay the exit fee, immigrate, pay the entrance fee. Four hours. With all our bags. In torrential downpours. I looked like a wet-t-shirt contest contender by the time we boarded the shuttle to take us to Puerto Viejo. We kept in good spirits though, having a laugh with a couple of Finnish guys who told us a story from their previous evening where the one climbed onto the roof because he couldn’t sleep, had to wee, did so, and realised it trickled down into the rainwater collection where hostels provided their “purified water”. No wonder I got sick from the water in Belize! Another gold moment was when one of them asked “what language do they speak in Panama?” I was dumbfounded as we had obviously all just spent several days there. He was deadly serious. “Panamanian?” The rest of us looked at each other and keeled over laughing. I couldn’t barely get the words out. “ESPANOL dude. Spanish!” He then realised what a ridiculous question that was, obviously missing a few brain cells from the past few evenings, and pretended to jump off the bridge that we were crossing over to Costa.

Finally we arrived at PV, accommodation options were limited so we stayed at an eco lodge just across from Playa Negra and hired bikes for a couple of days. We spent those days exploring the town on bikes, sun baking and having beach beers and cheap nachos with the friends (Ben the Swiss guy and Els from Holland) we has met down in Bocas. Russ went for a surf around a shipwreck (seriously) and tried to teach Ben how to surf but not too much success (sorry Ben!).

We rode to Playa Cocles to see the waves and heard that Salsa Brava was not longer surf-able so we stuck to the breaks around the shipwreck. Considered biking to Cahuita but the weather was on and off raining so we decided to just stick close to town.

The last night we had goodbye drinks with Els and Ben, then headed off to Limon airport at 5am the next morning to catch a teeny tiny Nature Air plane setting about 15 people. First stop was SJO for a few hours then Tamarindo. 

Top tips

  • Seriously. Get to the border as early as possible. I was a non-believer but when you see the lines you will understand. Though later on in our trip we met and Aussie who said he had bribed his was through all of the lines so if you want to give that crack instead of waiting, he said he had been giving them $20USD to get him and his family to the front of the line.
  • Stay in town in PV it’s super small and has a good vibe. If you’re in peak seasoning haven’t booked accommodation be prepared to walk around for a long time or compromise on either quality or price. Costa Ricans flock to the coast during holidays so the towns will be packed.
  • Explore the other towns if it’s sunny, bike hire is super cheap – we paid $10’for two bikes for two days.
  • Board hire is reasonably priced too – you can find waves for all levels but it will be crowded out there because minimal breaks in town.
  • Don’t be fooled, buses (public) do sell out so if you need a specific time book a couple days in advance!
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