After hearing about a water shortage in Bocas del Toro and multiple hostels shutting down, we opted to skip it and go to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica instead. We still took the shuttle we had booked and paid for towards Bocas; however, we skipped the boat and got on a series of buses instead. The busses were cheap and we got to the border no problem. At the border, we got our exit stamps (and paid a small exit tax), walked across the bridge separating the two countries and got our entrance stamps. Suddenly, there was a noticeable increase in the price of things.
Our short bus from the border to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca was twice as expensive as our last two buses combined and a quarter of the distance. We arrived in the early afternoon and went to check if the hostel we had been recommended had room. We read a lot of places can’t be booked online and it was better just to show up. What we hadn’t read, or thought of, was it was a long weekend (Friday was Labour Day) and every Costa Rican that can afford it, floods to the coast, namely Puerto Viejo. After checking and calling about 10 places (our American friends – Teo and Emily – from our San Blas Sailing Adventure who were volunteering at a hostel in town had been looking too) we started to think we weren’t going to have a place to sleep. Even Rocking J’s, the notorious party hostel in town had sold their last hammock (they have about 100 hammocks they rent for $7/night!). Finally, by some luck, we stumbled on a small private room at Cabinas Popular for $30 USD a night. It was basic, but better than a hammock and definitely better than nowhere to sleep! Unfortunately, there was no kitchen so we were forced to eat out.
At first we hoped the place we chose for lunch was maybe just a one-off, overpriced café (we chose the first place we saw – we were starving and in need of wifi to search for a place to stay). After scouring the whole town looking for somewhere reasonably priced to eat dinner we realized we were sadly mistaken and that Costa Rica is priced for the two-week tourist and no cheaper than home. For dinner we shared a hummus and veggie plate, a tuna steak dinner and had two (non-alcoholic) juices – the total came to $37 USD. Lunch and breakfast were no different (two coffees and two breakfast plates cost us $27 USD the next morning!). We concluded that Costa Rica was not for us and the two to three weeks we had planned on staying would have to be shortened to two to three days. We booked one more night at our cabanas place – we got to switch rooms to a much nicer private room for the same price as everything emptied out Sunday night – and a bus ticket to San Jose the next morning.
That evening, Teo and Emily invited us for dinner at their hostel where they cooked us a yummy curry and we saved some cash – although we had completely given up on any sort of budget for the days we were in Costa Rica. It seems unfortunate that we won’t see much of Costa Rica and we wonder how they can charge so much for something that is significantly cheaper on either side of the border. For example, local beers cost $2.00 USD in Costa Rica while they are less than $1.00 USD in Panama and Costa Rica.
Partially because we’d already thrown our budget out the window and partially because we needed/deserved it, we booked ourselves a nice room in the Radisson Hotel for our short one-night stay in San Jose. It was close to the bus station and we didn’t plan on seeing any of San Jose anyways. We left Puerto Viejo at 9:00 AM and arrived just after 2:00 PM in San Jose. It felt great to have a big room where we could spread out our stuff, a massive bed and a nice bathroom. We quite literally didn’t leave the hotel, eating both lunch and dinner there.
The next morning we woke up painfully early at 4:45 AM for our 5:30 AM bus to the border not knowing the adventure that lay ahead of us that day… to be explained in the next post.
To view the very few pictures we took in Costa Rica click here.