Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica – what’s not to love? In previous posts we wooed you with our pictures of the white sandy beaches and warmed you with our story about the valiant efforts of the Jaguar Rescue Center. We showed you pictures of all of the amazing animals that we spotted and tempted you with stories of amazing food with a sea view. But would it surprise you if that wasn’t the whole story?
When we decided to travel to the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica we thought it would be the cleanest place we had ever visited. This partially based on the government’s hope to earn the title as the first Country to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021. And fantastic advertising by the tourist industry featuring an exhilarating eco-green-sustainable experience packed into every visit. So with all of this eco-friendliness imagine our surprise by all of the trash. There are community trash pick up spots throughout Puerto Viejo, but they leave a lot to be desired. We even heard that efforts by one neighborhood to add a secure trash bin at the end of the road was met by a match and a can of gasoline (“not in my neighborhood!”). We’re not new to the concept that government policy does not change the attitude or behavior of people on the street. So unless you staying in a resort that pays someone to comb and clean the beach, expect to see some refuse.
One of the things that has been wonderful about traveling through some destinations in South America is that your money goes a lot further. Not here, friend. The flurry of North Americans traveling here and moving in has jacked up the prices, for everyone. If you come here, expect good food that is perfectly safe to eat, but you’ll pay. And so do the locals — groceries at the supermarket obviously cost the same for everyone. And when the average Tico in Puerto Viejo is pulling down $2 per hour, expect a little bitterness.
Happy, well-off tourists rubbing shoulders with economically challenged locals, mixed with a side of elicit drugs, can sometimes lead to a ragged path. The hosts in the home where we stayed cautioned us to keep the house locked at all times, even if we were in the yard. And while they said that they had never been robbed themselves and we didn’t have any negative experiences while we were there, we did meet others who were not so lucky. We ran into a well traveled middle aged mother and her daughter who were on a rafting trip with us the previous day. They reported being robbed at knife point while walking along the beach at 6:30 at night. Apparently having a dense jungle for cover, a crashing surf to drown out the sound, and an isolated area known for tourists can add up to a bad experience. None of this made us decide to pack up and leave, but we certainly took a cab home at night and were a little more paranoid as we walked around than normal.
And while we’re dishing on things, why not pick on the sloth? We searched for these cute guys every time we left the house. We started calling them “tree turkeys” because you’d spot them by finding a ball of dark fur up in the tree. Just lying there. Being a sloth. But closer inspection of the sloth reveals a light green slime on their furry being – basically a moss they grow themselves to snack on since they tend to stay relatively immobile in the same mossy jungly environment for long periods of time. And in that green fur the gentle sloth is host to all kinds of critters such as cockroaches. The smell, when you are close, is not good. So there you have it.
Does any of this take away from our experience in Puerto Viejo? Well, of course it did. But all of the positives about the place are also true. It is beautiful. The sand and beaches that connect to a jungle full of monkeys and exotic plants are also part of the true story. And with all of that said, would we recommend a visit? Absolutely – we’ll see you there.
Related articles that can help plan or inspire your visit to Costa Rica:
Thursday 7th of July 2016
Wow what a shock to hear, we were Cahuita and south in 1977 very clean and no people. Had a open air shack with just a roof and never had any problems. I quess that's what happens when travellers arrive
Saturday 28th of May 2016
We went here a couple of years ago and visited the sloth sanctuary which was amazing! We took a gazillion pictures and this little town was a great place to chill for a few days as well.
Wednesday 4th of March 2015
You have no idea how much I want to be at a beach right now - we have freezing rain here in Ontario right now...
Wednesday 4th of February 2015
I was also in Puerto viejo 2 years ago and didn't feel in danger at all. I get your point though...I guess there is always a positive and negative sight to it, most places in South and Central America have that unfortunately!
Friday 30th of January 2015
Its sad to see beautiful views spoil by trash left lying around or left behind, but many places suffer from this.Safety is always a concern when traveling overseas so is good to hear about from another experience. I've always been intrigued by the Sloth,Wonderful to be able to see them so close up, despite the smell, after all they are an jungle animal. Good info in your post.