Puerto Viejo was kind of what I was expecting - definitely has that Caribbean reggae vibe and health/wellness feel but a bit rundown. Seemed to be improving in parts but the main town wasn't very big and was filled with tourist traps and druggies. Manzanillo National Park (45 min bike ride outside of town) was a really cool hike with the beach right next to the trail, private little coves, very romantic for a couple to escape to all day. Didn't make it to Punta Mona, (the other side of the park/hike), but maybe next time (it was too muddy as rainy season had just begun). Om Castle Hill yoga studio was a very welcoming studio up on the hill with a beautiful shala view of the ocean in the distance. After taking a class I met an instructor who had been living there for 7 years, from San Jose. As we sat at a nice local cafe, she gave me some pointers about India, and traveling solo - she was a really sweet 34 year-old lady with a kind heart. This was the first time during my backpacking journey where I stayed in a hostel by myself. The name was Oasis and it was right on the beach so I kept getting sand in my cuts and burns because sand was literally everywhere, I mean the entire hostel (including the kitchen) was on the beach. So yeah this was my first “dorm room” experience where I had to sleep on the top bunk for 4 nights in an 8 person room, but it was worth the $13.65/night. Looking back, thankfully I was able to sleep and not get sick during my first hostel experience!
The beaches on this side of Costa Rica were a bit different than what I was used to as the currents were mostly high tide, not real big waves (only saw big ones in Playa Cocles) and not as much beach space. But I did see my first sloth in the wild on a bike ride and it made me super happy because I had been looking for one ever since I had arrived in Costa Rica for the very first time, December 2018). It was just hanging from a fence along the road and I stopped to hang out with it for a bit :) such an interesting animal and I will always cherish that moment. It was very peaceful just biking around town and taking a couple yoga classes, watching the sunsets and meeting some people at the hostel. There were these two German guys in their early 20s that were my first “hostel friends” somewhat. One of them in particular stuck out as he wore huge round glasses, said he surfed, was short and smelled like BO (my first encounter with a scum backpacker), but never spoke to them again. On my last night there I also met this really sweet German woman (said she was 38) traveling on holiday and had given me some pointers about Southeast Asia. It was hard leaving Puerto Viejo because I had to say goodbye to Costa Rica and my new best friend, Henny (who I had previously volunteered with at Blue Osa on the Osa Peninsula and had been with for the past 3 or so months). In all, it was a perfect amount of time in Puerto Viejo (5 days), and then I was on my way to Panama (first boarder crossing experience, lets go!).