3/20 — Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

Ben jumping into the lower pool
Looking out the front door of our room, Playa Hermosa

Ben and I woke up and had Gallo Pinto for breakfast. The water was straight in front of our room, smooth beach break. Sometimes I get a little too excited to surf, sunscreen got thrown on haphazardly and we ran out. There was hardly anyone out on the three main peaks, and I had a peak to myself. As fate would have it, I had drifted north to where a dreadlocked tico was surfing. A large set came, he arced right but appeared to be letting the wave pass. I paddled, at the last minute he turned and there we both were, same wave face, him closest to the curl, and then total whitewater tumble. He was mad for a second (rightfully), but once him and I started chatting in Spanish and I made sure to throw in some casual tico slang, he was semi-chill. I moved a peak lower and he followed.

The warm water and no wetsuit is curious. I’m not used to being so exposed in the water, and the small lack in buoyancy is noticeable. The waves at Playa Hermosa are heavy, and often fast closouts that sound like hollow explosions. We had laid on the beach the night before in the dark, just listening to it.

After about two hours of warm surf (and swim for Ben) we changed and started driving south. The farther we got into the true campo of Costa Rica, the more right it felt. We never went to the beach when we were here, and seeing a white person was rare. It felt good to be in a quiet, loosely populated region.

We drove a ways into the campo, through endless acres of palm plantations and papaya fields. We parked and hiked up into a river bed with three large pools carved out of the rock. We hiked a ways, found a poison dart frog, and went back to the pools. We spent a few hours just hanging out and cliff diving into them. The water was refreshing, a dark green hole of freshwater. After one of my jumps, I dipped under the water and just stayed there suspended. Here I was, back in Costa Rica, a place the had changed my life in ways I had never anticipated.

We hiked back to the car and drove back. I grabbed my board and went out into the sunset surf for a little bit. Ben read while I surfed. We changed and drove ten minutes north into Jaco.

Jaco was packed, hot, and a strange clash of tourism and regular CR culture. We had run into a group of people earlier who said that they were staying at a hostel called Room2Board. I wanted to see it. We found it, a giant palace, hip lighting, college age white kids. We didn’t go in. The whole thing irked me, especially considering what had happened driving into town.

We had picked up a women and her son driving into town. They had just come down from Nicaragua and were trying to get to Limón, on the other side of Costa Rica. I asked her why she came here. I knew the answer, I spent endless hours talking with nicaragüenses, becoming friends with them and their families. “No hay trabajo allí”, she said “vamos a un bananero”. Her and her young son looked tired, her words were slurred and she talked like most nicaragüenses that I’ve known, with the mouth hardly moving, quiet sound. We asked how they were getting to Limón, “de pie y ride” (ride is a peculiar word used in CR, it means what you think it means). She was traveling to Limón to look for work in the banana fields with some family she knew there, and trying to get there by foot and borrowed rides. They hadn’t eaten in a bit, we gave them the food we had and left them with $20 at a bus stop at Maxi Palí on the way into Jaco.

That was a big part of the Costa Rica I remember, and I felt like all the white people we saw were missing it. I don’t expect them to see it, they can’t even communicate in Spanish here, but after two years being part of Costa Rica and not being a tourist, I felt uncomfortable. They’re going to have their parties, see the beach, and look at the surface of real people and real lives like a spectacle. It’s okay, and I don’t hold anything against them at all. Just like them, I suppose I simply have another story to tell about Costa Rica.

We drove back to Playa Hermosa after waking around town and grabbing some food. We were tired, and fell right asleep. The room had AC, which really excited Ben, and he pushed that little guy as hard as he could.