Calmer & cooler: The slothful joys of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast
We rented a small house two miles from town, perched on a cliff above the ocean. The reward for braving the steep, potholed road was the view from the house. A thick emerald carpet of trees and ferns plunged down the hillside to a sliver of beach and boulders. Pelicans, hawks and fork-tailed frigate birds wheeled and soared below us. That's where we got to know monkeys, too — the feistiness of the capuchin banana thieves that invaded our house as well as the low-pitched moans every morning and evening from howler monkeys that we rarely saw.
Yet lovely as it was, Montezuma could not rival the sloths and low-key vibe of Costa Rica's Caribbean side.
Dist. by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
IF YOU GO …
When to go
It rains almost daily on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast all year, but there is less rain in February, March, September and October on the southern Caribbean coast. The rain can be refreshing, given the high humidity and temperatures that reach into the 80s year-round.
The best time to visit the Pacific coast is the dry season, December through April. High temperatures in Montezuma on the Pacific coast are around 80 degrees; lows are around 70.
Puerto Viejo and Cahuita on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast are a four-hour bus ride from San Jose. Montezuma takes seven to eight hours by bus and ferry. Public-bus schedules can be ambiguous and subject to change, but B&B owners and hotel staff are almost universally helpful in figuring them out. The buses are comfortable and cheap, often less than $10 to get from San Jose to a beach hours away.
Rental cars are affordable, but make sure the car insurance you typically use for travel will be valid in Costa Rica. Tour vans run between San Jose and beaches for $50 per person; reserve a day or so in advance.
We stayed at two places on the Caribbean coast: the Blue Conga Hotel in Puerto Viejo ($65 a night including breakfast, www.bluecongacr.com) and Playa Negra Guesthouse in Cahuita ($70 with a pool but no breakfast, www.playanegra.cr).
Less expensive places are available in the heart of Cahuita, such as the lovely Kelly Creek Hotel ($55, www.hotelkellycreek.com) and the clean but spare Hotel Belle Fleur in Cahuita (negotiate as low as $25, no website).
In Montezuma on the Pacific side, we loved staying in Mariposa cabin, a little rental house with a loft ($50-70, www.montezumaheightscostarica.de). Besides rentals all over town, there are lots of hotels along the beach, including the European-style Amor de Mar ($50-60 shared bath, $70-110 private bath, www.amordemar.com). On a hill above town is the yoga resort Anamaya ($150-300, www.anamayaresort.com).
Costa Rica government tourism office: www.visitcostarica.com