Pura Vida! That is what you see printed everywhere here in the city of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. It means pure life, which is what one can expect if you live here. Reportedly, Ticos (Costa Ricans), are the happiest people in the world, and out-live those that reside in North America. The country has the highest level of education available and the best health benefits in all of Central America. And it shows in the tourism business, which is the number one industry these days. If you have ever taken a tour from a cruise ship here, you will find that the guides are among the most educated and dedicated to their job.
The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose, and the population of the country is 4,254,000. We are visiting during the dry season which begins in December and ends in April. However, it was obvious that a storm came through last night, because everything was soaked with large muddy puddles all throughout the town.
There were many excursions offered today…..14 of them in fact. You could see the rainforest, travel the canals, or ride an old train, which used to be used for the banana trade. Birds, monkeys, sloths, toucans, and crocs abound. And you could see the canopy of the forests with an aerial tram ride, or a thrilling zipline tour. On the tamer side, you could see a folkloric show, or take an eco bus ride. The ship offered a variety of these activities starting from $50 to $170.
The ship arrived to the working port around 7am. We were the only ship here today. We noticed that the shuttle bus information has been printed on the front page of the When & Where daily newsletter. Usually, this info was word-of-mouth, and never posted so everyone would know for sure. Of course, they don’t want to advertise transportation too soon, or else people may hesitate to book tours. Duh….
In no hurry to go off, we had our usual breakfast, and left the ship around 10am. All aboard was 3:30pm, so staying in town was our option. We have been on most every tour here anyway. Funny thing happened on our way out this morning. There are always local fellows hawking tours on the pier. When we informed one man that we have already done his tour, he suggested maybe we had forgotten it, and we could do it again. Nope, we’re not that absent-minded yet.
It was warm and humid, but there was a saving breeze. The air seemed clean, except for the noxious fumes drifting from a pumper truck alongside the ship. The good thing was that there was no rain in today’s forecast. As we have said, this is the dry season.
There is a very nice local craft shop right on the pier. All the typical souvenirs of Costa Rica can be purchased here. This included wooden products (bowls, trivets, coasters, or ice buckets). In our opinion, the vendors did not seem to want to negotiate much. Not like in Puntarenas on the Pacific side. Although we did buy one covered wooden bowl for ship candies, the rest were priced double of what we paid previously. One nice lady had a different type of earrings made with embroidered fabric. Figured it was a small memento of our visit today.
Taking a left turn out of the terminal, we walked through Parque Vargas with a jungle of tall palms and flowers. In the canopy were a female sloth and her little baby. Locals were pointing them out for the folks who were taking photos. Also, there were two owls perched up high on the branches. Would have sworn they were stuffed owls, until they moved slightly. There is a good view of the Caribbean Sea from here. Many locals were sitting on the concrete wall watching the surf come in. No beaches were in sight in this area. In fact, Barbara H, our port guide once again, did not recommend swimming here.
If you stood long enough under these tall trees, you would be rewarded with many various bird sightings. While everyone was looking for the larger animals, we spotted the large native blackbirds, along with the most colorful of seed-eaters. Nervous little creatures, the most colorful birds seldom landed long enough to get a picture of them. But we did get a few.
Outside the park, some of the bird life included the seabirds such as pelicans, terns, and frigates. Some soared high with the hawks and vultures, while the pelicans skimmed the water in the port. Terns were not numerous, but they also hunted the waters around the boats and our ship.
Then we walked past Town Hall, downtown clothing and shoe shops, a few cafes, and the Park Hotel. This hotel was described as the best one in Limon. We did not go inside, so we can’t comment on that statement. The Cathedral Sagrado Corazon De Jesus was right up the street, now full of people. It is a fairly new Catholic church, replacing the old one that was damaged, we think, during an earthquake. Only one tower remains from the old church, and it is not accessible to the public.
There is one central market that includes stalls with clothing, more shoes, produce market, and meat and chicken butcheries. Little cubbyholes with small cafes line the narrow walkways. It was here that we purchased 6 limes for $1. They do gladly take the US dollars here, as well as credit cards. Local money is the Costa Rican colon and is 558 to the US$1. So when we saw a shoe sale for 5000 CRC, it sounded expensive, until you do the math, and realize it would be under $10.
As far as getting lunch today, the only place we saw that was probably OK was a Subway. The few cafes that served beverages were full of passengers playing on the free internet. In fact, there was an air-conditioned room right out of the terminal where free wifi was available for the ship’s crew and passengers. Many people we knew did not have to go any further to do their internet chores.
We went back to the ship after exploring for three hours. Surprisingly, it was not as hot and sticky as we remember it. We did hear that it had been raining for six days straight. No wonder there was so much mud and deep puddles in town. Working on photos for a while, we went to the sail away after 3:30pm. Some tour groups were still arriving well after all aboard time, proof that the ship will wait for their excursions. It was interesting watching the cargo ships off loading sand, then loading bananas and coffee, the biggest of Costa Rica’s exports.
At 4:20pm, we stopped by the sandwich bar, and split one sandwich, and added a few slices of pizza. It was OK, but cannot compare to the fresh-made pizzas on the Eurodam. The sandwich station closed promptly at 4:30pm, which kind of surprised us. Thought it was always 5pm.
All were present at dinner, and everyone had different tales of the day to share. That’s what is fun about having a large table. Sharing experiences gives us all a better idea of what to see. Of course, there was not one tour we have not done here, so we may have seen it all already.
The waiters were wearing Panama hats this evening, and we were told that all of us were getting one in our rooms tonight. Sure enough, they were on the bed, a useful item for tomorrow’s day through the Panama Canal. There was also a note to put the clocks ahead, so we would be on Panama time, the same as EST.
Bill & Mary Ann