Backpacking Costa Rica's Guanacaste Coast

July 31st, 2015

I’m really proud about my Costa Rica trip. A week of tropical paradise cost me a grand total of $408. It would have been $412 if I’d bought the gram of cocaine for $4, but out of interest of my health and common sense, I declined.

It started one night when I was really hating America. I’m unhappy with America for a variety of reasons, but normally it boils down to bad drivers and taxes. It also had to do with a combination of around 42,000 frequent flyer miles on American, a good business month, and maybe a couple more beers than normal. I ended up with a free round-trip ticket from Little Rock to San Jose. Except for the fifty bucks the government required me to pay in fees, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I headed up to a small beach on the northwest coast called Playa Potrero to volunteer photography for Abriendo Mentes, an educational nonprofit. They were kind enough to host me with a local family for a few nights. By local, I mean it in the best way: chickens running through the house and no toilet paper kind of way.

After working, I hitchhiked to Tamarindo, a party beach a little ways south of Potrero. I call it a party beach because that’s really the only way to describe it: it’s a cluster of dissolute Europeans and drugged-out Americans. It’s pleasant, though, and fun. I don’t typically love long walks on the beach, but I took one and consequently got a great tan. It peeled off within days.

I found a little Dutch-owned hostel called Higher Ground. It was definitely higher than normal, both physically in that it was set on a small hill and abstractly in that the Rastafarian clerk invited me to smoke a bowl right after checking me in.

You meet a lot of scary characters in hostels, but every once in a while you strike lucky and hit gold. I hit it off with an Austrian couple spending three weeks in Costa Rica before heading back to university. We spent the next four days backpacking together.

We headed up to Monteverde, Costa Rica’s answer to a Colorado ski town, minus snow & marijuana and plus ziplining & cocaine.

Late one night, after trying to replicate the local cuisine by cooking rice and chicken in our hostel kitchen, we split a little bottle of vodka. It wasn’t doing much for us, so we walked down the street to a bar. We bought three massive 1.7 liter bottles of Imperial and watched Latinos sing karaoke on the dance floor. Exiting the bar around two or three in the morning, we found a handful of Ticos outside. They were pretty happy, and dancing to the beat of the music inside. One of them explained that he’d been banned from the bar, but still came to dance. Then he whipped out a sandwich baggie full of cocaine and offered us a hit. All three of us declined, so he plunged a house key into the bag and snorted it. And did it again, a few times.

“It’s four dollars a gram,” he said. “Don’t you want any?”

I’m not sure how that bag of cocaine was cut, but I can’t imagine four-dollar cocaine would do good things to your brain. About the same time as I declined, a cop car passed the bar with lights blazing, and the men disappeared into the shadows.

My flight left at six in the morning, and I got into San Jose around seven the night before. I spent most of the night wandering around the town square and visiting with a security guard at a bus terminal, and the last few hours grabbing a nap on a cafe table at the airport.