What it’s like to go on a wellness tour with G Adventures
I took my first solo trip abroad to Costa Rica last month. I booked a flight without asking anyone to join me. It was a big decision, but I knew that it was something I truly wanted to do. Traveling alone can be such an adventure and I wanted to have that experience in a foreign country. I wanted to take that leap.
I hardly know the language, I had never been to this country before and I didn’t know anyone who lived there. Other than my research online about Costa Rica, I was wandering blindly into this experience. There was no way for me to be sure that everything would work out and be fine but, I went anyway.
When I arrived at the airport, there were crowds of Costa Rican men yelling spanish at me from every which direction - trying to get me to choose their taxi. In that moment, I was honestly feeling a bit anxious. “What did I just get myself into?”, I thought.
I couldn’t have planned or imagined the experiences that took place during my time in Costa Rica. I couldn’t have predicted what my trip would be like and I didn’t try to. I kept an open mind and remained neutral, trying to fight any self-doubt or fear. As a result, reality far exceeded my expectations.
I spent the next several days buying fruit I’d never seen before at the local market in San Jose, navigating the $5 buses, and trying my best to communicate with my beginner-level spanish. Google Translate saved by butt a number of times. I met the most amazing people, travelers and locals alike. One guy was taking a sabbatical from his high-paying aerospace job, a couple of girls had just completed law school, two friends just fled Venezuela, and so many people were just backpacking throughout central america. I had the opportunity to get to know a woman who lives an off-the-grid lifestyle in the corner of the rainforest. I had the opportunity to ride around town with a local surfer as he told me crazy bull-riding stories. I heard the stories of business owners who relocated to Costa Rica after economic downturn in their home countries. I had the chance to engage with people around the world who live completely different lives than I do. I loved surfing and whitewater rafting, despite priorly convincing myself that I wouldn't enjoy these things. I tried things that I never have before. I trusted my instincts and embraced the unknown. So many great things happened. I would have completely missed out on all of these things had I not gone. And I’m not so sure that these things would have happened in the same way had I not been alone.
My family thought I was crazy. The potential threat of danger in this world exists everywhere. As a female, there is always an underlying fear of being taken. However, I couldn’t allow that to hold me back. I just knew I’d have to be more alert, cautious, and aware in certain situations.
I’m sharing this because I know that some of you want to travel alone. I also know that some are scared to take that leap. Some feel that they might be bored, lonely, unsafe, uncomfortable, weird, incapable, lost, and/or embarrassed. Some don’t understand the appeal of going on a whole trip alone. Fair enough, but I encourage anyone who is remotely interested and able to give it a try. Aside from unique experiences, here’s are a few things I gained my trip alone:
Traveling alone introduced a heightened sense of awareness. Without a companion(or cell service), the only option you have is to focus on yourself(think, reflect, read, write, etc.) and/or your surroundings(people, nature, culture, etc.).
Traveling alone presented immense personal freedom. Go wherever you want. Do whatever you want. Eat whatever you want. Speak to whoever you want. Try whatever you want. Wake up whenever you want. There are no limits or routines. It’s absolute freedom to allow yourself to just go, do, and be.
Traveling alone created a strong sense of self-empowerment. When everything is your responsibility, and you actually pull it off? You end up feeling pretty dang good about yourself. When you step out of your comfort zone and realize that everything turned out okay, you then feel empowered to push the envelope even further. It’s such a thrill, especially as a female.
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
– Thomas A Edison
This only scratches the surface, but there are so many rewards that come with solo travel. It’s an experience that I’d recommend to everyone. And, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had amazing trips with great friends and I know that solo trips aren’t for everyone. Travel is travel. At the same time, there is something very special about traveling alone. It’s completely enriching. It gives you the chance to not only explore the world, but yourself. Sounds cheesy, but it’s the ultimate adventure.
I wasn't sure what to expect of Puerto Viejo. I hadn't heard people speak of it as much as other places in Costa Rica like Manuel Antonio & Monteverde. I did a little bit of research and read about stories of crime, which made me a bit concerned. It didn't seem like the best idea for me to travel alone to a place like this but I kept an open mind.
Once I got to San Jose, I asked everyone I spoke with about Puerto Viejo. They literally raved about the Afro-Caribbean culture, food & people. They claimed it was one of the few places in Costa Rican that hadn't gotten overrun by tourists and expats. After a few conversations, I decided that I had to go and see this place for myself.
I'm so glad I decided to go because Puerto Viejo is such a beautiful place with the most beautiful people. Sure, it's a bit rough around the edges but there lies the charm. As you walk down the unpaved roads, you'll witness colorful homes, unmarked streets, jungle lined beaches, caribbean eateries, yoga studios, natural and smoothie shops. The locals bike or walk along the roads to the sounds of reggae music. Everyone I met was so warm & friendly, making my time in Puerto Viejo so memorable. I had the most life-changing conversations with some awe-inspiring people. From natives who live & breathe the 'Pura Vida' lifestyle to expats who visited once and never left. Life is so different in Puerto Viejo - so laid back & simple. This place left a mark on me and I cannot wait to return.
I arrived from La Fortuna via 'Adventure Transfer' because there was no scheduled bus from the area. Exploradores Outdoors picked me up in La Fortuna and we did a Pacuare river rafting trip to Puerto Viejo! It was amazing!
From San Jose - Take the public bus for $6-$8. You can also arrange a shared shuttle or private transfer for $50-$70. If you have a rental, you can drive & the ride is around 4-5 hours.
WHERE TO STAY
You won't find any big name resort & hotels in Puerto Viejo. You'll see more cabins, lodges, hostels & smaller accommodations.
Hostels - Rocking J's is really well known for its fun & friendly atmosphere. I stayed at Kalunai hostel for a few nights, which was much smaller & carried a family vibe. We went to dinners together & even cooked together some nights. Also look at Casa Caribe & Hostel Kinkaju. Check out hostelworld.com for reviews.
Hotels - Check out Hotel Banana Azul, Hotel Shawandha Lodge, & Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel.
House Rentals/Airbnb & VRBO - There's a good amount of house/cabin rentals on sites like AIrbnb. I stayed in an open-air treetop home via Airbnb & it was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had.
THINGS TO DO
Take a Yoga Class - So many yoga studios & teachers in the area! Be sure to take a class and grab a natural fruit smoothie after!
Visit the Farmer's Market - Try delicious, local fruits every Saturday morning!
Visit a Cocoa Farm - Learn how chocolate is produced. Some of the best in the world!
Visit Indigenous Tribes - Immerse yourself in native culture by spending a day in an indigenous community. Be respectful of these communities.
Try Local Caribbean Dishes - You won't find any fast food in Puerto Viejo. \
Visit Bocas del Toro, Panama - Take a boat to this charming beach town in Panama for $25/one way.
Rent a bike at $5/day - Ride to nearby towns along the main road.
Visit the Jungle Lined Beaches - Punta Uva & Playa Chiquita are known to be the best in town. Playa Negra is a black sand beach!
Cahuita National Park - Spot monkeys, sloths, birds, & other animals along this beach where entrance is free(donation recommended)!
Jaguar Rescue Center $20/pp - See rescued wildlife & learn about the rehabilitation program. Perfect for animal lovers! You can even volunteer!
Go Surfing - Puerto Viejo is known for surfing! I took a class from a guy on the national Costa Rican Surf team & it was so much fun! Due to strong currents, be sure to ask locals which areas are safe to surf!
Dont walk alone at night, especially as a female
Do not leave anything on the beach as you go swimming
Taxis are cheap, but not metered - you'll need to negotiate a price
You can walk most places, and bike others
There are 2 ATMs in town - it is best to use cash
Don't carry around alot of valuables during the day
Ask locals about beach/water currents
Don't drink the water
Use plenty of mosquito repellant
Have fun :)
This was the most informative site I found while researching Puerto Viejo -http://www.puertoviejosatellite.com/