One of the many things that Arturo and I have in common is that we both love a good road trip. Assuming you can find a path that takes you off of the main roads, the journey becomes a rich experience in itself, not just a way to reach your destination.
Arturo and I established our partnership long ago – he drives, while I navigate and DJ. As navigator, I need to find the little roads that will take us off the freeway, but still keep us pointed in the direction of our destination. For our honeymoon, we drove a Volkswagon bus through New England, armed with giant road atlases for every state. Now I’ve employed technology, of course, and I love GPS.
Back home I’m all about Google Maps, but Waze has taken Costa Rica by storm. So I decided to try it out for our trip from Esterillos (on the Pacific Coast) to the East Coast of the country, which they call the Caribbean Coast, or simply Limón, the name of the province and its major city. Once we got to San Jose from Esterillos we were fish out of water, driving through the big city, completely dependent on Waze. And hungry. Eventually we made it to an area that looked promising food-wise, which was the city of Cartago (the second largest city in Costa Rica). It also happens to be where our friend Jose lives, so we gave him a call.
Jose (laughing, though maybe somewhat concerned): “You are going to Limón? What are you doing in Cartago?”
Me (surprised, and also somewhat concerned): “I don’t know, ask Waze!”
I then realized that Waze has a special setting, though it may not be advertised or apparent from the interface. I call it “Arturo Mode.” It had automatically put us on the route that would easily be described as “the long way.” However, as Jose predicted when we talked, we would eventually arrive in Limón. And our route took us over mountains, past pepper farms, through little towns with little rainstorms. Once we connected back up with the main route, we passed banana farms and roadside stands with these little purple fruits called cainito.
We continued on through even bigger rainstorms (on a narrow road with no visibility, somewhat scary) and arrived at our first destination, the small town of Cahuita. We stayed at a lovely hotel at the end of the main street, the last one before the entrance to the Cahuita National Park, called the Kelly Creek Hotel. They have just four rooms, each with two full size beds, in a beautiful wooden house. We met the owner Andres, a Spaniard who had moved to Costa Rica with his wife. He had escaped the rat race of an advertising agency in Madrid, and they now live a peaceful life with their little hotel and Spanish restaurant (only open for dinner a few days a week). They also have three awesome dogs, here’s Arturo with one of them.
We arrived in a downpour and our hosts were nice enough to lend us an umbrella so we could go out and find some dinner. Our neighbors at the hotel recommended Coral Reef, and we were not disappointed. After an amazing platter of grilled vegetables, we enjoyed a whole fish (pescado entero), and the famous Caribbean rice and beans, which are cooked in coconut milk and spicy Panamanian chiles. Both the smell and the flavor are incredible.
The next morning we decided to walk around Cahuita and look for the only restaurant listed by our guidebook, which is Miss Edith’s.
If you go past the police station toward the coastline, you’ll find her restaurant, and Miss Edith herself, along with her daughter (who sometimes helps in the kitchen) and her son (who takes visitors on snorkeling tours and guided trips through the national park).
The highlight of our breakfast was most certainly the fray cakes. We asked what was in them and I had to do the mental trick of plugging my ears and humming to myself after I heard “Bisquick, bacon powder… and then fried…” But they were certainly yummy. She also made us eggs with salted fish, which sounds really weird, but was actually quite delicious.
After breakfast at Miss Edith’s, we were ready for the next part of our trip, the larger town of Puerto Viejo. Stay tuned for Part 2!
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