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February 28, 2011 / puravida2011

Costa Rica: Pacific v. Caribbean

It has been a few days since our last post. I don’t have any good excuse, except that it has been raining for the last 48 hours, so I don’t have much to share with you. Chico and I have been downloading the Harry Potter movies and watching them marathon-style here in our casita. We just finished HP7, the last of the movies released, and hope that the final, final movie comes out soon. I even popped corn in a pot yesterday (thinking of you, Liette), and it was good except for the excessive salt. Due to the humidity here salt gets very wet and clumpy. It is hard to sprinkle a bit over freshly popped corn, so we get totally unsalted pieces followed by basically chunks of salt (fluoridated, for some reason). Had to drink a lot of shandy (beer with lemonade) to wash it down.

Today I got out for a walk, hoping to avoid rain showers, since the sun seemed to be making a comeback, but no, the rain returned while I walked. But I was on the beach, in my swimsuit, so a little water did me no harm. It was exciting to see the ocean all churned up, brown and roiling. We’ve had inches and inches of rain (at least it seems that way) so all of the rivers and rivulets are dumping huge amounts of rain water into the sea. The surf was pounding and it was close to high tide, so the walk was quite exhilarating.

Some of you have wondered how our stay on the Pacific side compared with our weeks over here on the Caribbean coast. We’ve actually given lots of thought to this question, trying to decide which side we have enjoyed more. In the end we are very glad we split our time between the two sides and feel extremely fortunate to have had the luxury of a long stay on each.

Given the current weather it seems the most striking difference between the two coasts, at least in January and February, is rainfall. The Pacific coat, especially the northern part where we were, experiences a pretty significant dry season, and we saw virtually no rain for the full 28 days we were in Montezuma, aside from a very light sprinkle one afternoon, which wasn’t even enough to make me leave pool side or close the novel I was reading. Here in Cocles, although officially dry season, we have had at least a couple of serious downpours each week, and two spells of rain lasting more than a full day. Most of the rain has come at night, usually at about 6 p.m., and lasts several hours, but clears by morning. But when it rains it really pours. Buckets and buckets of water that sound thunderous on our metal roof. But no actual thunder or lightening since we’ve been here.

All this rain means that this side is significantly more jungly than the Nicoya peninsula. In Montezuma’s dry season some of the trees actually lose their foliage, though much of the forest is evergreen. Here we are surrounded by outrageously verdant vegetation, with huge towering trees supported by root systems like buttresses, and everything covered with multiple species of vines, bromeliads, mosses. And with the rain comes a lot more humidity here. Nothing really dries completely (including my hair and skin). In Montezuma I often felt clammy due to heat and sweat, but the humidity was actually quite low.

I expected this side to be hotter than the Pacific side, but it has actually been quite a bit cooler. Our daytime temperatures have been in the low 80s here and were consistently about 90 in Montezuma. On the beach during the day it feels hot here, though there is a more consistent off-shore breeze than on the other side, it seems to me. In the evenings in our house with the ceiling fans running it can feel almost chilly. Not enough to wear long sleeves, but far cooler than we ever were in Montezuma.

The look of the beaches is quite different on each side. On the Pacific we had hills dropping straight down to the water, with mostly relatively short beaches punctuated by rocky outcroppings. Over here you can walk on the beach for miles (I actually did a 15 mile round-trip walk a few days ago), though there are coves that divide the beach into sections here, too. There is a lot more reef over here, so some sections of beach are not really swimmable, with reef extending into the sandy area. But most of the coast is white sand down south of Puerto Viejo.

Things are generally flat here on the Caribbean coast, with only gentle hills rising from the coast. In Montezuma the cliffs came right down to the water, and the hills were very, very steep, making for some adventure-climbing getting to and from our place. I kind of miss the hill-climbing, but Chico does not.

We have found the locals on each side very friendly and patient with our halting Spanish. On the Caribbean side there is a large population of people of Jamaican descent, so you hear a kind of English patois in town.
Okay, I have more to say, but it is getting dark here and we are heading out to dinner. I’ll post again soon.



Leave a Comment
  1. Jim and Judy Dunlop / Feb 28 2011 7:45 pm

    Downpours were seemingly constant the January we visited that area. The creek under the only north-south road filled to the bottom of the bridge making in unsafe for our large bus to re-cross. So we were happily stranded for a couple of days waiting for the swollen creek to return to its normal level — Jim

  2. Liette / Mar 14 2011 7:27 pm

    Hmm, sounds like I would have liked the Caribbean. I like the idea of very lush jungle, and I wanted to see sloths and those cute little frogs you posted pictures of! Not that I’m complaining about our month in Montezuma… 😉

    Popcorn. Good idea!

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