The Costa Rican Mermaid

It was March of 2005. I was in the middle of finishing a grueling period of work and had just a week off to relax somewhere and organize my annual bromance/bonding trip with my little brother. Starting from about 2003, we had both agreed that life and bachelorhood was disappearing quick, and we didn’t like that fact. In order to maximize the good times and keep things rolling, we decided to try our damndest to hit a new fun foreign destination each year, and just soak in the sun and alcohol, see the sights and women. I had no idea how much traveling would come to dominate my social life and my next decade of life.

We had already hit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico the year before. That trip had been some solidly good times, filled with the usual mix of sun-soaking on beaches, snorkeling and horseback riding trips, and sucking down Coronas and tacos. But we were definitely looking for something a little more off the beaten path. After a quick look at our finances, and some quick conversations about what we wanted from a fun vacation, we settled on it: Costa Rica, Central America!

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For less than $900 total (including airfare, lodging, transportation, meals, and drinks!) we were able to put together a seven day eco-adventure trip running all over the country of Costa Rica. We quickly realized that, San Jose, the capital and where most flights landed, sounded like a cesspool of urban sprawl, pollution, and traffic, and decided to immediately head out from there. For the next week, we lived out of duffel bags slung over our shoulders and ran around all of Costa Rica. We hiked gorgeous national parks at Manuel Antonio, sunbathed on Jaco Beach, learned how to surf/caught our first waves ever (which would have a huge impact on my future social and professional life) in Playa Tamarindo, screamed while zip-lining miles above the forest canopy in Mondeverde Cloud Forest, and caught some wicked Class III-IV rapids in Turrialba down the Rio Pacuare. Way WAY more than $900 worth of fun, in my opinion. The whole trip had been super memorable, with the exception of one thing: the ladies. Women…Playing tonsil hockey…Seeing boobies…Getting ass. That was all about to change.

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So let’s be honest…the truth of the matter is, when most guys travel (especially if they are single and bachelors, but even when they’re not, sad to say), meeting girls tends to be their #1 priority. You could be on top of the Great Wall of China in Beijing or experiencing the glory of the Northern Lights in Iceland or the wonders of the Great Pyramids in Egypt. But truth be told, if there’s just tons of T&A at those same tourist sights or you happen to get laid on the same trip, then THAT is what most guys will end up remembering and talking about when they get back home. Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling it like it is. There is a very simple equation about guys and travel: Foreign ass > All other foreign experiences/tourist sites/food/museums/etc. Costa Rica so far had been great for all things adventure-related, but we were both secretly hoping to get some more partying and girls into the itinerary.

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Anyway, back to Costa Rica. It was our last night, and we decided to hit the very opposite coast of Costa Rica. For a majority of the trip, we had been on the southwestern area of Costa Rica which touched the Pacific Ocean. With little vacation time remaining, my brother and I headed out on a bumpy bus ride to Puerto Viejo de Tallamunca, on the Caribbean/Atlantic Ocean coast of Costa Rica. We had less than 22 hours before our flight back to the U.S., and with the 6 hour round-trip bus ride from San Jose and 3 hours for check in to our flight, my brother and I were looking at literally less than 14 hours in that town. Let’s just say we already realized there was no way we’d be sleeping on our last night in Costa Rica.

Puerto Viejo de Tallamunca’s main claim to fame is as a jumping block for a famous sea turtle preserve on the Caribbean coast that you can help out at and also as a hosteller/backpacker’s paradise. My brother and I were in search of some good times, fun women, and crazy parties. We got off the dusty bus from Turrialba around 7 pm as the sun was starting to set. Checking into the bizarre and unique hostel, Rocking J’s, we saw that we were definitely in a backpacker’s haven. The hostel was set up TOTALLY open air. For $50, you could get a tree house for the night, for $15-20 you could get a shared-room cot. And for a whopping $5/night, you bought yourself a hammock and a safety deposit locker. There were hundreds of these $5 hammocks hanging around, on which tons of young hot 20 and 30-something Swedes, Germans, Australians, Americans (and every other nationality you could think of) were swinging and sleeping . Obviously, we went with the classy $5 hammocks.

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On our way out to explore the small town, we ran into about six fun, young Americans who we decided to tag along with and join for dinner. There were a few guys and a few girls, but the most memorable of them was a cute hippie brunette named Star. She was a free-spirit, about 5’5” and in pretty good shape, and on vacation with another attractive female friend from San Francisco. The bunch of us walked around the surprisingly small beach town, and browsed the typical souvenir stands and checked out a few bars and restaurants. There were no clubs to speak of. This was DEFINITELY a sleepy backpacker’s paradise. By the time we all decided on a restaurant for the eight of us, it was about 9 pm and the full moon was shining overhead. We all started grubbing down on typical Rican seafood, rice, and bean dishes and washed it all down with a few Coronas.

Our whole hostel group got more rowdy, and we passed along pieces of paper to trade e-mail/contact information with. We promised that we’d hang out when we got back to the States, even though deep down we all secretly knew that would never happen. The group of us moved to a classic beach bar, the type where you order cheap drinks from the bar, with run-down wooden tables set in the sand next to the ocean, the kind of beach bar where the DJ blasts old hip-hop from the stereo that they stopped listening to in the US a decade ago. All the members of our hostel group slowly dropped off one by one and headed home as the night went along and the full moon rose higher in the clear sky.

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By about 2 am, it was just me, my brother, Star, and her girlfriend. At a certain point of night, we all kind of looked at each other and realized it was time to head home. You can only drink so many beers and trade so many stories about life goals/religion/etc. before you realize there’s little chance of saying anything that makes any sort of sense when it’s that late at night. I got ready to walk back with my brother, wondering whether it would be even possible to fall asleep for 3 hours in a hammock before our 5 am bus ride back to the airport. Suddenly, Star drove up next to me, roaring along in a rickety-looking moped she had rented for the day and driven into town that night. “Want to hit the beach?” she asked, with a twinkle in her eye. My brother and I looked at each other, looked at the moped that seemed like it was held together by dust, and looked at each other again. He gave me the “Dude, do whatever you want but you’re probably going to die on that thing so make sure you get ass out of this!” look, and I decided “Hell, why not?” Danger…Nudity…Awkwardness…I had no idea what was about to come next…

 

TO BE CONTINUED….