Scotch on beach

Scotch on the beach in Costa Rica

One week into my dream vacation, and my freckles have started to merge.

The weather in Costa Rica is gorgeous. We’ve surfed, biked, kayaked, beat Germans at volleyball, toured a sloth reserve, and sipped scotch on the hot white sand.

My superfine girlfriend and family are getting along famously (well, at least they haven’t lunged for each other’s throats yet). The rum and Imperial beers have flowed like the jungle creek after a pounding overnight rain. And every night we toast my distant and dearly departed relative, an Irish farmer named Robert Johnson, who gave us the surprise inheritance that’s paying for this trip.

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Costa Rica, too, here’s a series of postcards to inspire you to book your flight.

We’re staying at Congo Bongo, an open-air jungle house about 500 metres from Manzanillo beach, on Costa Rica’s lesser-travelled Caribbean coast.

Congo Bongo

Welcome sign at Congo Bongo

Congo Bongo is the perfect place to relax, socialize, barbecue fish on the outdoor grill, compare tans, and read paperbacks about an ex-Army drifter who can kill a bad guy with a punch to the heart.

Woman meets bug

Woman meets bug

Congo Bongo is much like the cottage you went to as a kid, except it’s surrounded by howling monkeys, sloths, and bugs & spiders that are bigger than your mouth.

People warned us that monkeys raid your cottage at night but that hasn’t happened yet. I think monkeys get a bad rap.

Monkey testes

Monkey shines


Let’s face it: people accuse monkeys of being perverts because they’re always masturbating and flinging their feces. But if you think about it, we’re the ones taking pictures of their testicles.


The food’s excellent in Costa Rica. In Manzanillo, you can eat delicious ceviche (lime-cooked seafood), shrimp, beans & rice, thin-crust pizza, or smoothies and cheese ‘n’ egg burgers at a reasonably-priced and highly-recommended beach café called Soda la Playa.

Local groceries are different than you get in North America, of course. Tropical countries aren’t known for world-class cheese or wines. But the Flor de Cana rum from Nicaragua is incredibly good, and the salsas and chile sauces are to die for. Travel tip: you’ve simply got to track down this delicious brown ‘Lizano’ sauce:

Lizano salsa

Get this sauce in your kitchen

Plus the Frosted Flakes (a.k.a. ‘Zucaritas’) taste even better than you get in Canada. They’re so good and fortified with vital, energy-injecting vitamins, this boy seems to be having an intensely satisfying stroke.

Kid stroke

Cereal stroke

After breakfast, you can walk 5 minutes down the sand to Manzanillo where you can rent a bike for $5 a day. Then you can ride 20 minutes along a paved road to Puerto Viejo. There you can rent movies in English or Spanish for $2/night, $2/deposit (Bonus: they don’t ask for your last name or credit card number). You can also book a jungle trek, rent kayaks, ATVs or scooters, take a yoga class, eat more ceviche, see a worm bite specialist, and if you’re very, very lucky, you can spot a sloth climbing low on a tree branch.


Costa Rica has sloths!

Travel tip: if you can get a sloth to trust you, they make excellent beach soccer balls.*

I’ll send more postcards tomorrow. Till then, keep warm and wish you were here.

Ken and friend on beach

— Ken Hegan

*I’m just kidding. Don’t touch the sloths.

Bing: smitten by sloths

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Photos: Samantha Stanway and Ken Hegan