Puerto Viejo beach
Cocles Beach at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

I’m 12 days into my dream vacation, and the trip is going brilliantly.

We’re staying in Congo Bongo, a funky jungle beach house near Manzanillo, on Costa Rica’s under-visited Caribbean shoreline.


Costa Rica map

Trip’s going super well. Exhibit A: my girlfriend’s making exotic cocktails for my cheering family. To help her out, I just sawed open a coconut to add the sweet water inside.

Coconut killer
Cuckoo for coconut water

We’ve named this cocktail ‘The Leatherman’, after the tool I used to saw off the top of the coconut. If you’re drinking along with me at home, here’s the recipe:


  • 1.5 ounces of dark Nicaraguan rum (Flor de Cana)
  • 1.5 ounces coconut water
  • 1 ounce watermelon juice
  • handful of watermelon slices
  • ice cubes
  • your parched and grateful mouth

Beach sunset
Manzanillo beach

The sun’s setting now. This afternoon we rented surfboards just northwest of Puerto Viejo. The beach is called Playa Negra, which means black beach and they’re not kidding. The beach is all black because the sand is made of basalt, a.k.a. pulverized volcanic lava. The dark granules soak up so much heat, they scald your bare feet on your way down to surf.

TRAVEL TIP: keep an eye on your flip-flops here. People won’t necessarily steal them. But if the soles of their feet get too hot, they will borrow your flip-flops for 10 or 20 meters to walk a little further down the beach. Either that, or some autistic would-be super villain (or cheeky dog) likes to move everyone’s flip-flops around on this beach like leather pawns on his big, basalt chessboard.

Black sand dog
When you surf Playa Negra, little dogs cheer you all the way

Renting a surfboard costs 10,000 Colones ($20) but you get to ride it (and/or pose for Facebook pictures with it) all day long.

Best surfer in the family: (tie) my brother and his girlfriend, Maureen. Here she’s surfing past a rusty abandoned barge that exists purely to sprout palm trees and look wicked in pictures.

Maureen surfs
 Surf or die

I love the products you find in Central America. The region’s biggest bread cartel is called Bimbo…

Bimbo CU

…plus their Frosted Flakes, a.k.a., ‘Zucaritas’, are way better than in North America. Not only do they taste GRRRRREAT, but the Tony the Tiger down here is a terrifying, child-eating beast who has Vitamin-added vapor flowing from his face-bashing fists.

Eat your Frosted Flakes or Tony will hide under your bed/eat you

Best Costa Rican beer: Imperial, followed closely by Imperial Silver. An ideal spot to drink it is at Marisqueria Nima, a beach-lot bar & ceviche restaurant on Puerto Viejo’s main drag.

Imperial beer and beach
 Imperial beer

Marisqueria Nima is perfect for people watching; you’ll definitely see a parade of dreadlocked 20-something trustarians spending their gap years carrying their surfboards around on their bikes.

The worst Costa Rican beer is this lime-flavoured dreck called Rock Limón. Awful stuff. As my girlfriend pointed out, “It tastes like the tears of teenage girls.”

Rock Limon
Avoid this product

TRAVEL TIP: never write in a hammock, because how will you hold your drink?

Ken hammock

Public advisory: when the temperature gets over 25 degrees in Costa Rica, be sure to avoid the Prowling White Zebra Tiger. It’d be a hard-fought battle, but I bet he could take Tony the Tiger in a cage fight.

Zebra Tiger

In the beach town of Manzanillo, there are no traffic lights. And the only speed bump is a rope between the palm trees. Either that, or a sad little monkey tried to hang himself.

Speedbump or crime scene?

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

Ken beach B&W

— Ken Hegan

Bing: can you outrun volcano lava?

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Photos: Samantha Stanway and Ken Hegan