Beginner’s Guide to Costa Rica
“Welcome to Costa Rica.” is what someone might say to you, perhaps as they ushered you from the plane to the bus. They would say ‘Welcome to a land full of magical cloud forests, volcanic hot springs, and strips of silky beach. It is a country where ripe tropical fruit is always within reach, and the pace of life is set by our friend, the Sloth.’ Then you would see everyone nodding their heads and smiling as we filed onto the bus, and then drive away for our seven-day stay at a four-star resort. In a week, we return, happy and fat.
“What a nice vacation.” I would say. Fortunately, that was not my vacation. I wanted to escape the resort’s seven-day stay in a buffet-line, and become Cultured by immersing myself in the Costa Rican lifestyle, and learn what it meant when they said ‘Pura Vida’. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen either.
What did happen was that I learned how to buy drugs on the Caribbean Coast of Southern Costa Rica.
La Playa Negra, or as the gringos call it ‘The Black Beach’ is a beautiful strip of coastline covered with surprise-surprise, black sand. This unbearably hot stretch of beach is not a safe place during the day for anyone with sensitive feet or snow-white beauty skin like mine, and they should not attempt to expose his or her bare, pasty bodies there for any reason. Although the sand is nice too look at, and is amazingly magnetic for some scientifical reason, the beach is much better at night after the party has started.
Some of the locals, mostly the ex-pats, will warn you to avoid the black beach in the black night, but not because it’s damn hard to see. It’s because they are scared of hooded-thugs who will knock your teeth out, but if you want to get something to spice up your vacation, or if you want to engage in any degenerate activities that get the heart kicking, the beach is where you want to be. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca sits right on La Playa Negra, and cradles a small community of surfers, ex-patriots, greasy beach bums, tourists, and other Costa Ricans on holidays from some of the bigger cities like Limon.
There is one main road that runs parallel to the coast and straight through the centre of town. To enter Puerto Viejo, you must cross a bridge that provides shanty shelter for some of the beach bums and booze-hounds. It may look a little sketchy at night, but you will probably only be harassed for some change. If you smoke, give them a cigarette, but don’t flash your cash. The road continues from there, and cuts between a great range of independent businesses and restaurants with Caribbean flavour and style, as well as a selection of night clubs bumping reggaeton and drink specials on the weekends.
Now if you’re looking for something more than a drink, there is a good chance that some guy calling you ‘friend’ or ‘buddy’ will try and suck you in with offers of the ‘best’ drugs on the strip. Weed and cocaine are the most common street drugs in Costa Rica, and if you want some, talking to your new ‘pal’ is one route to go. If you choose to follow one of these guys, remember that they are pushers, and they are hungry for money. Don’t expect the best deals from them, as they are typically only a runner for some bigger fish. It will cost between $7-10 American for a light dime of weed, and $10 for ‘one’ of coke, which is probably something close to a half-gram. Sometimes they need to go get it first, but they will usually come back quickly.
The Do-dos and Don’t-dos for buying drugs in Costa Rica:
- Do learn some Spanish. Although most dealers speak enough English to get the deal done, misunderstandings are much more likely to happen with language barriers.
- Do carry only as much cash as you need. If you are going to get robbed, you don’t want to lose your whole stash.
- Do Bargain. It’s okay to say no.
- Do ask for advice, people are usually happy to help.
- Do leave your passport in a safe place.
- Don’t follow anyone to an isolated location.
- Don’t bring anyone to where you are staying.
- Don’t be rude, there are more people watching then you think.
- Don’t try to hustle a hustler. A deal is a deal is a deal.
- Don’t cause a commotion if you get ripped-off. It won’t ruin your vacation, so take it as a lesson for next time.
Another option for underground shopping, which is safer and more cost-effective, is to follow the main road in town to a restaurant/bar called The Lazy Mon, sometimes mistakenly called ‘The Lazy Moon’. This reggae-style bar offers food, live music, and the friendly neighbourhood drug dealers who stand out front. One thing to know about Costa Rica is that addresses are more interpretive then exact, and it will be common for people to give you directions that end with ‘it’s right beside the pizza place.’
The dudes at The Lazy Mon are more likely to speak English, and will claim to have some ‘good Jamaican ganja’. No matter what they call it, the weed will be some outdoor cess that has been chipped off a vacuum-sealed brick. The weed will be very dense from being compressed during its shipment, and heavy with the tropical humidity. The best indicator for a hasty mid-transaction quality-review is the colour. If it’s brown, then pay with a frown. The weed from the Lazy Mon crowd will vary in cost depending on how well you bargain, but you can expect to hear offers from them that range between $60-80 American for a half-ounce.
The best way to get anything in Puerto Viejo is to know how much you are willing to spend, not how much you want. Keep in mind that these people are not your friends, no matter how friendly they seem, or how casual the transaction is carried out. It is illegal to buy drugs in Costa Rica, so don’t get caught. Keep an eye out for La Policia, and for people who will rip you off. Trust your instincts, and know when to leave a situation.