The ship docked in 87 deg F heat at Puerto Limon next to the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas at 7am and we were on the pier by 930am. The day was partly cloudy and humid. Before us lay a broad parking area fronting a small customs zone and an area of small shops under a single roof. Behind this area lay a town of 60,000 persons running up the gentle slope toward the hills in the distance. The 300-500 foot high hills were clad with housing areas and communication towers. No high rise buildings were in view. I searched unsuccessfully among the shops for a map of the town and went into a specialized tour building behind the shops, eventually securing a map of the area with few details about the immediate port area. As I returned to the bicycles next to the shops area, one of the shop owner asked about my bike helmet and went on to describe himself as a biking enthusiast who even ran bike tours in another part of the year. He was extremely helpful, suggesting first a discomfort with my security with my choice of a ride through the north part of town before attempting a ride along the road closest to the north beaches. Upon further discussion, he became comfortable with my choice. He drew a map for me to show the way out of the port area and described the ride north. He agreed it was a good choice for our level of riding expertise and our goals for the ride.
On the way out of town, we passed a three story high hotel with a wifi-capable restaurant on the ground level. We decided to stop to relieve ourselves of our email and telephone responsibilities. No luck. We ordered coffee and coke light but were never able to successfully connect on the internet. We did see a special method of making coffee utilizing a tower mounted fabric filter pouch which held the coffee and through which hot water was poured. I learned later on the ship that this was a common way of making coffee in some parts of Europe. I later saw one of the tower stands in the shops area. The Costa Rican coffee was very good.
We left the hotel after a half hour and headed out for our ride around a seawall and through the light commercial area, past first a hospital and then a school, and then through a gradually density diminishing housing area. Most of the commercial establishments were not open, likely because we were too early.
We rode through heavily forested areas with an occasional glimpse of the shoreline for the next hour. The shoreline was 100-300 yards from the road in most places. The shores were rocky but flat over as much as 100 yards to the water. The rocky areas looked like coral or very dry mud. At only a few of the dozens of visible shoreline areas did we see any use of the shoreline. Those few areas contained snorkelers or scuba divers. The forests contained trees 100 or more feet high. Clumps of bamboo were sometimes as much as 50 feet high with 5 inch diameter canes. We saw few birds but heard many of them. Some of the birds were long-tailed black robin-sized birds. Some of the birds in the forests sounded like parrots. I saw turkey vultures circling 300 feet overhead and occasional single or paired medium-sized split-tailed long legged black and white birds.
The ride was over a two lane highway, relatively well paved, with few vehicles coming opposite us but a few more coming behind us. About half of them were busses and trucks with the remainder taxis and private cars. Most honked as they passed to indicate their presence. They all gave us adequate room to continue on the road. There were a few gentle up and down slopes along the road and a single longer, steeper area including one switchback which necessitated some walking over about 100 yards at the top.
We continued for about 5-8 miles past a second port area for commercial ships, some of which were banana boats as the road slowly rose to a point about 200 feet above the coastline. Here, we stopped for some photos and sat for a twenty minute bus stop conversation with a father and son duo. We talked about our origins and recommendations for restaurants in the area, following up with recommendations for specifics about food to order. This is a good shrimp fishing area and other saltwater fish are plentiful. Part of the commercial port area below us was a seafood packing plant.
Downhill ahead laid a beautiful long, sandy beach with several hotel and resorts with restaurants. We decided to turn back here and try a restaurant, grocery store, beach area we had passed on the way out. Upon sitting down, we recognized many members of our own crew using the restaurant and the beach. We found that they had received this recommendation from other crew members with experience in the area. Crew from the second cruise ship in port also was using this beach. The veranda under the trees was inviting and comfortable and the beach was crowded with swimmers and sunbathers. We settled on shrimp for lunch accompanied by baked mashed plantains and baked Yuca, local specialties all. This was accompanied with a local beer served with an accompanying glass of ice. I dumped the ice into Marilyn’s Coke Light glass and poured the beer, which turned out not to be cold enough. It tasted fine, however. The shrimps were large and perfectly cooked, and were accompanied by a spicy hot sauce. I gave the food an A- and the service a C+. The overall effect was a B+.
After lunch, we searched the grocery store for cheap soft drinks in bottles or cans but found those available to be too expensive. We checked for Costa Rican coffee and decided to purchase that which had been offered earlier in the shops near the ship. But the store was air conditioned and we lingered for an extra minute before heading out into the 89 deg F heat and the bikes for the return trip. Traffic was a little heavier for the return, but the ride was uneventful except for the return of the hill which required some bike-walking and another spot where a walker warned us to use the opposite side of the street when walking the bike. I agreed with him and moved over for the 100 yard walk. The rest of the ride was substantially downhill and went quickly.
We returned along the same route we had taken on the way out and saw the stores now open and crowded with the after-lunch patrons. We had to modify our route back to the ship because the original route used one way streets which we could not now use to get back. The new route took us through a larger part of the town. Here, we also encountered more traffic but had no problems with it. The stores were small, mostly specialized ones in older buildings. A few contained a more extensive array of products like household items and food. We saw no sign of anything like a modern mall or even a modern building.
Returning to the shops near the ship, we purchased a few souvenir wood puzzle boxes and the coffee from Costa Rica, whole beans at about $5 per pound. Marilyn stopped for a shoulder massage. This massage and manicure shop did an amazing business among the cruise patrons who found their $15-25 prices for manicures, pedicures, and massages preferable to those costing in excess of $100 on the ship. I struck up a conversation with the shop owner as I waited 20 minutes for Marilyn. She giggled that some of the patrons were crazy, seeking bright, unusual colors for both fingers and toes.
Upon leaving the shops area we headed back to the ship through the usual gauntlet of passengers with questions about the bikes and their handling aboard the ships. This time, we got questions from both our own cruise ship passengers and those of the RCCL ship on the opposite side of our pier. We were soaked with perspiration from the heat of the day and the effort of the ride and headed immediately for the top deck cafeteria where we could rehydrate with iced tea. I had four glasses myself.