A Tiny Taste of Central America

Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica

IMG_3626One of the draws for this cruise was the fact that the ship docked in many countries we had not yet visited. We were curious to see both Guatemala and Nicaragua. The coast line was green with lots of volcano peaks. The offer of shore excursions in Guatemala was minimal and none appealed to us. They were expensive and most seemed to be several hours on a bus. True, you get to see some of the country that way but we didn’t feel like spending our day on a bus going to a big city. We had thought we’d simply wander around the port area. However, once we docked we were told that no one was allowed to walk in the port area. What we could see, from the ship, was not attractive: a very industrial area with hot, dusty pavement, and lots of machinery. With many other passengers leaving for the day, we decided to not even disembark here. We spent a lovely day relaxing, swimming in the pool and reading our books. Too bad we can’t really add Guatemala to our country list, but Puerto Quertzal just was not at all an attractive place to be. IMG_3602

Our next destination was Corinto, Nicaragua. From the ship, we could see the small town and study the lay of the land. The town was at the end of a long, narrow strip of land jutting out into the Pacific from the mainland. We walked off the ship and right into town. Only to be accosted by a large flock of peddlers: t-shirts, gawdy souvenirs, lots of lots of tricycle drivers, and so forth. But we have learned to ignore, say ‘no, gracias’ and walk straight through. Church bells chimed as we strolled through town on a Sunday morning.

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Corinto, Nicaragua

We found a great coffee shop with wifi and spent some time there, cooling down under the fans. It was very hot here!

Then we followed streets around the shore. We took some back alleys and watched kids play the national sport: trompo is an amazing spin top game. The string gets wound flat and tight around the large wooden top. Then, with one loop around a finger, the player throws the top to the ground where it should spin for a long time. It’s fun to watch:

We spent time in Costa Rica several years ago. But we had not visited the Pacific coast and were curious to see Puntarenas.

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Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Our ship docked right in town. To both sides of it lay wide sand beaches. We walked north along one beach, watching pelicans dive, fishing boats and suntanning visitors. Then we strolled along the streets of the small town and found postcards for our grandsons: two faded, crumpled old cards. Then we walked and walked until we finally found a post office. It had air conditioning so at first we didn’t mind that there were hordes of people ahead of us. Waiting in line must have been normal here because there were three rows of chairs in front of the wickets. Each chair had a number on the back. Once you got down the line to where the chairs were, you had earned the right to sit. Then, if and when the line moved again, everyone moved over one chair. Kind of like postal musical chairs. The problem was that no one moved very fast. Everyone was busy visiting or, mostly, watching their cell phones. After 20 minutes I had moved one chair. We finally had cooled down enough that we decided it wasn’t worth the wait for 2 stamps. IMG_3609

We walked back, along deserted streets, to the busy souvenir shops by the 

cruise dock. Here one market stall advertised with stamps for sale! Yeah! But it turned out that she took our cards and enough money for each stamp in exchange for the promise to go to the post office to buy stamps and mail them. Will she really go play postal musical chairs one day? Will she really buy stamps for our cards? Will she actually mail them? Only time will tell….IMG_3610

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Mexican Ports – Muy agradable

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The first three ports we stop at, after 2 days at sea, are in Mexico. In Cabo San Lucas we simply enjoy walking around the boardwalk, eating a Mexican lunch at a little café with servezas a fraction of the cost of those on board, and taking in the scenery. A modern tourist information center had city maps and English speaking staff, even if I can now get around with a little bit of Spanish. Plenty of local taxis if we wanted transportation but we simply walk to the town center following the board walk, find free wifi at Starbucks and stroll back.

Having studied Google maps, we saw that in port #2, Puerto Vallarta, the old city center was a long ways away from the cruise dock. So we did book a tour here: one that took us to town by bus, then around the old city on foot, then by bus around the area and to a restaurant for lunch in the hills, and back to the ship. It was a wonderful introduction to Puerto Vallarta. We walked quite a bit, through little city streets, to the cathedral, across a market, and the water front. We noticed that the city was quite clean and well kept. Lunch was great with good views of the beach, the city and our ship in the distance. Lots of high rises, very busy and not necessarily a place I’d go back to but clean, with nice beaches and lots of resorts.

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In Manzanillo, our last Mexican stop, we walked along the nice, wide boulevard to a wonderful coffeeshop with great, free wifi and enjoyed good Mexican coffee while catching up on emails. Since we always send a postcard from every place we visit, to our grandsons, we asked in one little shop if we could buy stamps. A friendly young man dropped everything he was doing and walked us through a labyrinth of streets to a local post office. Would have never found it without his help!

It was fun to wonder back, look at the shops and get a feel for this town. It seemed more authentic, more Mexican than the previous stops – a place I might just look at in more detail for a beach holiday.IMG_3599