Arriving at Playa Negra gave us an idea of how Indiana Jones must have felt stumbling across all those un-discovered caves full of goblets and dusty old skeletons worth a mint. We struck gold turning up in this sleepy little village about 15 years before the rest of the tourist population realised how picture perfect it’s coast is and how many hidden gems there are to be enjoyed. We stayed at a treehouse hostel/pizzeria called Kontiki.
It’s owned by a very cool Peruvian family who will give you icey watermelon juice, free coffee and feed you (the most incredible wheat free, veggie topped) pizza from their wood-fired oven at every opportunity. We couldn’t understand why we were pretty much the only guests there during our 5 day stay, but then I suppose sleeping in a tree isn’t for everyone. We loved going to sleep to the sound of iguanas falling off the branches above on to the corrugated roof of our little tree-den and waking up to a chorus of howler monkeys.
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There was a really cute little restaurant here called, imaginatively enough, Cafe Playa Negra. Here I found the most delicious walnut and pear salad (pic above). Also, there’s a little Mexican style cafe called the Jalapeno Taco Grill a few metres up the road which is totally sold short by its name as it has tonnes more on the menu than tacos.
Here we had some awesome fruit and veggie green smoothies and juices and they even had a cute little display of cacao nibs, coconut oil and other such trendy, healthy, un-surprisingly pricey products.
Theres a grocery shop at the top of town which stocks everything a plant-based eater could wish for – fruit, veg, quinoa, almond milk, nuts and of course AVOCADOS THE SIZE OF YOUR HEAD. Pricey though, be warned. This was where the $1.20 apple made me miss Tooting, London for the first time where the apples cost a far less distressing 25p a piece.
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Playa Negra is home to Peace Retreat, probably one of my favourite places so far which I’ve found to get my yoga fix whilst travelling. A little off the beat track, a good 45 minute walk from where we were staying, their 7am and 6pm Community Yoga classes were so worth the trek – and donation based which was a relief for the budget.
We went to quite a few classes there while we were in Playa Negra and the pace ranged from power vinyasa to a pretty deep restorative class. The studio is surrounded by jungle with open sides, just in case you forget for one moment that you’re in one of the lushest countries on earth. They offer long stay retreats and a Yoga Teacher Training program there too.
TOP TIP: If you go to the 6pm class then it finishes as the sun sets which is pure magic and will send you into the most delicious savasana of your life.
WARNING: You will wake up from this savasana in panic as you realise “SHIT” it is pitch black dark, you don’t have a torch with you and the 45 minute dirt track path home is completely un-lit. We had a very sketchy walk back one evening but definitely learnt a valuable lesson and now always have a very dorky head torch on hand if we ever venture our after 12pm.
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THE HIDDEN GEM
I’m hiding this last paragraph under all of my other ramblings about Playa Negra because it would be such a shame if the cat was let out of the bag about this slice of pure paradise… about 20 minutes bike ride from the main street of Playa Negra is Playa Blanca. There are no roads to the beach so the last 5 minutes has to be tackled on foot, but it’s worth the sweaty trek for the completely pristine and isolated stretch of powder white sand and turquoise water. I almost felt too afraid to walk across the untouched sand or step in the crystal sea incase it all shattered like that dream scene in the Labyrinth where she’s at the ball dancing with David Bowie and everything seems to perfect to be true.
Locals will give some vague instructions on how to get there if you ask around in the town.