A Pedacito of a Pig Roast in Costa Rica
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
I was floating around on my surfboard, waiting for the next set to roll in, when my friend Noel told me about his crazy weekend plans. “I’m actually super excited,” he said. “We’re going out to this cowboy bar, with a horse bar and everything, in the middle of nowhere. They’re roasting a pig.” Noel knew everything about the area; he’d been living in Costa Rica on and off for the last twenty years. When he asked if I wanted to come, I couldn’t say no.
I gathered some people that would appreciate this kind of experience. My boyfriend and our two avid surfer friends Emmet and Jameison are always stoked and down for anything; they’re the go-with-the-flow, positive energy type of people excited for life in general. They’re the kind of people you need by your side for a vague, could-go-either-or-any-way kind of adventure like this.
When I pictured a pig roast, I saw a tribe of people in the middle of a residential jungle area, spinning a dead pig on a stick over a fire. As a vegetarian, it made me sad. But I also knew that this was culture; a unique glimpse into a Tico tradition and another way of life.
We were going to La Perla de India but when we Googled it, there were no pictures, reviews, or directions. We would follow Noel blindly. The ATV convoy met at our local surf shop and we took off from there. I didn’t know that the journey would be half the adventure.
We drove past Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa and into Manzillo where the road veered off, into a path down the beach. My boyfriend and I were weary; our rental company said they’d fine us $200 for driving on the beach. According to Noel, this beach didn’t count.
He said that the locals get furious when tourists drive on their beaches; usually, they’re lounging and enjoying family when a 70 kmph ATV almost runs over their kid. They endanger the children and disturb the peace, which made the fines necessary.
This beach was wide open and deserted, with no one in sight. The cars before us patterned the sand with tire tracks. We’d have to time our travels with the tide; when the tide was low we could cross, but when the high was high we couldn’t cross. Once we made it to the other end of the beach, we’d be more or less stuck there until 5 pm.
We took off, blazing at 75 kmph. Noel led us to a river mouth where we looked for crocodiles. Thankfully, we didn’t see any; the locals waded, fishing, in the same waters. It didn’t seem right to any of us, even Noel. Large sticks held up tarps making tents; apparently, the fishermen would camp out here, working for days. Even the smallest fish would help put food on the table for their family.
We blasted off again, down the beach. We flew into the smallest, overgrown jungle path. Our ATV bounced around up and down, around, and off rocks; I held on for dear life. My boyfriend, our driver, relentlessly dodged jungle vines, trees, and boulders. At the end of the enclosed path, we fired across a river. Our spinning tires sprayed water everywhere.
Finally, we arrived at La Perla. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. The smallest establishment, a family-owned restaurant, in what felt like the middle of nowhere. One of my favorite things about the place was the stove: a wooden box filled with concrete, and an open hole for the fire with a rack placed on top. The chef cooked the meat over the open fire and then dipped it in hot oil, frying it to smithereens. Thankfully, we were too late to witness the harming of any animals; the vegetarian in me sighed with relief.
They offered me a vegetarian dish: rice, beans, and a pico de gallo like salsa. It came with boiled yucca on the side. The yucca tasted like the creamiest potato on the planet; they boiled and then fried it, making it soft and smooth on the inside, while crispy on the outside. It was delicious.
To be honest, I had never drunk a beer before; I went to the bar to ask for vino tinto, or tequila, or any other kind of alcohol, but they had nothing except beer. I decided to embrace the experience and enjoy a beer. I felt like a cowboy; drinking my Imperial, sitting on rocking chairs at the edge of the property, and watching the animals. Horses were fenced in, bulls seemed to roam, and chickens clucked all around us. The stray dogs and cat wrestled, all in good fun.
Finally, the pig meat was ready. They served Chicharones; it looked just like my dish; the rice, beans, salsa, and yucca, except for large strips of fried pig fat piled on top. The dishes had one more thing that mine didn’t; hair. Some of the meat pieces, the fattiest pieces we think, still had pig hair. According to the boys, the hairy pieces were still pretty delicious. My boyfriend wasn’t a fan, but the other boys scarfed down about three bowls each. If you zoom in on the picture below, you can see for yourself.
We hung around until 4 pm when the tide was high enough for us to ride back. At the end of the day, I was so happy that we went. It was a true, authentic experience. Sometimes you can do all of the planning, look up all of the most sought-after destinations, just to find out that some of the best adventures are completely unexpected—the ones that show up knocking at your door.
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