This past week Torie and I made our fist excursion out to see the beautiful country that is Costa Rica. We decided on going to Manuel Antonio for several reasons: it is relatively close (a little over three hours on the bus); when we asked people where we should visit, it was often the first place they mentioned; it has an unbelievable combination of jungle wildlife and beach, and it is quite touristy. At this point, we were ready for a bit of “touristy.” I am sure as we move on and get more comfortable here we will long for trips away from the tourists, but we weren’t there just yet.
Bus travel isn’t perfect as you can imagine, but it can’t be beat here. We each paid about $12 round-trip – much cheaper than renting a car. Plus, we didn’t have to worry about the limited parking there or paying someone to “watch” our car every time we parked it… Anyway, the bus was fast, direct and we felt completely safe on it.
Manuel Antonio is a small town beside the larger fishing town of Quepos. There is not much to Manuel Antonio in terms of development other than an abundance of hotels and some restaurants geared toward tourists. At the “end” of Manuel Antonio – the road runs out – is the real jewel of the area: Manuel Antonio National Park.
I haven’t traveled the world by any means, but I have a hard time believing there are too many places out there quite like this one. It is a small park, but it packs a punch. A single entrance leads you to a wide, well-traveled gravel path. The jungle is quite dense and there are few paths leading from the main one making you to think you won’t see much because the throngs of people passing through each day would scare the wildlife away. We walked the trail two different days, and we saw at least 70 monkeys, multiple sloths, countless lizards, spiders, and crabs, two snakes, and two toucans. I am not exaggerating when I say 70+ monkeys – they are everywhere. The second time we went to the park, we stopped a couple hundred yards in and watched a pack of Capuchins jumping over head from one side of the trail to the next going toward their pal who was tossing fruit down from a tree (see the pic below). As they were clearing one side of the trail, a pack of Howlers came in just behind them.
At the end of the main trail lies two of the three beaches within the park. The main beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, is perfect: white sand beaches, calm surf, warm clear water, a cool breeze, and plenty of shade trees. Our second day in the park we again had an encounter with monkeys: this time on the beach. Torie and I were both under a shade tree reading when we noticed a commotion a little ways up the beach.
We headed over and about a dozen Capuchins were down at eye level in the trees right on the beach; several even ran down on the beach. Unfortunately, this close encounter was due to people feeding them; nevertheless, it made for some awesome pictures.
While in town we did a couple of tours. The first was inside the park. Having a guide the first time in the park was worth the price because he noticed animals we wouldn’t have seen if we walked by them a hundred times. It was unbelievable the way he could spot such small, well camouflaged animals in a dense jungle. He also brought a telescope with him which helped us get up close and personal with some of the critters. He was extremely knowledgeable and made the initial trip more enjoyable. Another day, we decided to go out on a “jet ski safari.” I am not sure I would call it a safari because we didn’t see much wildlife, but it was a great experience anyway. The waves were a bit choppy in places, but the ride gave us some great views of the beach, jungle, and huge rock formations that are off the coast of many of the beaches in the area. Also, while the area isn’t known for it, especially in the rainy season, we did get a chance to snorkel. In a small cove that is mostly protected from the waves, we tied the jet skis up and swam around the mostly clear water. We saw tons of tropical fish and even an eel.
Our last day in town we woke up to a special treat. Between our condo and the beach was a small expanse of dense forest. Standing on the balcony Torie saw some branches moving and flash of orange. Her first thought was a fox (only animals even close to that color back home), but we soon realized they were Squirrel Monkeys. These are much more rare than the other two species we had already seen in the park. It was a fitting end to a great trip that left us hungry to get out and explore the rest of Costa Rica.
Below are some more of the best pictures from our trip. Click on the first one to open the gallery. Once you do that, you can scroll down and click to see the picture in full size. We took tons of pictures – you can see the rest here: http://s1166.photobucket.com/albums/q613/foranadventure/Manuel%20Antonio/