This post has been a long time coming. I finally found some decent internet after moving on from Costa Rica. I am currently in Panama but for this post we are going to rewind a couple of weeks to when we went to a national park in Costa Rica. This post will have a little different feel than my other ones. Since Manuel Antonio is a place that is so often visited, I will include some tips about how to get the most out of your experience if you do visit.
We are pretty lucky to have the most visited national park in Costa Rica just kilometers away from us. Getting there is simple, there are buses running from San Jose to Manuel Antonio multiple times every day, and buses running from Puntarenas to Quepos about every hour. Quepos is the town closest to the park. If you take this bus, it will drop you at the Quepos bus station, then you just find the bus that takes you up to the park. It is the only one that doesn't look like a charter bus so it's pretty easy to spot. They leave about every 20 minutes and cost about 50 cents.
Both the Quepos and San Jose bus will drop you at the base of the hill. You then walk up past many vendors to the entrance of the park.
You need to arrive early, I would recommend getting there before noon no matter what, maybe earlier. They only let a certain number of people in per day in order to preserve the park's ecosystem. You first pay the entrance fee in the little hut to the left ($16 or a little more than 9mil colones) only Visa cards and cash is accepted. They only allow sandwiches and fruit, soda and water into the park. There are places you can buy all these things right outside the park, or you can pack it yourself. One other tip is to use the restroom before you go. They have a port-a-potty outside, and inside are bathrooms by the beach but they are pretty nasty.
There will be people outside and all along the trail that try to get you to pay for a guide to go along. We didn't think we needed one, so we didn't even ask how much they were. However, at first we did somewhat regret this decision because we felt like we were missing out on a lot of the wildlife that they could spot and we couldn't. We then got smart and just hung around groups that had guides, and discreetly listened and were able to find the animals ourselves. We like to have the freedom to roam and come and go as we please so we ended up being happy without a guide, and we were still able to see monkeys, sloths, colorful crabs, anteaters, and a dart frog.
We walked a couple trails and saw a waterfall, then made our way to the beach to stop and eat lunch. The beach wasn't as crowded as I had expected it to be, but in high season it's pretty packed. There is another beach that is less known and less visited that I would recommend if you go when it is busy. We had every intention of getting in the water but once we saw everyone getting demolished by the waves we decided to take a pass.
In total, we spent only 3 hours here but we could easily have relaxed at the beach and stayed several more hours. It was only noon so we took a walk around Quepos. There isn't a ton of stuff in this town (much like most towns we visited in Costa Rica) so it didn't take us long, but there are some cool views.
Once we were ready we headed back over to the bus station, bought our tickets to Puntarenas and boarded our bus. If you are confused why we had to buy a ticket to Puntarenas and not to Bejuco let me explain- it does not matter if you are not going to the actual destination (in this case, Puntarenas) the bus runs along the highway and stops in the towns. It doesn't matter how far you go on the route, you still must pay the whole fair ~$8. In this case we boarded from the station, but there are not many official stations, so you can always board along the route and pay cash.
On the way home I got a window seat and it's a decent little drive before we have to get off at our stop, so I decided to take some photos out the window. I tried to capture some typical homes and shops you would see around town to give you a taste of what life looks like for the usual Tico family.
As a whole, we found that Ticos here are very happy despite living very humble lives. The experience I had in Costa Rica has definitely made me more grateful for what I have. As Americans we are so fortunate and we really don't even know the extent of it unless we experience it first hand. I have come out of this experience with a different outlook on life and more respect for the people of this country than ever before.
I have a couple more blog posts I need to catch up on before I start writing about Panama, so be on the look out for more posts to come. Up next will be "10 Things you might not know about Costa Rica."
Adventure On and Pura Vida!