MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK

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. 

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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.

To the right of this store is the Quepos bus station. You can't miss it- it is in the middle of the town.

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.  

A school outside of Bejuco

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! 

MAY UPDATE

So sorry I have been seemingly MIA for the last week and a half. We didn't have internet for a while there so I was unable to do much in the way of updates. Everything is still going smoothly here. We were even asked to stay a while longer at EcoVida, and we accepted. Our original plan was to stay until the 23rd, and now we have extended it to the 27th when we will catch a bus back to San Jose and continue our adventures from there. During the last 10 days we have spent most of our time at the beach.  And what a wonderful beach we have! The sand, I have learned, is black from volcano ash which I find pretty cool. It is the softest sand you will ever squeeze your toes through, I guarantee that. With no internet we went old school and got books from our little library here at EcoVida to do research on our next stops, as well as some leisure reading. I took myself out to the beach one day and sat for hours, reading my book with no one else in sight. It is such a peculiar feeling to look out and not see one single soul in any direction.

One day Vince and I decided to take boogie boards out into the ocean, and I'm sure we looked like an absolute mess.  Maybe something that resembled a wet cat paddling wildly though the ocean. We had no idea what we were doing and I finally gave up because I was tired of the embarrassment. We decided we better consult ther experts.  Our friends David and Agus, who have showed us the ropes on many things around here, also took the time to teach us how to properly boogie board.  Sure enough the next time we went out, we got the hang of it after a while. Unless you have experienced it, it is hard to explain the euphoria you feel when your body gets carried away on the top of a wave. You feel the power surrounding you and you become one with the ocean for that short period of time as you let it carry you to shore. It makes me want to learn to surf, but then I remind myself I am painfully uncoordinated and that might not be the best idea. 

Vincent is learning how to use my camera. The photos of me in this post were taken by him!

I also FINALLY got a few photos of the macaws- or lapas as the Ticos call them here. It took quite a bit of patience and a bit of luck, but in the end I succeeded! Check out the tye dye underbellies of these guys! How awesome! I learned that they always fly in pairs because they mate for life. Once they find their partner they stay with them for their entire lifespan. If their parter dies, is sold into captivity, or otherwise separated from them, they will never find another partner for as long as they live. I always think of that every time I see them soaring together. I guess they really are love birds.

Another highlight (NOT) of the past week is that I developed an allergic reaction to something that was unknown for quite a while. It started on Monday with bumps around my mouth. I had never had cold sores before, and even though it didn't quite resemble that I made the trek into the city to get some cold sore medicine. 2 hours, 2 pharmacies, and $45 later we return. Now, let's fast forward about 3 days. My lips are still not better and it's beginning to spread to the outside of my cheeks. I decide if I can't get any relief soon I need to make a trip to the doctor.   The next morning I wake up with a horrible poison ivy-like rash all over my body, my left eye is almost swollen shut, and I look about as miserable as I feel. I'll spare you the photos on this one. This pretty much guarantees me a doctor visit. David offered to take me into town on his motor bike since it is so much faster than taking the bus, plus I had someone to help me translate. It was very kind for him to offer and I was so grateful I had his help once we got there! The one good thing about this is that I now get to say I got to ride on the back of a boy's motorcycle through a foreign country- which is every girls secret dream right? Thanks Hilary Duff. 

The doctor thought the rash may have been caused by either the sun, or a mysterious plant I touched. She told me to stay away from the normal foods that cause allergic reaction- milk, nuts, etc. and gave me a cream and some pills, then sent me on my way. A couple more days pass and my swelling is gone and rash is still there. I watch what I eat but continue my normal routine. In conversation, I mentioned my curious dilemma to my dear friend Kate, and she of course takes it upon herself to find out exactly what is wrong with me, because that is just the kind of person she is. Even when it was her birthday, and she had a million other things she could be doing, she and her husband took the time to figure out what they could do to help me. Hours later, in the middle of the night I get a text saying her husband figured out what it was. My precious mangos were the ones making me sick! I had continued eating them while taking my medication which is why I wasn't getting any better. Turns out the skin of a mango has the same chemical in it that poison ivy has in it, called urushiol. I am highly allergic to poison ivy so this all made complete sense. It has been about a week since all of that started and I'm now fully healed! 

Also in the past week I found out my "fee-free" debit card had been frozen, even though I put a travel notice on it. I couldn't call them because we had no wifi and my regular calling costs 20 cents per minute. Luckily I was prepared for that sort of thing and have several different bank accounts and debit/credit cards set up for me incase that happened. Since our wifi got fixed  I have been on the phone with them 4 different times and the card is still not working. Charles Schwab I am not happy with you! 

Needless to say, this week was somewhat challenging for us. I was on edge because I didn't feel good, we had no internet which meant very little to no contact with my family (which is exactly who I want to talk to when I don't feel good), and my bank was- is - being a major pain in my butt. I guess it has just served as a friendly reminder to me that life still happens even when you're off galavanting in a foreign country having the time of your life. 

We did get to end the week on a positive note. We had an asado with David, Agus, our bosses (Shannon and Dave), and got to make some new friends as well. To be honest I'm not totally sure what a typical Costa Rican BBQ would be like, because we always like David to cook his traditional Argentinean way. We put whole vegetables on the grill and also chicken. They did mention that in Argentina it would usually be beef that they cook, but here the beef is not as good so we typically use chicken. They make fun of us for liking skinless, boneless and "tasteless" chicken as they call it. Here we throw whole leg quarters of chicken on the grill and man oh man is it good! They include lots of veggies we wouldn't typically think of barbecuing- potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots to name a few. The carrots have become one of my favorite veggies off the grill because they have some sweetness to them when the come off.  We played cards against humanity- of course a crowd favorite, and listened to some drunken karoke. A good time was definently had by all!

Vince's iPhone shot of the spread!

It's hard to believe we are leaving Bejuco in 7 days. It has gone by so quickly! I have a couple more blog posts lined up for before we leave so stay tuned! 

Adventure on and Pura Vida!

NICOYA PENINSULA

This weekend we traveled to the northern peninsula in Costa Rica with our friends Agus and David. We rented a car and left right after work on Friday. It was a 2 hour drive to get to the ferry that would take us to the peninsula.

We got to the ferry and much to our surprise it took about an hour to get across. We lost sight of the mainland as we crossed the sea- quite a different experience from the 5 minute Golden Eagle Ferry back home. This 3 level ferry took even huge busses and 18-wheelers along. There was a full restaurant on board, but we went for the $1 kabobs that were being sold and cooked right in front of us on the street before we boarded. So delicious! 

We finally arrived in Montezuma after the sun had set (which is actually quite early here-6:30) and got settled into our hostel. It was by no means glamorous, but it served its purpose. We ate casado (a typical Costa Rican meal usually consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, and your choice of meat) at a local soda that night for about $4 a person. 

The next morning we were awoken by the deep groan of howler monkeys. While their sound is rather frightening, it was refreshing to rise to the sounds of nature rather than the hum of early morning rush hour. We took advantage of the morning and went to watch the sun rise over the beach. 

Then it was time for adventure! We started our hike up to the waterfall. This was a bit more strenuous than I had really expected but WOW was it so worth it in the end! I was the only one who got in the waterfall (scaredy cats!) but I could not pass up that bucket list moment! The water was so cold it took my breath away. The energy expended by the waterfall forcefully pushed me away, but I fought against it until I felt the heavy downpour on my face. I still can't even believe it was real. It was probably the most amazing thing I've ever done. Maybe not, but right now I can't think of anything that can even compare. 

We hiked our way back down and ate our bean spread and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Vincent and I found this weird but it was quite normal for our friends so we went along with it. It wasn't bad at all! After our naps in the hammocks outside the hostel we packed up for the next journey. 

It took us to Santa Teresa, a major surfing town in the southern tip of the peninsula. We drove around for an hour comparing prices of different hostels in the area because the internet is so horrible you can't hardly do anything on your phone. We finally ended up at a little surfer hostel 2 minutes from the beach. We drank the most delicious coffee I have ever had and made our way down to the white sand and big waves. The night soon fell and we wandered all around the town looking for the sign we had passed earlier saying "Pizza- 800 colones". We should have known better than that because nothing is that cheap in Costa Rica. So, we ended up spending way too much money on pizza and decided we'd just go hungry tomorrow.

But go hungry we did not! The next morning we woke up and prepared for our 8 hour endeavor home, as we were taking the scenic route this time. David and Agus passed the mate cup around and we all sipped on the traditional argentinian drink as we drove. The roads in Costa Rica are mainly bumpy gravel roads with few traffic signs- or rules for that matter. The bad roads made both me and Agus a little sick, but luckily I have stock piled any medication you could possibly imagine needing. Since it was during the rainy season, small rivers had formed where roads used to be and we had to decide weather to cross or turn back. David, our expert pilot who has been driving since he was 9, got us across the water every time. We stopped many many times to gather any kind of fruit we saw growing on the trees. It turned into an adventure every time Agus yelled "pare pare pare!".  We'd all hop out and gather as many mangos as our hands could hold. We met many Ticos (locals) doing this and they all chatted with us and offered stories, advice, and more fruit. By the time we arrived home we couldn't open the hatchback without fruit bursting forth. Agus pointed out that there is one good thing about being poor here versus being poor in the US. At home, you have to dig through trash or beg to find food, here, you can eat fresh fruit off the trees. 

Anyway, we are now bursting at the seams with mangos. I made mango ice cream last night, we drink mango smoothies every day, and eat mangos for breakfast. If anyone has any mango recipes we can make with limited supplies lay them on me! If you'd like to see more photos, head over to my Facebook or Instagram page. 

Adventure On and Pura Vida!