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  • Day64

    Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

    March 20, 2017 in Costa Rica ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    The heat and humidity is well and truly back in full force. Holy heck. But we're back by the Pacific Ocean and the beach. Only problem is it's not a refreshing place to swim - honestly the water temperature must be at least in the late 20s. It's insane, but at least being immersed in water is better than being immersed in your own sweat.

    Manuel Antonio is essentially a settlement on one long street set in the hills that carries on down to the coast, right next to the National Park of the same name. Again it seems mostly tourist focussed with hotels and restaurants and prices to match. Thankfully having the car meant we could avoid walking up and down these hills all the time.

    Our hostel in Manuel Antonio was Vista Serena and as the name suggests, it had a serene view. Situated up on a hill, from the balcony of the main building we could see out to the Pacific and witnessed arguably one of the best sunsets I've seen in a while. Unfortunately I can't rave about our dorm so much. It was a 16 bed dorm that resembled a prison cell but it was cool at night and it was somewhere to lay our heads, which at the end of the day is all we really need. We managed to see some more woodpeckers just outside of our room though and many other birds from the main balcony, including the beautiful scarlet macaws.

    We spent our first afternoon at a lovely long stretch of beach called Playa Espadilla. It's situated right next to the entrance of the Manuel Antonio National Park and is basically jungle backing straight onto the beach, it's insane. A couple of people pointed out a sloth sleeping in one of the trees, quite hidden but we think it was a two-toed sloth which have a slightly different coat to the three-toed one we've seen and of course less toes. Supposedly the two types of sloth are not actually related, they've evolved completely separately but just happen to have similarities. We also saw a squirrel monkey bouncing about in the trees, fun little critter. So amazing to see these animals just hanging about right by the beach and with humans nearby.

    That evening we somehow ended up rather deep in beers after dinner at the little shack next to our hostel. The workers at the shack even ended up letting us choose our own music to play by Bluetooth which ended up in rounds of choosing a song each and only added to the amount of beers consumed. Smart play. Many a Kiwi song was played and our budget was well and truly blown but the four of us had a good time and plenty a deep chat. At one point we started trying to talk to a lady on her own at the next table, only to realise she was deaf and didn't speak any English. After a bit of trial and error with google translate, we came to the conclusion that she was from Ukraine and spoke Russian. I have no idea how she was getting by over here with that combination of things but props to her! Turns out there's different sign languages in the world too, as when I tried to practice the alphabet with her, it was completely different to what we were taught at school in New Zealand. I guess also because the Russian alphabet is different anyway...

    We managed to time our visit to Manuel Antonio for the only day of the week that the park is closed, Monday. We only realised our poor planning on the drive half way here, so we had to do a switch-around of our planned activities. I'll write a separate post about our visit to Cataratas Nauyaca.

    Tuesday morning rolled around and the four of us had another early start so we could get to the park for opening at 7am to try and avoid the crowds, the heat and hopefully increase our chances of seeing more animals. Considering Manuel Antonio National Park is the country's smallest and most popular park, we should have probably expected that even at this time it would still be busy as everyone else had the same idea. Supposedly the reason the park is closed on Mondays is to allow the animals relief from these crowds and there are now daily visitor caps too. I can't help but feel these daily caps should be much lower given our experience.

    We got walking quickly to try and get into the less populated trails of the park. Our first impressions weren't great of this park, at one stage we thought we weren't going to be able to see anything given the amount of people and the noise of everyone talking. The park itself is set right on the coast and also encompasses three beaches so we headed out to the trails that lead to these first. There are many short trails here, most of which we ended up completing within three hours or so.

    You can hire guides for this park but none of them seem to be overly official and we backed ourselves enough to try and find the animals on our own. You could probably quite easily walk through without seeing anything much if you weren't looking hard enough or were just unlucky. We met a few people along some of the paths early on who hadn't seen anything, hopefully they were able to eventually. Thankfully we managed to see quite a lot of different animals in the end.

    On our way out to the beaches we spotted some spider monkeys, an agouti (a weird rodent like creature) and a lone white-nosed coati which crossed the path we were walking on and almost jumped up on Mike! Mike got his wildlife spotting goggles on and found a three-toed sloth hidden in the trees, a basilisk lizard, squirrels and many a monkey. He spotted two white-faced monkeys in the trees who subsequently decided to come down and see us. The boys and I weren't really sure what the monkeys would do so we were half chased away by them, much to Em's enjoyment! The monkeys were very inquisitive and it was amazing to see them up close. One of them appeared to have a huge gash in his leg, possibly from a fight but whether the park knew about this or would do anything I'm not sure. There were no park rangers about that we could see, so who knows how this side of things work here.

    The views from the lookout and the beach that we walked to were lovely, turquoise waters and rocky coastlines with golden sand. There was another path we could have taken to see the other beaches but by this point the park was rapidly filling up with tour groups and it looked like the walk would be a battle for personal space so we decided against it. We headed back towards the main entrance on the main path, where guides were pointing out many sloths and monkeys in the trees. We took a path to a waterfall in the hope of perhaps seeing some frogs that we hadn't been able to spot yet, only to arrive at the end of the trail to a completely dried up waterfall. Probably to be expected given its dry season, but a little heads up would have been nice!

    After a bit of a sketchy start at the Manuel Antonio park, we did actually end up seeing a fair few animals and enjoyed the views of the coast but we were also equally happy avoid the increasing crowds by late morning and seek relief from the heat and humidity. A quick dip at Playa Espadilla again and we're on our way to the next destination of Drake Bay, which is further south on the Pacific Coast but a lot more isolated, in order to visit Corcovado National Park.
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