Coastal Costa Rica

Published: January 24th 2016
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R: Our transfer took us via Jaco and the Pacific coast road, which crosses several rivers on their way out to the Pacific. At one, we were offered the opportunity to stop at a bridge where crocodiles are known to congregate. The crocs were pretty still, but sat with their mouths open, to remind you who's boss. A brave giant lizard ran out from the undergrowth and tried to tempt them, but they weren't biting... Literally! After a quick browse of more "authentic" tourist tat, we were on our way.

We arrived in Manuel Antonio, on the mid-Pacific coast of Costa Rica and it was immediately much more humid again. We were a bit underwhelmed initially as I had booked a hostel with a pool, which was completely dry and empty when we got there. It was also on a road to nowhere with no restaurants etc nearby. We had a little bus ride down to Manuel Antonio village, which seemed at the time to be an overgrown tourist trap, with a long stretch of volcanic grey beach. After some overpriced tapas, a white faced monkey descended on the table next to us, quietly grasped onto their Pringles, and was gone. The Pringles belonged to a child, who couldn't decide whether to be happy she had been that close to a monkey, or sad she had lost her Pringles. I took a plunge in the water and it was probably the warmest sea I have ever been in. It wasn't even that refreshing!! After some cold showers, and a long talk with a very bored Canadian at the hostel (his daughter was off scuba diving, and had been to Oxford once), we found a restaurant for dinner. They had no concept of the word moderation when it came to garlic sauce. Or for that matter when they put rum in the mojitos. We remarked that the hotel that owned the restaurant had a great pool and we wondered why we weren't staying there....

However, the hostel we stayed in was great from another perspective. We had a private room split over two levels. The first level had a shared balcony and a standard double bed and bathroom, but the upper level, reached by climbing up a steep wooden staircase, had a king size bed, and no windows - just screens to keep the mozzies out, and a great view down to Quepos harbour. You can wake up to all the noise from the birds in the trees around you - but also sadly the traffic from the road. But it did feel like sleeping out under the stars, as you could see the bright night sky while lying in bed. One day while we were laying in bed, the whole structure shook suddenly and I thought it was monkeys on the roof. However, we later found out it was a factor 4.9 earthquake that had shaken the whole area. Scary stuff!

Incidentally, there is little in the way of light pollution in Costa Rica, so nighttime viewings are always better than the UK.

Next day was sailing day. I headed into Quepos town to do some admin (groceries, banking, bus timetables) then headed back in time for our lunch time departure. Quepos is an ok town, but nothing really to write home about. But I just did that. Oops.

C: On our second afternoon we headed down to a very flashy marina to board a small catamaran for a cruise along the coast. As soon as we got on we were handed some great rum cocktails and we knew we were in for a fantastic trip. It was brilliant. Watching the beautiful coastal scenery from a breezy seat at the front of the boat whilst drinking cocktails (they were included so we got our money's worth!) was wonderful and just what I'd been looking forward to on the coast. At one point the boat slowed up and we saw dolphins frolicking in the water. There was a chance to go snorkelling, no coral here but still some lovely fish, and the boat even had a fun water slide. At the end of the cruise we were served a traditional Costa Rican fish dinner and then got to watch the sunset which must have been one of the most perfect sunsets we've ever seen. A fab day.

R: Our next day in Manuel Antonio we actually went to the national park. It's a small national park on land, but much of it stretches out to sea. The rainforest meets the sea here, with lush green palm trees, banana trees, ferns and orchids coming right down to the shore of golden sandy beaches that looked straight out of a wanderlust magazine. There are various trails to do that take you to the beaches and various viewpoints, each affording great views of the rugged Pacific coast and pretty beaches. On the way into the park, you are immediately aware of the number of capuchin and howler monkeys swinging between the treetops above your head. There was the occasional inanimate sloth, hanging around in front of a group of tourists, plus lizards and bird life a plenty. We also saw tapirs roaming through the vegetation during the day.

I dropped Cate off at the main beach and did some further trails - I have not sweated so much in my life ever. My shirt was completely wet when I came back to the beach, and so treated myself to a swim in the beautiful tropical waters. We moved around to a quieter beach, which was just as beautiful as the first, but with less people because the rip currents are too much for kids. We wished we had noticed that earlier!

On our way into the park we had our choice of snacks scrutinised by a ranger - no chips allowed. Luckily she didn't notice the Pringles right at the bottom of the bag! At the beach we saw why... Families of raccoons fight with the monkeys to see what backpack snacks they could steal. To be honest, we didn't see them try very many heists, but they did attack the bag belonging to a very hot, fat man, who couldn't even be bothered to stand up and try and collect his bag - he instead swung a log, hitting the raccoons, who thankfully did not seem to care much. Another reminder, I think that some people of other nationalities do not treat wildlife in such high regard as perhaps the British or Costa Ricans do. But then, I suppose to Americans particularly, raccoons are seen as pests in urban areas, and something to be "dealt with".

Although this stage of the trip has been ok and the sunset cruise was a real highlight, the humidity and heat have made it hard going. Especially not having the pool as promised. We decided to cancel our last night at the hostel and move on.

We ended our stay with a bottle of Costa Rican cider, which tasted a lot like sweet German wine. Not sure I'll be shipping any back to the UK.

C: After three nights we headed about an hour (by bus) down the coast to a surf town called Dominical. There's not a lot there except for a vast beach with huge waves, hence the surfers, but we had chosen a hotel with a pool, very much needed, so we got there early and settled in for a relaxing afternoon of sunbathing and swimming. All fine until about 2.30pm when about 60 American teenagers turned up, they were apparently staying at the hotel too and we're back from their day's activities. Mass game of marco polo ensued and feeling old we went to hang out on the terrace by our room. We enjoyed the chill out time though and then headed down to the beach to watch another great sunset. We have been very lucky with sunsets on this trip which I guess isn't surprising considering we've been hugging the Pacific coast for much for much of the journey.

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