Manuel Antonio National Park

Published: September 28th 2006
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Manuel Antonio was really an amazing park. I would definitely recommend heading there in the rainy season, considering it felt like we had the park all to ourselves with the exception of only a few other hikers. We have heard that the place gets a bit overrun in the dry season with tour buses lining up on the street outside.

Our seven dollar entry fee was well spent as we saw an abundance of wildlife, interesting flora and beautiful beaches. The hiking was cool due to the trails being shaded by the tree canopy. However, I would also recommend hiking in the early morning - the afternoons can get quite hot here. Bring water as well, which can be purchased from folks on the street outside the entrance. No maps are sold nor are they needed as trails are well marked and very well maintained.

Outside the entrance will be many naturalist guides willing to take you through the park. Mike and I opted to go without one, however next time I think I’d take one along. They bring telescopes with them and apparently have certain spots where they set up and show their guests things that you can’t
Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey

These guys are all over the place.
see with the human eye. I’m still not sure what folks were actually seeing but considering they continued to comment about how amazing and beautiful the sights were, I figured we missed out on something. We did have binoculars with us, however they only helped when we located the object first. You can’t use binoculars on something you can’t even see to find. If the cost is reasonable, I would think a guide would be beneficial the first time around.

We saw squirrel monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, armadillos, coatis, hermit crabs, lizards, amazing birds and something that resembled a small boar. I can see the appeal of Manuel Antonio and now know why folks rave about the place. It’s a definite “must-see” if in the area.

If booking a hotel here, please take the time to do some research. Many hotels are providing portions of their profits to benefit the animals in the area. One hotel, Mono Azul, is apparently putting up hanging bridges for the monkeys to be able to cross the road safely. With all the building that has gone on in the area, the canopy is essentially gone. Many monkeys have to cross the road via electrical lines, which at times has caused electrocution, or via the road, which can be dangerous due to an increase in traffic.

I would also recommend staying in a hotel on the mountain in Manuel Antonio itself as it’s very close to the beach and the park. Quepos didn’t thrill me as it’s more built up and lacks a lot of foliage. Also, if you stay on the mountain, decide for yourself if you want to take a taxi to the beach front. For us, a better option was the bus that comes by every 20 minutes and for only 105 colones (about 20 cents, U.S.) it will take you right to the beachfront and the entrance to the park. As Mike and I waited for the bus, one taxi tried multiple times to pick us up for 1000 colones ($2). Sorry, I’ll wait for the bus considering it’s only about a 5 minute ride. I do not recommend taking your own car however as there are many thefts when cars are left at the beachfronts. Leave it at your hotel and travel like a local. I think you’ll appreciate the experience.

While heading out of
White-Faced Capuchin MonkeyWhite-Faced Capuchin MonkeyWhite-Faced Capuchin Monkey

You'll see an abundance of these guys in the park and in the trees on the main road.
Manuel Antonio, we came across a sloth that appeared quite lost outside the pharmacy. Locals apparently noticed this as well and managed to get the little guy back to the trees away from the road. While it was good to see folks taking some time to ensure this sweetie got back to his natural habitat, it was disheartened that they had to even interfere. We have built so much, destroyed so much of the rainforest, disoriented so many animals that they are now living in our world, often times confused and scared which can result in accidents and death. All in all, it was a true bittersweet experience and I’m just glad that he got back to what he knew.

While looking at the map, we realized that in order to get to the next beach, Dominical, we would have to travel all the way back to San Jose and then head back to the coast. There is no decent coastal road connecting Manuel Antonio with Dominical. We also thought about the Osa quite a bit. Did we really want to settle somewhere that was humid, hot and full of poisonous snakes and nasty insects? Probably not. With that in mind, we figured it would be better to head to the Osa on a mini-vacation at some point but that it was not necessary for us to check it out before settling down a bit. We decided it was time to head back to Sámara.

We are now settled into a 3 month rental at a condo in Sámara. It’s a block off the beach with a decent view of the water. It’s secure and quiet and for now, it’s nice to have a place to call home for a bit. After living out of a suitcase for 2 months, it was really nice to be able to unpack our bags. At this point, we’re just going to hang out in Sámara a bit and see if Costa Rica is really for us permanently. All I can say at this point is that it’s very different living here as opposed to being here on vacation. As a tourist, I never felt my security threatened, I never worried about lack of communication with family and friends, never thought about a lack of decent internet or how I’d deal with the constant heat. In a sense, it was ok that I felt like a foreigner because I was a tourist here on vacation. However, that fact seems to hit me harder now as you want your “home” to feel like home.

The reality is that we are foreigners living in someone else’s country and the hospitality and openness we always feel from the Deglados back in Heredia does not come so easily when you are a stranger trying to fit in. No matter how good our Spanish is (on a side note, I’m shocked at how many foreigners live here and don’t speak Spanish. I could never imagine speaking English to a Tico) or how much we eat like Ticos, a part of me realizes that we’re still looked at as Gringos and it seems like everyone you encounter thinks you have a lot of money. In reality, we probably do in comparison to the average Tico who is bringing in $300 per month.

And as much as I thought I’d be able to live like the average Tico, I’m finding out more and more about myself that tells me that I can’t. I like screens on my windows, I like air conditioning when it gets really hot, I like salt that doesn’t congeal with the humidity, I like my computer. I don’t like ants constantly in the microwave and I don’t like people burning trash. These things set us apart because these are the realities of living here. I’m sure there are Ticos who feel the same way, but perhaps because they have grown up in this culture they are accustomed to it.

Right now, everything is a learning experience. However, Mike and I are not ready to set down our life savings here in Costa Rica. For now, we are living in the moment and learning everything we can. Our plan is very fluid and for now, we just want to enjoy these next 3 months, living in one town, getting to know people, deciding if Sámara and Costa Rica in general is really for us permanently. If there is an opportunity for us to open up a café here in town, we may do that, but for now, we’re just going to take things slowly here.

The ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica) always recommends renting in CR for at least 6 months before you ever buy property here. I can’t tell

We've seen armadillos all over the country.
you how happy I am that we didn’t jump into something right away when we first got here. I tend to get emails from folks thinking of moving here or folks who are in the process of making the move. The one piece of advice I’m glad we followed was renting first. Living here is very different than coming through on vacation. Keep in mind that buying property here is a very easy thing, but having to resell it if you decide that CR is not for you on a permanent basis, can be very difficult.

As for Mike and I, so far this has been an amazing experience for the two of us. Being with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week will really allow you time to truly get to know each other and for that I am so grateful. This downtime also allows you to get to know yourself on a truly deep level which for me personally, has been enlightening.

We are committed to renting here in CR for a period of time. I’m not sure that all of that time will be spent in Sámara however at this point, we will

This was taken from a bridge between Manuel Antonio and Puntarenas.
be in one place for the next 3 months. Blog entries may become less frequent as I’m not sure how much will be going on in town, especially during the month of October which is apparently the quietest month of the year. We are looking forward to spending the pinnacle of the high season here in a beach community as we have never before been in CR during that time of year. From what we’ve been told, it can get hotter, water can become scarce and the amount of tourists can easily triple. Feel free to email us on the side should you have any questions or comments as we’ll be checking email as often as we can. Right now we’re off to the beach! Tough life being technically retired!

Additional photos below
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This was taken from a bridge between Manuel Antonio and Puntarenas.

29th September 2006

"...Tough life being technically retired." I know you meant that ironically, but what you are experiencing is tough. The transition from a culture that emphasizes: a career path, punctuality, the rule of law, regulation and predictability to one that dosen't can be disorienting. Its like hanging a painting in your living room that has very warm colors and is abstract. If you have been a realist, the presence of that painting changes your life and you feel disoriented. The painting is there daily dominating your living space and making you think. This art, this new reality, is an invasion, an annunciation which as George Steiner says , "... breaks into the small house of our cautionary being and commands us; change your life." Which way to change it of course is the problem. After you make the change, you life is will never be what it once was and that can be a good thing. God Speed.

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