Manuel Antonio National Park

Published: March 21st 2016
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We're sad to leave Monteverde today. We decided to hike the half mile or so downhill from our hotel room to the hotel restaurant, enjoying the view out toward the Pacific. On the way we heard some brown hooded parrots squawking. The restaurant at El Establo is always crowded at breakfast time, and in fact sometimes there isn't a table for everyone. We were seated at a table for four and were soon joined by a couple from North Carolina who were traveling with a bigger tour group. It's fun to be thrown together with people whom you'd otherwise never meet!

Soon we had to board the bus for another transit day. This tie we are going from the relatively cool and comfortable highlands down to the steamy Pacific coast near Quepo and Manuel Antonio National Park. Our long drive was broken up by two stops: horseback riding and crocodile viewing.

The riding was in a dry woodland/pasture area, and the horses were perfectly suited for novice riders. They needed absolutely no knowledge or guidance from us and docilely followed the leader at a slow walk for about an hour. The sun was very hot, and there wasn't much shade, so that was definitely long enough! We saw another beautiful motmot, this time the turquoise-browed and a pair of scarlet macaws. The horse ranch was also a restaurant, and we had a nice lunch of grilled chicken and steak, salad, beans (of course), corn on the cob, and a coconut/molasses square that seems to be a popular treat here. We all changed into shorts, and Esteban told us to drink, drink, drink water as much as possible for the next two days in this climate.

We walked from the ranch to a (highway) bridge under which a large group (25?) of American Crocodiles gather on a regular basis, probably because tourists throw food to them even though they are not supposed to. These are no little caimans but 12-foot guys that look pretty scary. You would definitely not want to see one of these swimming at you in your favorite bathing spot.

Finally we arrived at our hotel, Villas Lirio. It had a beautiful palm-shaded courtyard, two swimming pools, a restaurant, and, best of all, freezing cold rooms which seemed to range from about 55 to 60 degrees no matter how you tried to set the AC. I'm not complaining! Boy, did it feel good to go inside after excursions to the national park (or ice machine). Every time we went out of the room our glasses fogged up, as if we needed a further reminder of how uncomfortable it was outside. The first night we walked just down the road to Mar Luna restaurant with Larry, Ladene, Tom, and Vicky. This restaurant has open sides and a view out toward the sunset. The menu was heavy on seafood, and we all enjoyed grilled tuna with various optional sauces.

Friday we loaded up on water and set out for the national park. It was probably about 90 degrees already at 8:30 am. The park was crowded at the entrance gate, and most people seemed to be there for the beach, even though the beach was about a mile walk in the hot sun! Hard to imagine lugging beach gear all that way.

We were there to see the wildlife as well as to experience the beach, of course, and we saw a white-tailed deer fawn, coati, agouti, raccoons stealing picnic food, two kinds of bats, and three species of monkeys: squirrel, howler, and white-faced capuchin. The capuchins, especially, are not shy and came right down to us, looking for handouts. The beach area was gorgeous, and the water was about 85 degrees. There was a fair bit of surf and a lot of swimmers. The sand was super soft. I had chosen not to bring my bathing suit, although there were changing places available. The idea of putting it on in this sticky weather after walking a mile was deterrent enough, but mainly I didn't want to deal with the salt, the wet suit, etc. afterward. Wading was fine and slightly refreshing, even though the water felt like a tepid bath! It would have been fun to actually swim in the waves, and a few of our group did so. The walk back to the bus was quite unpleasant as we sauntered from shady spot to shady spot and chugged our water. It felt SO good to get into the AC on the bus! It's too bad that weather can trump just about anything with regard to enjoyment.

We had the afternoon free to recuperate. Wayne and I considered going off on a Segway tour, but it would have lasts into the evening and included dinner. We didn't want to miss eating with our companions, not to mention desiring to stay relatively cool, so I swam in the pool, and Wayne worked and watched March Madness basketball.

The whole group ate at Rafael's, which had a happy hour at an upstairs bar where one could watch the sunset (again) and then go down into the dining room for dinner. I had a whole red snapper which was very tasty and not at all off-putting as long as I turned the head away from me!

Saturday we left Villas Lirio by way of a farmers' market in Quepo. There we tried a sweet "ice cream bean," white coating around seeds in a giant pod; a peach palm fruit, deep orange and starchy, about the size of a plum; and a traditional Easter pastry made from spaghetti squash and sugar cane. I couldn't resist buying a mango, but I have no idea how I will eat it without a knife. It was actually pretty sad to walk through the market and compare the size and ripeness of these mangoes, papayas, red peppers, passion fruit, etc. with what we can buy at home.

P.S. We ate the mango at our next stop, and it was the best I'd ever had by a factor of about ten!


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