Manual Antonio and Rainmaker
Manual Antonio Beach
August 6, 2003
This morning we drove about 1 1/2 hours south down to Manual Antonio national park. We parked in a lot right on the sand on the beach. After a little debate, we decided to go in without a guide ($20 per person). We walked across the sand to little boat which took us across an inlet to the park entrance (100 C per person). The entrance to park was $7 per person.
The beaches are really beautiful and I could have sat there all day, but for the desire to see the animals. There is a well marked path which borders the beach and then turns inland. Almost immediately we saw squirrel and capuchin monkeys right across from beach #2. Right on the sand was a giant iguana. We even saw a few sloths in the trees once we turned inland. The walk is easy, flat and one way. The exit to the park is at the end of the trail and leaves you close to the parking area. Once you go out, you can't go back in. We were too tired from the heat and humidity to walk back to the beach so we left for lunch at Mar Luna on the road back to Quepos. Unfortunately, they were closed (they open at 4:30 PM).
We stopped at the small beach town of Playa Hermosa south of Jaco for lunch at Jammin', a reggae themed surfer's restaurant. There was a black sand beach, and rooms for rent at in the small hotel out back. Playa Hermosa seemed way more laid back than Jaco, and a nice, easy place to stay. We had a great lunch, chicken quesdadilla with guacamole, burger, 2 fruit smoothies and a coke for $9. I'd seriously consider staying here, especially if you have a car.
Manual Antonio: The end of the road. You can not drive any further than the park on the highway we were on. They asked for 1000 colones to park, but we somehow avoided paying for it. One hundred colones gets you across the river mouth on a little dinghy and to the park entrance. We had tried to negotiate the price of a guide down from 20 dollars per person, but the best we could do was 15 per person if we could find another couple to accompany us. Although we knew the value of a trained pair of eyes vs. our own, and their high quality Swarowski telescopes vs. my dad's Bushnell binoculars (he doesn't know that I borrowed them yet), we chose to go it alone. Now, the monkeys are awfully hard to miss unless you are blind and deaf, as they were hanging out (so to speak) right at the entrance to the trail. A couple of the little buggers were looking for a modeling career and posed shamelessly for Kristina. Soon I began to poach on other group's tour guides. We would simply go to the area where the guide had set up his scope and look that way with our binoculars. If I couldn't figure out what it was that everyone was looking at I asked, or, now and then, a kind compatriot would offer us the info just after the guide had swiped his scope in an effort to prevent us from poaching on his tour. In this way we were able to see a large boa constrictor, a flock (?) of bats sleeping upside down under a tree trunk, four sloths, doing what they do best, sleep, and an insect or two. On my own, I spotted forest crabs, and a bright red woodpecker of some sort as well. The beaches there were fantastic! Beautiful like you would imagine in your dreams....
August 7, 2003Kristina's Journal:
Today was Spa Day. Nothing but rest and relaxation today. We made appointments for both of us at the Serenity Spa in town. I had a massage, a coffee scrub, and a volcanic mud mask. David had a massage, and a cool seaweed mask. It took about 2 1/2 hours and it was lovely. We spent the rest of the day back at the hotel resting by the pool.
Relaxation at its best. The jacuzzi on the balcony of our room is excellent. It has more jets than anyone really needs, but I am not complaining. As Kristina and I were taking our tub yesterday, she made a comment about not seeing as many exotic birds as she thought we would. Literally5 seconds later, a giant toucan swept up out of the jungle below and landed on a tree in full view, right in front of us. It then proceeded to hop from branch to branch, approaching us with each leap. Add it to the list wild creatures we have had on the patio, including a two foot iguana, a foraging coati, and many millions of moth and butterfly species.
Dinner at El Galleon. Kristina has been known for nailing the good spots to eat on vacation, and this time was no exception. Shortly after making the reservations for this trip, the latest issue of Food and Wine came out with, lo and behold, an article on Costa Rica which spotlighted our hotel. So it made perfect sense to trust the same article's other suggestions, and we went to the Marina at the Mariott Los Suenos (of earlier mentioned golf course etc.) and had dinner at the highly recommended El Galleon. The chef, a former Four Seasons chef, was touted as having talent, and he lived up to it. The restaurant was very nice, open air, and right on the docks at the marina. I had the tuna tartare, and a red snapper with lime buerre blanc. Dinner was about $100 incl tax and tip.
August 8, 2003Kristina's Journal:
Since this was our last day, we had to make it count and chose to visit Rainmaker, a private nature preserve in a rain forest about a half hour north of Manual Antonio. So, back down the road we went, toting our "breakfast in a box" provided by the hotel (nice touch). Since we hadn't had time to do any "canopy tours" up near Arenal, I was excited to visit Rainmaker, which supposedly has the first, and some of the highest, suspension bridges in Costa Rica. Once we pulled off the main highway, it's a 7 k. drive on dirt roads through plantations fields and forests to reach the main entrance. We arrived, fearing we'd be late for our reservation, but instead had to wait for almost half an hour until the other people scheduled showed up. There were 2 groups and 2 guides and we took different routes so as not to clog the path. Our guide, a Costa Rican man in his 20's, spoke excellent English and seemed very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna.
The walk took us through the rain forest, up and over bridges spanning the river, past waterfalls and a large swimming hole. Had we known, we could have worn bathing suits and gone for a dip. Along the way, the guide would stop and point out various things to us. At one point, he picked up a small lizard and showed how in defense, the lizard would latch on with it's mouth and not let go. He demonstrated this on David's ear, making it into a temporary lizard earring. He also picked up a tiny poisonous frog which exudes poison through it's skin when scared. This is the same poison hunters would use to tip their arrows to kill their prey. These frogs come in a miriad of neon colors, some yellow and green with black spots as natures way of saying "danger!".
The hanging bridges did not disappoint, affording us a great view across the tree tops. On our way back down, we even saw a sloth. When we arrived back at the reception area, there was a light lunch prepared and we sat and chatted with our guide while we ate.
Many of the highway bridges in Costa Rica are one way. This means that if there are cars already on the bridge coming toward you, you have to wait. We got stuck at one such bridge on the way back for almost 20 minutes. I guess the locals know this happens because vendors sprung up on each side to exploit the wait.
August 9, 2003Kristina's Journal:
Our trip home the next day began with us driving back to San Jose. It was unenventful except when we got stuck behind a truck going 10 mph over a mountain pass. Fortunately, we allowed enough time because it really slowed down our trip. Our flight home was fine and some of the same people who had been on the flight there were on our flight home. In all, a great trip.
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last updated on 4/03/04