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March 9, 2010

Manuel Antonio

Filed under: Costa Rica 2010, Travel — anotherheader @ 1:48 am

Meeting the catch of the day

A four-hour drive from Monteverde put us in Manuel Antonio.  Manuel Antonio is world apart from Monteverde.  Where the Quaker-cum-hippy Monteverde has a distinct counter culture feel, Manuel Antonio aspires as a hedonistic beach resort.  Monteverde, even at 10 degrees north latitude, it is still reasonably cool at 4,000 feet.  Manuel Antonio, along the ocean, is substantially warmer.

White-headed Capuchin monkey

I’m guessing that Knobs thought Manuel Antonio was warm also.  The windows on his room were covered with a thick frost layer soon after we arrived.  It seemed like Knobs had turned his air conditioning up to 12 on the dial.  I’d have expected that a Fresno boy would be able to handle the heat more easily but I guess things change after you spend years living near the bay.

Manuel Antonio sits along the blue, tropical Pacific Ocean just south of the small fishing village of Quepos.  Aside from the warm water and the white sand beaches, the major attraction in the area is Parque National Manuel Antonio.  On our first full day, we were up early in the bright sun and warm muggy tropical heat to visit the park.

Keen for the beach at Manuel Antonio

National Parks in Costa Rica do not have the same standard of organization of the parks in the States.  We drove past the numerous touts seeking to sell you a public parking spot on the street for a couple thousand colones and parked in a private lot closer to the park’s entrance.  Manuel Antonio does not have an “official” parking lot.  Through the gate in the razor wire topped fence, past the official guides offering their services, and after a ten-dollar admission fee we were in the park.

Parque National Manuel Antonio, at just over 1,600 acres, is the smallest of Costa Rica’s many national parks.  The Park has two major attractions—its beaches and its animals.  The beaches are easy to find but the wildlife is best spotted with professional assistance.  Perhaps it was the crowds at the entrance that led us to forgo the guided wildlife experience this time.  Not that it mattered.  Pods of tourists surrounded a guide every fifty feet or so on the main trail.  We couldn’t help but catch part of the guide’s spiel as passed by.  Moving faster than the crowd, we effectively hopped from guide pod to guide pod getting the Cliffs Notes version of the full Manuel Antonio wildlife experience.  This way we saw a Three Toed Sloth and Howler, Squirrel, and White-headed Capuchin monkeys.

A bike and a Virgen

Away from the clutches of tourists, on the Sendero Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point Trail), we had a close encounter with a troop of White-headed Capuchin monkeys.  As we were taking pictures, a troop of about 15 monkeys moved slowly by eating all of the treats the forest could provide.  Our presence was not a threat to the monkeys.  Eye contact, bared teeth, and hand gestures didn’t matter.  The monkeys just ignored Knobs’ antics.  A high point for the trip, we were part of the troop for about 20 minutes.

I’m not a beach connoisseur, but it is hard to imagine that beaches get much better than those in Manuel Antonio.  A band of pristine white sand sits between the 80-degree or so turquoise-blue water and the tropical forest.  The park entrance fee discouraged casual visits keeping Manuel Antonio’s beaches lightly populated.  With the air warm and muggy, most of the beach visitors stayed off the sand and soaked in the water.

Manuel Antonio beach at sunset

We would keep returning to the warm ocean waters and the beach during our Manuel Antonio stay.  In between, we had time for kayaking through the mangroves and a Jet Ski tour complete with a snorkeling stop.  But, at the end of the day, we were always drawn to the beach and the warm water.

Now if we can avoid the Tico drivers

Manuel Antonio was a gentle end to our Costa Rican visit.  On Saturday, we’d head back to San Jose to prepare for our flights back home.  We had plenty of time to make it back.  Even roadblock stops for a bicycle road race, bird and iguana spotting at Carara National Park, the Tico’s ever-imaginative interpretation of the traffic laws, Knobs’ “bullfight” with a fake plastic cow, and the substantial possibility of a long stop at another butterfly cage did not threaten our rental car return time.

Scarlet Macaws in flight

Ironically our last dinner of the trip was at Denny’s.  Some would say that our choice of Denny’s was a matter of convenience and the restaurant was right next to our airport hotel.  All I know is that Knobs seemed to be fixated on having a breakfast from the senior’s menu.  He was ready, I guess, to return home.  Eating at Denny’s was like being there already.

Pictures from the last four days:

A toast at sunset



  1. where’s the person who belongs to those shoes??? Great photos, I’ve enjoyed every single one – thanks for sharing!! Barb

    Comment by Barb — March 12, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    • Playing in the waves….

      Comment by anotherheader — March 12, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

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