National Parks of Costa Rica

Rain Maker

Rain Maker

Our last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. We met up with Suzy and crossed 3 borders in 11 days. We got very little sleep and finished off 2012 with a bang. More on that later. For now, here is a recap of our time in a couple of Costa Rica’s national parks.

The bus ride from Montezuma to Monteverde was probably our most scenic thus far. It was also a bit frightening. Most roads in Costa Rica are unpaved and the one leading up to Monteverde also happens to be extremely steep, windy and lacks side rails. Buses would not be allowed on roads like this in the US. The valleys and rolling hills around us were beautiful but I held my breath while Chris napped through the bumpy ride. The fist thing we noticed once we got to Monteverde was the drastic temperature change. It was probably in the mid 60’s, but we’re not in San Francisco anymore, 60 is too cold for Costa Rica. We dug up our down jackets and headed into town to look for our hostel.

There were two highlights in Monteverde, the cloud forest and the hot springs. We opted out of the standard national park tour and decided instead to hike through the cloud forest with a couple of hostel guides leading the way. They took us on a 5 hour hike through the quieter, less visited parts of the forest. We spotted a sloth, walked through a spring (where life begins according to our guide), and Chris climbed inside a very old hollow tree. The next day, we heard about some hot springs nearby. We took a cab there and hiked down about half an hour to a completely secluded naturally heated pool with cascading waterfalls surrounding it. We stayed there for a while exchanging stories while a toucan perched in a nearby tree kept an eye on us.

Sloth

Sloth

Chris climbing inside a tree

Chris climbing inside a tree

Hot springs

Hot springs

Then we took a bus to Manuel Antonio. To say that the ride was hot and smelly would be an understatement. We were counting down the minutes to our stop, 9 hours away. These bus rides have been a good reminder of the differences between vacationing and traveling. You move around quite a bit as a backpacker. You plan a lot, you return your bottles to the market to earn an extra buck, you eat pasta every 3 nights, you hand wash your clothes and pray that they will dry before the next day of travel. It’s not a luxurious stay at the Four Seasons, but to us, it’s well worth it.

Waterfall in Manuel Antonio

Waterfall in Manuel Antonio

We didn’t bring any guidebooks, but most that we have seen here say that the Manuel Antonio National Park is a “must see” attraction. We had high hopes but it really left a lot to be desired. The park was a lot smaller than we anticipated and the guides we overheard showing tourists around pointed out something called a “planthopper.” I know google says planthoppers are a type of insect, but I’m still skeptical. I think these guys would have stopped and pointed out a “biting mosquito” had we hired one of them. We walked around on our own and stopped at a white sand beach, where we met this monkey:

White faced monkey

White faced monkey

We stopped and said hi for a minute but then he did this:

Angry white faced monkey

Angry white faced monkey

so we left him alone and went for a swim. A minute later, I noticed our monkey jump down, grab Chris’ shirt and run away. I started swimming back to shore screaming at the thief while a nice tico boy came to the rescue and retrieved the shirt. A fearless raccoon later stopped by in broad daylight to see if we had anything to offer him, but he didn’t stick around for long and let us enjoy the rest of our afternoon in the park.

Our second hike in Manuel Antonio made up for the first. On our flight to Costa Rica, we met Sarah Yunker, a photographer from Chicago. We chatted throughout the fight as she filled us in on what to expect, see and eat. She first came to Costa Rica about 3 years ago, met her now fiancé, found work as a photographer, and now calls Manuel Antonio home. We stayed at Vista Serena, a hostel Sarah recommended and she and her fiancé met us there for drinks one night. They told us about Rain Maker, a park about a 30 minute drive outside of Manuel Antonio, where Sarah took some amazing photos she showed us on the plane. They called their friend (a pirate taxi driver) and arranged for him to pick us up the next morning. That night it started pouring in Manuel Antonio. We got up in the morning wondering if we could still do the hike (due to some serious rain) and after being reassured that it was sunny in Rain Maker, we were on our way. This place looks like a jungle straight out of a fairytale. We walked across a handful of suspension bridges, stopped for lunch by a waterfall and stared at the lush forest in awe (not to mention we were there alone the whole time).

Suspension bridge in Rain Maker

Suspension bridge in Rain Maker

The sunsets in Manuel Antonio were also pretty incredible. We came back to the hostel most nights and watched from our balcony. We ate mangoes and enjoyed this view:

Sunset from hostel balcony

Sunset from hostel balcony

We hope everyone had a great holiday season. It was hard to spend it without our families and friends this year. We’re thinking about you and we wish you a happy new year!

Location:

Monte Verde

Manuel Antonio

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