Sunday, March 16, 2014

Manuel Antonio national park

Fiery-billed aracaris
This is our fourth visit to Costa Rica, but we've never been to Manuel Antonio, despite the fact that it is one of the most popular destinations in the country - for Ticos and foreigners alike.  A spit of land on the coast has been preserved as a nature preserve, and the outskirts of the park have sprouted a bewildering array of hotels and restaurants.

Playa Manuel Antonio
We've usually gone a bit more low key and off the beaten path.  But at some point you have to do these kinds of things - just as you have to see Arenal.

Nico, Monica and I left the car at the entrance to the park, hemmed and hawed about hiring a guide - in the end deciding not to.  Most of the trails are closed for maintenance, so the main path, which leads to the most popular beach was fairly peopled.  Still, we saw sloths and fiery-billed aracari, and a golden naped woodpecker on a leafless tree.  There was a turtle beneath a culvert - one of the few remaining pools of fresh water in this dry season.  A troop of howler monkeys moved noisily overhead.  Blue morpho butterflies fluttered down the path.  Passing conversations were in Spanish, German, Russian, English and others.

Our balcony
The beach is beautiful, with fruit trees all along the high tide line offering shade.  We set up on a large piece of driftwood.  Nico and I went into the warm water to swim.  Monica stayed by the stuff, since the beach is notorious for thieving capuchins.  (Though it was actually a pair of persistent raccoons that were working that beach.)  Clara, Eckart and Sofie joined us soon after.

When we'd had enough, the rest left me to go to the municipal beach where there would be food and beer and musicians.  I opted to walk the trail out onto Cathedral point instead.  I took it slowly, watching for birds, though it was the middle of the day and everything was on siesta.  But the views were magnificent - waves over rocky islands and frigate birds riding the wind.  I saw a couple of agoutis - like slender capybara quietly going about their business.  And a pair of beautiful hawks cruising among the vultures.  A small deer walked past me on the path, sniffing at me suspiciously.

I came to another beach - less populated - and took a swim to cool off.  I kept an eye on my un-defended stuff from the water, but there were no signs of raccoons or monkeys here -- only iguanas.