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Friday, December 18, 2009

Pura vida

Examiner.com: Enjoy the sounds of the season in Washington
Examiner.com: Quepos and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

What a shock to the system to leave hot and humid Costa Rica and touch down in freezing DC with up to one foot of snow expected tomorrow! The latest report I heard calls for 10-15 inches. It's an odd feeling to be sunburnt yet preparing for a mini-blizzard.

A quick trip to the grocery store and Costco today ended up taking a lot longer than expected as the entire population of DC and its suburbs completely panics whenever snow is even whispered, causing a mad rush for the toilet paper, milk and orange juice.

Me? I headed straight for the hummus. You don't want to be caught unprepared.

Let's back up.

After leaving La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano, we drove down the coast to Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park. The national park was closed Monday but Tuesday, we headed first thing to Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica's smallest (yet most-visited) parks.

A guide led us on a two-hour hike through the rainforest, using his high-powered telescope to point out monkeys, sloths and lizards hiding in the trees. One of the creepiest sights was a meter-long tail-less rat. Ew! It was helpful having the guide, though, as he was able to see a lot that the average hiker would never notice.

The highlight of the park are its three beaches, each with pristine white sand and 85-degree blue water. Park officials limit the number of visitors on the grounds at any one time, meaning that the beaches are less crowded than some of their public counterparts.

The extensive treeline -- there's little in Costa Rica that isn't rainforest -- leaves ample shade but watch out for monkeys and raccoons who like to run off with your food.

One of three three-week-old marmosets at our B&B. Strong grip for a little guy!

Mid-afternoon, a lot of people were out surfing and that was fun to watch although there were nearly all beginners. Water sports like kayaking are also hugely popular. There's truly something for everyone, from people who just want to lounge on the sand to those wanting something more active.

Vendors stroll up and down the beach selling everything from fresh coconut milk and sodas to bathing suits and jewelry. The atmosphere overall in Costa Rica reminded me a lot of Thailand, in how laid-back everyone and everything is.

The one big difference between Thailand and Costa Rica is how genuinely nice Ticos (Costa Rican people) are. Most people were nice in Thailand but you always had the feeling they wanted something from you for their trouble. In Costa Rica, everyone was nice just for the heck of it. When asking directions and speaking minimal Spanish, my dad was walked over to an English-speaker, not just shrugged off.

All around the country, people were helpful and kind even to turistas like us. It was a noticeable difference from Belize and Guatemala where people were perfectly civil but never want out of their way. Walking around towns up and down Costa Rica, we were amazed by the consistent level of friendliness.

Later this weekend, I'll post a full photo recap of all the amazing food we enjoyed -- you know it requires its own post! ;)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


  1. Great post, Er!! Though I did cringe looking at that little monkey. Bad Phuket flashbacks :/

    But now I want to go to Costa Rica...even if there isn't curry.


  2. Looks like you had a great time on your vacation. CR looks great. Thanks for sharing/