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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Weekend Away: Manuel Antonio National Park

By: Bruce

You know, one of these days I'll actually post something specifically relevant to teaching ESL in Costa Rica, but as far as I'm concerned, traveling and enjoying yourself while living here is equally as important as the teaching itself. So with that said, let me tell you about the trip to Manuel Antonio National Park that Lisa and I took this past weekend.

First of all, getting there in the first place was interesting. Lisa teaches classes at night, so we couldn't realistically leave on Friday afternoon, so we decided to get up as early as possible on Saturday morning and return Monday morning. Perhaps the most useful resources I've found thus far regarding traveling in Costa Rica are 1. A bus specific map of San Jose which shows where to catchbuses to various places in the country - because there isn't a central bus station and 2. a PDF file listing the complete bus schedule for all of Costa Rica (arrival and departure times and locations, travel duration, etc.) The Bus Map of San Jose can be found by clicking HERE and the Bus Schedule can be found HERE (Click on "Itenerario de Buses" on the left hand side). Those are both VERY helpful resources - especially if you don't plan to buy a car down here and want to do some traveling.

Anyway, based on the information we got from the Bus Schedule, we decided it would be best to catch the 6:00am Direct bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio/Quepos. That would get us to the beach by about 11am for less than $5 each way! Granted we had to get up at 4am to get a 5am bus from Heredia to San Jose... Regardless, what's important is that we were checked in to our hotel (Hotel Karahe) in time to spend a few hours on the beach before the inevitable afternoon rain (its rainy season down here).

So Saturday was spent on the beautiful beach in front of our mostly decent hotel (we aren't staying in luxury, but it's certainly a step above most hostels - our own villa, free breakfast, etc). Unfortunately, however, because we had to get up so early and were further fatigued by swimming in some great waves and sunbathing, we decided to take a "nap" at 4pm and didn't wake up until midnight! (at which point we brushed our teeth and went back to bed). The positive thing, though, is that to truly enjoy the area, it's necessary to get up earlybecause without daylight savings time and with the afternoon storms, sunlight is a premium enjoyed in the mornings. Needless to say it wasn't too difficult to get up early Sunday morning.

So on Sunday, we got up, ate breakfast, and headed for Manuel Antonio National Park, where, as a foreigner, you can enter for $7 and hire a guide (if you choose to) for about $20 per person. If you really want to see all the wildlife that the park has to offer, I would recommend hiring a guide; however, if you prefer to be a little more independent and have good eyes, a guide really isn't necessary. Once inside the park we hiked around a little on the network of trails (specifically we hikedSendero de Punto Catedral which took us up to a cliff overlooking the ocean - it was breathtaking) and spent the restof the morning on the pristine beaches of the national park. Oh and as an added bonus, (as you can see in the picture) on the way out we saw some spider monkeys playing around in some trees near the trail.

Sunday night we thought it would be fun to go into town for a later dinner and stay out at the bars for a few hours - the town is full of young surfers so we figured the bars would behoppin'. Unfortunately, and to our surprise, there was hardly anyone out when we got to town at 9:30. In fact, we only found one place to serve us food at that hour, so we got some nachos, a couple beers, and headed back to the hotel. So here's a recommendation: eat early, and if you want to go out and party, consider either going out Friday and Saturday nights or going into nearby Quepos.

Anyway, that's about it. We got up Monday morning, took the 9:30am direct bus back to San Jose, and we were back home in Heredia by about 2pm. Overall it was a fantastic weekend away and a successful first journey away from the Central Valley.

To see the rest of my photos from Manuel Antonio click HERE to go to my web-albums.