When Drew and I arrived to the land of toucans and sloths last week, we found ourselves surrounded not only by thriving wildlife and green, glowing nature, we also found ourselves swimming in something called “Pura Vida.” This wonderful and uplifting term echoed throughout all of Costa Rica literally means “the pure life,” but after getting to know the land and its beautiful people, this commonly used term took on a whole new meaning every step of the way.
Our first day began early enough to catch the first surfer of the day ripping his first wave. We parked along the main road going through town and continued taking in the sights until we saw a sign pointing us towards our destination, Manuel Antonio National Park:
We continued up the road, which was lined with hostels, “sodas” (Tico term for a family-run restaurant) and humble homes, recognizing that Costa Rica’s most famous, amazing and smallest National Park was not going to be glammed up the way we were used to in the US. In fact, the “grand entrance” to the park consisted of a chain link fence/gate and we didn’t actually find a sign for the park until we completed the yellow trail (on the map below) that brought us to the beach:
With so much natural beauty for us to focus on, we were grateful for the absence of unnecessary “fluff.” As we made our way down the main trail, trying to follow the tour guides and catch a glimpse of what they were showing their groups, we were blown away by what we found.
Getting to the park bright and early is key, we were welcomed by countless little white faced monkeys waking up in search of the days first banana:
Some even had little ones who tagged along for the ride!
With the rising sun shining on the rainforest’s tiniest of critters, were able to find some of the trickiest ones to spot:
Quite possibly one (or should I say two) of the coolest things we saw were the sloths. Before this trip Drew and I hadn’t realized that there was a true difference between the two and three-toed sloths, besides the number of toes that is. Not only do these two look very different, but they also have very different characteristics.
The two-toed sloth pictured below is nocturnal, meaning he sleeps during the day, he is also larger and faster than his friend, the three-toed sloth, featured in the next photo. How did we capture these two shots? Luckily, a Tico guide let us peak through his high def telescope and we were able to snap them through the peep hole:
This wide-eyed beauty, also known as the three-toed sloth, sleeps 15-18 hours each day, meaning this fresh and smiley shot of him is extremely rare:
Once we made our way all the way down the trail to the stunning Playa Manuel Antonio, we were tempted to relax by the alluring, crystal blue waters, but instead we decided to build the anticipation and continued on our journey towards the famous Punta Catedral:
Punta Catedral, a must do for any trip to Manuel Antonio, is a lush island with forest topped cliffs, connected to the mainland by a thin land bridge that joins the park’s two most popular beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.
The view and colors were absolutely stunning and completely worth the less than one mile hike:
The trail along the point took about an hour of hiking up some steep steps and through an incredibly lush and beautiful rainforest. Drew even took a pit stop to do some jungle surfing 😉
After visiting with a few more monkeys, we found ourselves with our feet in the white sands of Playa Espadilla Sur, a total dream come true:
Things to know:
Entry fee is $10 per person
Hours: 7am – 4pm
Park is closed on Mondays
Sun sets around 5:30/6:00pm all year long
Start early so you can catch the rainforest as it comes to life!
Be sure to pack a picnic, it’s a beautiful place to relax for the day and no food or drinks are sold anywhere in the park.
Marlin, a well-known restaurant just outside the park, is a great spot for some delicious ceviche, and there is an incredible fresh pressed juice shop right around the corner 🙂
The most incredible thing about Costa Ricans is that no matter what their fortune, whether large or small, they are always smiling and enjoying life, and without hesitation, you’ll always hear them say: “Pura Vida!”
Be sure to check back soon for our post on whitewater rafting on the Rio Savegre with H2O Adventures!