Our last stop in Costa Rica before heading back to the States was Manual Antonio National Park near the town of Quepos. It is well known for its scenery and easy to spot wildlife including 3-toed sloths, so we were excited to explore.
We opted for another adventure travel day and took the taxi â€“ boat- taxi shuttle from Mal Pais to Quepos. We caught the taxi-speed boat in Montezuma, but enough time for a quick morning walk on the beach. The beach was beautiful with green trees, white sand and blue water to make for pretty views. We were entertained by the pelicans dive bombing and a few lucky catches. Peacefully keeping watch on the beach was a beautiful heron.
The speed boat took us the 26 miles to mainland in 70 minutes. It was a blast. We saw rays and a whale while enjoying the breeze and good views. It was a fun way to travel.
Quepos felt lived in and more authentic than our last few stops. We found a great soda restaurant that was packed nightly and the food was so good we went twice! During our walks around town, the locals waved at us, and we got to watch the kids play soccer.
Manual Antonio is one of Costa Ricaâ€™s smallest parks but also its most popular. It is easy to reach and close to amazing beaches, so it is on everyoneâ€™s must see list. To help reduce the impact to the park, they limit the visitors to 700 a day. First come, first serve. So, we caught the local shuttle to the park first thing in the morning, to ensure our entry, even skipping breakfast. We lucked out and got into the park while avoiding loads of guides for hire at the entrance.
Once inside the park, we followed the Sloth Trail through the woods and mangroves. There were lots of pretty trees with tons of twisty vines. We also saw giant trees supported by tall buttress roots. However, no sloths, so we were feeling a little disappointed as weâ€™d read they were easy to spot here.
We took another trail to get a few good views of the beaches. Along the way we saw a couple of capuchin monkeys defending their turf by showing their teeth. A bit like a scary movie!
On the beach, we saw giant lizards sunning themselves on the rocks. They blended in well, so they were easy to miss.
On the way back to the main area of the park, we noticed a large tour group, so we stopped to look. There resting in the trees were a troupe of howler monkeys. One mama even had a baby resting on her, and you could just see its little hands â€“ adorable!
It was hot and humid, and we were hungry, so we took a break at the concessions. The capuchin monkeys can be quite aggressive, so they do not allow you to bring any food into the park; they even check all bags at the entrance. So, I was expecting the concessions to be expensive and not good, but I was wrong. The food was good, especially the passion fruit ice cream, and the prices were reasonable.
From here we headed to the other side of the park along with 600 of our closest friends, well that is what if felt like at least.😊 Along they way, we spotted our first 3-toed sloth, and it was on the move in clear view. I was surprised how quickly it moved, and it was neat to see its toes and face!
We arrived at the beach and followed another tour group to a palm tree, and lo and behold there was a 2-toed sloth sleeping in the palms. But what made it extra special was that it was cradling a baby sloth! We got to really see its face, so cool with its little pig nose.
This area was also known as the monkey spa, and we saw tons of them grooming each other with such focus!
We opted for a side trail with an uphill start to ditch the crowds. We were rewarded with one more sloth sighting and lots of pretty sea views.
Back at the beach, we enjoyed a refreshing swim. The beach was in a protected bay, so calm waters allowed us to float, and it was so warm I could have stayed in all day. We did see a small shark circling in the bay nearby. I wasnâ€™t worried about it but after we got out of the water, we heard the rangers blowing their whistles as they closed the beach. Glad we were able to sneak in one more swim!
We headed back to the entrance and had a few more nice surprises along the way. The first was seeing a pair of trogans that had a nest in an old termite nest. Their colors were bright, and it was nice to see them side by side to see the difference between male and female.
As we neared the exit, we saw a large group of gawkers, so we checked it out. There was a young (1-2 years old) 3-toed sloth near the trail at eye level. Very cool to see it close-up, but I felt bad for the little guy as he was getting crowded in by picture takers.
Things continued to go the Raffsâ€™ way, as we had no wait for the shuttle bus on the way out, stopped at an amazing falafel and juice bar on the way back to town and again picked up the shuttle with no wait on the side of the road!
Back at our hotel, we had one more treat in store â€“ a troupe of squirrel monkeys. They are the hardest to see in this region as they have irregular migration patterns, so we felt lucky. They are playful and very small. I think they like stopping at our hotel as they enjoyed a refreshing drink from the poop before they leaped through the trees to go on their merry way.
Manual Antonio was a great last stop for our travels in Costa Rica. I can see why it is the most visited park as it is small, easy to see animals, and located near some amazing beaches! The next morning, we headed back to San Jose in our shuttle bus to start our return journey home.
We enjoyed an easy afternoon relaxing in our room near the airport doing our normal activities before leaving a country â€“ catching up on our journals and blogs. However, this time we didnâ€™t have to plan for our next country as we were headed home! We were unsure what to expect during our flights back to the States and when we got home as Coronavirus was just starting to hit, but 0 cases in Costa Rica. We were also uncertain how it might affect our travels going forward. So many unknowns, but we were happy to be heading home.
I was a bit sad to finish our international travels.Â Traveling in Central and South America is special and really fits what Mike and I look for while travelingâ€¦ adventure, gorgeous scenery, amazing wildlife and new cultures.Â It also has just the right amount of challenge to keep us on our toes.Â We will be back, as we have much more to see, but for now we will head home to the uncertainty that awaits.