I’m back with the final installment of my trip to Costa Rica. It’s been really fun remembering it all. I know I’ve probably left some things out, but it’s been great keeping the memories so fresh in my mind.
So we left off with our journey from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. It was a long one, but eventually we got off the bumpy mountain roads and were on paved roads for much of the latter part of the trip. We stopped at a big rest stop where we got some fresh fruit smoothies and wandered around the gift shop until it was time to continue.
Gabe and I were the last hotel stop so we got to see where the other couple people in our transfer were staying. Almost all of them were in hotels high up from the beach and not really within walking distance to anything except other hotels. I was curious to see where we’d end up.
We stayed in the Jungle Beach Hotel, which was across the street from the ocean. It was tucked in the trees so you really got the feeling of being in the jungle. Within minutes of being at the hotel, I had already found a huge lizard. At night we’d hear howler monkeys calling and a variety of other critters.
We had just a short 2-3 minute walk to the public beach entrance where we encountered a second lizard even bigger than the one hanging out at our hotel.
We had the rest of the first day to ourselves so we spent it on the beach. It was very hot, in the 90s. Even the locals were commenting on how hot it was. We hung out in the shade of the trees for a bit rather than rent an umbrella. While Gabe grabbed a nap, I enjoyed just being on the beach.
Later we walked down the beach toward the downtown area. We stopped a guy pushing a cart with a giant block of ice for slushies. He hand shaved the ice and had about 10 flavors to choose from. You could also get condensed milk on it.
We ended up eating at a local restaurant, saw some monkeys attempting to terrorize patrons at another restaurant and caught a beautiful sunset. We then headed back to our hotel via the road, which was maybe a 10 minute walk.
The next day we had an early pickup for our hike through Manuel Antonio National Park.
We had a great guide who was very knowledgable. He carried a scope that helped us see some of the animals in the jungle that would’ve been impossible to find otherwise. It was great going in the morning because it wasn’t as hot and it was also a good time to see a lot of animals. A tour later in the day might not have been as successful.
The jungle in the national park is known as a secondary forrest because it’s regrowth that’s only about 40 years old. The jungle was originally torn down by the Chiquita Banana company. When the company moved to another part of Costa Rica, the forest came back and so did the wildlife. You honestly wouldn’t have known that it was all regrowth. It was very dense.
While at the park, we got to see two of the three beaches in the park. The first is sheltered so the water is very calm. The other, just across a narrow isthmus, was where you could see the public beach we had been on the day before. It wasn’t as sheltered so the waves were pretty big. Apparently they also get crocodiles there occasionally. While we didn’t see any crocodiles, we definitely saw plenty of whiteface monkeys.
Our guide told us before we even started the tour that we would not be bringing food into the park with us because of the monkeys. However, general visitors to the park do bring food with them. We ended up getting to see the monkeys and their thievery in action.
There were about 6-7 monkeys in the troupe, including a mom and her baby who was doing a good job of learning the tricks of the trade!
We had a bit of extra time to wander around the beach areas before continuing the tour so I headed over to a rocky area and found a bunch of lizards sunning themselves.
After our tour, we walked to the public beach where we had a great snack of fresh watermelon and pineapple, as well as water and iced tea. We then hopped on the bus back to our hotel where we changed and headed to the beach.
After walking the other direction of the beach, we went and had lunch. It wasn’t as hot as the day before, but it’s amazing how quickly you can get dehydrated. Lunch was delicious and so was my daiquiri! We checked out a bunch of the souvenir shops, but ended up not buying anything. The prices were a bit high compared to other areas we’d been so I decided to wait and hope for some stores in San Jose.
We headed back to the beach and ended up hunting for seashells. It was amazing the types you could find. So very different from the beaches along the Atlantic coast in the U.S.
To close out our visit to Manuel Antonio, we decided to wait for the sunset. We plopped down under some trees and watched it slowly make its way down toward the horizon. At this point I couldn’t believe we only had one more day in Costa Rica.
The next day we got picked up to head to San Jose. The trip, despite being entirely on paved roads, was not much fun. I ended up getting nauseous from the driving. However, once we got to San Jose I felt much better.
We stayed at the historic Don Carlos Hotel. It had lots of charm! It was also only a short walk to the market area, which is set up as a pedestrian mall. We walked up and down it, had some food at a Colombian restaurant and found some souvenir shops. The prices were much cheaper than I’d seen elsewhere so I picked up some small things for my family.
Later we redeemed our coupon for a free drink in the hotel restaurant and had some nachos before heading to bed. We had an early flight out the next morning.
Traveling back to the U.S. was about as challenging as it was getting to Costa Rica, mainly due to weather in the states. First, due to the high winds in San Jose, we had to sit on the runway to burn some fuel because we were too heavy to take off. After a thankfully uneventful flight to Atlanta, we thought we had missed our connection due to the delay. We got through customs, hopped on the train to the right terminal and found our plane was still there and on a rolling delay due to a snowstorm in Maryland.
We hung out on the plane for about 90 minutes. The pilot was very nice and kept us all informed. Eventually conditions improved in Maryland and we took off for the short flight up north. Upon arrival, we found that our bag wasn’t on the plane. Because so many flights had been canceled prior to ours and many of the people on the canceled flights ended up on our plane, our bag got bumped to the next Atlanta/Baltimore flight. It arrived about 30 minutes later and finally we could go home.
I honestly don’t think I did this trip justice. It was such an amazing time. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I still go through my pictures periodically and different memories come to mind. If you ever get the chance to go, I’d highly recommend it. Using a travel company is also very helpful and we noticed was very common among visitors.
For the most part, prices were comparable to the U.S., but rarely more expensive. You can definitely do a trip on a budget and not be staying in hostels. Do your research, work with a company, and get ready for an incredible adventure! Let me know if you have any questions about planning your own trip to Costa Rica 🙂