Manuel Antonio is one of the most well-known national parks in Costa Rica. It's famed for the abundant amount of wildlife you can see there, as well as its three gorgeous beaches. While there are about a gagillion national parks in Costa Rica one could visit, the reason Lindsay and I [by this point Dean had gone] chose Manuel Antonio was because the large group of other volunteers we'd met the weekend before at La Fortuna (plus Floris, Jo, and this guy Sindre they'd picked up) were all going to be there as well. It was going to be one big reunion party. With a bit of nature on the side.
Getting There aka The Worst Travel Mishap of Them All
That title up there doesn't sound too promising, huh? Well you can decide for yourself after reading about how you'd categorize it. Here's what happened: So using our young, intelligent, technologically-capable brains, Lindsay and I had looked up buses from Atenas to Manuel Antonio on our friend thebusschedule.com, and had learned of the existence of a direct bus, leaving Atenas at 3:00pm. So we did our normal volunteering on Friday, got home and had lunch, and met up around 2:45pm at the corner to walk to the bus terminal together. Of course [having the amazing transportation luck that we do], it turns out the Manuel Antonio bus didn't stop at the central bus station. No, you had to flag it down on the side of the highway on the edge of town, whenever it happened to pass by. Hearing this, we raced to the highway stop, just in time to see a bus zoom past two seconds before we got there. Damn.
Obviously at that point we were not in our clearest frames of mind. We'd just witnessed the only bus of the day to our destination whiz past, and had no idea what to do. So naturally, we panicked, causing us to make a rash decision- one that would cost us three hours of needless travel time. We ended up flagging down a bus to San Jose that pulled up a few minutes after we got to the stop. We just jumped on, not really paying attention to the fact that the Manuel Antonio bus was heading in the opposite direstion of San Jose- we just figured that we could get anywhere from San Jose [which is true, so our wits hadn't completely fled us]. After an unhappy hour-long ride to the capital [filled with attempting to communicate in Spanish via texting with Lindsay's host sister about bus schedules], we arrived and jumped off the bus, racing over to the police stationed at the stop and asked how to get to Manuel Antonio. We learned that we'd want to find a bus to Quepos [a town 15 minutes from Manuel Antonio], but those buses left from a station all the way across town... great. Luckily the police guy we talked to was nice enough to find us a cab and tell him where to go [which also hopefully deterred him from cheating us]. The cab ride was not fun: it was through a clogged, noisy San Jose on a Friday afternoon; the cabbie appeared to be taking the longest route possible, and Lindsay and I were both still worried about actually finding a bus to take us there- at that point we were just hoping something would work out.
Our luck finally improved when we hit the bus station. The cab driver accepted less money than the meter said [we were only a few bucks short], there was a bus to Quepos that was leaving at 5:00pm [right when we arrived], and we got the bus to ourselves. No joke. An entire greyhound for just the two of us. It felt a bit creepy, but we just shook our heads and went with it. [While the bus eventually picked up some other people, by the time we were two hours into our four-hour ride we were once again the only two passengers.] We both kicked ourselves when the bus passed Atenas around 6:40pm, since it meant we'd wasted three hours and $10, but maybe it was meant to be, becuase thanks to being essentially chauffeured to Quepos, the bus driver was fine with stopping for us at a gas station when we had to pee.
The [Real] Weekend Begins
We got into Quepos around 9:00pm, caught the bus to Manuel Antonio at 9:30pm, and aririved at our hostel [and into a welcoming party] just before check-in time ended at 10:00pm. After putting our stuff away in the dorm room we were sharing with Floris, Jo, and Sindre [whom we were introduced to], all 10 of us [our dorm and the Canadians] headed out to a nearby bar for Ladies' Night. We all had a fun time talking and dancing, and headed back to the dorms around 2:00am for some much needed sleep.
Satuday was national park/beach day! After a free breakfast of flies with a side of pancakes [not kidding, unfortunately], we all suited up to get out in the gorgeous day. We wandered through the national park trails for about half an hour [being cheap and just listening in on groups that had paid for guides]. We saw snakes, lizards, spiders, monkeys, birds, and a racoon. But nothing too impressive [though at the end we saw a sloth with its baby, so that was really cool]. Then we checked out the three beaches contained in the park. The first was nice, but crowded. The second was small and secluded, but not very good for swimming. The third was perfect: empty, big, good-sized waves, warm water, and beautiful white sand. We spent a while there, doing flips, chicken fighting, and body surfing. By that point we all were pretty hungry, so we decided to leave the park and grab some lunch before heading back to the hostel to wash up.
In order to leave Manuel Antonio through the back entrance, you need to cross over a 10-foot wide river. There are rowboats sitting there to take you across, and you're supposed to tip the guys who give you a lift. Fair enough. However, the boat handlers that day were feeling a bit tricky, and when we climbed in they informed us it'd be $10 to cross this stream that looked like you could nearly jump over. We all looked at each other in disbelief, and hauled ass out of the boat. While the guys informed us it was way too deep to wade through, an adventurous member of our group hoisted his backpack and shoes over his head, and made it to the other side no problem. The rest of us followed suit- we were already in our bathing suits, so who cares if we got wet. [Me being shorter than the average guy did find the crossing a little harder- at its deepest the water came up to my chin- but I made it just fine.]. It was only when we hit the other side of the river, connected to the public beach and main road, that we saw the signs that said "Peligro: Cocodrillos" Danger: Crocodiles. Ooohhh. Well if one of us had gotten attacked, we probably would've regretted not paying the $10, but seeing as it all turned out okay, it was definitely worth getting wet.
Lunch was where everyone got their tans from that day. It was HOT. And very sunny. Towels were used as very attractive head coverings, and the sun even inspired three of the girls to go into a nearby store and buy fedoras [only $10! Don't tell...]. After a loooong wait, we got our food, were charged a ridiculous amount of "tax," and headed back to our hostel to relax a bit before nighttime hit. We ended up cooking at the hostel- a delicious mish-mash of food that included guacamole, pineapple (cut by yours truly), tortilla chips and cheese dip, and sausages. Oh, and Lindsay bought me a ginormous carrot, because I asked for it [thanks sister!]. Tiaan said grace [?] and then we dug in, polishing off the huge spread. We then played some card games, swung on the Tarzan swing, and danced down on the pool grounds. Eventually [it was Halloween weekend after all] we headed out to a costume party at a nearby bar [sans costumes, unfortunately- we were so under dressed]. We listened to the live band and had a good time, knowing that in the morning we'd have to say goodbye for probably the last time- we were all headed separate ways/half the group was leaving Costa Rica soon.
Sunday morning we once again chowed down our free breakfast of pancakes & flies, and then had a leisurely pack up/goodbye time before hitting the bus to Quepos. We hooked a direct bus from Quepos to San Jose [though we were planning on getting off at the roadside near Atenas], and zoned out for the four hours it took to get back "home." <- one of the few weekends we made it back before dark
A fun time, with