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Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Author: metravellongtime
Date of Trip: May 2008

Last spring I planned a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park to see the rain forest. According to a few guidebooks I read, Manuel Antonio is the best park in Costa Rica in which to see wildlife. I expected a thick green canopy with leaves the size of dinner tables and hundreds of yellow eyes peering at me from shadows between the trees. Manuel Antonio borders Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, so I looked forward to emerging out of the jungle and plunging into the sea if any hungry animals were to give chase.

I booked my entire stay at La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows at the start of the green (rainy) season. Rates were quite affordable about $60 per night and I had read glowing reviews of the place on I’m happy to report that the reviews were right. La Posada is without a doubt the best place you can stay in Manuel Antonio if you aren’t seeking a luxury experience (and it may be the best place even if you are). The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from the beach and a few minutes’ walk from the entrance to the park.

At La Posada you won’t find the dramatic cliff-top views that many other Manuel Antonio hotels offer, but you will get some quality animal interaction without leaving the hotel property. Hungry monkeys and deer are regular visitors to inn’s landscaped grounds. Almost daily, I awoke and wandered out my door to get coffee and bumped into Bambi the deer, Bambi’s deer offspring or a group of giddy monkeys. Bambi the Deer
Bambi is a shy and gentle creature. Although you may not be impressed by the thought of petting a deer (especially if you live in Pennsylvania, where deer are deranged maniacs who lunge in front of cars and feast on neatly manicured lawns), a minute or two with Bambi would surely change your mind. Bambi’s favorite things are salty cracker treats. Hold a cracker out to Bambi (you’ll find them in the dining area under the television — they’re complimentary) and she will tentatively approach then suck the cracker from your hand with her narrow deer mouth. As Bambi chews her food and eyes you suspiciously, she’ll allow you to pet her for a few moments. Make no sudden moves.

The monkeys of Manuel Antonio do not share Bambi’s cautious timidity. While hiking the paths of Manuel Antonio, I saw dozens of monkeys, including some adults carrying cute babies on their backs. The monkeys happily posed for photos. Costa Rica’s golden rule: Don’t feed the monkeys. I must confess the charming creatures got the best of me and I disobeyed; calamity ensued.

I tossed a morsel from my bag of Japanese snack mix to a primate who had been leaping from tree to tree behind me. He snatched the food in the air with his nimble hands and shoved it in his mouth. I exited the forest and walked onto the beach, then laid my towel on the sand and stretched out to soak up some sun after a long walk, setting my bag on the sand beside me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the monkey I had fed walking slowly across the beach in my direction. The monkey stopped every few feet and searched the beach with darting eyes like a fugitive from the law inspecting a crowded street for the police. He slowly crept closer.

Suddenly the monkey rushed forward. He snatched something out of my overturned bag and darted back into the trees. I looked behind me and saw the tiny thief on a tree branch next to a few of his monkey friends, jumping and screeching. He was waving my travel pack of tissues in the air. He pulled tissue after tissue out of the pack, ripping the soft paper into tiny shreds and scattering the pieces across the forest floor as he shrieked in frustration. The stolen prize would bear no food. As punishment for feeding the moneys, I had to pick up hundreds of pieces of shredded tissue off of theground. I will never again feed a wild animal Japanese snack mix, so please withhold the angry e-mails.

After a long day of adventure in the rain forest, I required a hearty meal. At La Posada, large pizzas are only $5 and they’re quite good! If you don’t want pepperoni on the pizza, be sure to make it known. I got into a dispute with my travel companion when he brought pepperoni pizza back to the room, but claimed to have ordered cheese. (I am a vegetarian.) The self-indulgence in his greedy eyes as he hastily consumed an entire pizza covered with meat led me to doubt his story. His expression mirrored that of the criminal monkey on the beach. Perhaps I’ll never know what really happened.

Breakfast at La Posada was delicious (my favorite were the potatoes cooked with peppers and cilantro). Expect to socialize if you want to take part in the communal breakfast. The other guests at the hotel regularly sat at our table and started morning chats. If talking to other humans frightens you, grab breakfast and sprint to your room, bring your meal to the pool, or just stay home and look at pictures of Costa Rica on the Internet.

The best part about Manuel Antonio was the rain forest. The beach was lovely as well. The forests at along the coast, where lush trees gave way to a beach covered with black igneous rocks and moody iguanas. There was amassive rock formation sitting in the shallow end of the ocean. The formation had a small opening that let the ocean water seep into a sizable pool in the rocks. Each time the waves crashed, a huge spray of water filled up the bubbling pool, and when the waves pulled back, the pool emptied. It was like God had built a natural swimming pool right into the rocks.

On the way home, our cab driver took us over a bridge to see crocodile-infested waters. The last thing I saw in Costa Rica before getting to the airport was a muddy river packed with so many crocodiles that a brave traveler could have walked across the water on their backs. I almost wished I had a chicken sandwich or some beef jerky to throw to the reptiles, but I had already learned my lesson.

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