… Even though this leg has seriously damaged our daily budget. National parks are insanely unaffordable (15 to 20$ entrance fee – you must be joking?!), restaurants are incredibly overpriced and hostels ridiculously expensive for an off season month. That said, we have absolutely no regrets as we have been having a blast. I can see why so many tourists and travelers are fond of Costa Rica. The landscapes and the wildlife are breathtaking, the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are extremely friendly and the whole country, though developed, still gives you the sense of being an explorer. Gracias Costa Rica!
After so much fun (and adrenalin) driving on the Nicoya peninsula, we were ready for some chilling, hiking and some more wildlife spotting. After an overnight stop and an early morning walk on the beach in Jaco, where we met a nice Canadian fellow traveler, the 4 of us headed to Quepos. It was apparently the perfect place to explore the park that had been highly recommended to us: Manuel Antonio National Park.
We found a lovely hostel with a pool and extended (read: anytime really) happy hours. What not to like? After two months of drinking no-alcohol (don’t ask… Not every sure why I decided to take a break when it was most needed in the beginning of this adventure!), those happy hours were more than welcome! We after all had to celebrate our great find! I don’t know if S. has been our lucky charm but we haven’t had any bad hostel experience to report since she has joined us. Mind you, we won’t complain as it has been nice for a change not to wonder whether the sheets were clean or only stained, whether the showers were contaminated or when the bed bunk would fall on our heads. It has been hard finding good places along the way and we were grateful to stumble upon Plinio that was quaint and affordable. We loved our stay there and we could have easily stayed there a few days. It was very close to a waterfall… we failed to find so instead we had to go back to our hostel and chill by the pool. I know, I know, tough life…
After a wonderful Swiss dinner prepared by M (he definitely knows how to cure my homesickness. Have I mentioned that he is a keeper?) and an early night, we were ready to explore Manuel Antonio. We arrived at the park with high expectations so our disappointment was quite big. The 16$ fee was the first bad surprise – where on earth is it ok to charge 16$ to discover a tiny national park? My friend reminded me that Costa Rica was known as the Switzerland of Central America. Well news flash, even in Switzerland, we aren’t that greedy AND our hiking trails are amazing! #justsaying! We almost turned around but we were promised sloths and beautiful beaches, so we stuck around, not impressed. We were also extremely overwhelmed by the amount of guides, aggressively trying to be hired.
We hoped that our negative first impression would fade away but after spending a few hours in the park, we still couldn’t understand what the hype was about. It was overcrowded, monkeys were clearly used to tourist food and the trails were for the most paved. National parks have always given us the feeling of being closer to nature but this was completely missing at Manuel Antonio. However, don’t get me wrong, it was a great (though expensive) day out in the sun. Walking (this was definitely no hiking) the 5 trails that took us to beaches, miradors and a waterfall (this one at least we found it!) was easy and pleasant. Spotting a sloth made our day, even though he decided to groom itself just above us, sharing his flees and moths with us. It surely cheered us up!
After our time in Manuel Antonio Park, which left us with mixed feelings, we didn’t know where to go next. We could either hike up Cerro Chirripo over two intense days and be heavily rained on or we could drive down to Corcovado National Park and pay (again) shit loads of money to enter a park and hire a mandatory guide. This was a tough dilemma. To embrace the rainy season or not to embrace it? This is the question! Since hiking a steep trail under heavy rain somehow didn’t appeal to any of us, I guess next stop: Corcovado National Park, considered one of the world’s most biodiverse regions!