After a short stop back in San Francisco, where I caught my breath and hung out with Dan and the kittens, I headed off to Costa Rica for a short visit.
I'm here just for a week. I started in the Arenal region (may post on this later), and arrived in Manuel Antonio a few days ago. Manuel Antionio is the home of the eponymous national park, which is known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife.
Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica's second smallest national park. It is indeed pretty petite: I walked almost all of the trails yesterday.
(More capuchin monkeys. I saw a ton of them, including at very close proximity, which was a bit scary since these monkeys are known for being somewhat foul tempered with humans)
I started with a guided nature walk, with a licensed national park guide. This was ok- the guide seemed knowledgable and he spotted animals and insects that I would not have noticed on my own. But the pace was rather slow. Our group had seven people and there was much dallying so everyone could take a photo, etc.
(squirrels monkeys! These are less common in Manuel Antonio. They are tiny- for reference, the berries they are eating are about the size of coffee berries. We saw two groups of the little guys!)
I was eager to explore on my own, and I got my chance after the guided walk wrapped up at around 11. With great foresight, I'd brought a pack lunch scavenged from my hotel's breakfast buffet (you can't take the graduate student out of me, ever...). Due to a recent policy change, you may not go in and out of the park (a new entrance fee of US$10 is required to come back in). There is water available at the park, but no food, so I prepared in advance. I had lunch at the quietest beach (more on beaches below), then started walking the high trail.
The hike was a great success. The trails were less crowded and I started walking with a nice Bulgarian couple, who not only spotted lots of wildlife for me, but also offered tips on good camera angles! It was nice to hike with some company and hear about someone else's trip.
On our short, 1.6 k walk to a view point, we saw two groups of squirrel monkeys, three groups of Capuchan monkeys, iguanas, and a howler monkey (photo did not turn out!). We also saw some birds, the names of which I've forgotten. Plus, we hiked to a nice viewpoint and a secluded beach. The trails were fairly quiet- most of the tourist traffic appears to be in the morning.
We walked out up the entry road- most folks exit at a different point so there was almost no one else on the road- and came apon a three-toed sloth climbing in some trees. On closer inspection, you could see a little baby sloth clinging to her moma's back! We watched the sloth climbing down some vines, a dramatic, very slow speed exercise that involved much dramatic reaching while suspended on impossibly thin branches. Then, mama fell to the ground in a great crash, and started crawling across the road. It was super cool, and very very slow. They then climbed up the tree on the other side. It was really, really neat to see!
(north American raccoon tried to get my lunch. She was with her two babies? These are native, according to our guide, but not nocturnal like the ones at home,)
So, Manuel Antonio has a couple of beaches, and I hung out at the more secluded third beach for a while, eating lunch. Some people were swimming, but I didn't feel like it (I brought my suit, and there are changing rooms available). I watched brown pelicans fishing in the surf for a while, then got moving again.
Here is the park map. I did all of the trails once or twice except for trail 7 which I missed. The curvy areas are white sand beaches. This was a great day!