Its 6:30am in the middle of October and the Pacific town of Manuel Antonio is already buzzing with life. The National Park opens at 7am and with it, the coconut vendors, park guides, myriad shops and restaurants also spring to life.
For two weeks I have stood on my balcony and watched the life teeming below. Tourists, cameras at the ready, carrying backpacks, streaming into the park with great anticipation of the sights they will experience.
Monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys. Howler monkeys roaring in the distance; capuchin monkeys swinging from limb to limb and if you’re lucky, tiny squirrel monkeys may make their appearance. The park guides eschew the marked pathways in favor of the evacuation road running alongside. Smart money is on the guides knowing exactly where to spot the most animals.
On our way in, disappointment set in quickly. Down the Sloth trail we saw no sloths. A handful of capuchin monkeys delighted us but only a handful. An agouti ran ahead of us and bright red and black crabs darted in and out of their holes in the mud. Pedantry at best.
Onward we hiked along lovely pathways thick with wise, old trees. Still confident that this park would live up to the hype. Up steep inclines and down to one of three beaches we went. Spectacular beach and impressive scenery, I might add, but still none of the wildlife I sought. (I learned later that another of the beaches was teeming with monkeys.)
With two hours behind us, I stopped on the way to the lookout point when I realized that there were another couple hundred steps ahead to climb. No view was worth that for me.
And for many of the hikers I met descending, it wasn’t worth it for them either. None had made it to the pinnacle, but the view from the first viewing spot was magnificent they reassured me. Even my intrepid husband turned back, totally spent, having reached the first platform. I have seen many spectacular views; causing myself excessive pain was not worth another.
Hot, tired and somewhat discouraged, we made our way to the exit. The tourists were out in full force now and there were guides with groups all over the roadway. I could see them pointing and peering into long range lens, surrounded by excited tourists.
Ignoring the signs that warned us to stay on the pathway, I made my own path through the bushes to where the guides and their awed guests were. It seems the wildlife is smarter than the tourists. They too avoid the pathways and stay to the evacuation road where only the guides walk.
A strange wasps nest made me gasp and the Iguanas everywhere put some pep in my step. But, it was the reward of the mama sloth and baby, high up in the trees, that held my attention for the next 15 minutes.
I had hiked two parks in La Fortuna. This was my third hike in a National Park. By far the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridge Park was my favorite but I have come to love the town of Manuel Antonio.
Every morning I wake up to the sounds of birds and walk 100 feet up a hill in back of the apartment in which I’m staying, to watch scores of monkeys in the trees.
Brightly colored birds (sadly no Toucans) are everywhere and I’ve been treated to deer sightings as well. Too many wonderful restaurants to choose from and a very accommodating AirBNB host. The endless Pacific with its warm waters and beautiful volcanic rock islands, provide me with endless hours of pleasure. And my hammock has found a place between the trunks of twisted trees that line the shore.