Costa Rica - Day 7&8 - Paradise on a Dirt Road

We left Jaco and traveled another hour south along the coast to Manuel Antonio National Park.  We had debated about going since we had read it was typically overpopulated with tourists.   But decided that we would regret not going so we saddled up the Yaris and headed out.  Pulling into the park we were met by an entourage of tour guides and parking lots hosts bidding for our cash.  This didn't put me in a great mood and then the first mile of the trail was on a gravel road with groups of tourists, guides and the occasional government car....so much for wildlife.

And then we hit the "front of the brochure", the white sand beaches of Manuel Antonio.  We spent the afternoon hiking the less populated trails and ran into a great troop of white-faced monkeys.   Also a 280' tree (which was not properly labeled).

And then we headed to the white sands paradise of Manuel Antonio. We would have stayed longer but there was a storm a brewing (when you look around and all the Ticos have left you know its time to head out).
Manuel Antonio Beach

The drive was about forty minutes north and then turned on a gravel road that held  stunning views and a serious 17km drive up the mountain.  We passed through a small village, saw the agriculture side of the region.  We seriously bottomed out the car once but managed to escape any major damage.
Agricultural fields
View on the mountain road

Mountain road panoramic
Our last night we stayed at the Paraiso Carlisa Eco Reserve.  We were the only guests on 100 acres of preserve.  Story behind the place a wealthy European had built the chateau for his family and when the children grew up they wanted nothing to do with the area.  They went on to build several villas for research and tourism.  The The best western took it over for a while but because of the location it was unsuccessful.  Our Villa was appx 800 sq/foot, it was huge (for $40/night).
Our Villa Bedroom
Villa living room

Villa patio
Lodge porch
The next morning we were awoken by the monkeys on the roof. I stepped outside and saw a half dozen monkeys looking curiously back at me.  We ate breakfast on the chateau porch watching all the wildlife.   Then the Ukrainian college student (who was one of the five staff members on the whole property and very excited to see human life)  took us on a guided tour of the preserve.  We walked through the animal rehab center and then down through the pastures to the waterfall.  We didn't have the time to do the horseback ride to the big waterfall (which was our one regret) because the clouds were gathering and we had to get the Yaris back on paved roads before the rain came. 
Animal Rehab Center
Animal rehab
Ginger!  They had at least 20 varieties in the garden.  The flowers were about 24" tall.
Waterfall on the preserve
This was by far our favorite place we stayed on our trip, so far off the beaten path it was a slice of paradise.
We left the Eco Lodge at 1pm and started our 26-hour trip back home.  This was (one of the better) bridges we crossed on the gravel road.  At least this one had all of its planks.

Mountain road panoramic 2
Racing the storm to the paved roads
Interstate back into San Jose
 We then had a four hour drive back to San Jose in torrential rain, the first really hard rain we saw all week.  Again hit rush hour and prayed that we could get the car back in one piece.  AND WE DID!  I have never been so happy to return a rental car.  We stopped at dinner and then caught the shuttle back to SJO airport around 7pm.  Our flight didn't leave until 1am but San Jose is not a safe place after dark so we sat at the coffee bar listening to the crazy man sitting down the row from us sing rap songs.  We were happy to get through security and no longer listen to him, lucky for us he was on our flight.  Last time I saw him he was stopped with three guards at Customs in Florida.  We arrived in Chicago at 10am, found our civic with hub caps still attached and drove the final four hours home to hugs and lots of little smiles.  I would trade the ocean and mountains any day the laughter and love at home.  A big thanks for grandparents for making it possible. 

1 comment:

Jim, Becky, and Kids said...

What a trip! I love seeing all of your pictures!