Thursday, November 29, 2012

Costa Rica with Kids - Part 2 - Manuel Antonio, Rainmaker & So Como No Jungle Walk

Boy, were we glad that we had decided to take it easy on this first day in Manuel Antonio as we were sure exhausted by our late night adventures. We slept for a few hours and then woke up to a gorgeous view of the rainforest from our living room. The house we were renting was called Itza’s Enchanted House and was located in a local neighborhood just a few blocks from the main road between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. It is owned by the nicest local woman who designed the house herself and it was truly an oasis of tranquility.

The airy living room backed into the rainforest and the huge verrandah was our favorite spot for coffee and late night drinks. There was a supermarket a few blocks from the house that delivered groceries so after a few phone calls our breakfast supplies were delivered and we finally felt like we were on vacation.

A sign of warning on prices – Costa Rica is very expensive and most prices were on par with big cities in the US. Our breakfast and some beers and fruit from the supermarket cost almost $100 and we regularly paid about $50 per family for lunches and dinners in local restaurants. As a side note – the local currency is the colon and 500 colons are $1. Dollars are widely accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines in the tourist area that dispense US dollars.

After lounging around the house for a bit and enjoying the sounds and sights of the rainforest we were ready to set off on our first activity for the day – a trip to the hanging bridges of Rainmaker. Rainmaker is a biological reserve set in the rainforest about 30 min drive from Manuel Antonio. The last part of the drive is a dirt road but it was in a fairly good condition.

We were supposed to meet a local guide at the reserve but he was a no-show so the very nice manager sent one of his workers to accompany us. The guy spoke almost no English but was so friendly and was great with the kids so language was not a problem. We found out that in Costa Rica many people did not speak English but still were happy to communicate with us and somehow we made it work.

We walked through the rainforest for about 2 hours stopping to see some interesting insects (including the green and black tiny frogs which are poisonous but our guide knew how to handle them so the kids were actually able to “pet” one) and flowers.

We also saw the fascinating leaf cutter ants - if you look closely on the picture below you will see many small pieces from a green leaf. Each piece is carried by an ant and they all walk in a perfect formation back and forth from their house. Apparently, if you drop your leaf you have to continue walking empty-handed because you can't leave the line or you'll mess up everyone in front of you.

There were several hanging bridges which at first glance appeared a bit rickety but were actually OK and very fun to walk on. The kids loved the shaking of the bridges and even I, despite my fear of heights, managed to walk the entire loop. 

The guide told us that a few weeks ago there were a lot of snakes in the park and one woman got bitten (that was my one fear about this trip) but luckily the week we were there the snakes had not been an issue. Later in the trip we learned a lot about snake anti-venom and how it works but I have to admit I did have my panicky thought on occasion about how fast I can run back to the entrance of the park and drive to a hospital if anything like that happens. We also saw some gorgeous waterfalls and the kids were able to splash around in them which was the highlight of the day for them.

After the Rainmaker tour, we were back in Manuel Antonio for a lunch/dinner at Mar Luna – a very pretty outdoor restaurant part of the Si Como No complex. The views were great (we saw a few toucans on the nearby trees) but the food was just so-so. I have to say I was quite disappointed by the food in Costa Rica. Having been to Mexico several times before I was dreaming of guacamole, rice and beans and fresh fish. But most of the food we ate, even in some small local restaurants, was bland (white rice and pinto beans), lacked variety and even the stuff I usually love (ceviche) was totally unimpressive.

For the evening I had made reservations for the Night Jungle Tour that Si Como No does as it came highly recommended on Trip Adviser. When we arrived at the meeting point at 5:30 we were split into two groups of only 6 people and each of us was given a flashlight.

Our guide was super lively and experienced and quickly led us into the reserve where narrow paved walkways run right through the rainforest. He was quick to spot a variety of lizards and insects including a large poisonous toad and the super cute red-eye frog (symbol of Costa Rica). We also walked through a crocodile habitat (of course, we walked on raised platforms) and a turtle habitat where the guide was able to pick some turtles (not the snapping kind) and bring them to us. Considering I had been super scared of the night creatures before we started, the tour was a huge success and Victor was beaming with delight when the guide let him touch a poisonous frog.

It was a long day but we saw a lot of exciting stuff and the best ending was sitting on our verandah and chatting with our friends long after the kids went to bed.


  1. The house you stayed at is just wonderful! Being surrounded in a rainforest just makes you feel so peaceful. Hmmm… although it’s a bit scary too because there are a lot of poisonous creatures around, but still, the view is amazing. The falls is stunning! Just imagine living so close to a place like that, even for a few days; wouldn't you really want to stay?

    Katy Desroches

  2. The owner of Itza’s Enchanted House sure made an amazing design. She made living in the middle of a rainforest really cool. It does seem like a tranquil place to stay in. The Rainmaker tour looks wonderful! There are so many creatures and those waterfalls are just fascinating! You should be careful with those poisonous creatures though.

    Gregoria Loth