Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Manuel Antonio & Playa Dominical with Kids - Costa Rica, Part 4

Our last day in Manuel Antonio started with probably the best experience on their entire trip. The previous night our landlord told us to put a banana on our balcony early in the morning and this way the monkeys will come in. So I woke up at 6 am, put the banana on the edge of the balcony and waited. For a while nothing happened but then around 7 am I heard loud sounds and saw lots of action in the tree branches around me and all of a sudden about ten titi monkeys jumped right on the balcony’s railing. 

They started fighting for the banana, one would take a piece of it and run off to eat it and them come back, and they were jumping around just a few feet away from me. Everyone else woke up too and we put out another banana and then a another one and also a mango (which was no so popular with the monkeys, go figure). So for about 30 minutes we watched as a dozen of monkey was running around our terrace. 

And then, all of a sudden the titi monkeys were gone and we saw two of the white face monkeys approaching. When they got close to us, they climbed on top of each other and started making scary faces for us. 

We didn’t know if they are just doing it to be funny but later on our guide in the park told us that they were trying to scare us off as they thought we were competing for their food. So by climbing on top of each other they wanted to look larger and scarier…I guess they had a point. And then we ran out of bananas and the show was over L

That morning we had pre-arranged to tour Manuel Antonio park with a local guide named Johan Chaves. I found Johan on Trip Advisor and he was very responsive to my questions before we left so we arranged to meet at 8:30. Johan is a great guide and he came well prepared with a powerful Leica telescope and high-end binoculars. But the park itself was a bit of a let-down especially after the monkey show we saw in our house that morning.

The park is rather small (the main trail length is 2 km long) and very crowded. It looked more like a busy city street than a national park. There were very few animals we saw and even though we had to see through the telescope because they were so far away. The kids quickly lost interest and it was very hot and humid so after about an hour we all needed a break. Luckily, there are three small white-sand beaches inside the park so we spent some time at one of them. There are no facilities, no food or chairs or umbrellas but it felt good to let the kids run around and sit on the sand a bit. And also, there were bold racoons trying to steal any type of food people brought in from right in front of them so they provided huge entertainment for the kids.

We did see a few sloths (including a mother/baby pair who our guide said he had never seen before), lots of reptiles and insects and a few iguanas but I have to admit it was not at all what I had imagined. So after a few hours we were ready to go. 

We had lunch at a small restaurant by the beach and then, after we’ve had a bit too much time together and the kids were getting kind of whiny, our group split up. Some went zip lining, some stayed at the beach and we drove off to Dominical where we were supposed to meet a surf instructor who would teach us to SUP (stand-up paddle), something I had wanted to do for a while.

Unfortunately, we never managed to connect with the instructor an since we had already made the one-hour drive we decided to stay anyway. Playa Dominical is a small beach community of mostly surfers and I could not help but feel we have miraculously landed in a 60s hippy community. 

Super relaxed, full of run-down motels and hostels (but it did not feel unsafe at all), surfers, dreadlocks, interesting characters walking on the beach, it was almost surreal. The beach was dark sand and stones and the water was rough but we enjoyed splashing in the shallow end, watching the sunset and the surfers and just being on vacation. 

We ended the day with the best fish tacos (one of the few great things we ate on this trip) at a small beach restaurant owned by a US expat. That is what vacations are meant to be.

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