Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vamos a la Playa

Last weekend was our last weekend away. Being the last one of three, I think that everyone was a bit torn about where to go. For those of us going home right after the program, this was our last chance to see Costa Rica on our own and for everyone it was a last fling before Directed Research began. My group of friends decided to go to Manuel Antonio for my friend Lauren’s birthday. For most students, a requirement for destination was that it had to have a beach. Ours fit the bill, and had a national park with lots of monkey spottings to boot.

We set out for Manuel Antonio early on Saturday morning, arriving at the bus stop before 7 (although  I was sweating it, sometimes it is hard to get everyone out the door at such an early hour). I was a admittedly dragging because I had stayed up watching Lord of the Rings the night before as a part of our three movies, one day LOTR marathon (this isn’t a regular thing for us, but it was pretty epic). But, I was able to sleep away an hour of the bus ride and read or look at scenery for most of the rest. When we got there we literally didn’t have a game plan which made me nervous. But, we figured out the connecting bus to get Manuel Antonio and then wandered upon a very pretty, inexpensive hotel that had vacancy. I have definitely learned to be more relaxed about traveling while here. Also, the hotel offered Wifi, hot water, clean towels, and air conditioning which is about all that a student traveling in Costa Rica could want.


Hotel Almendros: left, the blue tiled pool; right, the rows of rooms

We went to the beach for the afternoon. The stretch of beach near where we stayed was very unique, it had nice sand but also lots of pebbles and small shells right along the shore. It started to rain around 2; afternoon rains are a regular occurrence during the wet season. We still stayed on the beach for a while though. I went back and took a shower and then napped in the cool room. Later, we went to a restaurant for warm beverages and birthday cake. The drinks were good but the cake was amazing! It was vanilla cake with a dulce de leche filling and lots of sugary colored icing. Lauren was not surprised (because we hauled the cake around for much of the day) but loved the cake nonetheless.


Lauren and Cynthia as we sang “Happy Birthday” to Lauren

That night, we went to dinner and then went out on the town because the birthday girl wanted to find a place to dance. We went to nearby Quepos, where there was much more nightlife than Manuel Antonio, and found a place called Republik, a Cuban disco-lounge. We danced for several hours; I will readily admit I am not a great dancer but it was fun to dance with my friends and the Costa Rican music was fun to listen to regardless. I crawled into bed around 2 or 2:30 which is very unusual for me. But, my old soul needs to branch out every once in a while.


The next day, my friend Elizabeth and I were eager to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way to the park, we stopped a hostel with a sign out front advertising a big breakfast for $4. We figured it would be fast and cheap so decided to go for it. It surpassed my expectations! I had black tea, a pancake, watermelon, pineapple, a banana, gallo pinto, and eggs. All of it was actually good quality and the two plate breakfast was very filling.


We bought some snacks, including aloe water (a new favorite of mine), at the grocery store and then kept walking to the park. We paid the entrance fee and then started to walk to the main trails. We scanned all along the trail for animals; the park is known for sloth and monkey sightings. Some cool animals that we saw included a treeful of playful squirrel monkeys, a well-disguised green vine snake, clever white-faced capuchin monkeys, crab-eating raccoons, and some crabs. After we first saw the squirrel monkeys and watched them for fifteen minutes, I already knew that my ten dollars was money well spent. Squirrel monkeys are officially my favorite kind of monkeys.

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Left: a squirrel monkey in a tree that was full of about ten monkeys; right: a capuchin monkey laying on a limb

We followed cool, shady trails down to beaches that surrounded the park. We hiked to Playa Gamelas, Playa Manuel Antonio, and Playa Espadilla Sur. The beaches were beautiful and all unique; Playa Gamelas was rocky and hidden in a cove, Playa Manuel Antonio was sandy and the most crowded, and Playa Espadilla Sur had beautiful views of islands right off the coast. We spent our last hour in the park playing in the water and building a sandcastle.


Playa Gamelas


Elizabeth and I at Playa Gamelas in the national park


A map of the park

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Left: a view of the beach from the trail; right: snails on rocks lining the shore of the beach


A brightly colored crab on a tree

I just got back yesterday from a directed research trip to study hummingbirds in the Monteverde area, more on this soon!

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