Mangrove Boat Tour

While in Manuel Antonio, one of the things to do is to take a boat tour of the mangrove forests. We found out about this from our hostel, as the owner was one of the tour guides. He didn’t give us the tour the day we did it, but he did shuttle my Norwegian friends and I to and from the boat launch.

The Mangroves are pretty cool to see. There are lots of  interconnected trees and lots of wildlife along the way.

Probably the best part of the tour was when the boat pulled up along the shore, our guide handed us each a banana, and he made a few weird noises. All of a sudden, about 15 white-face monkeys ran for our boat. It’s crazy how fast these little guys are swinging through the trees, even swinging by their tails sometimes. The monkeys were very friendly are weren’t freaked out at all by humans. They came right on our boat and crawled all over us, really just to get the bananas we had in our hands.

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Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

One of the things I made sure to do while in Manuel Antonio was to visit Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. I’m glad we decided to pay for a tour guide because we wouldn’t have seen most of the wildlife we saw without one.

Iguana

This one above was called a Jesus Christ Lizard because they have the ability to run on water.

Bats

Apparently, one of the most dangerous things in Costa Rica are coconuts. Our guide told us that more people die every year from getting hit on the head by a falling coconut than from shark bites. So always look up above you. The good thing though is that you can just hack off the top, poke a straw in, and have fresh coconut water!

Sloths are interesting creatures. They are one of the happiest animals out there, and it’s probably because they sleep for 20 hours a day. We happened to catch this one during the short period where he was awake.  Continue reading

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

From Monteverde, my 3 friends from Norway and I decided to take a cab down to Manuel Antonio. It cost a little bit more than taking a bus, but it also saved us several hours on travel time. We stopped in Cocodrilo on the way to grab a snack and also to see a whole bunch of American crocodiles under the bridge (I counted 13).

On the ride, we also drove through Jaco, Quepos, Puntarenas, and several other beach towns until we got to our beach town of Manuel Antonio. During the cab ride we got stuck behind a herd of cattle for a few minutes. That doesn’t happen everyday.

Once we finally arrived in Manuel Antonio, our cab dropped us off right at the door of our hostel. It was called Vista Serena hostel and it was owned and run by a guy from California who went down to Costa Rica 9 years ago and never came back, started giving tours, and eventually bought this hostel. We had a great view from the balcony of our hostel as well.

Manuel Antonio is known for a few things, including the beach, surfing, and exotic wildlife. I definitely saw or took part in all of these activities. Too bad I don’t have pictures of me trying to surf because that was a disaster! We asked the surf instructor when the best time to take a lesson for people who have never surfed before. Now it would make logical sense that the best time to learn to surf would be in the morning when there is low tide, not in the afternoon during high tide. Nonetheless, the instructor told us to come out in the middle of the afternoon. This was a bad idea because, as we had expected, the waves were pretty big. I couldn’t even stand up on the board. I would get one foot up but then I would just end up on a foot and a knee before crashing into the water. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much water up my nose before, but it was a fun experience and I’d like to try it again under some easier conditions. After our attempt at surfing, it was definitely time to head across the street for a nice, cool drink.

Next up: Manuel Antonio National Park and the Mangrove Tour.

Don Juan Coffee Tour

After an exciting morning of ziplining, I decided to go on a tour of the coffee plantation of the largest coffee maker in Costa Rica. Coffee is a huge export from the country, one of the biggest. Brazil and Colombia are the mass-producers of coffee, but Costa Rica competes not on mass-production, but on high-end, luxury coffee. The coffee they produce and sell at the plantation and export all over the world is not the same coffee that the average Costa Rican would drink because it’s too expensive (the tour was very informative). At this plantation, the coffee beans are grown, picked, 4 layers peeled off (each with its own mostly manual process), roasted, and packaged.

First, this is what they use to transport things around the plantation. Kind of old school I know.

 Then, where the coffee beans are actually grown.

And the beans prior to going in the roaster once they’ve had all the different layers stripped.

Don Juan makes a light roast, dark roast, and medium roast (which is half light roast and half dark roast). The dark roast is left in the roaster just slightly longer than the light roast. We were able to try both a whole bean from both the light and dark roasts. I preferred the light, but both would have been better with a little sugar!

All in all, the tour was very interesting. The best part was that after the tour, we got to drink all the coffee we wanted, plus try other specialties like coffee liqueur and chocolate covered coffee beans (all of which were delicious!). I preferred the light roast over the dark roast because it a little less bitter to me. The coffee is so good that it barely even needs sugar.

I decided that instead of bringing home some lame souvenirs, I would bring home some packets of coffee. I ended up bringing about 2 kilos back. This was interesting when I was going through customs at the airport coming home and telling them I’m bringing back 2 kilos of anything! The customs agent just laughed though. Too bad I’m just about out now, so I guess I’m going to have to order some more off their website.

Ziplining Through The Cloud Forest!

One of the coolest things I did while in Costa Rica was a ziplining excursion in the Monteverde cloud forest. It was a blast! There were 13 different lines, ranging in length and speed, plus the Tarzan Swing and the Superman line at the end. This was before we were about to go.

And here we go!

It took a little bit of getting used to the first time or two, learning how to control your speed as you’re coming into the other end so you don’t crash into everybody. As you can see, you have to keep one arm behind you on the line to keep yourself straight. Otherwise, you would be spinning around the whole time down the line. Fortunately, they give you special gloves to wear to do this with. The other thing is that the lines are pretty much connected to the tops of two mountains and you are ziplining between the two, with a huge drop in between. It’s beautiful scenery, but definitely not for the faint of heart!

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