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Beach and more nature in Manuel Antonio

A few more hours of driving, this time on a nice road, and a quick stop at a crocodile-infested river, and we made it to our final stop: Manuel Antonio. The first nights we decided to stay close to the National Park entrance, in Manuel Antonio proper. That way we would be there before most tourists (it gets crowded in peak season), and we could enjoy the local beach. This area was much more touristy than all the other places, more expensive and “Americanized”, though we still found really good food and juices 🙂

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Ziplining through Monteverde’s clouds

After our detour to Playa Grande to observe leatherback turtles, we had driven a few hours and crashed in a crappy hotel in Juntas, close to Monteverde. We woke up a bit later than usual, and started the drive up to the mountain. The road was truly horrible and it took us good 2 hours and a lot of pain.

Monteverde is known for its Cloud Forests (Reserva de Monteverde and Reserva de Santa Elena), and for ziplining. It’s unclear if it really started here, but there is no doubt that this town has exploited the activity the most. We signed up for a group that was starting right away at Selvatura Park, one of the most famous operators. It was lots of fun! Not only the adrenaline of flying but also being surrounded by the thick forest with howler monkeys, the dense fog that wouldn’t let you see where the line was ending… we enjoyed like kids.

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Private encounter with a leatherback turtle

Costa Rica is a destination for observation of turtles, both laying eggs and hatching. Most people experience it in Tortuguero, but since we were outside of the season, we had given up on the idea. However, when we were in Corcovado, a Spanish couple told us that they had just seen a leatherback turtle laying eggs in Playa Grande. So we did some research and decided to take a detour on the way from Rio Celeste to Monteverde… a long detour on an already long day.

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Waterfalls of Celeste color

We started the day very early, as it was going to be a long one. Most people go from Arenal to Monteverde, or vice versa, but we had decided to take a detour to hike in Rio Celeste. The drive from La Fortuna (Arenal volcano) to Rio Celeste is ~3 hours (don’t believe Google), on a very bad road, through San Rafael de Guatuso. It gets even worse if you continue further, towards Monteverde, so it should definitely only be attempted with a 4WD.

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The hidden Arenal volcano

We woke up in the outskirts of San Jose, where we had crushed the night before after picking up our rental car. We drove a couple more hours to La Fortuna, on a very good road (the best we would see in Costa Rica, by far), taking in the tranquil surroundings. After finding a hostel in the center of the town, we went in the car again and drove up to the Arenal Volcano National Park. It was very cloudy, and we already knew that we would most likely not get to see the famous, perfect cone of the volcano (usually it’s visible from town). Still decided to do a short hike to the lava flows, some really old and gigantic trees and enjoy the rainforest overall. Also piggy-bagged on some tourist groups whose guides spotted animals, but after Corcovado, we were very hard to impress :S

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Pure nature in Corcovado

Just 8 hours after landing in San Jose, and definitely short on sleep, Elena and I got on a Naturair aircraft to Puerto Jimenez. The flight is short and offers great views of the country, and it’s the best way to include the Osa Peninsula in your trip if you’re short on time, since the roads are bad.

We landed around 9am, and saw our guide Nito waiting for us at the tiny ‘airport’. We had hired him for the next two days based on raving reviews on several blogs (since then, he seems to be doing great: www.surcostours.com). They weren’t kidding; he’s knowledgeable, easy going and super passionate about animals, even though he’s probably seen them hundreds of times. Because we landed after the colectivo (a shared truck) had left, we had to hire our own taxi. He drove us to buy food and then ~1 hr to Carate and Playa Madrigal, where our hike would start. After about half hour walk, we hit La Leona, the official entrance of Corcovado National Park.

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