Some of my colleagues and I at Abriendo Mentes decided it was time for a little adventure. So, we rented a car, bought ourselves a generous supply of snacks and set off to visit Manuel Antonio, a beach town located in the south-west of Costa Rica along the pacific coast.
After a long but very entertaining ride from Playa Potrero (in the North Pacific) all the way half-down the country to Manuel Antonio (in the South Pacific) we finally arrived at our hostel at 10 pm. The hostel was located on top of a hill from which you could look over the jungle paradise of the place and look out over the exotic white-sand beach that run along the deep blue waters of the pacific.
When we got our dorm keys, some clean sheets and a towel we followed the receptionist downstairs to our dorm. We stayed in a tiny room overcrowded with bunk beds that were all occupied by other tourists. We dumped our backpacks in a corner and headed outside to the terrace, escaping the nasty heat and body smell that had been brewing in that room throughout the day from all the people staying there. The terrance was not really cosy either as there were a few old rusty chairs and tables, a very basic kitchen for people to cook in and an army of flies that were set to sting you and take your blood. After having sprayed our bodies with insect repellent we snapped open some imperial beers and sat back gazing into the pitch-black sky covered with a glittering collage of stars, listening to the orchestra of crickets playing in the background.
The next morning we woke up very early, without having had much sleep in that dusty suffocating room, we packed a small bag for our excursion to the national park and headed out for some good breakfast. On the street directly opposite to our hostel there was a small local café that served well-portioned traditional Costa Rican breakfast, gallo pinto, and a strong cup of black filter coffee. Once our tummies were filled, our caffeine levels back to normal and we had regained the energy we had lost during a sleepless night, we were on our way down hill to the national park. On our walk down we saw many interesting restaurants and pubs along the way we would check out that evening. There were beautiful gigantic green trees along the road and monkeys walking on the sidewalk trying to search the street bins for food and curiously checking out tourists that got infatuated by them.
Down at the beach is were the life of the little town was. There were plenty of small supermarkets and souvenir stores as well as restaurants, cafés and surf shops. Along and on the public beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, there were locals selling all sorts of crafts like hats made from palm tree leaves and self made ethnic jewellery as well as exotic fruits like coconuts, pineapples and mangos. Local surfers were out riding clean medium-sized tides which would last for many seconds, almost minutes under the burning hot sun. After catching a wave, surfers paddled out again to wait for the next tide, trying to detect it by staring out into the horizon of the vast ocean waters, sitting on their boards and waiting patiently for nature to give them their high.
We turned away from the main beach are and took a small street that continued into the depths of the jungle were the entrance of the national park was located. The park is a jungle paradise, packed with one of the most diverse natural habitats in the world, it is also abundant with wildlife. While we tracked through the park’s natural trails we came across many animal species including the Capuchin and Howler monkeys, iguanas, agoutis, different bird species and sloths to name a few. Apart from the exotic, green rainforest nature, there are two twin beaches inside the park: Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla Beach. Both white-sand beaches had different but spectacular views which one could admire while relaxing in the sun or taking a dip in the transparent waters of the ocean. Manuel Antonio Beach had a more caribbean touch as the sand looked whiter, had more palm trees aligning its beaches and the ocean had lighter blue waters. Playa Espadilla had more vegetation, different kind of trees, including some growing beautiful pink and red flowers, and had an ocean of rougher turquoise blue waters.
After having tracked for some time through the park and having discovered all the funny-looking animals through the lenses of our cameras we finally made it to the twin beaches. We laid down our towels, kicked off our shows and stripped to our swimsuits to enjoy the warmth of the sun on our skin and the laid-back mood that reigned the place. Once the heat became to much we let our bodies be embraced by the cool water of the ocean that rocked us back and forth while we floated in its waves. I looked out to the horizon and noticed the vastness of the pacific, the energy of its water and the life it held within it. The others left to find the confort in their towels while tanning. Suddenly all the noise that was being made by other loud tourists around me faded and I heard nothing anymore, there was a calm and profound silence that I had created from within. In that moment I was able to become intimate with nature, allowing it to infatuate me with its majestic presence. Fresh air filling my lungs, pumping my body with energy and leaving the same way it came; bright colours illuminating my sight; silence, soothing my ears and mind; inner peace growing from my heart while connecting with the nature around me.
While I was getting carried away spiritually by the ocean, my friends were hiding under the shade of a tree trying to find some relaxation themselves when a Capuchin monkey climbed down a branch determined to steal the bananas that we had smuggled into the park in case we got hungry. With an impressive agility and no fear for humans it managed to make its way to the bags that we had left on one of the towels besides us. My friends were up on their feet as fast as the monkey could run towards them, trying to defend our property however they could. It was a funny and highly entertaining sight from a distance.
Hiking back felt like a bigger effort. I guess we were tired from the whole day and worn out by the warmth of the beaming sun on our heads. We started getting used to our surroundings and we were less easily amazed by the exotic nature around us by the time we got to the exit of the national park. Hunger got the best of us and we could not concentrate on something other than food. Witty locals were waiting outside the exit for all the worn-out hungry tourists with carts full of delicious fresh fruits that made all our mouths watery. I got myself a fresh cold coconut, and the others got some freshly cut mango. The walk back to the beach town became more bearable as I could sip from my coconut and they could chew on their tasty mangos to rid ourselves of the hunger we were feeling. When we got to the street that ran parallel to the beach and was filled with restaurants and cafes we decided we might as well stay for dinner and watch the sunset from the beach. The batch of surfers had become less than in the morning but there were still some people left catching the perfect waves at Playa Manuel Antonio, as if they had been enchanted or hypnotised by the ocean not to leave its waters.
After ordering some greasy but incredibly tasty burgers and some margaritas we went to chill on the beach while watching the beautiful orange-purple sunset. There was a huge silence that fell on the town when everyone stopped doing what they were busy with and let themselves be amazed by the beautiful image of the sun fading slowly and the sound of the waves kissing the shore repeatedly. Even the surfers stopped catching waves for some minutes and just sat on their boards, in the middle of the sea, looking out to the horizon. What a beautiful picture. What a beautiful day to remember.