Leaving our happy home in lush Monteverde, we pile into the van and head to our final destination on the tour. Manuel Antonio… the beach. The 4 hour ride is long, but along the way we stopped to see monkeys… and later crocodiles. Awesome! There are just a large number of crocodiles sun-bathing on the river bank… or swimming in the creek just below us… as though waiting for us to fall over the ledge and plummet into the water, thus into their gaping jaws. They are so evil and prehistoric looking. Scary!
When we finally arrive in Quepos, we drive through to our hotel in the gorgeous beach town of Manuel Antonio. Annie and I grab our key and adore our honeymoony, ocean view room… with a front patio! Monkeys jump around between trees and electric lines just beside us! It doesn’t take long before we’re dressed and heading to the beach. The humidity here is insane! Immediately I sweat… while standing still.
A shuttle bus takes us straight to the beach… though lush, tropical plants framing the road on both sides and restaurants, bars, and hotels. It’s a beautiful place. We round a bend and glimpse the gorgeous ocean. At the beach there are small outdoor shops and a plethora of activities going on. Around us, people are enjoying drinks, para-sailing, jet skiing, surfing, and sunbathing. We order a few beers and everyone swims, naps, and lounges. What a day.
Our first night in Manuel Antonio is mellow. Everyone was utterly exhausted from the night out before, combined with the long bus ride and the day in the sun. We meet for a nice dinner at Bambu Jam, walking down a dark road, with no street lights hearing animal sounds in the jungle around us. The restaurant is great… designed like a wooden hut. After dinner, we all call it a night.
The next morning, some of the group wakes early to head to the famous nature reserve. This is the best spot for seeing sloths, monkeys, and other wildlife we’re told. When the opportunity comes, I take the opportunity to sleep in. I haven’t slept in this entire trip and what better place for a vacation sleep than at the beach destination. Soon I get up and head to the pool for breakfast with a few others. The pool area is great. There is a small bar and outdoor restaurant that overlooks the valley of trees and the ocean beyond. We hang for a while. Eventually the resident Brit and New Yorker head to the beach, jumping at any opportunity to lay in the sun. The Aussies and I, coming from beach towns, opt to stay at the pool until the brutal, early day sun is down. We beat the heat and humidity with a few beers and conversation. I can’t say enough how fantastic this group is. I’ve bonded with them and made some great friends. We finally decide to head to the beach to meet up with the rest of the group at a beach café where I grab lunch and then go ahead and spend the day much like before; lounging on the beach. It’s our last full day together as a group so we stay at the beach drinking and enjoying the glorious sunset. Our night is later capped off the night with music, dancing, and conversation into the wee hours.
Our last day, is sad. We’ve all bonded so much and don’t want to part. We were supposed to leave earlier for San Jose, but we all agree to stay in Manuel Antonio and catch the last bus at 5pm. We get to spend another day at the beach. The day stretches on and finally it’s time to wash up, pack and say our goodbyes to those staying behind. On the bus,we nap, share photos and reminisce about the magical trip. It’s a peaceful ride, and back in San Jose we spend another night in the originating hotel… where it all began. Ten strangers sitting in a circle in the lobby, hearing about the adventures to come. Now these adventures have come and gone with endless memories made and good times in between. Ten strangers have become ten close friends. I will miss them. I’m excited to see some of them in future travels.
In what feels like no time at all, a couple of us are at the airport paying the $28 departure tax (seriously, would they FORCE us to stay in Costa Rica if we didn’t have it?!) and check in. A and I are lucky to have gates next to each other and flights at the same time. We hang out for the next hour, reminiscing and making plans for a reunion. Soon, we’re off, jetting to our homes around the globe. What a wonderful trip, wonderful memories and wonderful new friends. If only I’m so lucky to see them again.