Powering Down on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
A print version of this article appeared in Delta Sky's March edition--in Spanish.
In Manuel Antonio, travelers do more than observe nature: they engage it. Along the Pacific coast of Central America, adventure-lovers encounter some of the planet’s most prolific wildlife.
The journey begins outside of San José, where winding roads lead travelers to a bridge above the Tárcoles River. Along its muddied banks are gargantuan crocodiles fattened by daily ranger feedings, seemingly immobilized. After snapping photographs of these behemoth beasts, you’ll continue towards the Pacific Ocean, but little time will pass before wildlife summons you again.
Scarlet macaws perch on treetops, their vibrant hues stunning against the backdrop of low, interweaving gray clouds. Nearby are monkeys and sloths, slowly creeping through the trees. Within hours, Costa Rica earns its name: With 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity, the small country is also one of the most bountiful.
During my trip, I bunked at the Gaia Hotel and Reserve, a haven of luxury beside the well-preserved Manuel Antonio National Park. The region’s natural beauty had already begun to restore me, and additional energy came from Gaia’s staff, friendly locals who finish every sentence with “pura vida.”
Within days, the Costa Rican mantra hijacked me, and I began darting around like a sugar-buzzed child. I jumped in and out of pools, rediscovering the pleasure of swimming in the rain during a heavy afternoon storm, and began chatting up fellow guests with whom I swapped tips. The burger at Marlin’s was delicious; the canopy tour blew my mind.... we zip-lined into a waterfall!
Naturalist guides lead regular tours throughout Manuel Antonio National Park, fueled by knowledge and expert instincts. One microscopic movement in the dense foliage, and guides will hone in with their cameras like predators on the stalk. Forest crabs, snakes, white-headed capuchin monkeys, and countless camouflaged insects grace viewfinders before you wrap your tour warding off opportunistic raccoons at the park’s inner beaches. Crashing waves and white sand beaches are the perfect finale to your trek.
Visitors to Costa Rica are also advised to join adventure tours, from zip-lining to white water rafting. Limited time inspired me to sign up for an outing that rolled a handful of activities into one, all enjoyed on a mountaintop deep within the rainforest.
Our motley group of travelers rode to the mountain ridge on horseback, trudging through thick red clay until we reached base camp. From there, we hooked into harnesses and began to hike upward, methodically clicking our carabiners in and out of the trail’s precarious segments.
The real fun began after an hour of climbing when we did our first zip-line.
I became a lady-Tarzan, jumping between trees, cheering with excitement even when jagged cliff edges and river rapids daunted me from every angle. Joyous, even, to be sporting soaking wet clothes, the same attire I stuffed into my suitcase several days later…before heading back to the real world, where hectic schedules and concrete jungles await.