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We decided it was time to move out of Alajuela and cover some miles if we wanted to get a good sampling of CR. So we set off in our rental 4WD Kia SUV and headed along the beach road to Manual Antonio National Park.
I read, aside from being the most visited park, it was beautiful with several beaches and a rain forest. Unfortunately, they had a very bad storm a few weeks before and many trees in the rain forest were down and some paths were blocked. The park was not very big and mostly people visited there for the beaches.
With much perseverance, we had found a recommended hotel called La Posada, Jungle Bungalow. It was delightful with a gracious host, a great group of guests and a wonderful setting in palm trees teeming with white-faced capuchin monkeys, a small but inviting blue tiled pool and an outdoor dining area tucked under roof with free telephone calls to the U.S., great breakfast and a great menu of social activities
Right when we arrived and registered, Estaban, a young Costa Rican guy at the front desk, told us most guests were going out to dinner together in Quepos, the next town over, where a band played every Wednesday night and we were invited. Of course we said yes; it was a chance to meet some other travelers, mostly American, and hear live music, a band of middle-aged expatriates, playing 70s and 80s rock - and actually pretty good with violin, flute and sax.
We took a taxi back in a downpour, compliments of Mike the hotel owner who had joined us for dinner-an interesting expat from L.A. who had bought the hotel many years before and really seemed to enjoy being a great host.
The next day we walked through the Manual Antonio park. The beach was beautiful with the jungle leading all the way up to the dark sand beach. We swam a little in the ocean and brought our snorkles and masks, but with the storms it was too churned up to see anything. But we did see a lot of wildlife - monkeys that came very close to the tourists to see if they had food, an agouti and a sloth resting in the top of a very tall tree. The beach was covered with tiny crabs so we had to watch where we stepped.
The second night at La Posada, we stayed for the dinner/ movie night and talked with a very nice couple from Denver, Alan and Rose, who were house sitting for a colleague in Costa Rica and had taken a little weekend trip
The next day we started north for the mountains and rainforest, hoping to make Monteverde Cloud Forest before night. The drive was long and it was getting dark when we arrived. Once again we found just the right place to stay - wood interior log cabins with hot shower and a great breakfast. The innkeeper, a very sweet Costa Rican, another Estaban, ran the small lodge with his wife and young son, and helped us make reservations for the night tour at Monteverde.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We arrived at the park after another rainstorm had cleared, about 8 p.m., and the moon was full with light piercing through the forest. It was only the two of us and a couple from Spain, Phillipa and Tiago and our guide, Fabricio, who was well versed in the flora and fauna of the park. He showed us a huge orange-kneed tarantula, sitting at the opening of his burrow, waiting for his prey to walk by; phosphorescent fungus growing on decomposing leaves and mushrooms that also glowed in the dark. We learned that a strangler fig tree actually started as a hemi-epiphyte (like orchids), planting itself on the trunk of a tree and growing its roots downward towards the ground, until the entire host tree was covered by fig roots and finally died in the middle of this growing strangler fig. We saw glow worms, the larva of fireflies, some cool tree frogs and large birds sleeping on the branches of trees. Best of all was walking in the cloudforest at night by the light of the moon...just TOO cool!
The next morning we went back to the park and took a long hike by ourselves - cloudforest, lookouts over the valley and a suspension bridge over a ravine and river. I really liked that area, so green but also very wet and forever cool. It was hard to believe it was the same latitude as the heat of the coastal area we had just visited in Manuel Antonio.