I just returned from an incredible 7 day trip to sunny Costa Rica. I have been home for like a day and I’m already ready to go back, especially given the grey, rainy weather I came home to.
This trip was a big deal for me because I don’t get to travel often. I am constantly worried about spending money, especially since I bought my house last summer. In fact, it was the first time I have traveled on an airplane, or been outside the East Coast in 4 years. Crazy, right?
Leading up to the trip, I longed for the beach and the warm weather and drinks by the pool, not to mention time away from work and everyday responsibilities. But more than anything I longed to be in nature with THE ANIMALS!
During the trip I kept a list in my iPhone notes of all the animals we saw. Every time we spotted something I added it to the list. And for the things we weren’t sure of, I found in the animal guide I bought at a local store in town.
Our first animal sighting happened on our long drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. After about an hour or so in the van, our driver asked if we wanted to pull over and check out some river. We had to pee and wanted to stretch our legs, so we said sure.
Turns out, he took us to The Tárcoles River, a hot spot for crocodiles. Before we grabbed our first Piña Colada of the trip from a road side vendor, we watched safely from the bridge above while dozens of crocs sunbathed below. They were massive and definitely a site to see.
Fast forward to our hotel in Manuel Antonio.
I started my days between 6 and 7am with a walk around the hotel property – binoculars and camera around my neck, ready to capture whatever creature I could find.
The first morning, Katie and Lindsey joined me for a hike.
The day before, when we arrived at the resort, we heard the howler monkeys in the distance, their sound shaking the forest. What we didn’t know was, the very next day we would get to do more than just hear them in the distance.
As we descended down the trail stairs the noise grew louder and louder until it was all around us. We were surrounded by mini gorillas! We looked up and in the trees were dozens of howler monkey, babies and all, howling away! The sound was unlike anything I have ever heard.
I got emotional because it felt so unreal to be that close to something so wild.
We were also joined by Capuchin monkeys and Squirrels monkeys on a daily basis. They were so stinkin cute and fearless and fun to watch. I never got sick of them, ever.
In fact, I really missed them when I went on my final morning walk. They must have known I was leaving and decided to sleep in.
The Squirrel monkeys were harder to capture on film and not quite as visible as the Cupuchin monkeys, but they were there and trust me, they were cute.
I have never seen a monkey outside of a zoo. It was special. I obviously loved it.
On the 2nd full day in Manuel Antonio we toured the National Park, my #1 “excursion” choice for the trip. Instead of going into the park on our own, we chose to pay a little extra to have a guide take us through to help us get the most out of our experience.
Dennis was super smart and knew a ton about all the wildlife. He could spot camouflaged animals high up in the trees that we would have never in a million years been able to find on our own, which was fantastic.
More than anything I wanted to see a sloth. They couldn’t make any promises but my fingers were crossed. Dennis came through and spotted both a 2 toed AND a 3 toed sloth! Both were sleeping high up in the trees but it was still amazing to see through his telescope. So amazing I actually wept.
I know, I’m an emotional mess.
The monkeys were in full show mode at the park. They were flying from tree to tree, playing, jumping and having a ball. It was just a blast to watch.
We were able to see a few different frogs, lizards, bats and birds, all amazing.
At the end of the park was the park beach. We took a swim in the beautiful blue water, but not without stopping to watch the monkeys and raccoons, just a couple feet away, hilariously rummaging through peoples bags.
Costa Rica cares A LOT about their wildlife. Absolutely no feeding the animals, or touching them. They don’t even allow flash photography in the park. They are totally treasured and protected and I respect and appreciate that so much.
I also noticed there was zero roadkill, at least not that I saw. Which is kind of amazing because people drive like maniacs there.
The stray dogs and cats are very well cared for as well. A local told me, and I quote, “If you don’t have a dog, you’re not a Costa Rican.”
I freaking love that.
Costa Ricans also really care about their land. I didn’t see any litter at all. There are recycling and trash cans everywhere. Another reason to adore this beautiful country.
The day before the park, we took a very cool ATV tour around what felt like the entire country of Costa Rica. Beautiful scenery that didn’t even seem real. On the tour we saw a Toucan! A freaking Toucan!
We mustn’t forget about all the giant iguanas. I really wanted to pet them, but I was told they bite. So naturally, the answer to my question, “do they like hugs?” was a big ole no.
The butterflies and the small bright colored birds flew around all day, everyday. It was hard to know what all the birds were but they were all stunning. I even saw a hummingbird one morning!
Basically, my nature walks were mainly in search of a sloth (up close) and/or Scarlet Macaw. I hoped to see anything I could, but I was beginning to think the scarlet Macaw was my white whale.
No luck with the close up sloth but boy did I hit the jackpot with the Scarlet Macaw!
Seeing a Scarlet Macaw in real life, in the wild, is like seeing a freaking unicorn. Another one of those animals that you don’t even understand how they can be real. How do those colors exist in nature?
Every morning on my way out, I would stop and talk to Gabrielle who worked in the outdoor restaurant. I would ask if and what he spotted that morning and where I should go to see it. On the day we were leaving, I set out the minute I woke up and went right down to talk to Gabrielle. “Nothing yet”, he said.
Well, no more than 50 feet past the restaurant, up in a tree were five toucans! FIVE! A few minutes later, after my neck started to hurt from looking up, one by one they all flew away, which was another cool site to see.
BTW, the toucans came back again right before I went back to the room, so I could have one more look.
Reeling from the toucan sighting I sat on a bench near the pool, overlooking the beautiful hillside and ocean. I could hear the macaws squawk in the distance. I knew they were somewhere, but I had no idea where.
Seconds later, BAM! 2 stunning, insanely, bright macaws soured by. Of course I didn’t have my good camera with me (I already packed it) but I was able to soak it all in with my eyes. And thankfully they flew by again so I could get a few crappy shots with my phone.
I Facetimed my parents to rave about what I saw and the macaws flew by AGAIN. Unfortunately it was too quick to flip the screen so they could see, but at least I got one last look.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t my first macaw sighting of the trip. 2 days before, right after my morning walk, on Katie’s 35th birthday, a single macaw (which is rare because I was told that macaws usually fly in pairs) flew right by our hotel balcony. I looked down for 2 seconds (probably at my phone) and Katie yelled “A MACAW” and basically tried to throw me off the balcony so I could see it. Thank god it turned around and flew by again. We hooted and hollered and probably woke up the entire resort because it was maybe 7:30am.
I was teary yet again, because…just wow!
On the last day, Lindsey and I took a horse back riding tour. It was kind of terrifying and absolutely not what we expected, but fun none the less. I didn’t get on the horse until I asked multiple questions about their life and care. After learning they were happy, healthy horses we were off to the races. And by races, I mean bumpy, steep, hilly, narrow, slow moving walk, which included 15 seconds of galloping that made us nearly crap ourselves.
Just getting on the horse was scary at first, but after a few minutes I got comfortable and really enjoyed riding, despite the crazy terrain and slight fear of death.
This was another highlight for me. I haven’t ridden a horse since I was 12 years old. I have been wishing and hoping I’d get another chance for 23 years and I finally got that chance in beautiful Costa Rica.
Thanks for being such a trooper Lindsey!
We didn’t see much wildlife on that day, but we did see a poisonous dart frog, which was really neat.
I think you get it. I like animals, a lot. Maybe you think its crazy or over the top, but animals make me insanely happy, SO BACK OFF!
I had an absolutely magnificent time on this trip with the girls. I drank Piña Coladas and ate rice and beans like it was going out of style. I swam at beautiful beaches and saw some of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen and had many great adventures.
But it all comes back to the wildlife for me – and the time we spent in nature that brought me the most joy.
I hope someday I get to go back, because I feel like there is so much more for me to see. And I hope that this trip will remind me how important it is to travel and see all the creatures this beautiful world has to offer.
See you next time, Costa Rica.