Manuel Antonio

The last five days of this trip were spent in the beautiful, although expensive, area of Manuel Antonio. I got to enjoy it with a childhood friend of mine, Mike, who also helped me celebrate my 36th Name Day. Getting to Manuel Antonio included a full day adventure, which has become commonplace around these parts. 

My morning started bright and early. Much brighter and earlier than I would like. A 5:30 am alarm went of so I could catch the 6 am bus out of Santa Teresa. I woke up on time, put the final touches on packing up my stuff, and staggered out to the street to wait for the big green bus to cruise by. Thankfully it did, and not even that much after 6. That bus took me to Cobano (the town with the Costa Rican rodeo), where I waited for another bus to take me to Paquera, where the ferry leaves from. I didn’t have to wait to long for the ferry, and once it departed, I was crossing the Gulf of Nicoya to the port town of Puntarenas. After the ferry, I got a cab to avoid sweating profusely while carrying my bags in the hot sun, which drove me about a mile to the next bus stop. The next bus took me from Puntarenas all the way to Quepos, which is the small town next door to Manuel Antonio. So far so good, and I am almost to the apartment! 

Empty main street at 6 am in Santa Teresa.

Well, the last and final step didn’t go exactly as planned. I got my fourth and final bus of the day, which took me to Quepos to much closer to my apartment. I had only vague directions to the apartment, so I was on the look out for the landmarks to let me know which stop to get off at. As with most third world countries, and definitely true of Costa Rica, street signs barely exist. As you may have guessed, not having street signs can make it a little difficult to navigate new territories. Eventually, I saw one of the restaurants from the directions, pulled the cord to let the driver know I wanted off, grabbed my bags, and got off the bus. Only one problem: I brought three bags with me to Central America, but I was only holding two of them. 

Dammit. 

DAMMIT. Are you kidding me? Did I just leave my bag on the bus?? 

I looked around, thinking maybe I grabbed the third bag and placed it on the ground near me. Nooooooope. It was definitely still on that goddamn bus. I started sprinting after the bus as fast as I could, carrying my two other bags, hoping for that tiny chance I could catch it. 

Another resounding noooooooooope. The bus was soon out of sight, carrying the bag with all my clothes and toiletries along with it. This is also the same bag that I mistakenly left in Mexico City, so maybe it has a mind of its’ own. FUCK! Did I really just lose all my stuff? My heart sank as the bus and my bag drove away. I am such a moron. Then I thought for a second, and figured out I wasn’t totally screwed. 

THANKFULLY, that final bus I was on does circular loops from Quepos to Manuel Antonio and back, so I just had to (hopefully) wait for it to turn back around. I returned to the area that it dropped me off, now completely drenched in sweat from my useless sprint down the Manuel Antonio Super Highway and definitely a little panicked that I may have lost my bag for real this time. One bus came by, but it wasn’t the same one, so I returned to the side of the road to wait for another one. Praise be to the travel gods, the next bus was the original one I was on, and the driver had put my bag in the underneath storage compartment. My wandering bag and I were reunited once again. Hallelujah. I profusely thanked the driver, and was finally on my way to the apartment. 

It turns out the place we rented was about a quarter mile from the main road, so I had the pleasure of carrying all three of my bags that distance. By the time I reached the property, I was at the bottom of a massive set of stairs. At this point, before even conquering Stair Mountain, my sweat level had been turned all the way up to Full Waterfall level. When it is 90+ degrees out, the sweat faucet does not turn off on its’ own. I met the family who takes care of the property, which includes four rental units, and they let me in to the apartment. 

Holy shit was the stair climb worth it. The view was spectacular. There were clear views of the ocean from an entire side of the house, and the first night I was there, the sky treated me to a stunning sunset. About seven hours later, Mike successfully navigated the roads from San Jose to the apartment, and the two traveling gentleman were united for a five day vaca. 

Decent view. 

We spent a lot of time relaxing on the beach, drinking cold beers and swimming in the ocean. One day went to the National Park, which offered lots of walking paths to a bunch of different beaches. We saw some monkeys, but unfortunately no sloths. When not soaking up the sun on the beach, there was a decent amount of time dedicated to chilling on the balcony with the aforementioned amazing views. 

Birthday beers. 

The only frustrating part of Manuel Antonio was the high prices for food. Dinners entrees were regularly $10-15. Add in some adult beverages, and it could get to $30 pretty easily. Five days of this would hardly bankrupt me, but it is not ideal to be spending USA prices in Costa Rica. At least the food and beverages were tasty. 

Mike and I attempted to do a birthday fishing excursion, as his stay coincided with my Name Day, but the only options to go fishing were to charter the full boat, which meant a $1,000+ price tag. No thanks. I am not an avid fisherman, so it was not a big loss. Birthdays are always a bit weird to me, as we are constantly aging at the same pace, 365 days a year, but ONE time a year we “turn” a year older. For 364 days I am the “same” age, and then, one day, I am an entire year older. Odd. 

The five days were super relaxing, and made better that I could hang out with one of my good friends. Most of these recent trips of mine are done entirely by myself, so to mix it up with a familiar face, and someone I have known for over 85% of my life, was great. For my next stop after Manuel Antonio, I decided to go to the caribbean side of Costa Rica. This meant that going back to San Jose with Mike, who was flying out of there, was my best option. 

The drive back was fairly uneventful, spent chatting and listening to Spotify playlists. Mike and I found the car rental place to return the car, and that’s when things got a bit sketchy for a moment. We were on the shuttle, ready to take us both to the Holiday Inn Express, when Mike realized he didn’t have something. That something is the most important item to have when visiting foreign lands: your passport. He checked his bags, re-checked the rental car, still no passport. Damn. We researched the local consulate, and luckily there is one in San Jose. It would probably be a long day, but he may even be able to leave that same day. Thinking of all options, we found the phone number to the property caretaker back in Manuel Antonio and gave him a call. Mike doesn’t speak any Spanish so he handed me the phone. In my broken Spanish, I confirmed that Bismark (the caretaker) DID indeed have the passport. I must have asked him ten times “Tiene passporte?” because I couldn’t believe he actually had Mike’s passport. So, Mike RE-rented a car and drove right back to Manuel Antonio. Instead of a single three hour one way trip, he did three of them. But it was a small price to pay to get back his PASSPORT. 

I went back to the Holiday Inn Express to relax and eat some food. Being in a SUPER American hotel chain was really weird, since it feels 100% like every other generic hotel. You could have convinced me I was IN the States (unless you turned on the TV). It was definitely weird, and not common for me on my travels since I rarely if ever stay in a big hotel chain. 

After driving all the way back to Manuel Antonio, Mike did indeed secure his passport. He may need to duct tape that thing to himself next time. I still can’t believe he left that at the house. Thankfully it all worked out, and he was able to get on his flight the next morning, which was made all the crazier by the fact that a freaking volcano erupted later that day, delaying (or canceling) lots of flights. Meaning, if he didn’t find his passport, he could have easily been in San Jose for several more days. Crazy how life works sometimes. 

During this part of the trip, I also passed the one month mark of this particular adventure. Similar to other travel experiences, I have enjoyed several aspects immensely. The number one thing I love about long travel stints is the fact that I almost never know the actual day of the week. Monday doesn’t feel any different from Friday and Sunday feels the same as a Tuesday. A day is just a day, and it’s a wonderful mental place to be in. There is no dreading going back to work on Monday, or feeling like weekends go to fast: each day presents its’ own fun and adventure. Time also moves so much slower, probably because each location offers a whole new set of sights, sounds, people, food, bed, etc. I have been traveling for a month, but it easily seems like three to four times longer than that; in a really good way. Time stretches out, making the days seem longer and more enjoyable, even if I don’t really do much but read, write, go for a swim in the ocean, and take a nap. 

This Central American sojourn is halfway over, I didn’t lose my bag (again), and Mike didn’t lose his passport. It sure is hard to complain when living in Costa Rica, especially when you get reunited with your belongings. Next stop is the caribbean town of Puerto Viejo. Hope I don’t forget or lose anything between now and then.