A Treasure Trove Of Nature

It was a day of nod-sleeping on two buses between Puerto Viejo and Manuel Antonio. I don’t know what it is about bus travel but it absolutely knackers me, more than if we were actually doing something productive. It’s only two buses though, pretty straight forward, with an Uber between two terminals in San Jose because why would you want to centralise everything when you can have several terminals spread out all over the city?

We took advantage of a spare day to get haircuts because our brains were boiling in our skulls under our respective mops.

Taxi drivers are quite overwhelming, they descend on the bus as soon as it pulls in. Taxi drivers are my least favourite genre of human in the whole world, they have a reputation for ripping off tourists here too. These guys like to follow you and shout at you as if getting into a car in a foreign country with an aggressive bloke is high on the tourist agenda. Uber exists here but it’s sort of illegal, we didn’t know this, we thought it was one one of those taxi driver tricks like, “Your hotel is burned down but I happen to know a good one…” but when we got in the Uber the driver asked one of us to sit up front and explained that yes, it was illegal, and carrying a passenger up front makes him look less like an Uber. Still going to use it though, it’s cheaper and you don’t have to get into an argument with a taxi driver.

Since we discovered a really fucking easy way to chop pineapples we’re also getting into eating those bad boys. This one is as big as my freshly shared head!

We’d booked three nights here and we’d bought our tickets for the national park for our second full day in case we’d had problems getting here so on our first full day we just took a bus into Quepos, got haircuts, had smooties with a price that wouldn’t look out of place in south-east England, then just headed back to our lovely hostel for an afternoon of chilling and trying to assure our bank accounts that it’d be okay and we’d head somewhere cheaper soon. We’re our own worst enemy to be fair, we do so like a beer or a lovely meal out, and oh, is that a shiny magnet with a picture of a sloth on it? The following day we got up early and took the bus to the national park.

Who doesn’t love a bold iguana? He just strolled over the path, no shits given about the humans.

What an actual fucking day though! I’m not even sure how to write this down without sounding like a raving maniac or a small child describing all the magical creatures it made up in its fantasy land. It was so utterly cool, we saw so much stuff! So you need to book this shit online in advance, I’ll put the website under Useful Shit below, then all you need to do is show up. The smell of DEET hit us as we joined the queue. DEET is king here, you’ll be in shade for most of the day so suncream is optional unless you’re going to the beach in which case slather yourself in that shit if you’re quite attached to your epidermis. We’d booked to enter between 8am and 8.40am but we tried our luck at 7.30am and there were no issues getting in.

Sloth! I think I remember Emanuel in Bocas saying if they had the brown stripe on their back then they’re male.

We’d turned down the guides, they weren’t at all pushy but we’re trying to not throw obnoxious quantities of money at Costa Rica on account of the fact it costs so much just to exist here. Then in we went. Our technique in Cahuita was to stalk groups that had gotten a guide but it these early stages they were just explaining plants and stuff. One guy had his scope trained on a frog on a leaf which was cool. But even the professionals at this point weren’t seeing much of interest. We managed our expectations, it was already very busy and with many tourists comes a lot of noise. If I were a sloth I’d be as far away from the path as possible.

Brown basilisk lizard. The guide who spotted it said he was surprised to see one so far away from water and speculated that perhaps it was running from a terrapin.

We veered off along a trail which led to a seasonal waterfall, except we didn’t realise it was seasonal so right now it’s basically a rock face. We were told it was dry by another couple about 50 metres from the end. Tarrant said we could probably just stand over it and refill it with our sweat. It was absolutely gushing down our faces and, in fact, pick a body part. Like every single pore was being individually wrung out by microscopic goblins. We didn’t see much wildlife either without a group of cooing tourists led by a guide with a scope gathered around a tree to alert us. We saw some lizards and I’m always going to love a lizard, but it was when we got back to the main trail and got to where the café would be if it were open that shit got real.

Mum and baby. I’m not sure I can cope with this level of cute.

There were loads of people staring right up into the trees with guides excitedly pointing upwards. It’s cute how excited some of the guides get despite doing this every day. There was a mother sloth and her baby, and whilst she was chill as fuck her baby was on a right little mission, clambering up and down the branches. Guys, it was incredible. Absolutely magical. We stood and watched for so long I got a crick in my neck and I still wasn’t bored. What an absolute honour.

Off on its own little mission.

We tore ourselves away and headed up the trail to Punta Serrucho. We weren’t far into the trail when another tourist told us there were “a bunch of monkeys” just up ahead. There were three squirrel monkeys rough-housing in the trees, it was adorable. They launched themselves at each other, dragging each other off the branches. All three of them hit the floor at one point after an arboreal pile up, scrambled to their feet and continued the shenanigans. We watched them for ages too. How exciting was this?!

Squirrel monkeys. Sorry for the blurry photo, fuckers wouldn’t stay still.

This trail was quite the treasure trove of lizards and crabs. Like, a metric fuck tonne of crabs. They’re these big bastards with black bodies, red legs and purple claws and as soon as they see you they nope out of there. The further you get up the trail the more of them there are. It’s the fucking crabocalypse up there. All you can hear is the constant rustling as they scuttle over the leaf litter. They’re pretty cool.


We stopped by a group waving cameras into the foliage and it turned out they’d found a really pretty snake. We’ve no idea what manner of snake it is but we’re quite sure it’s not the variety that’d replace all of your blood with venom and stare at you as your eyeballs melted wondering if it could actually fit you in its mouth after all. It was a beautiful animal. I love snakes as long as they’re not slithering towards me at speed because that does tend to induce minor panic.

More lizards. More crabs. Then one of those giant rodent things called an agouti. So that was quite cool. It seemed to give no fucks that we were there either. We slogged our way up probably about three million steps (give or take) to the viewpoint which was lovely. Took a photo. Turned around and walked all the way back down again. It was definitely worth the detour despite the profuse sweating, and honestly I cannot stress how much fluid you’ll lose through your face around here. I didn’t know the human body was capable of containing this much moisture.

Agouti. Or “giant fucking rat thing” as we called it before we found out its name.
Bit of non-wildlife eyehole fodder for you.

We made our way very much down a whole fuck tonne more steps which join two trails together, congratulating ourselves that we’d done it this way and now didn’t have to walk up the fuckers because not a single human going the other way looked they were having a good time. The white-faced capuchin monkeys were a good excuse for everyone to stop and gawp, they were awesome, just making their way through the trees, stopping to stare right back at us. I genuinely can’t put into words how amazing today had already been. We’d seen so much cool stuff.

She’s got a little baby on her back.

Just as we got to the bottom of the steps a couple warned us that the other viewpoint was closed. We debated whether to head as far up the trail as we could for the wildlife but Tarrant’s ankles had opinions about all of this walking so we fucked it off and meandered back to where we’d seen mum and baby sloth. She was still there but she’d turned around now and was lazing in the trees because she’s a sloth and she can do what she wants quite frankly. She’s a three-toed sloth. We’d overheard a guide telling people that they were quite chill, if they find them in the road they can pick them up and they’ll quite happily be carried to the nearest tree. The two-toed sloths however are a bit feistier and will fight. Fuck you then, sloth. Stay in the road, see if I care.

Same, mate.

As I was gawping like a slack jawed imbecile into the trees Tarrant called me over. Just yonder in the trees there was an actual toucan. Well where the fuck have you been all my life, sunshine? We’ve been searching for one of these buggers since Panama City, we’d started to think they were a myth. It was quite happily chomping away on berries, oblivious to the excited day trippers below waving various photographic devices in its direction in search of that beak profile shot. What a spot!

Long distance toucan shot.

We’d been here over five hours, that was pretty much us done for the day then, at least it was until someone told us there was a baby sloth just down the hill so we went to put that lump of grey fur in our eyeholes. It wasn’t doing much, you couldn’t see its face but we still gawped at it for several minutes whilst making all the appropriate cooing noises. Our walk back to the exit took us past another sloth, an iguana, and a deer. Yeah, sure, we have deers back home but this was a Costa Rican deer!

I promise it has a head in there somewhere.

There’s a beach here too, and another beach just outside of the park but honestly, I’m done with beaches right now. Give me a few days away from the tiny particles of evil that make up la playa and I’ll be ready again but right now? I’ll do without. We left the park, ran the gauntlet of souvenir sellers and resisted the urge to throw $40 at an incense holder hand carved from bamboo because we burn so little incense we still have the packet I brought back from India in 2015. We hopped on the bus and went in search of a nice, cold motor impairment beverage to help replace all those fluids that had seeped out through our pores.

We were in the back of Vista Verde near where we were staying when a toucan just casually rocked up to the avocado tree, right by where we were sat. Oh you are shitting me! You wait around for ages for a toucan and two come along at once. Wait, no, three! A second toucan was rustling about in the tree. What a treat! One flew off and the other stared back at us, tilting it’s ridiculous beak this way and that, before it joined its buddy in another tree. We also saw several red macaws flying around and being obnoxiously loud.

Hello there, mate.
If you zoom in it’s a shapeless red lump but it was really far away and this is a phone camera.

That was such an amazing day, guys. So absolutely incredible. I can’t believe we saw so much stuff. I was hoping for a few monkeys and maybe a sloth but what we got was so much more. It’s busy, I’m not going to lie, it’s heaving with humans but the wildlife gives no fucks. I guess it’s just used to the sweating mass of flesh and hair that shows up every day to stare. We’re really happy with our Costa Rica national park experience which is good because we’re not going to another one. We’re pretty much whistle stopping through the country on the way to Nicaragua where, hopefully, our wallets can breathe a sigh of relief.

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Stayed at: Blue Morpho House, Manuel Antonio

Blue Morpho House. Absolutely no complaints. Lovely and clean, WiFi is great, really close to supermarkets, restaurants, and where the Tracopa bus stops to/from San Jose. The owner is really helpful too and will answer any local questions you have. 100% recommended this.

Useful shit to know…

How To Get From Puerto Viejo To Manuel Antonio By Bus

  • Buses go to San Jose from Puerto Viejo at 3am, 5.30am, 9am, 12pm and 4pm. We opted for the 5.30am bus as did a lot of other tourists.
  • The bus leaves from diagonally opposite the
  • MEPE office on Avenida 73, you’ll see a sign saying “Salida Buses San Jose”.
  • You can buy your tickets from the MEPE office. We got ours a couple of days in advance.
  • It cost ₡7345 each and took just over five and a half hours.
  • This includes the 20 minute food/toilet break in Limon, about 20 minutes pulled over by the police so they could check IDs and send the very cute drug dog in, and some hideous traffic coming into San Jose.
  • You’ll go to the MEPE terminal in San Jose which is located on Avenida Manuel María de Peralta, coordinates 9.93919, -84.083926.
  • As soon as the bus pulls in you’ll be descended on by taxi drivers. You do need to go to Terminal Tracopa.
  • So here’s a fun fact: Uber is illegal in Costa Rica. Despite this you can still use the app in three cities. We didn’t know this. A taxi driver at the MEPE terminal told us it was illegal but we thought it was a taxi driver trick and hailed a ride. The Uber driver insisted one of us sit up front as it made him look less like an Uber and explained it was illegal and he might have to drop us close to but not at the terminal. Do with this information what you will.
  • The taxi drivers were quoting all kinds of prices. One bloke said it was metered but would likely be around ₡5000. Once they realised we were looking at Uber one guy dropped his price to ₡2000. Taxi drivers the world over are a pet hate of mine and I do like to avoid them where possible. I’ve also read that taxi drivers in Costa Rica are notorious for scamming tourists.
  • Incidentally, we’ve since found out that taxis shouldn’t be charging more than ₡910 per kilometre.
  • Our Uber cost ₡1668.
  • The Tracopa terminal is located on Calle 5, coordinates 9.925567, -84.077387.
  • There are nine buses a day to Manuel Antonio with Tracopa, you can find the schedules on the Tracopa website.
  • Buy your tickets at the windows. We were in time for the 12pm bus.
  • It cost ₡6085 each and took just under four hours.
  • Total cost: ₡14260 (US$26.66) each (Uber fare was shared between two people).
  • Total time:  Just under 10.5 hours.
Puerto Viejo to San Jose bus timetable, April 2023.
San Jose to Manuel Antonio bus timetable, April 2023. Also Manuel Antonio to San Jose.
  • You have to book your visit to Manuel Antonio National Park in advance using this website. Scroll down and click “Buy”.
  • You have to register first which is a bit of a ballache.
  • You’re offered the option of paying in US dollars or colones.
  • It cost ₡9773.15 each.
  • You’re given a verification code and this is all you need to show at the ticket desk.
  • At the time of writing single use plastics were absolutely forbidden and they were shit hot on this.
  • Bags were checked and we saw people being forced to abandon water bottles, packets of nuts, cereal bars etc.
  • Prepared food in reusable containers were fine. We had food in reusable bowls and water in reusable bottles and these were allowed.
  • I heard a guide saying this had only been in place for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if it’s a permanent policy or not.
  • The café was temporarily closed at the time of writing so if you don’t bring your own food you’ll get hungry.
  • There are water refill points along the main trail.
  • Buses run every fifteen minutes between Quepos and the national park, stopping ar bus stops all the way through Manuel Antonio.
  • It costs ₡410 each regardless of where you get on or off.
  • It takes less than half an hour from one end to the other.

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