The highlight of our visit to Costa Rica was the wildlife. We saw four species of monkeys, scarlet macaws, sloths, and coati. There was evidence that a puma may have been enjoying the beach before us. Our first stop in Costa Rica, Golfo Dulce, brought us to the Finca Kobo chocolate farm.
Finca Kobo, Chocolate Farm
Our first stop in Costa Rica, Golfo Dulce, brought us to the Finca Kobo chocolate farm. While we were expecting cacao plants, we saw a host of monkeys swinging through the trees, munching on bananas. It turns out the farmers plant banana trees near the cacao plants, so the monkeys have a snack. They’d rather they eat the bananas than the more expensive cacao, and if that means planting individual trees for the animals, well, so be it.
We tasted exotic fruits right off the trees as we were led through the farm by one of the owners. By the end of the tour, we ate more of those fruits along with the chocolate made on the farm. While the tour was not specifically about the wildlife, we did get our first glimpse.
Corcovado National Park, Bahia Drake, Costa Rica
The next day, we anchored in Bahia Drake and headed to Corcovado National Park. A small boat picked us and another couple up, and we cruised toward the San Pedrillo ranger station. We basked in the sunshine and soaked in the beauty of the calm, turquoise waters. After another wet landing, we made our way to shore, left our belongings, and headed out on our first hike. Only 100 people per day are admitted each day, making this the most peaceful place visited on this vacation.
Admittedly, when booking this trip I thought a three-to-four-hour hike sounded exhausting. The truth is that we strolled along the beach and through the trees in a way that was not only comfortable but enjoyable. Our guide found all sorts of wildlife through his telescope, making it easy to see sloths and monkeys. Those three-toed sloths are adorable. Plus, once you spot one, it doesn’t move, so you can manage to see it again.
As we meandered along the shoreline, it was evident we were not the first ones to visit that day. A puma had been there before us, and recently, from the looks of the paw prints in the sand. I can honestly say that I am a wimp, and was much happier that we did not see the animal that made those paw prints. Just as my heartbeat returned to a normal level, we spotted a raccoon-looking thing scurrying around, only it wasn’t a raccoon, it was a coati, and it was adorable. The coati had a friend, and they chased each other around the forest much to our delight. After our tour, including seeing several stunning scarlet macaws, we headed back to the ranger station for a picnic lunch.
Our group of four plus our guide indulged in a delightful picnic and some heated political discussion that ultimately made FKGuy seek solace in a beachside hammock. From there, we headed up a muddy, rocky path toward a waterfall, stopping to see a crocodile lounging in the sun, mocking our hiking efforts as he lazed in the cool water.
We reached the waterfall, took several photos and then had some time to swim. Not to worry, we were upstream from the crocodile. Nonetheless, it was too cold for this warm-blooded Floridian, but the intrepid FKGuy jumped right in. When we made our way back to sea level and were waiting for our return boat ride, I snagged FKGuy’s hammock and enjoyed the warm weather and sounds of the ocean.
Our return boat ride was uneventful until, while cruising up the river for a little tour, our captain had an oops moment, and smashed into a giant rock formation. Fortunately, we cruised slowly and nobody was hurt, but it was a shocking end to an otherwise beautiful day.
Manuel Antonio Park, Quepos, Costa Rica
Our final port stop was in Quepos, the largest of the towns we visited during our short stay. Another couple we met on the cruise decided to join us for our private tour of Quepos and Manuel Antonio Park. While Quepos has many bars and restaurants, the park is really the main attraction here. Entrance to the park is limited to 600 people per day. While it is more crowded than Corcovado, it is still manageable. Plus, the monkeys are more at ease with the humans.
Before even reaching the park entrance, we spotted about a dozen monkeys playing in the trees. It was a good omen for the rest of the wildlife-spotting day. We strolled through the park, initially not seeing much more than tour groups gathered around telescopes. We pressed on and were rewarded for our efforts. As we approached the restrooms and picnic area, we spotted several white-faced monkeys hanging out on the pathways, in the trees, and enjoying putting on a show for the ecstatic tourists.
Further down the path, a small sloth was sitting in a tree making eye contact with many passers-by, each of whom was able to point out the sloth to their friends, because, well, it is sloth. It doesn’t move much, except on their once-a-week decent to the ground to relieve themselves. It’s true.
Perhaps the highlight of the monkey viewing was the mother monkey carrying a baby on her back. The baby looked around, engaged, then proceeded to fall into a deep slumber as the mama kept swinging around the trees. It was adorable and fascinating all at the same time.
After all that hiking, it was time for a beach break. We quickly made our way to the less crowded side of the beach. I am slow to get in the water, taking my time, inching in so as not to shock my body with cold (or in this case, warm) water. On this particular day, I was paying no attention to the strong waves. As I eased my way in, I was knocked over by a wave. Oops. The wave knocked my sunglasses right off my face and left me with a swimsuit full of sand. The shocked look on my face caused our new friend Kim to leave her Gucci sunglasses on the shore.
As Kim put her sunglasses away, she saw a pair of raccoons unzipping our backpack, presumably looking for non-existent food. (These were not coati, they were actual raccoons, wearing collars, much like my dogs. Yep, the raccoons are tagged.) Those sneaky creatures had our bag halfway unzipped before she chased them away. Lesson learned: watch the waves, and the raccoons.
We stopped for lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking Quepos, enjoying Casado, the national dish of Costa Rica. Casado, the Spanish word for married, refers to the rice and beans that are together on the plate, and comes with a protein of choice and salad. I chose the fresh grilled fish with garlic and it was divine. After a couple of beers and a tasty meal, we headed back to catch the tender to the ship.
My expectations for seeing wildlife in Costa Rica were high but far exceeded on this trip. Costa Rica is a fantastic trip for water sports, zip-lining, volcanos, and wildlife. If you would like to plan your next Costa Rica (or other) vacation, call me or send an email.