After one last night in the rubbish bed, it’s time to check out of the Hotel Santa Fe, bringing the guest count to zero. My least favourite thing has been that they refused to provide room service, due to Covid, yet asked that we do not throw paper in the toilet. By now, the bin is overflowing with 4 days’ worth of soiled paper and I’m glad when it’s time to move on.
Today, we are travelling 119 miles south to Manuel Antonio, site of Costa Rica’s most popular national park. There’s a strict quota system in place so we’ve already purchased our tickets and are raring to go. After one last encounter with the fluorescent fruit juice, we depart. It’s supposedly a 3.5 hour drive – factor in that the old man drives like an old woman, plus I have a few stops planned en route and it’s going take a while longer…
We descend from Monteverde through beautiful mountain scenery, then after a brief section on Route 1 through the industrial/port city of Punta Arenas, we turn onto the Pacific Highway.
First scheduled stop is Tarcoles Bridge; a bridge over the Río Tarcoles, where my guide book promises the sight of crocodiles lazing on the banks. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the bridge – I needn’t have bothered. We round a corner to the sight of dozens of cafes and souvenir stands lined by dozens of cars and tour buses. I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached our destination.
We walk along the bridge and manage to spot 14 crocodiles lazing on the banks in the midday sun. After buying a $3 bottle of Coke and going for a $1 wee, we press on.
Next stop is a viewpoint overlooking the resort town of Jacó. And finally, a viewpoint in the fishing town of Quepos. Who doesn’t love a good sign selfie?
At Quepos, we turn off the highway and proceed along a small road to Manuel Antonio. First, the old man buys an ice cream while I go in search of a cold drink. I emerge with a bottle of water and 2 beers for when we arrive at the hotel.
We continue to tonight’s hotel (Hotel Manuel Antonio) which is literally at the end of the road, in a turning circle, two miles past the village of Manuel Antonio itself. In my mind, once we pass the village, we will be in the back end of beyond. It’s more like Bournemouth on a particularly hot August Bank Holiday and the drive takes forever through all the traffic. My beer doesn’t make it to the hotel!
The hotel is very nice. The room is cool and has 2 double beds and a balcony overlooking the garden, which is full of iguanas. It is sandwiched between the National Park and the beach.
By the time we arrive, we have been travelling for 5 hours in baking heat – I’m cooked. It’s a vicious cycle of the heat/a lack of service stations/an abundance of snakes (or fear of an abundance of snakes).
We take a walk along the beach, have a cool down in our room, then return to the beach for sunset. We round the evening off at a beachside restaurant, where it’s happy hour on cocktails – finally after a mango daiquiri and a passion fruit daiquiri, I am cool again!