Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Costa Rica: South to Manuel Antonio

by Kathy 23. May 2013 09:57

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<< Proyecto Asis Wildlife Rescue | Manuel Antonio National Park>>


From Arenal to Manuel Antonio

Some of our best memories of Costa Rica involve driving through the countryside on 2-lane roads, absorbing the scenery, and occasionally stopping in small towns for a rest or a meal.

Today, our leisurely drive from the Arenal volcano area to the Manuel Antonio coastal area covered approximately 150 miles, involved several stops, and took about 6 ½ hours.

On the morning of our departure from Arenal, the volcano cone was completely hidden by rain clouds, making it easier for me to say goodbye to this amazing place.

Volcano? What volcano?

Here are David, Sebastian, JoAnn, Genevieve and Ben, on the viewing veranda before piling into the car:

Leaving the hotel, we waved one last time to the man who worked tirelessly each day to smooth out the jarring washboard—his job was to shovel gravel from the road edges into the grooves.

From the town of La Fortuna, we turned south onto Highway 702, a 50-mile stretch of gently winding road:

All around us, the land was lush and green:

As always, I was fascinated by the houses.

The churches in the small towns generally had modern, non-ornate architecture:

An above-ground cemetery:

The bridges were always single-lane:

In the midst of a rural area, there was a pedestrian overpass on a blind curve:

Going up the last set of mountains on this highway, we entered some fog:

At the top:

We then drove through a more populated area, with an increasing density of houses as we approached the city of San Ramon:

Dropping down into the city, we passed a pair of white horses:

After 2 hours in the car, we all were ready for a short break in San Ramon. The main road passed by the central plaza, where we found a parking spot:

The plaza was graced on one side by the San Ramon Parish Church:

The church’s architecture was much more elaborate than the simple designs we had found in the Arenal area.

We later learned that the metal framework for the San Ramon church had been constructed in Germany and shipped to Costa Rica in the 1920’s, and the church had been completed in 1954.

The interior:

Around the back side of the church, we were happy to find a set of public restrooms:

For 200 colones each (approximately 40 U.S. cents), we had a clean bathroom with water, soap, paper towels, and even a mirror—none of which we take for granted when traveling:

On one side of the church was a sculpture of a man leading two burdened oxen pulling an ox cart:

The sculpture was called “the Rancho Tipico Monument” and was installed in 2006 as part of the annual festival to celebrate the city patrons.

On the next block was Musmanni Bakery, which has shops all over Costa Rica and is famous for its fresh pastries. We couldn’t resist:

After driving another hour, we stopped for a more substantial meal at “Soda Mary” in the small city of Orotino:

While in the U.S., a casual restaurant is often called a “café” (“coffee”), in Costa Rica it is called a “soda”.

Soda Mary was a great local spot, with a gracious and soft-spoken server who only spoke Spanish. We ordered “casados,” typical dishes with heaps of rice, meat and salad. Yum.

JoAnn, in the outdoor restrooms:

Before loading back into the car, JoAnn returned to the restaurant to tell our server how much she had enjoyed the meal and how wonderful the service had been. When I went to find her, she was coming out of the back kitchen area, with some money in her hand. JoAnn said that after she had talked to our server, the woman had handed her some money—JoAnn thought that maybe it was the change from our lunch bill.

I asked JoAnn, “Did she understand your English?” JoAnn paused, then said, “Well, I don’t know.” I took the money and hurried back inside, explaining (in Spanish) to our server that this was a tip that we had left for her to keep. It turns out that the woman had thought JoAnn’s long stream of compliments was a request to return the extra money she had found on our table. What a misunderstanding!

Our next stop was the famous Tarcoles Bridge near the city of Jaco.

The fame was not connected to the bridge itself, which was nondescript, as you can see from the above photos. Instead, the bridge was a tourist mecca due to the large number of crocodiles that lounged in the water underneath:

While we were looking over the edge, someone tossed in a whole chicken (raw and plucked, like you’d find in a grocery store), resulting in a mad frenzy below:

The crocodiles seemed to be here because people were feeding them on a regular basis, which in turn brought the tourists (including us!) in droves. While we were there, tour buses were stopping, and people were piling out to check out the crocs, and perhaps buy a souvenir or two from the countless hawkers who roamed the parking area. This was big business!

We had heard of people getting their cars broken into while they walked out on the bridge, so we paid a roaming coconut drink vendor (in the neon yellow vest below) a small tip to watch over our vehicle:

From the crocodile bridge near Jaco, we drove another 45 miles to reach our final destination along the Pacific coastline.

A distant view of Jaco as we headed south:

We passed many palm oil plantations, with their rows and rows and rows of palm trees:

A palm oil processing plant was shooting dark smoke into the sky:

Gruma, the largest manufacturer of corn flour and tortillas in the world, has a palmita (heart of palm) facility here:

Scattered among the palm oil plantations were cleared tracts of land, some with grazing cattle:

I loved the shape of this tree (either spared in the clearing or planted afterwards):

As seems to be common throughout Costa Rica, many of the fences here utilized live trees as posts:

A sprawling development complex named “Del Pacifico” appeared to have been abandoned before completion:

In the late afternoon, we arrived at our destination, a little bed and breakfast inn on the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park:

Our room was a thatch-roofed cabaña in the back of the property:

One of the (many) great things about our inn was the offering of special dinners on certain evenings. We arrived on Thursday, which was the evening for steak, chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, veggies, bread and an ice cream sundae—not only delicious, but an incredible bargain at $7 per person!

Before dinner, we checked out the beach, which was less than a five minute walk away, across a small cement bridge:


Over the next two days, we would have plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful beach, along with some hiking through the national park and bicycling in the nearby town of Quepos.


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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin